For Jo

jo by chris barber

This isn’t something I ever thought I’d write about on this blog. In fact I toyed with the idea of whether or not I should actually post this for ages. But instead of trying to think about it too much I just started typing to see where it would go… writing is cathartic for me and I really just felt like I wanted to get this all out of my head. I’d decide whether to publish it or not later.

On Sunday, my friend Jo committed suicide.

Just writing those words feels unreal, like I’m in some kind of dream world or alternate reality. Dealing with death is fucking hard, dealing with death when someone has taken their own life is utterly devastating. There are just so many unanswered questions.

But I’m not writing this because I want any kind of “Oh I hope you’re OK” comments. As much as I appreciate them this is not about me. It’s about a far from being about me as anything I’ve ever written.

Jo suffered from depression. I knew she had low self esteem, and we’d spoken about it many times, but I really genuinely didn’t know how rough it was for her. And that makes me feel terrible. Like I was a totally awful friend for not knowing more, doing more, asking more.

I keep going over all our conversations in my head, wondering if I could have done anything differently or said something more helpful. I feel so guilty.

I wanted to write this today to try, in whatever small way I can, to reach out to any of you that might also be suffering. I want to encourage you to talk to people, and to never give up. Life is precious, life is short, life is worth fighting for.

FilmParis-Cov-91webbw

Depression is not some kind of comfort blanket that you need to hold on to. It does not define you. Life is so amazing when you finally fight to save yourself, when you come out the other side.

You have people that love and care for you. However low you feel, you are never alone. I don’t know if Jo knew how much I, and so many of her other friends, loved her. She was the life and soul of us and we just can’t believe she’s gone, that we’re never going to hear that laugh of hers again.

There was a time when I wanted to end it all too. When I tried, and failed, to take my own life. I am thankful everyday that I was unsuccessful. You never know what’s waiting for you just around the corner.

If I can help just one person with these words, then goodness, it’s been a worthwhile thing to publish. I know not everyone will be wanting or expecting to read this on a wedding blog, and I hope you’ll forgive my deviation from my regularly scheduled programming today, but this is something I just had to write.

To Chris, her boyfriend, and to all her close friends and family, my endless love and support is with you now and forever. I wish I could do more to help but all I can say is that I’m thinking of you all and sending as much love as I possibly can.

Jo, you were the most beautiful creature. I wish I could have done more.

Supporting Cast

182 comments

  1. Noe

    …. she’s beautiful. ….. I am worried I might be sick. I feel those close to me sooner or later take distance from me as I am difficult. I turned into a person which I would never thought I could be. I am snappy to a point where I can’t even be quicker than my own reactions. I am always on alert, feeling attacked. I am always tired and so sad. Somedays iper-active; others I just can’t leave the sofa. I am scared I might have bipolar disorder. I do feel depressed but I can’t open myself on why I am so. My mood can change so quickly in a moment. I hate myself. I have been in therapy to a consultant offered by my doctor, 12 free appointments. It helped a bit but not to the roots of the problem. It’s too expensive to go to a private psychologist now, for me. I thought my loved ones would be better off without me and wondered suicide too, but so far I also know that to suicide will hurt them, my pain will end but I would traumatise them. I have a 8 years old sister, for as much as I am scared of the future, of being rejected, scared of myself, I need to think about her and the other ones who would be devastated for ever because of me. I feel lonely and scared. I always coped with problems and I never cry on myself, I am strong and fragile at the same time. But stress brought me to over react in situation where I ended up hurting other people, and I mean it. I used to be “the good guy” and now I can’t forgive myself. Plus a troubled past that still effects (unwillingly) my present. This gives me anxiety and impressive mood swings, depression. I feel disconnected. …….. Am I sick?

  2. Post author

    Noe – it’s such a positive step that you’ve commented and you’re noticing these things and feeling unsure. It may not feel like it now but that is a step in the right direction. Please try and get some professional help. The Samaritans are amazing and you can call them on 08457 90 90 90

  3. Noe

    I am so sorry I took it out of my chest on here, I read so many comments from people who are sure to be sick that I felt to get out of my shame and ask the question stumping in my head lots of times a day. …….. I don’t know what to say about your beautiful friend……… I don’t think, for how you come across, that you are a superficial person, you come across as emphatic. You write sensible comments and thoughts… touching posts as this one. I think you tried to be a good friend, and you gave what you could when you have been given the opportunity……. it’s really hard and I totally get why you might feel guilty……. but life is exactly this way: for as much as we give, sometimes there’s still a loss. xxx I am so sorry for her, you and your loved ones xx

