About a week after I met my ex, Alex, for dinner, for the first time in 5 years, he sent me a really long text message.
He wrote that he was really struggling with the fact he can’t make any friends, and women never want a second date with him, and he asked if I could tell him what’s wrong with him, that makes no one like him.
I got it when I was at work, and I thought I’d think about it and reply later.
That evening, I replied saying I was sorry he was feeling so bad, and that I didn’t agree that ‘no one likes him’. I said that I really liked him and think he’s great, and that my friends liked him too.
I said I would think about it and try and work out if there was anything helpful I could think of.
We had a really long text conversation.
It was difficult, because he was asking me for feedback about something really important, and actually, there were some slight adjustments I thought that he could make, that might help.
I think he’s a really great person and good company, as well as being fucking fit, but it wasn’t a huge stretch to imagine him not making great first impressions.
He’s really funny and has a lot of interesting things to say, and he has some lovely social skills, and is very caring. I don’t think it would be that hard for him to work on being slightly less blunt, and maybe phrasing things so he comes across more interested and less like he already knows everything.
However, he seemed really distressed and vulnerable, and didn’t seem not to be listening to what I was saying. It didn’t seem like he was in the right frame of mind for constructive criticism. I thought it would be hard to hear at the best of times. Also, I was probably being a bit avoidant, and didn’t really ever want to say it.
That text conversation went on for ages, and he seemed really distressed, and a bit frenzied and incoherent. I had never really known him to be like that before. Even when he was in hospital, and asked for advice about ECT, he was calm and rational.
He was saying things like “I just seem to be a repulsive disgusting turd to most women but I can’t work out. I try and be confident even though I’ve never really had the usual experience most people our age have but it seems faking confidence doesn’t cut it and I’m just seen as weak and pathetic. I just hate my personality and body and everything about myself. All the people around me living their lives prove I’m subhuman.”
“this has been going round for 15 years building and building. If I run out of energy, then I’m just dead, in a flat and no one will find the corpse for months or years. No one would notice.”
He sent me about 20 messages like this, basically saying the same things, over and over.
The more that I tried to say kind, empathetic but encouraging things, the more hopeless it seemed to make him, as he tried to convince me it was hopeless.
Normally when I talk to people who are upset (which is obviously my job), it seems to help or at least not make it worse, but I really felt like I was only exacerbating it.
I tried taking more of a tough love approach, and said that we were going round in circles, and that sitting around thinking about what was wrong with him was not getting him anywhere but making him feel terrible. I suggested things he could do there and then, to try and reduce his distress in the moment, but he pretty much ignored what I said.
It seemed like he couldn’t stop sending the messages. He even started messages with “sorry, I’ll stop…” but then would keep on saying the same things.
I was really worried about how distressed he seemed. The next day, he sent me a message apologising, but ending drifting into repeating the same stuff in that message as well.
I wasn’t really sure what to do, especially as he lives far away and I don’t know anyone who is still in his life. I’ve never met his parents, who he lives with, and we’ve both lost touch with the mutual friends we once had.
So, a few days later, I went to Cornwall. I had the week off work, and it was my Godmother’s birthday. Her family and my parents were all staying in a big house together.
It was a long drive from London, and I had been told there was no phone reception where we were staying. I didn’t think there were still places in the UK with no reception, in 2018. Everyone else had already been there for a few days.
I was a bit worried about getting lost, on the last part of the journey, because we were staying in the middle of nowhere, and obviously I couldn’t pull over and phone for directions if I couldn’t find the house.
However, I did find the house OK. It was about 9pm when I arrived. It was lovely when I got out of my little car, and first my Godmother’s face appeared in one window of the house, saying “Dater Analysis is here!” and then my Godfather’s face appeared in another window, and then my parents came running out.
The place where we were staying was absolutely stunning. This was the view from my window.
After unpacking, I had lots of tea and wine and caught up with everyone.
The next morning, the first day of my holiday, I was getting dressed, when my phone went off.
Just for a second, somehow, it had picked up some reception, but then the signal disappeared again.
I got a message from Alex, which he had actually sent the night before, but I hadn’t received it until the following morning.
I read it, and panic rose in my body.
It really seemed like a suicide note. He said things like
- I shouldn’t exist
- there’s nothing I can do anymore
- it’s just a void of nothing, it’s so much work to get anywhere in the world for nothing to change
- I give up
- I’m a pathetic disgusting cunt and the world doesn’t need anymore of those
- sorry I’m messaging you it’s just none of the helplines are open and no one has acknowledged me in years. Bye.
Oh fuck. I thought. He sent this last night, and thinks I didn’t respond.
I was out of my mind with worry. I felt pretty certain he’d tried to kill himself.
At work, I assess suicide risk every day, and it does make my mind go there more quickly than it would for a normal person. I have worried about other people harming themselves when they were just being dramatic, but this seemed really different.
It felt particularly worrying because I’d known him to be unwell enough to be an inpatient before, but he’d never said anything like this.
I knew he had lots of demographic risk factors, like his gender and age, and the fact one of his best friends committed suicide a few years ago, and his history of severe depression.
I carried on getting dressed, and tried to text him back, and phone him, but the signal had gone again.
