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Andre ‘Jay’ Bourlin, one year on

CW: this piece discusses depression, and the suicide of a friend.

It’s coming up a year since my friend Andre died. Hindsight can be cruel: I knew he suffered from depression and chronic pain, and in the weeks leading up to his death he became increasingly combative and withdrawn. I knew he was having a hard time, I just didn’t realise how bad it really was; it felt like a stepping back, but not an end—he’d been working on a new manuscript and we’d been going over his opening chapters together. It didn’t seem like something you’d do if you wanted to die. 

I know from personal experience that it’s more complicated than that—people rarely plan these things. The black dog is a persistence hunter: it chases you for years, until your legs give out. 

The news hit slow. Somebody messaged me around lunchtime and I didn’t really process it. Piece by piece, over the course of the day, it broke me down. I went to a party that night, and a sudden tightness in my chest forced me outside; I ended up crying on a colleague’s balcony. I went home and wrote a letter to him that I never intend to publish, not even here—it’s an angry, selfish thing. I’m still here motherfucker, why aren’t you? You were writing a book. 

I’ve still got that manuscript sitting in Google Drive. Shared with you, trapped in amber. I tried to look at it the day afterwards, and couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ve been told by the rest of the writing group that the last short story he wrote is genius—that it brings insight into his pain, and reading it helped them to understand and heal. I can’t bring myself to read it either. I’ve tried a few times, but can never bring myself to click the link. I don’t know what to do with either of them; they’re not going anywhere. 

There’s a lot of thinkpieces about mental health online, but whenever I try to write one, I come to the same painful answer: sometimes, things hurt and people leave. It’s been a year, and I thought with that distance there might be some peace. Instead, I ended up trying to hold back tears at my desk, going off on my lunchbreak to find somewhere safe to cry. Writing normally brings me catharsis, but this brought me nothing. I want to bring you catharsis, but I can’t. Some things just end. 

Published inNonfiction

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