  4. Andrea

    I was surprised by my need to write, and lay myself bare like this, but like you and Jo and countless others, I have considered suicide on several occasions when the depression that I fall into crushes me under the weight of the blackness. Kat please don’t feel guilty (I know it is easy for someone to say these words to you, but a whole different world to feel any different to the way you do); but you can go over and over those conversations in your head looking for a clue to how she was truly feeling, how you could have changed things and you will never find it because if someone that is feeling that low and has those thoughts running on an endless loop inside their head, they will be master at keeping these thoughts to themselves and burying it deep in public. Making friends laugh, meeting with family, carrying on with daily life with all the guise of normality with this mask hiding what is going on underneath, with no hint of anything else. Only when alone will the mask slip and the act can stop. It is heartbreaking for the people left behind who have to deal with the grief and loss, but you would have only had a hint that something was wrong if they had wanted to let people know. Please don’t feel that this comes down to you spotting the signs as they may never have been there for you to see. I hope that you find a support network for you to lean on during this time while you come to terms with this. xx

  5. A very important and brave piece of writing. There are people, good people, out there who will care and who will listen. If anyone is feeling desperate please take the chance and reach out to the Samaritans or similar. You are a precious soul and you matter.

  6. Hi Kat
    I read this and feel devastated for you, Chris and hugely for Jo’s family. I hope you can find a way to lean on each other.
    Suicide can be absolutely unbearable and difficult to comprehend. It can also conjur up a whole range of emotions ranging from guilt, uncertainty, anger, etc…..please please keep talking. The more people keep talking, perhaps the stigma around suicide and mental health illness will be reduced, perhaps more people will feel like they can access support. Please take care.

    A little note for Noe – It’s encouraging news to read that you have been trying to get better by accessing support. I’m not sure where you are based – but huge thank you for reaching out to Kat and commenting. Perhaps you could revisit your doctor and let them know you still feel vulnerable. They may be able to make a referral to an alternative specialist who can confirm diagnosis and prognosis. If you are in the UK, as well as the Samaritans, MIND offer free and hugely discounted services and a range of therapies across the UK, and may be able to make international recommendations if appropriate. http://www.mind.org.uk/ Take care

  7. Emma

    Such devastating news to hear that the world has lost another beautiful person to the heavens above. Its hard for us to ever comprehend why and we never will. I lost a dear friend of mine to suicide and on the night of her death she messaged me on fb, I was a sleep and to this day I wish i hadnt been. It has taken time for me to realise there is nothing I or anyone else could have done any different. Sometimes people just wont ever find their way back and although it is hard for us to understand they are happier now. I know my friend is with her mum and mine and she still parties hard and looks over us. Nothing stops us from wanting them here with us in form but they are here in spirit. xXx

  8. Thank you, gorgeous, for sharing this. I don’t know you but wanted to share my experience with you.

    My brother committed suicide Aug 2011 and out of tragedy was birthed a new life for me. I am riding on wings of angels as my brother’s light now shines through me. We were from the same family but he was addicted to junk food chemicals which manifested every disease you can imagine including depression, bi-polar, ADHD etc. He got hooked because our uncle invented this chemical drink called Kool Aid, which I truly believe started the junk food revolution. My mom watched him turn hyper and she didn’t want me going that way…so when I was 3, growing up in Japan, she gave me Japanese green tea. Even though we grew up in the same family, our lives were worlds apart. I was happy, vibrant, creative, healthy, and living every moment to it’s fullest…Edwin was the complete opposite, spiraling into darkness and depression. His death gave me the message that I need to bring healthy Japanese tea to the world and so I wrote a book and dedicated it to him while at the same time, started my tea company.

    But this message wasn’t obvious at first and I wrestled with the meaning of life, what is death, where do you go if you commit suicide and is this even reality. Every question about who I am flooded my mind. It was hard to function. Luckily, I slowly peeled back layers of the mystery of life to find that every single thing has meaning. My brother’s death was a gift in that it gave me unbelievable bionic power to step through my fear and bring this message of health, love and joy to the world. I bless him every day for the sacrifice he made to release me and set me free.

    I am absolutely available if you want to talk. Sending pure LOVE to you my friend.

