Sunday, July 6, 2014

I just need to get this out.

Sometimes you find yourself in a bad place without realizing immediately how you got there. Which seems like a weird thing for a moderately self-aware person. Shouldn't you realize that you're on a decline? That you're slipping further away from the people and things that make your life a bearable and better place? Maybe it should be easier to see but that's not the way it always is. Sometimes people are really good at hiding it. Sometimes people don't even realize it's happening until they're at the bottom looking up, perplexed at how they didn't notice they were sliding downward before then. 

Three weeks ago, my friend Amanda was involved in a murder/suicide. In light of that, I learned a month prior she had tried to commit suicide. I knew she was struggling and I knew she wasn't in a good place. I didn't know how bad it was. I didn't know the depth of the negative emotions she was feeling. As someone who has been in a bad place more than a couple times, I never hesitate to ask if someone is okay when I notice something is amiss. You can't do more than ask and offer support. You can't push someone to let you help them when they just smile and tell you they'll be fine, they're just stressed from XYZ. That life isn't great but they're okay. They promise they're okay. They'll promise if they really need someone, they'll reach out to you. It's an incredibly frustrating feeling to watch someone you care about be in pain, physically or emotionally, and not be able to help them through it. All you can do is trust that when they say they'll reach out if they truly need it, that they will. And you can hope they mean it and feel a little better as they smile at you and thank you and promise you they won't suffer in silence. You can let a little of the uneasiness go as they put an arm around your shoulder or hug you and you can feel a little more secure that everything is going to be okay.

I'll never know why my friend did what she did and I'll never know why her ex did the things he did. I've refused to speculate about any of the "maybes" and "what ifs" because I wasn't there and couldn't possibly know what happened. The only thing I know for certain is what the ultimate outcome was and that's that two people died senselessly and needlessly leaving behind a lot of confusion, sorrow, anger and pain for their loved ones to deal with. 

I could barely get through that first week without crying every time I thought of her. I couldn't avoid learning some of the specific details of it so I had nightmares of my friend laying in a pool of her own blood with her big eyes staring lifelessly into nothing several times. I cried for the two young kids she left behind. I cried for her family for the raw agony they displayed. I cried until my body hurt because it hurt and because I was confused and angry. 

My boyfriend and I had a joint birthday party the week after she died. We went to her funeral the morning of the party and I was a wreck. She was supposed to attend the party that night and yet there I was, sitting in a church, looking at pictures of her cycle through on a wall. Pictures of her and her kids. Pictures of her looking so happy. Doing things she loved doing. Being the kind-hearted person she was. Being the girl I met at a mutual friend's party years and got along with immediately. The first time I met her we spent the rest of the time there hanging out, laughing and joking like we'd seen each other many times before. I don't often connect with people like that and it didn't matter how much time went by between times of seeing each other, it was always like we'd just seen each other last week. I remember sitting there watching pictures and notes scroll by on the wall and wanting to cry because I was supposed to see her later that night, not see pictures of her and mourn her death. 

The first hour or so of the party that night, I felt like I was just going through motions and not really in it at all. One of my friends came in, came into the kitchen and hugged me so tightly for much longer than he normally does and I almost lost it then. He said, "I know this sucks and I know you're sad but everyone here is happy to see you and happy to be spending time with you and would do anything to stop you from hurting if they could. That's got to make you feel a little better." He was right and then I did cry a little because him saying that brought the warmest feeling I'd felt all week. I decided then not to let my pain and grief run things but there were a few times where I'd look around the apartment full of talking, smiling, laughing people and I wished so hard that she'd walk in and I'd realize it was all just a bad dream. Of course, that's completely unrealistic and I knew that even as I was thinking it but it's hard not to wish things like that when you're dealing with the death of someone you cared about.

I know better than to feel guilt and blame myself in situations like this. I had a good friend commit suicide years ago when I lived in California. I felt a lot of guilt over that at first but I realized placing blame on myself for someone else's actions was just bad for me. It didn't bring them back and it only added to all the negative feelings I already felt. I've learned that you can't blame the things you didn't do or blame yourself in any way in situations like this. A friend of a mutual friend went on a tirade about how we were all the blame for her death because none of us did enough. He didn't share my feelings on blame and that made me sad for him. It's easy to look at something after the fact and find ways where you could have done more but who's to say that one more time would have been the time that made the difference? You have no way of knowing one way or another. You're only hurting yourself even more during a time where you're already hurting enough without rubbing salt in your own wounds.

I wish she would have said more. I wish I had known she had tried to kill herself a month prior to the murder/suicide happening. I understand why her family kept that private and understand why she wouldn't have told anyone about it. I wish she wouldn't have stayed in an abusive relationship for so long before finally deciding to leave. I wish she would have asked me or anyone else for help. I wish she could have found the peace she was always searching for. I wish a lot of things had been different because then maybe my friend and her ex would both still be alive but I don't blame myself in any way.

