Your birthday is coming up, and I can’t believe this is your fourth year gone. You’re missed every day by so many people. They say legends never die, and I wish it were literally true, instead of just figuratively. I selfishly wish you were still here, making everyone laugh, dreaming out loud, and plotting to take over the business world with your big, wild ideas. I wish I could call you just to say hi, hear your voice, tag you in dumb stuff, tell you funny stories, and have you laugh at all my misadventures just to cheer me up immediately after. I can still hear your voice so clearly, calling me by my last name and saying “Come on...It’s not so bad. Boss up!” You’d probably throw some motivational rap verse in there too, just because that was our style.
You changed my world. I can’t thank you enough for being one of the best friends I ever had. One of my biggest regrets is not reaching out to your family after that time you and I stopped at the pharmacy together. You asked the pharmacist to give you more antidepressants, and she said she couldn’t unless you saw your doctor and had him request a higher dosage. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and it’s one of those “if I only knew then what I know now” moments, but I desperately wish I handled it differently. If I had any idea of how bad it was, I would’ve stepped in and tried to help you more. At the time, it just seemed like one brief, casual conversation.
None of us could’ve predicted that you would end up taking your own life. You were such a light in everyone else’s that we didn’t realize just how dark your own world was. You were the one with the best laugh, the craziest ideas, the funniest stories. You were the one that everyone wanted to be around. The last time I saw you, you seemed to be completely back to your old self. You were cracking me up like you always did...
If I talked to you about that conversation with the pharmacist, would it have changed anything? What if I asked you if you needed help or more support? Did your family know you were even taking antidepressants? It took me so long to realize that I couldn’t have changed your mind, and even longer to forgive myself.
You were one of the most ambitious, stubborn go-getters I’ve ever met. Once you had an idea in your head, there was no talking you out of it. You were depressed for a long time. You tried taking time off work and school, traveling, visiting family, working out, volunteering, keeping busy. But the depression was always there.
Depression doesn’t discriminate. It didn’t care that you were in your early 20’s and had so much ahead of you to look forward to. It didn’t care that you were one of the most well-loved people I’ve ever known. It didn’t care that taking you would damage everyone who had the pleasure of knowing you right to our cores. I know I’ll never be the same, but I’m so incredibly grateful to have been your friend.
Because of you, I am a better listener and a better friend. I want my friends to feel comfortable reaching out to me when they’re going through a rough patch or when their anxiety and depression are making them feel like their head can’t stop spinning. I want to use my empathy to support, love, and help anyone who is struggling with their anxiety. I want to be brave and smart enough to know when to intervene and when to get them additional support. I’m much more open about my own mental and physical health issues now, and I thank you for that. If being open and vulnerable can connect me with one other person and help them, it’s worth it.
My hope is that the topic of mental health becomes less of a stigma. Connecting with people is really, really hard when you’re depressed. Some days, you can’t even get out of bed, let alone effectively explain your feelings, especially if you’re afraid of being judged or sounding crazy. If more people shared their struggles, it would help anyone going through something similar feel like they’re not alone. That hope and connection could save someone’s life.
Because of you, I am a better person. Thank you. I’ll toast to you on your birthday like I always do. xo
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