Staying for longer

I’m not sure whether I’ll swim through this winter. I’m not making any plans. But, whatever happens, swimming outdoors & my swimmy friends have meant that, for better or worse, I’ve stayed around for longer. . A friend said to me last week, of someone we’d both swum with and who had died by suicide last year, that he felt awful wondering whether he could have done more to support her. . Maybe. We can’t know now. But maybe, instead, their friendship and the support of other friends had helped her to stay for longer than she would otherwise have done. . It was the first time I’d said it out loud. . I told him that, after someone who’s been struggling for a long time with mental ill-health dies by suicide, instead of feeling guilty about what more you could have done, that instead you should consider that your friendship had actually helped them to stay for longer. . We were talking about someone we had both known, him much better than me, who had died by suicide in lockdown. My friend was feeling guilty, wondering whether he could have done more. She had lived with depression for a long time. I said to him that maybe he had helped to make her life less unbearable. Maybe he had helped her to stay for longer. . Enriching the life of someone who is suffering is a good thing in itself, even if they decide, ultimately, that they don’t want to carry on suffering. . Maybe his friendship, and those of others who knew her, had helped her to stay for longer. That’s something to feel warmly about, not guilty. I hope he takes comfort from that thought. . My friends have enriched my life so much. Because of them, I have stayed far longer than I otherwise would. . But, after a time, hopping between these moments of loveliness is no longer enough. The prospect of more suffering becomes too much to bear. . Sometimes people living with long-term serious ill-health need more help and support than even the most attentive friends can provide. Managing serious mental ill-health is multi-faceted, requiring support from multiple different sources. . Living with serious ill-health for a long time, you can lose so much, including the closeness and support of friends. Over time, there can be very little left of your usual self, your normal life. . Friendships can help enrich people’s lives and help them to stay for longer. . A small plaque has been put up in a special place that our mutual friend enjoyed being with her friends. I hope, when he sees it, he thinks of the good times they all had together and how they may have helped her, despite her suffering, to stay for longer. . I hope he remembers that sentiment. I hope he shares it with others. We never know when we’ll need them again in future.

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