It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with depression, and have for a very long time. I’ve learned to cope with it, to make it fuel me to push forward, to turn it into positive things. I’ve learned that I can control most of the things that upset me - or, I can at least recognize that if something is upsetting me, that I care about it. Which means either I’m taking something too seriously, or that it deserves to be recognized.
It breaks my heart to say that just before I continued to start writing this paragraph, I learned that a young boy ended his life tonight. He gave up before things got bettter. This boy struggled through life, and the last thoughts he had before he left this world were those of despair and loneliness. More than the events that lead him to choose to end his life, the biggest tragedy is that he’s missed the opportunity to experience true joy - perhaps he could have found the girl of his dreams - get married and start a family… Go to college, travel the world, and then settle down somewhere to see his children marry, give him grandchildren, and have the satisfaction of looking back on this night and being so thankful he kept going. A potentially beautiful life, cut short by trivial things he’ll have forgotten by the time he’s even my age. This is… this is just too much.
Life is an unfair thing. It’s about broken hearts that heal more slowly than you’d like. It’s about rejection, bad luck, and the frustration of trying your hardest and still not being good enough - but continuing on anyway, and that’s where you’ll find incredible friends in unlikely places, fleeting moments of joy in simple things like butterflies in your stomach when you lean in for that first kiss… and it’s about facing the terrifying truth that pain is inevitably going to be a factor to the things that are most important to you: Your friends, your parents, siblings, perhaps your children, will be taken from you before you’re ready to let go. But that could never, ever, justify running away from the beauty of this lifetime. There are no do-overs, and I’m not going to leave this world on such bad terms.
I understand it though, I really do. 2011 as a whole was something I hope to forget eventually - June through August felt like an entirely different year inside of 2011. From heartbreak, to being drunk for a few weeks straight, which led to numb suicidal blackouts, and then a solo 1600 mile road trip in which I didn’t plan on coming home. I recall Josh being in California during this time, and he was the only person I wanted to talk to. I cried for hours as I wrote him an 8 page letter about how I didn’t think I could get any lower than this, and how I’d give anything for a reassuring hug. I needed him to tell me I was going to make it - and he did.
The summer passed slowly, I went into autopilot mode, and I honestly couldn’t have told you what day of the week it was if you’d asked me. Suicide was at the back of my mind, constantly. On a crazy night of drinking too much, my dear friend got alcohol poisoning and started vomiting and dry heaving for two hours straight. I grabbed his car keys and snapped into sober mode for the drive to Maverik to get him some Pepto Bismol in a last-ditch effort to avoid the emergency room. While I watched him sleeping to make sure he didn’t aspirate, it finally dawned on me… All these things that have been getting me down, were things I had chosen to care about, and thus my depression was largely within my own control.
Between then and now, it’s been a steady climb back to happiness. So why all this doom and gloom reminiscing…?
Tonight, Chris and I were passing the time by watching Prison Break. The front door opens and Josh walks in. I hear Chris greet him with the standard “Hey man! What’s up? …are you okay?!” I heard it in Josh’s labored breathing, before I even turned to see him - Josh had been crying, and was struggling very hard not to break down again so he could speak: “I’m sorry for being a bad friend.” What?! This actually blew my mind. Josh is many things, but “bad friend” is nowhere near the list of synonyms for someone who has been so supportive to me over the years!
We love Josh to pieces, and I racked my brain desperately to try to fill in the blanks - how on earth has he reached the conclusion that there is possibly anything to apologize for?? It took several minutes to get Josh to open up and tell us what he’s going through. While he struggled to catch his breath and fight back the tears so he could speak, it became very apparent to me that he’s experiencing that “never-ending torment of depression so intense it feels like you’re drowning on dry land, and every breath you take feels like it will certainly be your last” type of heartbreak that plagued most of 2011 for me.
He’d gone for a drive, contemplating life and trying to make sense of it all. He thought to himself, “nobody cares,” as to who would provide him support in his time of need, without any advaced notice. “Nobody cares… except maybe Chris….” He drove over, and saw our cars outside. Knowing him, I’m sure it took a few minutes for him to justify the decision to come inside. I’m glad he did.
I listened to him explain the feelings he’s being overwhelmed with, and I was reminded of many of these events from 2011 which had left me feeling shattered, worthless, and somehow barely held together by very weak pieces of string. He seems to be struggling with self worth. He doesn’t love himself the way that we love him. Plus, he had supported me when I was having my own little life crisis.
I actually brought this up: How I was miserable, how I lost every positive thing in my life, how I honestly could not find reasons to get out of bed in the morning. The lowest point I had ever been. The tears started welling up behind my own eyes as I spoke. “Remember when I wrote you that letter, Josh? You were the one and only person I wanted to talk to. You’re the only one I felt that I could talk to when my life was falling to pieces.” The look in his face was one of a broken spirit. The unspoken understanding that we both knew how dreadful this is.
It physically hurts me to think about the few real friends I have in this world suffering, not reaching out to me for comfort. I’ve made plenty of acquaintances, but there are only a small handful who have earned a permanent place in my heart. I think Josh will do just fine as soon as he finds something he can work towards. I’m so glad I have friends like him to keep me going when the depression sets in. And I can only hope that if you’re reading this, and you’re falling apart too, that you won’t hesitate to ask for help.