You can offer to help someone all you want but that doesn't mean they'll ever take it. You can care and worry until it hurts, until it wears on you physically and mentally, you can do everything in your power but you can't make a person let you in or accept that they can't do it on their own. Sometimes, they will. Sometimes, you'll offer and they'll let down their defenses. They'll open up and let you see that raw vulnerability and you'll be there as they travel back up. It'll be hard and it'll hurt but they'll get there.

Sometimes, they won't ever do anything they say they will because even when it's being offered, sometimes it's just too hard to accept the help people are offering. It's such a silly notion because on paper it seems so easy. You're struggling and slipping further into a darkness that's stealing away the light from your life. People notice and offer you the help you need because you're losing the fight on your own and having another person or two or four to help you through it would make things easier. So you ask for help and those people do what they can to offer their support and do whatever they need for you. It's different than people who suffer on in silence without no one noticing and not being able to say anything on your own. You've got people noticing and you've admitted things suck a little and you're not dealing with it well. On paper, it's easy. On paper, it's so black and white and simple that it makes no sense for this to fail.

Mental illness isn't just black and white and simple. It's not neat and easy. It's one thing to know people are there for you but to be able to reach out and admit that you're really not okay and don't think you can make it back up on your own? It's hard. So hard. There are so many reasons why someone might not reach out when help is being offered to them. It's easy for people to say, "here, just tell me what's wrong and we'll fix it!" when they're not the person sitting there trying to figure out what's wrong and feeling like there's something deeply wrong with them for feeling the way they do. It's hard to ask for help when you feel so broken and wrong that you feel like nothing anyone could possibly say or do would ever make you feel any better. It's hard to see that things could get better when they're bad. Especially if it's been bad for so long. Sometimes you think you should be able to fix your own problems and assume that if you can't even figure out how to fix yourself, no one else will either. Sometimes you don't want to admit to anyone else how bad you really feel. It's tough to open yourself up that way and to be that vulnerable to other people. What if they react poorly? Maybe they'll judge or laugh? Maybe they'll brush it off because maybe it's really not as bad as it seems? What if they treat me differently? What if they think I'm lying? Maybe they'll be indifferent? What if they don't care as much as I thought they would? What if they can't help me? Maybe they'll think I'm just crazy?

So many things keep people from reaching out. It's hard to see that there's any light left when you're so far down. No matter how many people tell you they're there for you, it's not always easy to believe them and not always easy to let go and ask for help. You know that even if you can't open yourself up to friends and family members, there are hotlines and professionals you can reach out to for help.Sometimes even reaching out to a stranger is terrifying. Admitting there's something wrong and admitting you might need help to yourself is one of the hardest things to do. Reaching out to get that help no matter who you're thinking about reaching out to is tough and scary as hell. A lot of people don't realize how much strength and courage it takes for a lot of people to speak up, to say something is wrong, to admit to themselves and others that they need help.

There's still such a stigma deeply rooted here and that alone makes it even harder for so many to seek out help. If I could, I'd help everyone see that it's never too late for them. It sounds so cliche but it's true. As long as you're living and breathing, it's not too late to say something. It's not too late to get help and get back to a better place. It might take a while and it will be hard and it will hurt and it will suck for a while more but it can get better. It will get better.

 I miss her and it still hurts. I wish she would've felt like she had another option. That things could have gotten better. That it wasn't too late. It doesn't always work that way, unfortunately. Sometimes, mental illness wins out and it's crushing. I know she'll never see this but I'm not really writing it for her. I talked to the boyfriend a little about how I was feeling but I didn't talk much. Talking about the way I'm feeling isn't easy for me. Writing my feelings has always been a hundred times easier than speaking them, even if it's someone I trust and love, it's hard to verbalize my emotions and the way I'm feeling. I've written some in a pen and paper journal but I wanted to blog about mental illness again and this all just kind of spilled out in the process. I thought about deleting a lot of this but I figure, if it spilled out, I needed to get it out, so I'll leave it as is. I'll always miss her and it'll probably always hurt a little bit in that aching kind of way that hits you when you think of someone you've lost but that's just a part of living life.


The Bizza said...

i am so very sorry for your loss. i'm sorry for the senseless loss of life, for the children left behind, for your friend's torment.

i find that we are all suffering in some way on this journey of existence, and while your friend met with such an unspeakable, violent end, at least her suffering had ended. my parents both died early of natural causes. mom struggled all her life with asthma and spent too much time in hospitals for my taste. she raised two boys and got to live to see us prosper. she died on inauguration night of cardiac arrest. she got to see the first black president, and then she went quickly, with little suffering. i am grateful for all of these things, even as i struggle to mourn her memory.

my dad died of throat cancer a few years later. his was a long, painful ordeal, and when he went, i was glad that his suffering was at an end.

murder/suicide is far different from natural death, i know this. i just hope that you take some solace in the fact that your friend's mental suffering is at an end.

Ashly Star said...

I appreciate you taking the time to comment and share your thoughts and personal feelings on this. It's always a sort of comfort to hear from someone that relates. I am glad she isn't suffering anymore though it's still hard at times. That's just life, though. Be well. Xo