Originally posted on
I was thirteen when someone very close and dear to me was ready to give up – ready to leave behind their whole life and not wake for another day. Here we are seven years later and I remember this day vividly, like it was yesterday. It was a traumatizing and painful experience but what pains me today the most is my reaction to it. My anger and disgust towards her. How could she possibly be so selfish to leave just like that? How could she be so stupid to think that this would solve everything? How could she do this to me and everyone that loves her? Why would she even do this? Nothing made sense. Nothing.
I wish I could say that when by some miracle she made it because she was found and brought in on time, that I felt joy and relief. That my heart was filled with love and happiness and that all anger was gone. I wish I could say that I understood. I wish I could say that I ran up to her with open arms and a smile, held her hand and told her it was all going to be ok – that she had my love and support unconditionally. I wish I could say that why she did what she did made even a little bit of sense to me. But I can’t say any of that.
Most of all, I wish I could say I knew it was depression and I understood that she was sick and I could not blame her for this. But when you’re thirteen, the ignorance of your teenage years doesn’t always allow you to think about others. And all I thought about was how could she have put me through that. For years I was upset. Years. And then one day I turned around and became an advocate for mental health. Because finally, I understood.
So to all those suffering from a mental illness, this is for you.
It’s for you to remember that you are deserving of your own love.
It’s for you to remember that you are so accustomed to yourself that you don’t know how truly spectacular you may look in a stranger’s eyes. And being beautiful is most important within – being true to yourself. Acceptance from other’s isn’t necessary, as long you accept yourself.
It’s for you to remember that you have to allow yourself to accept compliments. I know it’s tough for you to hear and believe kind words coming from another individual but allow it. Accept it. Let their words give you some happiness, if even for a second. You never know, maybe they are feeling just as down and putting a smile on your face is the only thing that will put a smile on theirs.
It’s for you to remember that the monsters poisoning your mind are hiding in your head and heart and are working full force to break you. You can’t let it. Make those monsters powerless. Those monsters are making you sick, and it’s an enemy you can’t turn your back on. Please do not lose your battle with these monstrous demons. It may never go away but I believe in your strength, you could fight back. Do not let them poison your mind until they trick the good and worthy person you are into genuinely believing that you are worthless because you are not. You are worthy.
It’s for you to remember that it’s not just your successful and proud moments that make you who you are, but it’s your failures and flaws as well. Imperfections are what makes us unique human beings. If we were all perfect there would be no room to grow and improve. We need our flaws and imperfections and we need to embrace them. We need to know that it’s ok to have them. Failure is nothing to be ashamed of.
It’s for you to remember that you always have to move forward. Relationship gone bad? Unhappy? Overweight? Feeling ugly? Lost your job? Feeling overly anxious about your upcoming exams? Fighting with loved ones? Having a generally sucky day? Week? Month? Maybe just a crappy year? I can’t tell you that you’ll wake up in the morning and all will be fixed but I can promise you this. There is always something else to make up for what is making you unhappy at that moment. You may have lost everything but you’re still alive. You still exist. And that means you still have infinite potential to keep going until you hit a better day. You may feel like life is completely meaningless and I wish I could convince you otherwise. Please realize that life isn’t as bad as it may have been previously. I’m sorry if horrendous experiences have scarred you and I’m sorry that things are not always as they should be. Moments of unhappiness will spring, but moments of happiness will arise just the same. Make an attempt to breathe, ignore that negativity, and cherish life as a whole and your existence. Look past today, look past the moment – see where you could be and run for that vision. And if you trip, take someone’s hand and allow them to help you get up. It’s ok to need other people. And once they’ve lifted you up, keeping running for it. And maybe even take that person for the run with you. I would run breathlessly with you and I would do it over and over again if you need me to.
It’s for you to remember that you are never alone. It’s hard to open up to others and let them in, trust me, I know. Nothing hurts more than having someone walk away from your life, taking a part of yourself with them. But you have to take those chances. Tell someone that you’re breaking, please. You just may discover they are broken too and together you can lighten one another’s loads and pick up the pieces together. Open up to your family and friends, even if they think you have it all together. especially when they think that because that is when they won’t expect it. That is when they won’t know that they have to reach out to you. It’s hard to admit you’re falling apart but please do. It will make all the difference having someone share this with you. You may think that sharing your struggles will burden everyone else but believe me when I say that nothing will burden them more than knowing that you suffered all this alone until one day, you just could no longer take the pain anymore.