    Love, Holly XOXO

  9. Ps. As Claire says, you are indeed a beautiful soul Kat and I am touched to have been given the opportunity to have met you and am sure that lots of people in your life are glad that attempt at suicide was unsuccessful. We are all beautiful and we all matter. xxxxx

  10. Kate

    I’m so sorry to hear. I too lost a friend that, like Jo, had the biggest, most beautiful smile and that people loved so dearly. She had lost her boyfriend an our dear friend in a car accident about 12 months before taking her own life. I sat with her 5 days before she did it and she told me of her struggles but laughed it off like it was just a rough time that she would come through – or at least that’s how I perceived it at the time. But there was nothing me, my friends, her family and loved ones could’ve done to stop her. She was an Emergency Services Worker so she had the best support anyone could buy, her life long friend lived just across the road, but she didn’t reach out, and on the night of my Birthday, just a few days before we were going to spend a weekend at a resort, she ended it all. I spent so long being angry, seeing the pain and confusion she left behind, it’s so hard to come to terms with a death of someone who made the choice to take their own life. The only way I get by dealing with it is knowing that she is with him now, and she doesn’t have to feel that pain anymore, she’s at peace. But I’m still angry with her, that will never go away. Learning forgiveness is the hardest thing. Life just fukin sucks somedays.

  11. sarah

    In our area they do some training (ASIST – Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training – http://www.asist.org.uk/en) which is kind of a first aider response for suicide – spotting signs, having an idea of what to do, how to talk to people, making safety plans with them until they can get more help. There have been a couple of times when I’ve used what I learned and felt that I was able to help in that moment when someone was thinking about suicide. I’d recommend anyone taking a short course if it’s available.

    So sad for everyone concerned; the comments here reflect that many of us are affected by this issue, so many thanks for having the heart to write about it.

  12. I am devasted to hear this news, I hope you can find peace in the matter by just remembering Jo for how beautiful she was in every way.

    Noe – I deal with depression myself and i’m still coming to terms with that in itself to be really honest, I have always been the one to lighten the mood and speak louder than everybody else so nobody really notices.

    I noticed that in your first writings you made a great start by admitting the problem in great detail however you made a point for me that I couldn’t not point out, you said youself: “my pain will end.” Now to me this is a great start as you are tackling the problems and you can see that there is a place somwhere in which you wouldn’t feel like this.

    I’m no pyschologist but I would like to ask you to do something for yourself/for me, I wonder if it’s the situation you are in or whether it stems from a deeper part of you and I ask you to make a list of good things in your life as well as the bad and then number them in accordance to how shitty they are/how much you want them to change. For example I want to move out of this terrible house I am living in as I live with somebody I have never liked for a very long time and that would be my number 1, that is what I am tackling first.

    Remember talking is never a bad thing.

  13. Great link Sarah – thank you. Yes ASIST is nationwide and are also international! Great initiative. I am also an ASIST caregiver and would throughly recommend the course for anyone interested in suicide intervention First Aid. It also brings some comfort and understanding too x Thanks Sarah.

  14. tanya

    Ive sufferd the same illness for many years and people are surprised to hear I suffer..like Jo Im bubbly, carefree and happy on the outside…but behind closed doors its a different matter…my life is in termoil, I havnt been able to hold down a job in years…I wear tatty clothes and cant afford to get my hair cut, medication has helped but ive also put on alot of weight which has only added to the problem.ive had to share my house to pay the bills…I live in my own spare room which is covers in damp..Im in my mid 30s and im watching people round me get married and have a family…i cant see that happening to me …depression is such a debilitating illness…and I beg anyone out there to contact anyone who they belive they can help before your life spirels out of control..I live in the hope that one day I will wake up and I wont have such evillness hanging over my head..much love to Chris.I hope Jo is finally at peace xx

  15. Beccy

    What a beautiful girl, I’m sure she was a great friend and my thoughts and prayers are with you and her loved ones. I also wanted to say, and I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m poking my nose into your business but… I have felt suicidal before. There was no one I could really talk to about it, not even my best friend, she just doesn’t understand depression, but from your post, I can see that you do. I know you probably feel mixed up and guilty and you probably will for a while, but I am as certain as I can be from reading your sensitive, touching post that you were the best friend you could be to this girl…there are some things you can’t control. Please don’t beat yourself up. Sorry for maybe sharing too much but this post really struck a chord for me!

