Monday, 1 November 2021

Understanding the un-understandable

Two weeks ago, a guy from our trail-multisport community died by his own hand. 

I didn't know him. 

I did discover that he'd sent me a Friend Request on Facebook (I don't know when) and that we had 200 Facebook friends in common. I probably popped up as a 'People you may know' link. 

I have learned that he was a good guy who was well liked. He was respected for his professionalism as an event MC and commentator as well as his radio work. He exuded energy, fun, and laughter and really made an impact on those around him - from the first across the line to the last-place participant. He showed people kindness. He seems to have had the gift of being able to shine his light on others and making them glow as a result. 

The many, many photos of him at events show a strong, healthy, fit, laughing, smiling, fun, radiant, people-loving man. 

He had a loving partner, a daughter and a dog that he dearly loved - plus a menagerie of other animals like ducks, geese, chickens, rabbits and two tortoises that he seems to have been very fond of.

He worked at an event on the Saturday and some time between wrapping up at the event and maybe midnight, a switch flipped and that was that. He could no longer face another day.

His passing has had quite an impact on me.

In messages, friends write about how he gave so much to them and they chastise themselves for not seeing, and for not being there for him. The problem is that when there is a party on the outside, it is impossible to know that there is a deep desperation on the inside. 

I've pondered the reasons and one that stands out would be financial stresses that he was certainly under. Some of my theory was confirmed recently by a post by his friend on Facebook.

It said that he "went hungry and struggled the whole pandemic. How many of us took him some food, paid his bills, showed some love?". 

Another answered, "People did. Maybe not enough, but there were a lot of people who helped him. But, I hear you - we didn't do enough for him".

My thoughts keep turning to what anyone could have really done to help him. We look on the outside and say, "I wish I'd known / paid more attention. I could have helped". It is easy to lend an ear and offer practical help that costs nothing more than time. To help someone survive financially through a tough patch in their life is something else.

His work at events and MCing depended on events being held. His income would have been completely shut off when covid lockdowns hit and then very, very slow to restart. Even though it appeared that things were coming right for him, the depth of the hole may have been too deep to see even a glimmer of light - or that pinhole just seemed too far away. 

Something as 'small' as a late payment for services, yet another event that offered below-rate fees or asked for his services at no charge... these may have been triggers. Being in media and freelancing is a tough and rocky environment at the best of times. And these have not been the best. He'd said that evening in a whatsapp to a friend that his kindness was seen as a weakness. He probably did too many favours for too many people for too long. 

The environment in which he worked and the people with whom he interacted were part of the world of entry fees that costs thousands and bicycles that cost tens of thousands. He seems to have been a decent athlete himself but wouldn't have had the funds to enter any of the events at which he worked.

His friends would have been planning travels, location moves, new homes, outings, experiences and even the simplicity of going to a restaurant, yet he would have been stuck - trapped by lack of funds. When you don't have any money, it is hard to make decisions or to see any future.

He had a daughter (or two) and a partner, that he would have wanted to support better than how he was able to do so. Perhaps his situation caused tension with his daughter's mother, which would not be uncommon.

No work and no finances play havoc with self worth and confidence. That he was well-liked, appreciated for his work and respected for his professionalism would have made little difference to this.

He loved his dog very much. This in itself can be a reason to stick around. But, I can see how even this reason to be can be drowned out by bushels of darkness.

Friends and family knew what he was going through. What they probably didn't realise - and he never told them - was the degree of his despair, inability to see a way forward and his knowing that they actually couldn't help him with what he really needed - work or money or a new situation. He would have needed to be dependent on them for a period of time until his work picked up or he figured out a new direction for his career and life. And who wants to do this to friends and family? Could they have really helped?

And where finances may have been one aspect, there were probably a dozen 'small' elements that created a situation that, to him, was insurmountable. And all of these together would have contributed to a depression so deep that he could not see that pinprick of light. 

His death struck me because I understand this un-understandable. 

I speculate. I didn't know him. He looks to be a person who I would have liked. 

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