Trigger warning: this article abruptly addresses severe mental health issues, specifically suicide, and may stir up jarring images.
I stopped counting.
The first time it was life-shattering. I had seen him just days previous on our shared walking route to school. I knew nothing about depression or bipolar disorder; I just thought my friend secretly had always hated himself and I endlessly wondered what I could have done differently to help him.
The second time it was my best friend's brother. I'd never seen someone so tough break down in tears before. I could not process it.
By number eight, I was numb to it. This was one of my dearest friends and one of the most beloved people in our shared circles. He was missing for a couple days, and then he was gone. This was a man who was usually too afraid to tell a girl that he liked her, but somehow he had the tenacity to tell the world that he didn't want to be a part of it anymore.
By that point, I had stopped trying to understand it. You always internally replay every interaction you had with a person that could have shown you a sign that they were on a dark path. You think back to certain conversations and about the things you could have said to make them feel loved and worthy. For weeks or even months, there isn't a day that goes by where you don't try to make some level of sense of it all.
Eventually you come to the grim conclusion that it will never make sense to you. It just won't. Try as you might, you'll never understand what someone else was going through internally and you'll never know what factors led them to their self-inflicted demise. All you need to remind yourself is that whatever they were going through, it was so bad that they felt the only way to make it stop was to die. They didn't see other options, so they did what they thought was right.
May they find peace in eternal rest.
I've always been the type of guy that people feel like they can say anything to. Whether it's a random person at the bar or on the bus telling me their weird life story, or a close friend confiding in me, I guess I just have one of those faces you can trust. Must be the dimples.
Because of this, I have some weird stories about dudes on buses. I also know a lot of first hand accounts of some very gruesome scenes. I've had friends tell me several tragic, graphic stories of things they've witnessed. It's a lot to carry with me, but at least I know that I can. If taking on one ounce of the harsh weight that someone carries around with them will help that person, I'll always do it.
I'm from a fairly small town. It should be completely unfathomable that I have lost so many friends to suicide from my hometown alone that, for my sanity, I feel the need to stop keeping count. It got to a point of eerie routine that on the eves of the seemingly annual suicide funerals, either with friends over a beer or in my head as I attempted to sleep, I would list all of the names and remember a few stories of all of the ones we have lost. I won't do this anymore because it's no longer just the subject matter that becomes depressing, but the sheer volume of friends and loved ones I end up reminiscing about.
This year, we hit double digits. And somehow the number ten isn't the most shocking or the most heartbreaking. That unfortunate number is three - three of my close friends have entered a room and found the lifeless body of someone that they love. They've had to make that awful call to 911, and in some cases have had to call the family of the deceased or even taken it upon themselves to cut the body down, or tried to clean up the room.
I'm not writing this to try and help anyone make sense of their own dealings with suicide, because everyone's experience is going to be different. I'm not writing this to try and scare you so much that you'll never consider killing yourself.
I'm writing this because it needs to be talked about. Because it's okay to say the word "suicide." Because I don't want any more friends to shed tears on my shoulder because of something that could have been prevented. I'll lend a shoulder whenever I need to, but I'd really rather not.
Unless you're a celebrity, your suicide will not be televised. People tell their teenage loved ones "he was sick" instead of telling them the truth. Families often don't have funerals after someone takes their own life because they're so ashamed that their son or daughter could have done such a thing. Suicide stories continue to be swept under the rug while tales of genocide, murder and rape are all over the news, social media and Netflix. No one wants to talk about suicide because it's too hard of a conversation to have.
The hardest conversations are the most important ones to have.
Until it is treated like something that happens every day, because it does, suicide will continue to just be this forbidden thing that everyone wants to pretend doesn't exist. And it will just keep happening; the count will continue to rise.
The more something is talked about, the more real it becomes and the less taboo it becomes to have conversations about. Talk about it because you need to, not because a corrupt multi-billion dollar media corporation wants you to tweet about it on their self-serving behalf. Talk about it year round, as often as you see fit and don't do it for the damn hashtag. We can help carry each other's weight if we are willing to listen.
Maybe if people weren't so afraid to talk about other peoples' suicide, they'd be more open to talking to others about their own suicidal thoughts. If you're reading this and you're telling me you've never thought about taking your own life, I don't think I believe you. I would believe that you've never had suicidal intentions, but I don't believe that you haven't thought about what would happen if you did. Much like just about everyone has a favorite burner on their stove for some reason (front left for me) just about everyone has suicidal thoughts.
And if as a community we can become able to have those important, hard conversations and really talk to one another about suicide, maybe we can prevent a few tears from falling on shoulders like mine in the future.