One of the most significant moments during my freshman year of high school was when I got a letter from my best friend on how she was planning to commit suicide.
Her name was Candy, a fifteen-year-old who loved red velvet cupcakes, holiday scented candles and corny jokes that were so bad you just had to laugh at them. She would dance freely under zero reservations and had a toothy grin that no one could resist returning, coupled with a cute giggle and cheeks that blushed easily. With a knack for giving advice and a personality that mimicked a ball of energy, when there was darkness, she was the light guiding me home,an amazing friend and beautiful soul who made life brighter.
But I guess I should’ve seen the signs, right? With every outburst of laughter we would gleefully share, there was a panic attack waiting to happen following situations of unease and discomfort. With every conversation focused on the future, there was slight hesitation and a question about death. With every hug, there were the stacked bracelets on bandaged wrists underneath long-sleeved shirts. I remember how utterly stupid I felt for not noticing all these signs of sadness, sorrow and complete misery for life as I stood there with the letter she had given me hours before, telling me to wait before opening it. I felt nothing but disappointment (in myself), shock and urgency as each word on the paper cracked my heart more and more.
Her attempt at suicide that time hadn’t been successful, fortunately, but it led to a never-ending series of events involving tears, late night phone calls, frequent panic attacks, reassuring hugs, anxious whispers, and the wonder of when it would ever get better.
And it never did for her, as five months later, there was a phone call from a teacher telling me about her sudden death. There are still small snippets in my mind from that day: people crying, tables being thrown, quiet whispers. And, most vividly, someone asking me, “Why didn’t you do anything to help her?”
Life then became a chore. Talking to people, going to class, trying to move on. Just trying to live was exhausting, and all I could see as I woke up every morning was a cloud of darkness pulling me in deeper and deeper. Everyday, I mourned over the only person I thought who could illuminate the world with just her smile. She was supposed to be the one guiding me home, yet after her death, all I felt was lost and lonely.
But one night, in my sleep, I saw a small ball of glitter floating across the room. It grew larger and larger as time continued, and I felt a weight lift off my shoulders as I woke up. For once, I didn't feel so tired in the morning.
Despite the fact that it had taken years of seeking guidance, learning more about mental health, fighting to stop the stigmatism, and realizing that one person doesn’t (nor should they) have the power or responsibility to control another’s life, the aftermath of Candy’s death had ignited a spark in me. Even through the constant tears and late nights where I blamed myself for not preventing her death, I realized I am still a good friend. I am important. I am valued. I am worthy of happiness. And I should never feel as though I have failed someone just because I couldn’t stop things from getting out of my control (when it was never in my control to begin with). Things didn’t work out, but I did all I could, and if I kept myself stuck in this hole from the past, I would never be able to move on and enjoy my life.
For anyone struggling to help a loved one out of a difficult time (whether it be with a mental illness, a physical disability, or simply the disasters that come from life), one of the most vital things to remember is: it’s okay to help your loved ones, but it’s important to not lose yourself in the process. Recognize how good of a person you are and understand that no matter what, you should never spend so much time doubting your abilities or potential.Remember how great you are. Be proud of how far you’ve gotten. Love the experiences you’ve had, the people you’ve encountered who’ve added to your happiness, the future you’re working toward. But out of everything, just never forget: love yourself, and everything will eventually fall into place.