The four letter word you should say everyday … RUOK?

{Trigger warning: This article contains information about suicide which may be upsetting to some people.}

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, approximately six people suicide in Australia every day. That equates to one death every four hours.

Six people who have families that love them; friends who will miss them.

Lifeline report that for every completed suicide it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt. That’s 180 attempts per day—more than one new attempt in Australia, every 10 minutes.

In the past 10 years I have lost to suicide two young men I have dated.

The first was my boyfriend when I was 21. He was just 22. The second, whom I dated in high school, was weeks away from his 31st birthday.

These young men didn’t know each other but they had a lot in common; both loved surfing and rugby, they were successful in their careers, close to their families and each had a large circle of friends.

They died in similar circumstances and were farewelled by hundreds of people, all left behind to console each other and ask, “Why?”. Why had these young men with the world at their feet decided that life was too painful, too hard, too disappointing to go on? Sadly, there are no answers.

It is almost impossible to put into words the impact suicide has had on my life and who I am as a person. It changed me; I believe it has made me a better person, although I wish I had never experienced it.

Despite his youth,  my boyfriend was a good man. Actually, he was a great man; he was handsome, funny, loving and had a smile that beamed.
I loved him with the reckless, fickle and often ridiculous love that young people do so well. It was a relationship filled with tears and tantrums, laughter and love.

He wooed me and he did it well; he once drove 40 minutes to bring me lunch after I said what he was having sounded good.

He looked after my brother when he was “sick” from school and our parents were overseas, using the time to teach him how to pick up girls at the lolly bar.

When my boots hurt my feet, he piggybacked me home and when I was cranky he’d stir me up by wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Get me a beer, Princess’.

He made me happy and I drove him crazy. And then on a rainy day in December, he was gone.

No warning. No good-bye

In the weeks and months that followed his death, whenever anyone asked how I was, I always replied that I was okay.

Yet with every breath I took I was acutely aware that I was anything but okay. Nothing at that time was okay; I was lost, broken and believed I would never be okay again.

For most of my friends life returned to normal and for a split second every time I woke up I forgot he was gone. Then I would remember.

Grief would crash over me; a physical ache in my chest like I’d run too hard and fast, as though any moment it would explode. Memories seemed to slip away before I could reach them. I couldn’t remember his voice without calling his voicemail.

As the years have passed, the pain which was once so raw has softened; it has become about remembering the joy rather than reliving the pain. It has softened but will never leave me completely.

And every now and then that raw pain pops out and blindsides me. For five minutes. An hour. An entire weekend.

I have been exceptionally lucky that throughout the dark days I have always had a strong support network of family and friends lighting the way for me. Even when I didn’t know I was lost.

Friends were always just a phone call away, turning up with chocolate when I was too sad to leave the house.

My brother held my hand through the funeral, his heart breaking too.

Mum once squeezed into a change room to hug me because the shop we were in was playing a song from the funeral. Tears streamed down my face as I struggled to breathe, even though it had been years since he had gone.

Writing this post has brought tears to my eyes and that familiar ache to my heart but it was time for me to tell my story. To let other know what impact suicide had on my life and how important it is for us to ask ‘RUOK?’.

It is important for us to look out for our friends and family, even those who don’t seem depressed or upset; to let them know that there is someone to support them if they need it. Someone who will shine a light to help them find their way out of the darkness.

Someone who asks ‘RUOK?’ and genuinely cares about the answer.

Thursday 10 September 2015—RUOK day—is not just about asking those around you if they are okay (as we should do every day), it is about finding the courage to speak up when you’re not okay.

For those looking for help, please reach out and call 1800 RUOKDAY (1800 7865 329)

This number connects you to five of Australia’s crisis and information lines: Lifeline, Suicide Call Back Service, Kids Helpline, SANE Australia helpline and beyondblue Info Line. It’s a free call from any landline in Australia.

If you are calling from a mobile phone, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 to connect to 24/7 phone counselling for free.

RUOK

36 Comments

  1. corey allen

    Sadly this is timely for me – my adoptive father took his own life two weeks ago …I don’t think he could appreciate what happens to those left behind. Thank you for being a little champion for this one … Things are not always ok . My police deal take great pride in supporting loved ones after a suicide but there is a cost for them as well, a cost they accept knowing that genuine compassion and human connection can help make a difference. Thanks brooke x

    Sent from my iPhone

    Like

  2. tim

    That was an incredibly moving piece. So honest. Suicide – and it’s repercussions for those left behind – is something that isn’t discussed enough and hopefully things like your great article will start the conversation.
    All the best to you.
    BTW I’m great, thx for asking..:)

    Like

  3. Judy

    Thanks Brooke for sharing your story. I lost a dear friend some years ago to suicide with no warning. However when he was gone you then realise the warning signs were there but you just couldn’t read them at the time. He too was a very beautiful person that was full of energy and fun to be with.

