Today I received a nice long comment on Facebook from a friend of mine who I went to school with. I had no idea he knew my brother as he was in my year while my brother was two years older. It captures the mood at the school and moment that day in a way I haven't read before. I've reposted it here with his permission. Thanks for sharing it with me, old pal.
I was originally going to post this on your comment thread about the anniversary of Chris' death, connected to the blog post but I ended-up writing way too much, so here it is:
I remember that day at school so vividly, when you weren't in our year 10 English class and Mr. Morris had to inform us of the tragic news - although, probably for the better at the time, we were told Chris dropped his phone and went searching for it in the dark. Everyone in class was completely stunned, as if no one had ever died in the history of man.
Then came the school assembly to announce the news to everyone, your brother was loved so much that the whole room fell silent when it was announced by Mr. Robertson.
But the biggest shock and realisation came when we had our house tutor group and Chris was not there and it was dead quiet - he was always the joker in the group, making everyone laugh and relax whilst going through the stresses of high school life. None of us knew anything about what was going on in his head.
AB had his head in his hands, with tears falling in every direction, understandably devoid of speech and the rest of us just sitting in a circle, silent. Except for the whirring coming from the CPUs of those stupid clunky PCs. No one knew what to say, let alone do.
As it happened, Chris was only recently assigned my tutor group buddy about a week or two before his death. He and his best mate mainly spent their time asking me what I got 'up to' on the weekends between snigggers and "EY?! EY?!"s It made me go bright red at the time but I still remember them condoling me and saying things like "Ah, you'll get there one day!" Haha!
So, when it came to talking about your brother, I had nowhere to look, I didn't have the words to express how I felt about this situation. Prior to being coupled with me, somewhat stranger whom I'd only known well for a couple of weeks as more of a teenage lifestyle mentor than a simple 'buddy'. I still hadn't shed a tear because I was just so emotionally confused.
I was picked-up at school that afternoon and as soon as I sat down in the car I couldn't stop crying. Someone in our school had died, the brother of who I now call a friend was dead, the guy in my tutor group was gone and I no longer had a buddy. What was I doing, being so emotionally well, dead, whilst back in school earlier that day?! I couldn't begin to even fathom what you, Ben and your parents were going through at the time. I felt so, extremely, selfish that I just wanted to get out and say sorry to anyone who would listen but my mum was the only one there who would understand.
How I remember Chris is that he was always ready to have a good time and make others feel better (it now seems ever more like a selfless coping mechanism) because we all needed a good laugh during those long and stressful years at high school.
- I'm sorry if that was a bit much but I don't think I've said this to you before and I thought that enough time had passed to make it acceptable.
I know we've been out of touch for a while but I wanted to say that your work with Black Dog Institute and your own blog are incredible to say the least. Especially considering that I've since been through two separate bouts, in varying degrees, of depression and social anxiety. Coming from these experiences, you always hit the nail on the head when describing what they're like, even though others who have lived their lives mental illness free can't empathise, they can still sympathise and will know all too well what the warning signs and triggers can be - they can now help friends in similar mental health situations and that's so much better than any GP prescribed meds or especially, in extremely insensitive cases, "Suck it up!" or "Man up and get on with it!" can do.
Sorry for the long comment and keep up the amazing work, Nic!
I'm so grateful to have received this. It's hard to remember those times and there are painful memories attached to them but these days I often find myself smiling at least in some parts as my mind usually jumps to the happy memories from the sad ones.
This note came out of a post I wrote yesterday called Speaking of mental health (my first opinion piece)