  16. Depression is an evil and relentless illness that’s made worse by the stigma other people attach to it. I noticed a post further up from Noe. You’ve noticed the symptoms of something and recognised that you don’t feel right – that’s a major step. You were tremendously honest and courageous to talk about it here, and Kat is absolutely right, the Samaritans will be able to put you on to an organisation that will be able to provide you with support and help – best wishes for returning to yourself.
    This is such a sad story and one that far too many people have experience of.

  17. Oh Kat, thank you for sharing this…your post made ​​me cry…depression is a very difficult problem to deal with….My best friend lost her boyfriend and her mom with it!…..you’re right, so many unanswered questions….

  18. Kat, I am so sorry for the pain you are all going through over the loss of your much loved friend. Having been on both sides of this, I hope you all can one day accept that there is nothing you can do, no matter how much you love someone, when their internal turmoil and pain becomes so great that they choose not to live anymore. The only thing that stopped me from going over the edge of a balcony was guilt. It took a long time and a lot of therapy to learn to love myself and feel worthy of all the love that was given to me by others. Everyone knew I was struggling but couldn’t understand, and still don’t understand, the pain and self-hatred that never really goes away, but lessens significantly with the right help. One friend was so angry when I told her what I had nearly done, she berated me and told me to never, ever think of doing such a thing again. Less than one year later, she took her own life. Please, if anyone out there feels like their lives are worth nothing, or if you even consider that others would be better off without you, call Samaritans, or even your GP. We all deserve to live a happy life and sometimes we need help to learn how to have one.

  19. Hi Kat, I am so sorry for your loss. I have a cousin and since early childhood we’ve been best friends, always close and always telling each other everything. Until one day I noticed lots of scars on her tights indicating a self harming issue. She also attempted a suicide twice and I could not believe how did this happen. How this gorgeous young woman found herself in this situation. I spent long days and nights talking to her and nothing seemed to help. The feeling of guilt is an enormous burden to carry and the most difficult part is to not allow yourself to feel that way. Depression is a terrible thing sucking life out of people bit by bit ever day until there is not much left. Wish you all the best. Stay strong x Sending Love x

  20. Nadine

    My brother committed suicide and I’ve spent three years trying to make sense of it. Thank you for posting this. Thanking of you and all of Jo’s friends and family. x

  21. I’ve followed Chris’s work through his website and on wedding blogs over the years and when I saw this posted here yesterday and the realisation of who it was dawned on me, I just felt so sad and upset. I haven’t stopped thinking about Jo, Chris or her family and friends since and I feel so sad as even though I didn’t know them sometimes the Internet brings you closer to people through pictures and the things that they do. It’s such a tragic thing that’s happened and I can only send lots of love and thoughts to her family, friends and Chris at this time and always xxx

  22. briony

    Just wanted to add to the wave of thanks (because we ALL need to start talking about mental health and kicking the stigma as hard and violently as we can), and send a hug. Cannot imagine how you’re feeling – there are no words.

    Also, I dunno if this will come across really preachy, and I KNOW it will seem hideously unfair, but my best friend had a major psychotic episode and tried unsuccessfully to kill herself recently, and what I wanted to say was that you should definitely see if you can get some counselling/do whatever you can to look after yourself too. I thought I could just keep going and cope, and as a result am only just beginning to recover from a near-breakdown myself, and I am not even grieving as she’s in recovery – and I am *still* a mess, and struggling like hell, and trying to come to terms with the fact that I can’t just process all the messy un-name-able emotions by myself. So really be kind to yourself, and take things easy, and talk talk talk talk talk to anyone who can help you!

    With sympathy x x x x

  23. Kate

    Mental health is so difficult and so challenging. Two very close members of my immediately family suffer and I struggle daily with how I support but don’t smother. I also struggle with separating the illness from them as 20 years plus in the two are so closely linked. Honest communication, professional support and just being there have worked best but its so challenging. My heart breaks for you and your friends. big hugs xxx

  24. Diana

    Mental illness is illness. And anything we can do to break down stigma and encourage people to get help is important.

    Depression, is sadly-very short sighted. Dealing with a friend or family member’s suicide (or attempted suicide) is f*cking hard. And it’s a topic that no one seems to want to discuss. So thank you for going there.

    In my case, my family member failed (thankfully) but even dealing with the emotions and the anger, and the not-wanting-to-say-anything in case you tip her over the edge again, remains one of the hardest times of my life.