It’s for you to remember that there are so many great things about you. There’s some things that no one will ever be able to do like you do. You are you and there’s nothing more special. Accept yourself. Once you’re gone there will be nobody that could take your special place, so keep that place. Keep it and hold it tight, making sure that you live a full life. A long life.
It’s for you to remember that insults, criticism, and mean jokes should have their limits. Name-calling hurts and it’s hard to ignore them. It’s hard to keep going at times, carrying cruel words and opinions about yourself over your head. Yell them out, yell them in my ear. Maybe some of those names could apply to me. I’ll share the insults with you. We’ll balance out that weight. Please. Share how you feel with someone. And to the person that called you fat, or ugly, or an idiot – tell them how you feel too. Tell them that their words matter and they should use their words to better the world, not make it more painful. Words matter more than we realize at times and they could really hurt without us even knowing. Use them wisely.
It’s for you to remember that although you cannot change or forget the past, you can move on from it and make a better future. A future so spectacular that there would be no need to dwell on the past once you’re there – you only ponder about it when you’re sharing your stories with others who went through the same thing. You could change someone’s life sharing your stories. Yeah, YOU. You could save somebody too.
It’s for you to remember that someone out there, somewhere, loves you. That someone will be incredibly wounded with your loss because you matter so much to them. They won’t be mad at you for being scared or sad or broken. They won’t be mad that you need help. It’s ok to need help. They will love to help you. You matter to people you aren’t even aware of. You are loved.
It’s for you to remember that everything you are feeling, you are allowed to feel it. It’s human and it’s ok.
It’s for you to remember that unfortunately there is a stigma attached to your illness. People tend to dismiss it because they don’t understand and they aren’t aware of how severe your illness is. Together, we all have to get rid of this stigma. And you have to be a part of that. But first, you have to reach out and get better yourself because you will make a difference once you do. I’m sorry if you feel like you are trapped in a small room that is slowly filling up with water, leaving you gasping for breathe – drowning slowly. But there is an escape to that room. Somewhere, somehow. Look for it. Don’t panic. Look for that escape and once you see it start going for it. And please, I beg of you, make it in time. You are not the only one in that room. There’s others in there. And together we’ll help you find that escape. We will help you get out. We will not let you drown.
It’s for you to remember that the world will not be better without you. Nothing would be the same if you did not exist, remember that. Nothing. Despite what you think, the world needs you. Your loved ones need you. Do not leave them. You will leave them with a profound sense of loss in your absence. You are so special to so many people, please don’t forget that.
It’s for you to remember that as painful as it gets, you are not alone. You are amazing. Depression can destroy even the greatest of humans – fight it. Don’t let it dull your greatness. Keep your sparkle, you will need it in the darkness. And in your darkest moments, allow others to share their sparkle with you.
For the rest of us, it’s time to educate ourselves. Chances are we are all in contact with someone who is afraid and embarrassed of opening up to us. We have to come together and remove the stigma behind mental health. We have to spread awareness, speak about it, understand it, and support organizations that help those who suffer with it. So many people conceal what is going on within themselves, people that are giggling to our jokes but dying inside the whole time. We cannot sweep issues of mental health under the rug. We simply can’t.
Most important, this is for all of us to remember: “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” (Plato). If you have the ability to put a smile on someone’s face, and even for a second, give them a sense of joy, do that. The world needs more of that. We are all enough and we all matter so once in a while we should all just close our eyes and tell ourselves, “I love you”, and maybe, just maybe we’ll see for ourselves how lovable we really are.
NOTE: My loved one was blessed enough to be given another chance at life and I am grateful for that everyday. As I grew older and learned about the severity of mental health, I understood what she did and why. I understood that it wasn’t her fault. And today I am always by her side because I know that even once you get better, those demons are always there ready to fight you all over again. So I would also like to dedicate this to the family and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide and were not given a second chance to help. I am sorry for your losses, each and every one of you.
HELPLINE: There is always help. For my fellow Canadians, here is a tool to help you find help centres across the country: http://suicideprevention.ca/thinking-about-suicide/find-a-crisis-centre/. Please, get help – if not from a centre, then from a friend, family member, colleague, peer, or even me. You’d be surprised by how many strangers care about your well being. You are enough. You matter.
(RIP Robin Williams. Your tragic death inspired me to write up about this. You were a brilliant man who brought joy to so many of us through your work, I simply wish you could have done the same for yourself. You will forever live through your brilliant art. May you rest in peace. Genie, you’re free.)