Letter to Brian: June 12th, 2018

Dear Brian,

For the better part of the last year, I took a hiatus from the nauseating world of Facebook.  For some unknown, regrettable reason, I popped back on there a few weeks ago.  Then, just last week, following the suicides of two prominent celebrities, the internet experienced a deluge of activity surrounding the topic of suicide, depression and mental health.

Needless to say, I’ve deactivated my Facebook account again.  Imagine the very worst moment of your entire existence.  Now, imagine that every time you went online, turned on the news, picked up a paper or even left the house that you were bombarded with very specific reminders of your trauma.  It was so hard to be in the world this past week.  Seeing the word “suicide” in my feed from literally every direction was just too much.  It pushed me back into an abyss of sorts and as a result I’ve begun to retreat back into the same complete and total isolation within my own mind in which I found myself following your own suicide nearly 8 years ago.  It’s as though my mind and my body don’t seem to realize that it’s been that long and I’m reacting the same way all over again.  Panic attacks, nausea, fits of crying and alternating bouts of sleeplessness and the inability to wake up.  But now that 8 years have passed and I’m still this affected by it, I fear receiving an entirely different kind of pity; more of a “Oh, wow… poor girl is messed up, she’s still talking about it” kind of pity. Or the ever-popular “You know, your brother and your mom wouldn’t want you to be this sad.”  I feel even more alienated now as the support of the phone calls, texts, cards and visits from friends are no longer present– I feel as though I just need to sit through the darkness alone this time. Remember the movie Shrek?  Princess Fiona would hide in her cave alone each night afraid to show the world what she really looked like when the sun went down; I’m not entirely unlike that.  I retreat to my proverbial cave to try and fix myself alone because I am afraid people won’t love me anymore if they see that darkness inside of me.

Each year, 44,965 Americans die by suicide.  But when a celebrity takes their own life, people absolutely lose their shit.  On the one hand, I’m grateful that this issue is gaining some much-needed attention.  There’s such a stigma surrounding depression and suicide so I truly hope that this generates enough activity to affect some real change in the world of mental health care.  But think of all the school shootings so far this year!  People get all hyped up for a few weeks with all of their “Oh, my thoughts and prayers are with the people affected by this awful tragedy.” Prayers are nice and all but they don’t FIX anything.  I’ve been seeing people post things like, “To the depressed person at home who thinks they are all alone– I see  you.  You matter.  You’re important.”  Again… all lovely things to say; but even with the best of intentions these words just don’t help.  I obviously can’t speak for anyone else, but when I’m in that state of mind (in the throes of unmitigated mental anguish) nothing else seems to matter and the words just don’t get through.  It does matter to me when people tell me how much they love me but it doesn’t take away the pain.  If love was all it took to save a life, Brian, you’d still be here.

Posting all the numbers to call when you’re in crisis– again, a lovely thought… but THEN WHAT?  It’s not uncommon to have a 12-week wait for an appointment to see a psychiatrist.  And it’s rarely affordable.  How about we start trying to figure out how to help all these people AFTER they make that call for help?  Resources… affordable and accessible resources need to be there for real change to happen in their lives. People say, “If you’re feeling this way, talk to someone.  Call a friend, call a crisis line… just keep holding on.”  If I had a nickel for every time someone handed me lines like, “cheer up” or “stop wallowing” or “just choose to be happy” or”everybody has problems, you know” or “hey, look at the bright side– you have a job, you have shelter and food on the table, things could always be worse” I’d have enough money to be able to afford those bi-weekly therapy sessions.  Now that these two celebrities who seem to have had it all (fame, fortune, adoration) still couldn’t seem to shake their own mental illnesses perhaps people will start to realize that this kind of depression isn’t situational and it’s not a choice— it’s a legitimate disease.  And it’s an epidemic.

All the articles I saw last week encouraging those of us who are clinically depressed to just talk about our feelings just agitated me to no end.  Think about it– when someone dies by suicide there is a barrage of uneducated comments such as “what a coward” or “he took the easy way out” or “what a waste.”  Why on earth would someone who is having those kinds of thoughts want to share them with anyone when this is how the topic is received?  There’s such a need for education about mental illnesses and we need to start creating a more compassionate space in our communities to make people feel safe enough to share these kinds of feelings.

I’m sorry that I haven’t written you a letter in a long time, dude.  I think about it every single day but usually can’t bring myself to start typing because I’ve been afraid to let myself feel.  Guess I just had too much to say this time to let the feeling pass.

I miss you like crazy.




International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day – November 21, 2014

This past Saturday I attended my third International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day since Brian passed away.  I was about a second away from backing out of going because even now, after 4 years of grieving the loss of my brother (and openly, via this blog) there are still days when I want to bury my head in the sand and avoid the pain.  But I always feel better when I do let myself feel those things so when I checked my email Saturday morning I was grateful to read the email that the event leader had sent out the night before:

“We look forward to seeing you tomorrow on International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.

 When you wake up tomorrow, you might not feel like joining us. However, we ask you to please remember that you will be in a safe place with others who understand the conflicting emotions and questions that so often accompany losing a loved one to suicide. No matter what you are feeling tomorrow, we encourage you to join us. You can talk with others or just listen: you can participate in the entire day, or just part of it. This is a day for you.”
That email served to remind me that I’m not alone and that the feeling of wanting to crawl away and forget is very real and very normal but that the support of others who understand is so important.  I’m so glad I went.  For those 4 hours I was surrounded by complete strangers who immediately felt like family because we all share a bond (our suicide losses) that allows us to feel normal when in each other’s presence.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention put together this documentary for this year’s event and it was just so well done.  If any of you has 30 minutes to spare, this video is so worth the watch.  If you know anyone who has lost someone to suicide or if you yourself have lost someone, I guarantee there will be something in this film to which you can relate.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/110265770]