Health Care, Mind, Love, Life Stories

What I’ve learned about my mental health after losing my best friend

The world shakes us to our core in the most messed up ways, and this was my moment of truth.

Trigger warning: Talks about suicide and depression

Sometimes I still delude myself into believing I’m living a nightmare. I believe none of this ever really happened. I’m half asleep, walking through life and just going through the motions.

It’s been one entire year since my best friend took his life. Saying those words still does not come easy to me. I don’t like to use the phrase ‘committed suicide’ because from the beginning, it stigmatizes the act. Nothing about what he did was criminal; nothing about what he did loans itself over into that narrative for me. The only thing that comes through is pain. A pain that now resides within my bones. Pain that’s wrapped itself into my bloodstream. Pain that has now made a home within me. But that pain also translates into remembering.

Grief doesn’t follow any specific order as you might think. It injects itself into your world and destroys everything. You have no way to protect yourself from it. One year ago, I wrote about how broken I felt. Today, I honestly don’t feel any different.

I’m just going through life. I have days when things are good and I can almost taste happiness, but then there are others where I’m knocked out and can’t breathe. I’ve always been good at avoiding things and at some point last year, I took the pain I felt and tucked it away. However, when people speak about suicide ignorantly, when people pass unwarranted comments about mental health, or when they just bluntly ask me if I knew what he was going through – I’m triggered.

I’m trying so hard, I swear. I’m talking about it, I’m learning the effect of my voice in society, I’m calling out for help when I need it, but I’m still not okay. And I think, for now, that’s alright.

One year later, there are so many things that I can say I’ve learned. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been teaching O level students (between 14 to 16) literature. While I’m teaching, I have the opportunity to observe students and the narrative they create for themselves. And it isn’t a pretty one. There’s a lot of self-deprecation, nihilism, insecurity, crudeness, bullying, drama – everything that builds into an incredibly toxic environment.

Observing this space has really irked me. Knowing that there is only so much I can do ends in my savior complex screaming to be let out. A lot of mental health issues begin to stem post-puberty, and being in that competitive, high-stress environment where it’s “Get an A or just be written off,” creates resentment within and amongst students.

I’ve learned that schools need to do better to create safe spaces for their students. They need to allow for mental health days, moments to breathe, walks outside class, and to enable a conversation between student teacher that isn’t a power play. Otherwise, things won’t change. We will continue to ignore the importance of mental health and refuse to engage in the discussions surrounding it.

When people casually throw in an “I’m gonna kill myself” in conversation with me, especially people that know about him, I can’t deal with it. Talking about suicide requires a certain type of language, and just throwing the word around as if it were trivial is deeply painful for those who’ve lost someone to suicide, or are contemplating it.

Creating a safe space for yourself is everything. If this year has taught me anything, it’s to choose myself. I know that it’s okay to be selfish, to put my well being above my “yes, girl” instincts. There have been days where I haven’t wanted to leave my bed, moments where I randomly burst into tears, and times where everything just seems too fucking much. I’ve come to terms with the notion that things will be overwhelming, that nothing in life comes easy, especially your personal growth and happiness.

When you’re there, seemingly sinking into the darkness, acknowledge it, allow yourself a moment to truly check in with yourself. I’ve done it; I’ve isolated myself beyond belief for weeks at a time because after my friend left, I didn’t think I had it in me to be the same person I was. And I’m not. I am definitely not. But realizing that I can’t always be the one giving in every relationship, understanding that not everyone will understand, and knowing that that’s alright – that’s what’s really helped me. I used to expect a lot from others, but expectations are bullshit. Nothing ever goes as planned and that’s what we need to plan for.

Allow yourself to make homes within other people. There are a handful of people who have made this year bearable for me. When he left, my life felt like it had been pierced through and that time stood still. Yet here I am, one year later. And I’m alive and I can do so much with my life. On the first birthday after his death, we told stories about him. On the first new year after his death, we mourned over him. Now, on his anniversary, I hope to do right by him. I want to remember the incredible friend he was, the one that changed so many of our lives.

I know I’m tumultuous, and sometimes I can be completely irrational because I feel like a loose cannon. But, I’ve realized that it’s alright to be more emotionally inclined. It’s okay to tell the people in your life that you care about them, to reach out to an old friend just because, or to do something nice for someone – because life is too damn short to risk it.

And finally, I’ve realized that I will always have questions. I will always have that one question. I go to sleep dreaming about it, letting the question mark engulf me as it grows larger and more vast, but I’m hanging on. I always have to remind myself that my questions are valid, even though they can never be answered.

Last year, at this exact time, I remember writing about mental health awareness week and feeling like I knew so much. The world shakes us to our core in the most messed up of ways, and this was mine. I realized that sometimes you never really know someone as well as you think you do, and I’m learning that my mental health needs to be my top priority. Because when it’s bad, when it’s really bad, you can almost feel yourself free falling into nothing, spreading thin over the encompassing sky, handing yourself over to that feeling; that’s when you’ve gotta reach down. That’s when you gotta reach out.

His death lives in all of his loved ones, just as he does. Life slowly pushes on, but I will always remember.