A couple of weeks ago I logged into social media and learned that someone I had gone to high school with had committed suicide. I was friends with him when we were younger but as we got older, he found his crowed and I found mine. He slowly drifted from “friend” to “friend of a friend.” And by the time we both graduated high-school the most we said to each other was hi and bye. Despite not being that close of a friend, the news of his death rocked me like nothing had rocked me in a while. I spent nights crying for him, days thinking what? how? and why? If someone would have asked me who I thought was most likely to do something like this, he would have been on the bottom of my list… he probably wouldn’t even have made my list. And that hurt me so deeply.
It took me a few weeks to really come to terms with his death, and then a few days more to really figure out why it had affected me the way that it had. Part of me knew that in some way I identified with him. I understood how hard it was to struggle with mental illness, especially depression. I knew how it felt to feel like you had nobody to turn to, like you have literally hit rock-bottom, and there was nothing you could do about it. My heart ached for the people closest to him, his friends and family, people who had to live the rest of their lives with a piece of themselves missing… Then I started to play the blame game, thinking to myself that maybe if I had made an effort to extend the conversation past “hi”, I could have seen some sort of sign, or maybe I could have been that friend or ear that he needed. All of these thoughts and more circled my head, but still there was something left unexplained.
And then it hit me…
I was scared.. terrified actually. The fact that I could interact with anyone on a daily basis, call that person my friend or family and not have any idea that they could be suffering so badly absolutely terrified me. The fact that someone could smile in my face all day and pretend to be happy, and I would be quick to accept that scared me so much.
It terrified me because I could easily put myself in his shoes. I have and continue to lead people to believe that my emotions are always in check, that I have everything under control. To an outsider I am a clown, always laughing always making jokes. But is that really me?
We all have that strong friend, the one that we think has everything together. The friend that makes everyone believe that they have everything together. On the outside they are always happy, always eager to help, so full of life. Because of this mirage that they put up we assume that they are okay, that they don’t need anything, so we don’t ask. We go to them with our problems, but we never take the time to ask them how they are or what they are going through. Sometimes our strongest friends are the one’s that are suffering the most on the inside and we miss it.
We don’t miss it on purpose though. We care so much about that person, but somehow over time we start to believe that they don’t need anything, we start to believe that they don’t need us emotionally as much as we need them. They have managed to perfect the façade so well that we don’t even question the fact that they never come to us for everything.
I beg of you.. Please don’t forget to check up on ALL of your friends, even the strong one. It is important that we reciprocate the same energy when it comes to our friendships. No healthy friendship should ever be one-sided. We should all be the strong friend for each other. At this stage in our lives, many of us may find a lot of our friends all over the country. Maybe your best friend goes to a different school or lives in another state. We allow things like school, distance, and our own personal lives to take over everything in our lives and in that process sometimes we forget about our friends. We forget to check in. We need to make it known and clear to our friends that we are a safe space, that regardless of the situation that they are in, we will always be there to wipe the tears, to give the advice, to jump someone (lol). We need to make sure that our friends know that they are not alone.