    Like

  4. Lauren

    I understand everything you said..it’s been less than a year since I lost my best friend, and I miss him so much everyday. There isn’t anyone that I feel like I can talk about it with. Because you have to feel that kind of pain to lose someone that way, to understand it. Especially when you said everyone just went out living their lives. Thankyou for your story x

    Like

  5. Rhonda Taylor

    Such an important msg Brooke, thank you for sharing your story and supporting such an important cause. It wasnt that long ago that it was a taboo subject, so glad the tide is changing for the better. Your story reminds me of why I keep fighting off the black dog when it haunts me, I dont want to do that to my loved ones and sometimes just thinking of that is enough to help us fight through the dark times when all seems lost. Thank you. 🙂

    Like

  6. Angela

    It has been 9 years and there is no greater support than that of your own family and extended family. They knew Michael all his life, 22 years, and had the same unconditional love for him.

    Nobody knows the anguish like a brother or sister, Aunty or Uncle, Grandma or Pop and especially that of a Mother and Father.

    Although this is a great cause and I am behind it 100%, I think family should be the ones who decide to make comments and post photo’s throughout the internet about the lose of their loved ones. Sometimes people just want some privacy.

    I have reworded one of the quotes “For everyone else, life DIDN’T return to normal”.

    Please do not delete this post, you have had your chance to speak please let us.

    Like

    1. blondeambition82

      Hi Ange. This story was not written to hurt or offend, it was just about sharing my journey and raising awareness of RUOK Day in a time when a lot of people are finding life tough. I was not speaking on behalf of anyone else. Thank you for your response.

      Like

      1. Michael Falvey

        Excellent stuff Brooke… Your largely the person you are today because of the people & events discussed in this blog, I know because I was beside you then and still am today. suicide tears apart & forever alters those people left in its wake & if this blog inspires 1 person to spread the RUOK message and prevents another 21 year girl from being forever changed then your doing good work.

        Like

  7. clive

    At 18 I Took an hose pipe and a bottle of Whisky, drove to a forest and woke up with a splitting headache. That was over 22 years ago and the feeling doesn’t go away to easy, coming and going throughout my life. Its the after-mouth of how my friends and family will suffer that stops me doing it.

    I decided to work on myself this year by attending personal transformation session. I find it an effective means of transforming any form of stress or conflict. I realized I do have a wonderful life and it very important to talk about what ever is going on from your past. If you knew me, you would think I have a perfect life.
    That doesn’t mean anything, its whats going on, on a deeper level. Some men find it hard to talk, show emotions etc, most are brought up in an environment of no self expression; just like me.
    I have a journey a head of me…… I had tears running down my cheeks reading your article……. it has made me stronger emotionally and would love to thank you for sharing x

    Like

    1. blondeambition82

      I’m sorry to hear that you have had such a rough time Clive. I’m sure your family and friends are pleased to still have you around. All the best for your journey ahead. Stay strong and keep talking to those you love, even when it’s hard. B

      Like

  8. angela

    What people need to understand is that those people that have taken there own lives don’t have a voice anymore and people go around saying all kinds of things about why they did it. The people left behind need to ask themselves did I do anything to contribute to that. Women need to take responsibility for the way they treat the men in their lives. Being a wife or girlfriend doesn’t give you the right to open slather on the men in their lives. My beautiful brother took his own life when his wife woke up one day and told him she was leaving. She didn’t give him a chance. There was no warning, no discussions, nothing. She was mean and recklessly indifferent to his feelings. She saw the extremem pain that he was in and rubbed it in his face. Now there are three young children that don’t have a father and a huge family who are devastated forever. If people don’t take responsibility of how they could have acted differently and change their behaviour and make it their mission to make sure others don’t do the same, a life is gone and others are devasted without reason. Treat people with love and respect and the world is a better place.

    Like

  9. Charlie

    Yours is such a familiar and sad story 😦
    My wife’s best friend vanished when they were in their mid twenties. She was found dead in her car in the West Australian bush a week later. No explanation, nothing, I guess something had happened in her life that she kept to herself and it was all too much. Her family just fought amongst themselves afterwards and shut everyone else out. My wife has never gotten over it – with no way to find out why, no way to properly grieve. We only found her grave last year (after a lot of searching – her family wouldn’t tell my wife anything) 20 years down the track and she still misses her friend like crazy. It’s not just family who suffer from a suicide, it’s anyone who loved that person.

    Like

    1. Blonde Ambition

      That story really saddens me Charlie; fir both your wife and her much-missed friend. Please give your wife a squeeze from me. I can’t only imagine how hard it would be to suddenly lose your best friend and then to be pushed away by her family. I hope now that she has somewhere to visit it helps a bit, although I completely understand that the pain will never go away. I know it’s odd but I really get comfort from visiting his resting place, even though there are so many places that remind me of him. X

      Like

  10. Jenny @ Let's Talk Mommy

    So great of you to reach out share your stories and experienced with those that you loved and provide where others can go if they are suffering. I have known six family and friends close to me in my short life of 31 years take their own life. That’s WAY too many for one person to know and experience. It definitely changes you and I am more grateful and when times get tough I am more strong for it. Suicide is not the answer to anything. Good for you and your RUOK. Love the shirt! Thank you ever so much for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme

    Like

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