*This post contains conversations about suicide and mental health disorders.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – it’s around this time of year when I think about my brother more than usual.
After his passing, family and friends would often tell me, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Or worse, “He’s in a better place now.” I hated hearing both of those things. It’s insensitive. After all, what better place is there than with us? Right now?
No one looks to add on to your pain when you’ve lost someone. But it became increasingly difficult for me to see good intentions. I developed anxiety and depression; I took a gap year following his death because I kept skipping classes; I distanced myself from most of my friendships; I was never physically alone following his death, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being incredibly isolated from everyone around me.
When I originally wrote “An Open Conversation About Suicide,” I never actually intended for anyone to read it. It was a form of therapy for myself. I was finally giving myself closure and moving forward, four years after the fact. So when I made the decision to publish it on my blog, I didn’t expect anyone to read it; but in the span of three days, it had close to 3k unique views and dozens of shares on Facebook. Publishing that piece opened a lot of doors for me professionally and personally – I will always have gratitude for the people that reached out in its aftermath. It’s easy to feel alone, but the post helped solidify solidarity with people that have and continue to go through the exact same thing. As a community, we need to be more cognizant of how difficult we make it for young people to come forward about their stories and in return, make a lot of them feel isolated and alone.
Every year since his passing, my family and I participate in the NAMI Walk. I strongly believe in the organization’s cause – NAMI specializes in mental health resources for people of all ages whose lives are affected by mental illnesses; however, it wasn’t the organization itself that helped me in my journey towards recovery – it was the fact that it was something my family could do together. The silver lining of my brother’s and eventual cousin’s passing is it made my tight-knit family even tighter. They’re my confidants and source of strength. They encourage me to be my best possible self. They’re incredibly patient with me even when I’m wrong. They encourage me to follow my dreams – even when that dream is 971 miles away. They’re the most resilient and courageous people I know. We don’t always have the agency to choose our family, but we chose to be friends. And for that, I’ll always be grateful.
Now for the first time this year, I won’t be physically present to participate. Even though I can’t physically be there, a handful of my cousins will still be walking. I wanted to take advantage of whoever is reading this for a shameless plug and to ask for a donation to the cause. I haven’t fundraised as aggressively as I would have liked to. Please click this link if you’d like to make a small donation. Any amount would be greatly appreciated.
I wanted to end this post with a passage by Gabriel Marquez that always gives me pause:
The drama of the discontent
began on top of the tenth floor.
And as he fell, he looked through the windows
into the privacy of his neighbors.
And he saw –
the domestic struggles,
the furtive loves,
the brief moments of happiness that had not yet reached the stairs.
And right before the moment he hit the pavement,
he had changed completely his conception of the world,
and arrived at the conclusion that this life
that he was about to abandon forever
was worth after all
the trouble of being lived.