Things You Only Know If Your Boyfriend Tried To Kill Himself

Writer Anna Brody thought she knew how she'd behave if her boyfriend ever tried to hurt himself, but really she had no idea


by Anna Brody |
Published on

Five years ago my boyfriend attempted to commit suicide - and I found him. He didn’t do it as a cry for help, it didn’t come out of the blue, and it didn’t forge an unbreakable bond between us - in fact, we broke up shortly after an unthinkably difficult year-long relationship and I haven’t spoken to him since.

When I arrived at uni, having never had a boyfriend before, I met and fell hopelessly in love with my ex, who we’ll call Matt, within the first four months. He was beautiful, he was goofy, he made me laugh and I was his first time - although he wasn’t mine. I thought his occasional quiet moods were just the usual mood-swings of being a student, maaaan. It wasn’t till I noticed the huge, oozing burns up his arm that a small alarm bell rang.

He hurt himself with cigarettes, he said. He hurt himself in the past because he thought he wasn’t a very nice person. Well, that’s great, I thought. Good job you’ve got a soulmate like me, then, to watch old episodes of Black Books with and dress your burns. I remember always leaping to his defence if anyone mentioned his scars down the local pub (one was quite clearly on his neck, and he couldn’t wear a scarf while it was healing), changing the subject and squeezing his hand under the table. He’d squeeze it back.

It was when he found out that I wasn’t his first time that it started to get really bad. Suddenly he became obsessed with details, making me go through the events painstakingly, crying and saying he thought I was a whore. It apparently hearkened back to some terrible abuse he’d suffered at the hands of a family friend as a kid, but he never went into it and the one thing I remember was that I never felt unsafe. He was never violent. The pain was totally directed inward. Three months later (after he’d been found lying in the road waiting for a car to run over him “for how he was treating me”), I found him unconscious and in the middle of a seizure. I was due to be out all night at a friend’s birthday, but had come back because I’d felt miserable considering all the shit that was going on. There was a note, addressed to me, next to him but I genuinely don’t remember even seeing it.

Of course the pain he was, and still is by all accounts, going through is unthinkable, but it’s also fairly hard for whoever is in the position of trying to save someone’s life who has chosen to take it away. I learned, and grew up, a lot that night.

You won’t react the way you think you will when it happens

I’m a panicker. I’m a flapper. Once I saw a dog get hit by a car and I ran in the other direction because I couldn’t bear the idea of watching it die. When I broke into Matt’s room and found him choking on his own vomit, my blood became cold and I transformed into a robot. I turned him over while calling the ambulance, so the vomit could come out of his mouth properly. I put him in the recovery position and doused him with cold water because I once heard about a celeb ODing at a party and her friends throwing her into a cold bath. I called my friend who came to help, and I sat and sang a song to him. All of it feels like someone else’s memory, or like a terrible nightmare - one you’ve had after a night of way too much white wine. It certainly doesn’t sound like something I’d do, and certainly isn’t comparable to any way I’ve acted since.

**You won’t react the way you think you will when it’s over **

I’d have presumed I’d be a wreck, having flashbacks and yelling “I’m not leaving him!” to the hospital staff, like they do in films. Instead, I calmly left him at the hospital and went for a very long walk. Not a walk where “I didn’t know where I was going nor didn’t care”, but a walk that I always took to the library. I then read Harry Potter all night until it was morning (the uni library was 24 hours, for any pedantic types) and, looking back, it was probably because, amid everything that had just happened, I needed to be with something familiar. Something comforting.

When they wake up, it’ll be terrible

Of course it depends on the context, but if it’s anything like what happened when Matt woke up, it won’t be pretty. I went to the hospital the next morning, straight from the library after reading Harry Potter, and he was “stable, but sleeping” the nurse said. I sat there for ages, and when he woke up, he didn’t talk to me. He just cried silently and wouldn’t hold my hand and couldn’t look at me. After about an hour of me sitting there and him facing the other side of the room, he held my hand and squeezed it. And I burst into the most violent tears I think I’ve ever experienced in my life. I think I said something awful like ‘Why did you do that to me’ which is incredibly selfish, all things considered. But you can’t beat yourself up about something like this.

It might signify the end of your relationship

Depending on the mental state of the person who has attempted suicide, that. Maybe most suicide attempts end in strengthened bonds and eventual marriages - which is what I envisioned for us in those weird days and weeks after he had been discharged - but Matt broke up with me two months later because he couldn’t cope with the fact that he’d tried to kill himself. He dropped out of uni, moved to Australia for six months and broken hearted didn’t really cover it. A total shell of a human being probably fits that empty, confused, depressed feeling a little better. Some people can’t deal with being that vulnerable in front of another person, and some people just want to be left alone to their thoughts and their histories. You’ll hate them for leaving, if they leave, because of how much of yourself you invested, but you’ve got to try and move on.

**You might think you did something wrong by saving them **

Sometimes I think that I should have let him do what he wanted to do. While people who hurt themselves as a cry for help need help, maybe Matt needed to die that night. Since he moved to London, I’ve heard he was committed for trying to kill himself “for a third time” – I didn’t know about the second, and I don’t want to. He’s currently living in agony, and suffering hugely, and I refused to give him the one thing he feels will end it all. But then again, who can let someone they love die? Basically, it’s

You won’t go to therapy at first, but you fucking should

You don’t think it’s about you, it’s about them, so why should you need to go and talk to someone? It’s selfish. It’s stupid. But you need to. I didn’t, and I spent the following year drinking and crying and being terrified of getting close to people. I still don’t really have any close friends and my current boyfriend is constantly having to remind me to stop being “funny crazy facade-Anna” (as he calls it) when it’s just us in the house. My emotions, when they do come, arrive in huge bursts that make no sense, and leave me hyperventilating. When I finally went to see someone, they said it was because I’d spent so long trying to hide things I felt in case someone got to know me, hated me like Matt ended up doing, and tried to kill themselves again. Almost painfully simple, but you won’t know these things unless you go and have a therapist tell them to you.

It will get better

Maybe it’ll take a year, or a few years, or loads of years, but one thing is for certain: the quicker you acknowledge that you’ve been affected by it, and the quicker you get help, the quicker your life will go back to normality. Because remember, people hurt each other and make mistakes all the time, not everyone tries to commit suicide. It wasn’t your problem, it wasn’t your life and it wasn’t your fault.

If you are feeling suicidal or have lost someone to suicide, contact PAPYRUS for help and support

Picture: Eylul Aslan

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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