Trigger Warning: Suicide, Eating Disorder
All I felt when I first heard the news was guilt. Immense, and suffocating guilt, because I was still here and she was not.
A week before Christmas I got a text from a friend saying "I don't understand." I didn't understand either - what was she talking about? - until I opened the message. On my screen was a screenshot of a Facebook post written by a mutual friend's mother.
That's how I learned that my friend died of suicide.
That first night I just felt numb. I kept asking myself the same questions over and over: "How could this happen? Why her? Why didn't she reach out? Was I not there for her? Did I miss something?"
I knew this friend through eating disorder treatment. We had gone to a program together and stayed in touch afterward as friends and for support. I'm not going to say she was my best friend - we talked maybe once or twice a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. What made the bond special, though, was the way that we motivated and encouraged each other in our continued efforts to recover.
She was the first person I knew who lived with an eating disorder and was actively and passionately angry at it. She wanted recovery more than anyone I know. She fought hard and she wasn't scared to say the things that the rest of us needed to hear. Her fire and fierceness gave me hope for my own recovery.
That's why her death hit me so hard. When the reality of her death finally settled, I broke down. I had too many emotions and no capacity to process them. Guilt that I was alive, and that I was actively fighting against my recovery, while she was dead and she had fought so intensely to recover. Pain because I had lost a friend because she had plans for the future and she finally felt like she was getting somewhere in recovery. Anger because I had so much to say to her and no way to say it.
She was the first young person I know to pass away. She was the first person I knew to die of suicide. She was the first person from treatment that I had lost. And she had truly been happy in the weeks leading up to her death - something just snapped.
Her death meant that I was not invincible. That we were not invincible. That mental health is important and that we need to keep taking it seriously. That when I resist recovery I am putting my life on the line.
At the funeral, her family spoke of her strength, her fierce spirit, and her giving heart. They addressed all the young people in the audience that had known her through treatment. They told us to think about her, and what she would have said or done. They told us to remember her and to keep fighting.
"Say her name. Tell her story. She would have wanted that."
This is for you, Grace. I'm telling your story because it helps me remember why I am recovering, why I am lucky to be alive, and why it is so important to share your love. You fearlessly and openly fought and hoped, and for that, I will forever be in awe of you. We keep fighting for you now, Grace.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
National Eating Disorder Association Hotline: (800) 931-2237