Mid-November is always a little difficult for me.
One of my closest friends would have turned 34 on Tuesday.
But he won’t be turning 34, just like he didn’t turn 33 or 32 or even 30, because he chose to end his life in 2012 when he was 27 years old.
Charlie and I met when we were both 11 years old; he quickly became my brother’s best friend and was at our house every day when we were growing up. After he went moved to Colorado and after he went into the Army, he still came to see my family every time he had time off and on holidays.
He was such a huge part of our lives.
Before Charlie, I had never lost anyone close to me who was my age before. I remember when my brother called to tell me the news, I remember stupidly asking if he was messing with me. Of course, he wasn’t. No one is that cruel.
I have been writing a series of feature stories in hopes to bring awareness to certain types of issues, such as sexual assault, addiction and suicide. The last story was about suicide. It suddenly struck me as ironic that it published only a couple of weeks before Charlie’s birthday.
His birthday is always much harder for me than the anniversary of his death, because Charlie and I were only three weeks apart in age, and we used to playfully argue about which was better, Sagittarius or Scorpio. And each year, I can’t help but think, here is another year that he isn’t aging with me.
The first year after he died, I just remember spending a lot of time trying to justify it in my mind. Why? How did he get so down? Would have changed anything if I had been a better friend? If I had called more? It is likely that it would not have, and there is no way of knowing what Charlie was going through at the time, but the lack of closure seems to always be the worst part when it comes to the loved ones left behind by those who commit suicide.
For my feature story, I interviewed the mother of a 12-year-old boy who took his own life last year. It was the hardest interview I have ever done, as I listened to this mother sharing with me how she and her family are still picking up the pieces of their broken hearts and still trying to figure out how to go on.
But one thing she said really stood out to me:
“The stronger one is the one who seeks help. People think if they tell someone they are feeling sad or dealing with depression or having thoughts of suicide, they think they are weak. They think people will judge them. I tell my (four) boys you are stronger if you seek help. My best thing I can tell anyone is look for help. Talk to somebody. That same thing you are going through, someone else has gone through it too. When you communicate, it is so much easier to get help.”
Communication is not going to be the be-all, end-all to fixing your problems, fixing your depression, or making everything feel good again, but it is a really good start.
If you ever find yourself having a moment of complete despair to the point that you are contemplating an action like suicide, stop and remember, whether you feel it in that moment, there are people out there who love you and who care.
Talk to those people.
It may not be the magical solution, but it is a great first step to working towards being in a happier place in life.
And the same goes for those of you who spot signs of depression or suicidal tendencies in others.
Talk to them. Reach out.
Communication – It can make so much more of a difference than you think.