A few months ago she told me what she did, and my heart sank. Since then I’ve thought about writing this article but hadn’t because it was painful, and I’m no expert in mental health.
But the pain in writing this is nothing compared to what she has gone through, and I hope her words can shed some light on the rising mental health crisis.
“Make sure you mention that from the outside, people would never know there’s a problem even if there is.”
I don’t remember when we met since we were just toddlers in my mom’s daycare. She lived down the street from me, and even though she was a grade behind me, we spent our childhood growing up together.
In middle school, we sat together on the bus every single day. We spent each of the long rides laughing nonstop – her laugh is contagious. She’s always been the most lively, hilarious, adorable person anyone could be around.
In high school we were on the same sports teams – she was an extremely good field hockey player. I got my driver’s license and she, my younger sister and I carpooled everywhere.
Going into her junior year – my senior year – she had lost a lot of weight. The daily car rides were less fun. She wasn’t that lively happy girl we had always known, and her humor turned dark and self-deprecating.
For many years she battled an eating disorder. It was truly heartbreaking to watch. She was transferred to a children’s hospital in Maine to begin recovery.
I remember printing out dozens of pictures of us to send her. I wrote on the back of each of them in colored markers, updating her on the team, funny things she’d missed, and why she needed to get better. I cried the whole time.
Seeing her after her first hospital stay was exciting but still sad. She had more life in her face and her smile was back, but her eyes revealed the exhaustive struggle she was still living.
I knew it wasn’t over.
“Make sure people know that being home afterwards is hard because…I don’t want to let people down, you know, but if I’m struggling I feel like I am. And that’s kind of hard.”
I left her and my sister behind for college, knowing they were both working hard against the eating disorder. The day she graduated, we all hugged her and cried.
Since then she’s been in multiple college courses, been in many different housing situations, earned her LNA, and has had numerous part-time jobs.
Last fall I had a bad feeling when I didn’t hear from her in a while. We texted her often and got no reply.
We met up a few months ago. In her typical lively fashion, she smiled nervously and laughed when she said, “I did something bad.” She had attempted suicide.
“Make sure people know that I met very normal people in the hospital because I think that’s important. Everyone thinks ‘it’s for crazies’ but really it’s everyday people that just need a boost in the right direction.”
I felt guilty for not reaching out sooner. I was supposed to be watching out for her and I neglected to do that. But there is absolutely no one to blame in these situations, especially not the person struggling.
In the U.S., suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, accounting for 44,000 deaths a year, and 1 in 5 young adults live with a mental health condition. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and whether you know someone who is struggling or are struggling yourself, we need to start more conversations to make sure no one feels alone in these battles. There is no one solution, but support will always help.
“Make sure people know that going back to the hospital for a tune-up isn’t really bad it’s just what needs to happen sometimes, not that it happened to me, but I saw people there twice when I was there, so it does in fact happen and it’s okay.”
My friend has faced so many terrible things, and it amazes me that such a beautiful person can emerge from horrible situations. I spent my life tucking her under my wing like she was a second little sister, but now I find myself looking to her for strength. She’s the bravest, most resilient person I know.
She also has tons of amazing, supportive people who love her. And I think that’s the best thing for someone to have, whether they realize it or not.
If you are suffering from a mental health disorder or are having thoughts of suicide, or if someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, and a free, confidential online chat version can be found here Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
I know my friend is going to read this, so this last bit is for her. I love you, girly. Life is tough, but so are you. Please use that strength to help yourself and others, because you have so much to offer this world. Keep smiling and making others smile, we’re all here for you, and your story is far from over.