    I’m so sorry for your loss, and the loss of all Jo’s friends and family. Thanks for sharing.

  25. I lost my friend Hugo unexpectedly this past January and it was tough. I thought about writing as you did, but could not find the courage to. I felt everybody around me was pushing me away like a leper just because I was in mourning. I lost followers all across the board but didn’t care, because sometimes mourning is a journey. I never post negative situations online other than observations now and then. People stepped back just because they couldn’t handle the humanity of mourning.

    It’s something that I am still wrapping my head around. It hurts to lose people we care about, people who light up our days. The reaction is similar; we go through old spoken conversations, texts, fb messages and try to fit the pieces together. It’s good to wallow in those feelings for a bit, then we slowly have to get back up on our feet and keep going. Whew! It takes so much strength.

    I’ll never forget Hugo, the same way you’ll never forget your friend, but keep the memories and honor them. They’ll be your solace.

    It’s crazy to think it happened to us. It’s always such an alien concept until we experience it.

    Whew.

    I admire your strength in posting this and send you a great, big warm hug. HUUUG!

    xoxo
    Leelah

  26. Rachel

    Take some solace that friends that you have never met nor seen their faces understand your pain. My deepest sympathies to you, Chris, and Jo’s family and friends. And my deepest thanks for sharing what so many hide and forget to realize when battling such a powerful disease

  27. Racheal

    How awful,Sympathy goes to all that knew this beautiful lady, especially her family and ex- husband and his family. Fly high with the angels in heaven Joanna your now at peace.

  28. Annamarie (Cpt, ZA)

    I too fight the black dog daily with my tattoo on my right arm to remind me to stay in the fight against one of the quietest most devastating mental illnesses. Thank you for writing this Kat: bless you and Jo and all who are affected by her losing her fight with depression. love and light.

  29. Survivor

    I made an attempt on my life just over a month ago, it was hard to feel like I’m constantly falling and having to pick myself up just to repeat it all again. I lost hope.. Since leaving the hospital after receiving no help at all (they are full of seriously ill people) I went to my GP, who wouldn’t give me any medication because he didn’t have my hospital discharge notes and wouldn’t refer me because I was moving out the area over the next few weeks. I haven’t seen the same doctor more than once and every time I have to explain the whole thing again and it’s humiliating and tiring and asking for the right drugs I am made to feel like an addict. This is what I had been avoiding for the last few years and this is why I ended up so ill, in my experience you can’t get the help if you need it, or ask for it, or even do something as drastic as making an attempt on your own life. I’m on just enough of the right medication that means I can just about function and I am fighting everyday to get the right help, I now have people to support me in my fight and it reminds me how much I am loved and cared for and to get what I need to get to where I need to be.

    With their support I have removed negativity from my life, moved home, moved doctors, passed my driving test, bought a car and I am sourcing out other means of support to work out the problems with 12 step programs, meditation, medication, exercise and eventually counselling. It helps to know that you’re not alone with your dark thoughts and I although I still don’t have hope that everything will be OK I know that if I keep fighting and doing things differently then I can expect a different outcome.

    One of the things I am still dealing with is the feelings of others, how they are hurt and confused by my actions. I regularly hear that someone is there for me and I don’t need to feel alone. I never felt alone, and I knew I was loved and cared for but the pain is hard and it wears you down and it seems like the only answer to make it stop. I know I wouldn’t survive getting to that point again so I have to do something about it now.

    Advice to other people suffering: You can contact your local mental health team without a GP referral and they are very helpful advocates. Isolating yourself is also a slippery slope and it’s best to get help, keep knocking on doors until it’s the right one! Good luck to you all and remember suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem!

  30. I never ever met Jo or her partner Chris but was aware of them from being in the same industry and the same area. I looked at their website many times and thought how wonderful(sometimes with a touch of jealousy)it must be to have a partner who shared the beautiful gift of being a wedding photographer and capturing images of people in love, what a great job and to be doing that with your partner it must be wonderful.

    I feel from my own experience that being a photographer is a very spiritual thing. I say to clients I meet that what I want to do is get them a beautiful timeless image from their wedding day so that in 50 years time, when I’ve long gone, your grandchildren will look at it and say “wow, didn’t granny look wonderful on her wedding day”. And in that simple act of appreciation for a photograph part of my soul will be remembered. I’m sure Jo’s spirit will be long thought of, as people not yet born, look at and see the sprit of her in the photographs she took.

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