In the first article of our ‘Memory Box’ series designed to help those struggling with bereavement, loss or grief, Nikki Mattocks writes about two friends whom she lost to cancer and suicide respectively. She outlines the impact they had on her life and why their deaths were so hard to process.
I first met Matilda in 2013 when I started at Coulsdon college in Croydon. I had seen her around at college but we never spoke properly until we went to a mutual friends’ party. I was sitting quietly and awkwardly and she made an effort to come over to me.
She spoke to me with so much kindness and so much respect. We laughed, we took selfies and we had a great time.
From that night on, we became good friends. We hung out at college, outside of college and spoke all the time. I was also going through mental health problems at that time and she was always so incredibly supportive and really took the time to listen to me and support me.
It was also at college that I started volunteering for mental health charities. She supported me in everything I did, from sharing things on Facebook about the campaigning I was doing, to helping me run events. She was selfless, talented and a blessing to everyone she came across.
In our second year she became ill and she told me she had cancer. My heart broke.
I just didn’t understand why the world was so cruel. She passed away shortly after her 18th birthday.
Throughout her fight and her struggle, she always smiled. She was the bravest person I have ever met and will ever meet.
I was so lucky to have her in my life and it was a blessing to know her. Everyone should have a Matilda in their life and if you do, please don’t ever forget to tell them you love them.
The friend I lost to suicide
Me and my friend went through a lot together. I met him when I was 14 and we were both abusing drugs to cope with our own demons.
We tried to support each other by listening to one other. We were both fighting a war that we weren’t winning at the time. As a result, we ended up in a vicious cycle.
He was my light at that time. He was one of my only true friends and I thought he was the only person that really listened to me.
I would talk and cry to him for hours on end whilst I spoke about things that had happened in my life. He gave me hope that I wasn’t alone.
I stopped using drugs when I went to college and unfortunately we lost contact. Occasionally I would bump into him and it was heart-breaking to see he was still using drugs years later.
I spoke to him every now and then through text and although I’d always wish him Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas, he never responded.
This year (2018) in June he called me and said he had been started on a course of antidepressants. He was scared they were making him more impulsive. I urged him to go to the psychiatrist as soon as possible and he said he would. I reminded him that he can always call me back again to chat.
One morning in July, I woke up to a text saying that he was gone; that tragically, he had taken his own life. He wrote me a note.
The note said that he couldn’t face his demons anymore. It said that I was the only one that listened to him and took his mental health seriously and everyone else told him to ‘man up’ or ‘take more drugs’. It broke me.
I have heard voices inside my head for the last 7 years but they stopped. I was left in silence. I felt so alone.
Then I heard his voice, telling me to end my life so we could be happy together. I was sectioned a few days later.
I was in hospital for 5 months. I was diagnosed with recurring depressive disorder with psychotic symptoms. I was on 1-1 (a staff member with me at all times), then 2-1 (2 staff) and finally, I was sent to a psychiatric intensive care unit where I began to get better.
I felt so much pain and guilt thinking I could have done more to stop his death. I was broken for a while. I was too low to function but had just enough energy to try and end my life.
Thankfully, I didn’t succeed. I was given so much support that I managed to get better and my mental health was taken seriously. Not everyone has that same experience.
I’m telling you this because I want you to know that you are not alone. Both my friends taught me that I wasn’t alone.
Matilda taught me how to be brave even in the darkest of times. You can learn from every person you meet and you never know what tomorrow holds. So, if I can ask one thing of you, PLEASE love your friends and family.
Don’t just tell them you love them, show them. Call them, text them, go with them to appointments, sit with them, make them laugh, spend time with them and listen to them.
You are never alone.