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Someone to Carry You

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Someone to Carry You

Depression is a condition that can be difficult for an outsider to comprehend. Imagine you’re in an empty cinema, watching your life play out on the screen in front of you: You see and hear everything yet some part of your mind can’t help telling you that the events you are watching aren’t real. Often it can feel like no one can bridge that gap, which is what makes those who do manage to reach you mean so much more.

Kurt was the closest friend I have ever had. In a world that always frustrated me with rigid edges, Kurt was always reliably unreliable, making me laugh and driving me mad all at the same time. Through it all he reminded me I wasn’t lost, that there were other people like me.

And even though he will never know it, I am certain that he saved my life.

Nine months ago Kurt took his own life. To say this came as a shock is an understatement. It was an action that has had massive repercussions for a great number of people, and changed a handful of lives forever. It’s true that you cannot truly appreciate the importance someone holds for you until they are gone and I think the ripples caused by his death stretched a great deal further than Kurt himself ever would have appreciated.

Kurt was my friend for the best part of a decade and whilst we were always pretty tight it was only when we got to university that we became close. We both ended up in Leeds and decided to live together. For well over two years I saw him almost every day. I think we both saw something in each other and shared a clear affinity. We liked similar music and the same dodgy American sitcoms. We even shared the same surname and used to joke that with our shared build and family name that perhaps
we were somehow related. I was so used to him being a permanent fixture in my life that I honestly don’t think I ever considered the idea that he might not always be around.

There were few people I trusted well enough to talk to about my mental health problems in any detail; Kurt was the one person I could say anything to and know he wouldn’t take it the wrong way. Hard though life could be at times, I always knew he was just upstairs, always around to offer and ear and some encouragement.

I remember once coming home after a truly awful day at work. For several months I’d been finding myself increasingly stressed with the amount of responsibility placed on me and I was beginning to become completely overwhelmed. On the journey home I couldn’t wait to get back and talk to Kurt, needing badly to unload and shift some of the anger I was feeling. The sight that greeted me caused all that to evaporate in an instant. Kurt sat on the front step of our house, his head cradled in
his hands. He was in a state of some anxiety, saying he felt like his skin was coming off, that he was certain he was losing his mind. I took him to the park and tried to calm him down, suggesting, not for the first time, that he should take some time out and get some help. The experience whilst unpleasant wasn’t entirely without precedent and it says something
about the extent to which these problems had become everyday that I didn’t do more to make him seek help.

Three months before he died, Kurt decided to move away. He’d been talking about it for a long time, saying how it would change things for him, help him sort his life out. I was hardly thrilled about the idea. The day Kurt left I was overwhelmed with a sense of loss that I couldn’t explain; it felt like something was coming to a very definite end, and whilst I know that a great deal of life can be attributed to coincidence more than circumstance, it is true that after that he began to degenerate quickly.

I was sat in a car with his mum the day he rang and told her she needed to come pick him up right away; bring him home. He was in the full throes of a breakdown. She collected him and took him to a doctor. Despite a family history of bipolar disorder Kurt was prescribed anti- anxiety medication and, ignoring pleas from his mother and I, returned home the next day.

The last time I spoke to Kurt was on my mobile. I was having a rough few weeks and it shames me to this day that so much of our last conversation together was wasted on my trivial frustrations. I asked him how he was doing. He said he was feeling a lot better and I genuinely believed him. There was something about his voice, a lightness that had been lacking in recent months; he sounded like himself again.

After a few minutes my train arrived and I said I had to go. Kurt committed suicide two days later and through everything that came after, it was our final conversation that stuck in my head. Had he truly felt better? Had the idea of taking his own life formed in his mind even then? And if so why would he not have told me? With everything that we’d been through, would he really have chosen to leave without saying goodbye?

Kurt’s actions allowed me for the first time to view my behaviour from the outside. Through all the grief I felt I began to realise that giving in simply wasn’t an option. It wasn’t just seeing the pain his death had caused amongst his family and friends; there was something far deeper at work.

Both Kurt and I had always had big plans, talking about the music we’d like to make, the places we’d like to go and yet we’d always struggled to make them a reality. To begin with the idea that he’d never got to live out some of these dreams haunted me, but more and more as time passed it began to form a new resolve in me. I started to realise how much I owed him for the influence he’d had on my life and the only way I could think to repay him was to allow him to live through me vicariously. I resolved to experience my life as fully as I could, hoping that by living well I could do his memory justice.

First of all I revisited the doctor and began a course of medication. I had always previously been opposed to the idea but I began to see that if I wanted my health to improve I would need to be prepared to try anything I could. I also began to put a renewed effort into my work. I threw myself into finishing a painting I’d been working on and began to take my writing far more seriously again.

Perhaps the most important thing Kurt gave me however was a gift I never expected. For several years running up to his death we’d shared an interest in meditation. Kurt was the most vocal and by far the most studious of the two of us, owning stacks of books on the dharma and on the history of the faith, whereas I was more interested in the idea of using meditation as a way to find a calmer centre. We’d talk about it sometimes, both admitting that we felt our brief flirtations had helped us in some way, although neither of us managed to stick with it and establish a regular practice. After his death, I realised that the best thing I could do for Kurt was to open myself up to meditation fully and see where it led me.

It sounds odd to think about the death of a friend in this way but the action Kurt took changed my life for the better. Whilst my life has been emptier without him, he has had the profoundest impact on my life and losing him has taught me to appreciate even the least of things. All of my old fears seem to have
lost their sting in comparison, and even when I do lose control I know that eventually I’ll be able to pick myself back up again. I’m beginning to see that nothing lasts forever, be it good or bad, so the most important thing for sure is making the moments you do have count for something.

Dedicated to the memory of Kurt Russell.

Auf wiederhören. x


1 Tom John Rose | on 04 April 2012

a respectful, understandable and brave text.

2 Ellz | on 06 April 2012

Moving and extremely heartfelt.

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