I ran out into the garden and managed to get one bar of signal. I texted him saying “Alex, I’m somewhere with no signal and I only just got this. I’m really worried about you! Please let me know if you’re OK.”
I tried to phone him a few times, but it just went to voicemail.
My Godparents’ family had already gone to the beach for the day, but my parents and I had planned to walk along the coast first.
I told my parents what was happening, nearly crying as I said “I think he might’ve done something stupid.”
I sent him another text and tried to call again in the garden, but still nothing.
I wanted to act fast. If he had done something like taking an overdose, the sooner he was found, the more likely he was to survive.
I sent him one more message saying “I’m so worried, I’m thinking of calling the police to do a welfare check. Please let me know if you’re safe.”
My parents and I agreed we would carry on with our plans for the day, but as soon as I had more signal, I would call the police first.
We got in the car, to drive to the start of our walk. After a few minutes, I said “OK, I’ve got signal now!”
My dad pulled over into a layby. I called 101. I got out of the car and stood on the other side of the road, where the signal seemed stronger.
There was an automated thing where I had to say the name of the police force I wanted, but the robot couldn’t understand when I said “Dorset”, where Alex lives, so I got put on hold.
After a painfully long automated message, in which I was told about how I could go to a website and ‘ask Ned’ if my query was not urgent, I finally spoke to a human.
As soon as I explained the situation (“I think someone might be committing suicide”), I got put through to the emergency line.
I spoke to a 999 operator who asked some questions about me and about Alex.
I put her on speakerphone so I could read out the messages he had sent me. Annoyingly, it turned out that a village fete was taking place nearby, and people kept walking past, talking about fete things, as I said things like “…then he said ‘I’m a pathetic, disgusting cunt’…”
After talking for a few minutes, they agreed that it did seem like an emergency, and said they’d send an officer straight round.
I felt a sense of some relief, once I’d spoken to the police. They said they would phone me with an update.
When I got back in the car, my Mum said, “I wasn’t listening, but you sounded very professional on the phone.”
We carried on with our plans for the day. I texted a few of my friends, saying what had happened, and I texted Andrew.
Andrew replied straight away, asking if I wanted to talk and saying the police would send someone really quickly.
My parents and I parked our car, and set off on our walk along the coast, to the beach where the rest of the family were.
Obviously, I was very distracted. I had my phone in my hand the whole time, in case the police called back.
I was half-expecting them to call back with bad news.
Obviously, I kept thinking about when the police told me that my ex-boyfriend had died.
I jokingly said to my parents, “I’m supposed to be on annual leave, I thought I’d get a week off suicide!” and “I can’t have two dead ex-boyfriends! People will start thinking I’m bumping them off.”
Despite my jokes, obviously I was absolutely terrified. I felt so awful that he had sent me that message the night before, and I hadn’t got it. I felt so responsible.
After a while, I lost phone reception again. It was so incredibly frustrating. I thought that we’d be in the best place for signal, on the coastal path which was up high and exposed.
I tried to focus on the amazing views, as worrying wouldn’t change the outcome with Alex, and I’d done everything I could, but obviously it was really difficult.
A couple of tense hours later, I got a text from Alex, saying “Sorry just had the police around to check it’s okay nothing happened. Apologies for being a pain. Really sorry.”
“OH THANK GOD!” I said, laughing with relief.
He’d actually sent it about 40 minutes after I got off the phone to the police, but it had only just come through.
The police did leave me a voicemail as well around that time as well, but I didn’t get it until days later.
I replied saying, “THANK GOD YOU’RE OK.” I planned to send a longer reply later.
My parents and I made it the beach where the others were, but we couldn’t find them. We had some lunch, and I talked about how relieved I was.
While we were eating, we saw a Coastguard van go past, and vaguely registered that it had its blue lights flashing, but didn’t think much of it.
After we’d eaten, we had one last look for our family friends, but couldn’t find them. The beach was packed.
We decided to walk back along the coast to a different beach which seemed a lot quieter.
On the way, my Godmother’s son, Martin, drove past us. He pulled over and told us he’d just taken his father to hospital.
His father, my Godfather, who is 71, had been standing on some rocks, and fell, and hit his head. He fell about 5 metres.
Later, Martin told us that his Dad had cut his head so badly, he’d been able to see his skull, and when he took his hand away, the blood sprayed out like it was coming from a water pistol. Everybody really thought for a minute that he was going to die.
By an amazing stroke of luck, a woman who turned out to be paramedic was nearby. She saw what happened and came running over, in her wetsuit. She had a baby with her, which she handed to my Godmother, so she could look after my Godfather.
Someone else had gone and got a first aid kit, and the paramedic bandaged up his head, and asked him questions to check for possible concussion or brain damage.
Two burly young men stood with towels over them to form a makeshift canopy, as it was a baking hot day, and another woman who was a nurse came to help.
The coastguard came and off they went to hospital.
Martin was going back to find his wife, who was still on the beach with three shaken up children, and we agreed we would go and meet my Godparents at the hospital.
We spent several hours at the hospital, but he turned out to be OK. He had 8 stitches in his head, and lots of bruising and cuts all over his body, which came out over the next day.
The rest of the week was a bit less eventful, and more relaxing, and my Godfather seems to be making a good recovery. By the end of the week, he seemed like his usual self again. I think he’ll have his stitches out tomorrow.