Dave Lynch talks about an important person in his life, her activism and what she’s left behind.
As I type this, it’s been just over a month since I started my blog up again, following over a year of inactivity. The response has been really positive, which is very uplifting considering the fact that I didn’t anticipate anyone to take any interest whatsoever. I was pretty much just writing for me. But being aware of people’s reactions, it’s reinvigorated my desire to blog. Healthy pressure and all that. So here I am on a fairly dingy, rainy Tuesday morning, typing away with a cup of hot chocolate and some chilled music in the background, having put this post off for a while. I’ve been stalling. So here we go.
I’ve been really anxious about writing this post (damn it Dave, stop stalling), but it’s something I need to write at the moment. The date I’ve published this, the 12th of March 2019, marks three years since the death of a very close friend of mine, Katie, after fatally injuring herself.
So yeah. Deep breath. No more stalling. Here we go.
It’s hard to explain how I’m feeling at the moment. Over the past week or so, lots of emotions and intrusive thoughts have been swirling around my head. Feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, shame, rejection, abandonment. The sense of sheer injustice of the pain she felt. I can remember the last time I saw Katie, and the time before that when we had, what I obviously didn’t realise would be, the last conversation we’d ever have. It would be the last time I’d see her smile and hear her endearingly dorky laugh. The last time we’d put the world to rights together, the last gentle hug we’d share before going our separate ways. All of this all at once, and round and round and back again. It’s very gruelling. Ultimately, I miss a friend I love dearly. I miss Katie an awful lot.
But this isn’t a piece of writing about loss. It’s about legacy and love. It’s about passion and humanity. I intend for this to be about everything Katie represented to me, what we meant to each other, and to express as accurately as I can just how unique and inspiring she was.
I met Katie, essentially, through mental health activism. We’d both been involved with a society at Leeds University called Mind Matters, a mental health awareness society aiming to educate and break stigma on campus and beyond. When she was well enough, Katie had a lot of insight into how the society should work, and even became its president for a time. We came to be very close friends. We encouraged each other a lot in terms of mental health activism. I was co-running mental health charity fundraising gigs, and she was blogging, running a university society and occasionally sitting on panels in front of senior NHS staff to directly have a say in patient care within the mental health system. (Between the two of us, I think she wins there.) When it came to attending meetings with other mental health organisations, she didn’t so much ask if I wanted to come with her to such things and be a part of what she was doing, she pretty much told me I was. She was adamant. Her commitment to such work, all whilst dealing with her own mental health (as well as mine, it’s worth pointing out), was formidable and utterly inspiring. It still blows my mind.
When I was struggling with a very difficult decline in my own mental health, eventually leading to a PTSD diagnosis, she was there to help pick me up and help me through it. She understood. She got it. Even when I felt unable to talk to anyone else about what I was going through outside of counselling, she was there. Warm words of wisdom, kind listening patience as well as the occasional sprinkling of quirky humour to make things feel a little less awful; Katie was always there, always caring. The more I reflect on that, the more grateful, humble and lucky I feel to have known her.
After her death, a fundraising project was set up to raise money for mental health causes that were obviously very close to Katie’s heart. Even shortly after her funeral, it had raised thousands of pounds. That money has undoubtedly helped a lot of people over the past three years. Katie was also an organ donor, and we were told at the funeral that several people had been given a new lease of life because of this. Even her death couldn’t get in the way of her activism and compassion. She wouldn’t let it. That’s how she rolled. That was her all over. It’s very fitting. There’s something about that I find quite beautiful. The impact she made hasn’t dwindled. I doubt anyone she knew is prepared to allow that.
So why am I writing this now? Well, a few reasons. Partly and rather obviously, I feel the need to mark the anniversary. Partly, it’s a way for me to remember her and let people know the colossal impact she made in her short time.
But most importantly, I want this to instil hope. The most important thing I’ve been able to take from knowing Katie and being a part of her life is that individuals, as much as it might not feel like it at times, really can make a massively positive difference. She’s reminded me that I can do that. I can write songs and blogs that can mean something to people. When I’m well enough, I can be active in the community, as both an activist and a musician, helping to raise money for mental health charities. I can help run peer support groups as well as number of mental health related difficulties. I can be a voice of awareness, compassion and hope as she was. If I can come close to helping people the way Katie helped me, I feel a strong need to do it. It feels like the most appropriate way for me to honour her memory. As far as I’m concerned, Katie has left quite a legacy. I’m very humble to be a part of it. It’s what she’d want me to do. It’s what I want to do.
Katie isn’t ‘gone’. She’s still very much a part of me.
This was originally featured on Dave’s Blog, Just Another Anxious Musician.