I will never forget the day 25 March 2000. It was the day my whole world as I knew it came crashing down.
It started out normally enough. It was a Saturday, and council elections were on in Mt Isa, where I lived. I was working at the electoral booth at my school. I had to go there early and open up, and prepare the voting booths etc....anyway, everything was going along smoothly until about 1.00, when I received the phone call. It was my the boyfriend, who later became my husband, Mark.
"Hun, you have to come home. Now." I was starting to make excuses when he said, "I have something to tell you, and I have to tell you in person. Come home, NOW"
So I organised a replacement and drove the 10 minutes home, horrible thoughts going through me mind. My grandfather had been sick, so naturally I thought it was bad news about him....
But it was worse, much much worse.
Mark waited until I was inside, before he hugged me tight, I was bracing myself with news about Pa. Then he said. "It's Nathan, he has passed away" I let out the most gut wrenching wail, and I remember feeling my legs crumbling underneath me, Mark supported my weight. I had so many questions, which all came babbling out. Then I got the message.
Suicide. My brother had hung himself. He was 28.
My thoughts raced to my parents...how would they be feeling now??? I phoned them, and spoke to Mum, she was still sobbing quietly. She had been out shopping when Dad found him. She had come home to find ambulances parked in the driveway and knew. She had just known. I spoke to Dad, he was doing the typical male thing of hiding his emotions, but his voice just sounded so hard, so hollow.
I had to be with them. As soon as possible. A plane flight to Brisbane was arranged, then a train trip to Bundaberg. I left the first thing the next morning. Everything just felt so surreal, so unbeleivable. Mark stayed because he was just starting a new job, and he also had to look after our dogs. During the whole trip, I couldn't help but replay what was to be the last conversation my brother and I had had. We were travelling to the Gold Coast from Ipswich. He was talking about how down he was, how he just couldn't get his life back on track....he said "Nique, I sometimes think about killing myself" I was taken aback, but not that worried, I said something like - Oh, Nathan, please don't think that way, think of your gorgoeus chidren who need you, think about what it would do to Mum and Dad..... I so wish, to this day, I had done more, I had said more, if I somehow could have know the "right" thing to say to get him help. But I didn't, and the guilt still racks me.
I didn't get to Bundaberg until night, but both Mum and Dad were waiting for me on the station.
We hugged each other tight and all started sobbing. After a while, we left and went back to the motel Mum and Dad owned at the time.
Over a cuppa, we talked and talked until late, I had so many questions, but I also knew they probably didn't even have the answers. He had done it through the night, after a particularly ugly row with Mum and Dad. He wanted money for drugs, they wouldn't give it to him. We were very very sad, but we weren't really surprised.
Nathan had been troubled for a long long time. He had taken a heap of Dad's anti depression medication at 15. He went through the charcoal treatment, got assessed by a mental health professional, and somehow managed to convince them that he was fine, he was just "attention seeking" and he was sent home after a couple of days. Mum and Dad didn't want to let everyone know what had happened, so it was decided the official line would be that Nathan had had an asthma attack. But nothing went back to normal, Nathan's behaviour was erratic, he quit school, left home at 16, moved back, left again.....drank way too much frequently..... I didn't realise it then, but I do now, that all this was a symptom of severe depression....Then at 19, just weeks before my first wedding, he did it again. He was living in a flat next door with his girlfriend and we thought he was starting to get himself together....I'm not sure what he took this time, I just know he washed it down with a heap of alcohol this time....it was worse, much much worse, and he was in ICU for 3 days - in an induced coma......still, no-one in the mental health system thought it was worth keeping him in hospital to get treatment....the mental health system has an awful lot to answer for, if you ask me. No counselling for our family which by now was unravelling at great speed. This time at least, Mum and Dad let everyone know what happened - I think it was an attempt to get as much help as they could, for Nathan, as well as themselves.
About 6 months later, Nathan revealed to me he was suffering with an addiction to Speed. He showed me the needle marks on his arms, and begged for help, and also begged for me not to tell Mum and Dad. I rang the appropriate people, but they all told me that Mum and Dad would have to be in the process to get him hospitalised for treatment. I convinced him to tell them, which to his credit he did. He was hospitalised at the Royal Brisbane Drugs and Alcohol unit. He spent 2 weeks there. About the same time I went to a seminar about the "new" disorder called ADHD...OMG the symptoms were Nathan, Nathan as a child, and as an adult... Then the professor in charge of the RBH unit phoned Mum, he asked to speak to her in a meeting. He asked about all sorts of things - Nathan's schooling, Nathan as a child, what he was like orgainising himself, could he keep a job..(he couldn't)...finally he told Mum he beleived Nathan had ADHD - because Nathan's reaction to Speed was the total opposite of what it should be. You see, Ritalin is a pure form of Speed...and Nathan was in fact self medicating.... His self esteem was so low, and his depression was so bad he was willing to do anything to feel "normal."
Anyway, Nathan was discharged, and he was put on Ritalin, but that was just way way too hard - Nathan was an addict, and he kept taking more Ritalin than he should. Mum and Dad would hide it, and he would rip the house apart looking for it, physically abuse Mum and Dad to get it......it was a very ugly scene, and Mum and Dad tried so hard to help him, they gave him so much, supported him so much.....but Nathan stayed addicted to Speed right up until his death 5 years later..... This was so far away from the sweet, quiet, loving boy I grew up with... Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Ritalin, my own son is now on it, as he has been diagnosed with ADHD - and I have to say, when used properly, on someone diagnosed early, it is very effective in allowing Connor to concentrate and stay focussed at school.
The crunch came March 24 2000 - there was a particularly bad scene which involved violence, and Mum calling the police. Everything eventually calmed down - or so they thought, and everyone went to bed. It is thought Nathan hung himself sometime between 1 and 5 am. Dad found him at 11am. By then it was much much too late....
The following week would be one of the hardest to bear in my life. The funeral, the wake - Mum had way way to much to drink and just started sobbing and wailing - I will never forget those gut wrenching sobs, but it wasn't until I had my own child years later that I truely understand her pain.
It wasn't just that week though, the nightmare is ongoing. Both Mum and Dad have suffered terribly, I think there was just so much anger and pain there, their relationship crumbled, and they very nearly divorced. They lost nearly everything - all of Dad's super, the motel business, both houses they owned......Fortunately they have now worked through the problems. They are both still getting treated for depression, and with the help of kind, generous, sympathetic and loyal friends and family they have their lives back on track. For me, the pain is still there. I have been suffering anxiety and depression for years, and I believe this was one impetus for my illness. There is still an empty hole at family gatherings, and I have sadly lost touch with some of my nephews and nieces. Thankfully, we have connected with Nathan's first child, Nick. I know he brings Mum and Dad so much joy, and the resemblence he has to his father is just uncanny. I truely value his place in our family.
It's been 11 and a half years, and I have never fully recounted this story to anybody, only bits and peices to close friends - and it as taken a long long time to write this, many tears have been shed, believe me. I apologise for the long post, but I felt the whole story needed to be told. I wanted to paint the ugly scene of pain for the people left behind. It is a living nightmare.
If you are contemplating suicide - Please, reach out for help. Ask someone to go with you to a hospital, a doctor...seek the help you deserve.
Your family love you more than you will ever know. I know you are not going to think about it, but please, consider them.
The are not better off without you - the anger, grief, remorse and guilt they will feel will eat away at them and impact on every aspect of their lives - for always. They won't get over it. Ever. I know.