Today, October 10th, was World Mental Health Day. I paid homage by going to plant tulip bulbs in a remembrance ceremony for the two people at my school that we lost to suicide last year.
This is something that I’ve never talked about more publicly before, and I feel weird saying it so casually. One of the girls was one of my closest friends, and her death hit me like a bullet because I never, ever, saw it coming. The second was someone who I had known for seven years, but by then I was well versed in the process of grieving in a community. Though I was hit hard, and I mourned and continue to mourn her loss, I was not hit nearly as hard as those who had been her best friends, her support system. It was clear that my job was not to make this grief about me, but to support everyone I could.
My school has been very open with mental health. How could we not? How could we confront the reality of death by suicide in any other way? The answer was so clearly presented to be transparency, to be honest with the struggles we all faced, and to work together to overcome them.
But depression and suicide are not so easily confronted, because they are so tied up in our emotions and reactions. How can I post about mental health online when I know that creating these reminders might contribute in derailing someone else’s day? When people post pictures of these girls online, I shut down. I am petrified and forced to deal with the fact that I am not and never will be over their deaths. I don’t want to do that to someone else.
Depression and suicide cause pain. They cause so much pain. Pain that stems from love, and pain that is ultimately what makes us human. I would not feel the magnitude of worry I do for my friends struggling from depression did I not love them so dearly and want to help them so badly. I would not feel the grief of loss the way I do if the love had not been so strong.
The way forward from mental illness is through love, and through the connections we make. It is our responsibility to confront the fact that one in four people suffer from mental illness. Recognize that there is someone you love who cannot sleep due to a panic attack, or cannot get out of bed in the morning due to the utter defeat they are feeling for the day ahead. Confront the sometimes scary reality that is the world we live in and commit to making a change for the better.
I don’t have very many answers. But, I promise you, as someone who has seen an entire community mourn not once but twice, as someone who has loved so many people who have faced so much hardship, and as someone who has faced their own struggles and confronted their own mental health concerns, as that person I promise you that the way forward is through love and acceptance.
Something that stuck with me today is something that was said at ceremony by a speaker: life will continue to be bad. Bad things will continue to happen, but it is what we choose to focus on and the choices we make every day. The point of everything I am saying is not that life is terrible, but that life is brutally real, and we have the chance to make the best of it. The best comes from acceptance and love.
I am so honored and lucky to have the people in my life that I do. I miss those of us who should still be here every day.