She drank poison. It was a slow and painful death. Not only did it extend the physical torture for her, but she got to see how it was affecting her loved ones. Years later, I now think this must have been the worst part for her- watching those around her fall apart while she was on her death bed. Suicide was her culmination of the utmost personal war in her head, but in the end we all watched her die.
On a good day she was made of long limbs, bouncy ponytails, piercing eyes and an infectious laugh. She was a beam of sunshine after one had endured months of a brutal winter. To me, she was one of the most beautiful beings on the face of the earth and she definitely seemed like one the happiest. I suppose the old adage is true: “you can see a man’s face, but you can’t see his heart.” The last time I saw her alive, was not a good day. She was sprawled helplessly on a hospital bed, those ponytails were undone, her eyes jaundiced from the liver failure and a tube was down her throat. She looked at me, and I knew she regretted her decision.
She didn’t want to die. I silently begged her not to. And I could have sworn she agreed to live because she nodded in reply to my unspoken request as I stared down into her beautiful, beautiful face on that old hospital bed.
A few days later I was in church and the entire congregation had fallen on its knees to pray for her. I knelt on the cold floor but I did not pray. I did not seek God out, because I knew she was gone. I have gone back in time in my mind and I have pinpointed it as the exact moment I lost a part of myself. It was as if there was a great detachment within my whole being. Her absence was so final and so total I was shocked no one else felt it.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have made her death about me, but I did. I had a duty as her best friend to save her and she took that away from me. Back then when I knew no better, I called her decision selfish. I am not superstitious, in fact, I strongly believe “For the living know they shall die, the dead knows nothing.” But she left me all alone. She didn’t even haunt me. In her suicide note she made specific requests for her casket to be in baby blue and all those who attended to wear the same color. I thought it pompous. In my last futile act of rebellion against her I showed up at her funeral in purple. For she had violated something sacred between us. It was a childish but sentimental decision we made many summers before her death that our favorite color was baby blue. It was the start of our new friendship. The irony and the joke was not lost on me, because as I saw her laying in that damn baby blue casket I knew it was the end of that friendship. The night before her funeral my anger dissipated into something animalistic and desperate. I became utterly inconsolable. It was the only time I ever cried for her. Instead I re-wrapped myself in anger and clung to suppression as the only defense mechanism to handle the grief threatening to take over my life. I was so young. How does one deal with a grief so big? It is rather funny though, because it seems that run as you may, you can never run away from your grief or pain. I have seen my grief for her manifest in all of my relationships, platonic and otherwise, in an unhealthy dose of abandonment issues, trust issues and I am ever so slow to forgive and forget.
I have tried to understand what could possibly inhabit such a beautiful mind. What could have infected such a captivating spirit. But all I know is: DEPRESSION IS REAL. It is as real as any physical disease, only we are not always privy to external symptoms. You can be standing beside someone, they are laughing and seem to be having the time of their life, when in reality they are GOING THROUGH THE TIME OF THEIR LIFE. They are near the end and we don’t even know it. Something has snapped. Something they believe irreparable. Perhaps they tried to fix it themselves, failed, tried to fix it themselves again, but still failed. The mind becomes so diseased they do not see those around them. At this point, unlike my younger self’s interpretation of suicide, it is not selfish. They are lost in sinking sand and being bogged down with feelings of helplessness and emptiness. Some people aren’t even aware they are so far gone. Some don’t think for a moment to pick up the phone to ask for help. Others don’t want to burden people with their troubles. And so the suffering continues. The suffering in and of silence.
What do we do then if we don’t know the ones around us are going through depression? What do we do when we do not know someone wants to kill themselves? How do we help? I don’t have the answers but I do believe we have a responsibility to be as kind as we possibly can to everyone we meet or interact with each day. Take care of our friends. Take care of our family. A simple “Hello” or an “I love you” sent in a message could save someone from the ledge they have been standing on, waiting to jump off of. If I could go back in time I would have told my best friend I loved her. Maybe I took it for granted she knew. I would remind her each day of how much we had been through, yet still managed to survive. I would impress upon her visions of the future. I would tell her that whatever it was that plagued her so much wouldn’t matter today. Because often times, it does not. I would get her professional help, and I’d tell her not to listen to voices in her head which told her she was alone. I would be selfish and ask her to live for me, if she couldn’t live for herself. Live for her mother who had to endure the loss of her child. Live for those who loved her. I would remind her we are indeed bigger than our problems and as long as she had life, there would be a way. Yesterday’s troubles tend to work themselves out eventually. Just like a river or the ocean-there may be a ripple, there may even be a tsunami. But, the current always corrects itself.