Last week was World Suicide Prevention Day. We saw thousands of people telling their stories and many more sharing resources about how we can prevent suicide. It gave me a moment to reflect. I’ve written before about my suicidal ideation when I was 14 and then again when I was 17. I’ve written about how tied up it was with my anxiety and depression resulting from the conflict between my sexuality and the Catholicism I was raised in.
In that moment of reflection, I realised how much I would have missed if I had killed myself eleven years ago. There is so much that has happened that I am grateful for that I wouldn’t even have considered amid that dark period. My imagination at that time was filled with the darkest of thoughts and couldn’t comprehend the happiness and joy I had waiting for me.
In the summer before I completed my A-Levels, I was wracked with suicidal thoughts. I had them every day. I made a plan to die. On the day of intention, I was saved by my friends who called me to invite me out for the day. Something in that call made me realise I wanted to live just a little bit longer. I didn’t want to die. But I certainly wanted change.
A year passed, I got my grades, and I left Preston for Liverpool to study English and Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University. It was a choice that I have never regretted. I learned so much in three years. I accepted my sexuality and learned what it means to be gay in modern Britain. I embraced my creativity and experimented with different ideas. I met friends who will be with me for life. One of my closest friends who will be my Best Woman at my wedding next year. That would not have happened if I had died in 2009.
Families change constantly. Siblings have new partners and get married with parents retire and move house. Aunts and Uncles go off travelling and come back with inspirational stories. In my case, I would have missed plenty. My sister wouldn’t have had to be as an usher at her wedding in 2011. I wouldn’t have been able to see any of my cousins get married either.
A more profound regret would have been that I wouldn’t have got to share my birthday with my nephew. He was born on my birthday back in 2012, meaning we are twenty years apart to the day. Nor would I have seen my niece born in 2016. These two special kids bring me so much joy, and they teach me so much about enjoying life. To have ended my life in 2006 when I first intended to die, I would never have seen their smiling, mischievous, bright faces.
A great joy in my life is exploring different ideas and creatively exploring them. Since I was eighteen, I have studied and changed my views on the world and experience so many times. At the time of my ideation, I was greatly influenced by the conservative ideas of my family and the Catholic Church. However, since my attending university and exploring a massive variety of thinkers, beliefs and philosophies.
Many of these ideas have changed my life for the better. They have broken down many of the values and ideas society introjected into me. Through their exploration, I have developed my life philosophy that I hope to use to help others. That wouldn’t have been possible if I had died.
When I was seventeen, I never believed I would find love. How could a gay like me, decried by God, ever find love? That thought was a severe motivation for why I wanted to die. A life without love in my mind was a life not worth living. But the truth about life is that nothing is permanent.
I found love in my fiancé. Next year, we are getting married. It was tough. There were incredible moments and idiotic mistakes. But love is strong. It is a vital component of life. I would never pass up on finding the love I share with my fiancé. And I would have missed out on it if I had gone through with my plan to die.
Life is about moving forward
There is no set path. Our lives are entirely about choices. In my case, I could have chosen to die or chosen to live. Thankfully I chose life because life has far more possibilities than death. Death is final. Death is complete. With death, you can miss all the potential of life. I would have missed all that I have mentioned and so much more.
We need to encourage others to embrace the chaos and beauty of life in all its pain and wonder. There is so much we can each experience in our lives if we continue to give ourselves a chance. Choose to live. That is why I am walking for the Campaign Against Living Miserably on Sunday 25th October. I am walking the Preston Guild Wheel, which is a 21-mile circuit around the city. My hope is to raise money and awareness to help those struggling to choose life over death by their own hand.