Where to start.
I stopped writing Odyssey articles over a year ago. I wrote them because they were part of my healing process, but I finally reached the stage of my journey where I was doing better and feeling myself again.
I almost deleted “feeling myself again” because it implies that I was not myself during my depression. I refrained from hitting the delete keys, though, because I think it is important that I typed that. Me, someone who prides herself in having ridden the entire roller-coaster - from buckling up in the station to all the peaks and valleys, twists and turns, belly flips and screams – but still have this misconception ready at the tip of my fingers. I was starting to feel like I felt before my depression. That’s more accurate, I was myself the entire time.
Anyways, I was starting to feel like I felt before my depression, so I found smaller coping mechanisms instead of sitting down to write. But I am back. Sitting at my desk after a long car ride blasting the same playlist I blasted on my rides home from school: Shawn Mendez’s “Hold On”, We Three’s “Lifeline”, The Goo Goo Doll’s “Better Days”. I sit here reflecting, with that same playlist rolling through my earbuds.
One week ago a student died by suicide at my high school. The high school that I look back on with so much fondness and appreciation of now, but also the same high school that I trudged through at my rock bottom. When I first got the news, my heart broke for the student. I have been there, I unfortunately can understand more than most. I was torn apart that he felt that way, no human should have to experience that kind of pain. But it took a day or so for me to even realize how this affected me, personally, even though I had never crossed paths with the student while we were at school.
I fell ill shortly after and pushed the processing away because my body was already in battle. I am physically better now, so the processing is beginning exactly a week after this student passed away. Seven days ago, this student felt the pain no human should ever have to feel, and it overtook him.
I think it is very difficult for any of my friends to understands what exactly I am processing, besides those who were by my side as I went through this at Lawrenceville. And I do not expect them to. It is one of those things that you almost have to be on those 12am phone calls and text message chains with me to truly understand. I was so close to leaving, many nights. And they were the ones that kept me.
It was those text messages, begging me to respond. It was the letter of 12 reasons to stay that two of them delivered me as I isolated myself in the video editing office, too overwhelmed to face the world. It was my coaches and athletic director who waived the athletic requirement when I told them I needed time off the ice, even as I was the team captain. It was my housemasters and advisor who stayed behind House Lunch to help me digest my therapist suggesting a mental institution may become an option. It was the boarders in my house who lent me their rooms so that I could call my therapist in private as I sobbed, even as I was the prefect. It was the day students who quietly got their belonging from their locker and then left the room when I was sleeping on the couch in the middle of the day, for the fourth day in a row. It was my teacher who proactively emailed me ahead of class to tell me we were watching a video on assisted suicide, and that I can come 30 minutes late so that I did not have to watch. It was the school reverend who sent me a letter to my house after I shared my story with the school community. It was my best friends who spent so much of their junior and senior years worrying about me.
I am flooded with all of these memories when I am processing because I was so close. Words cannot do justice to how grateful I am that found a way through, but I am flooded with these thoughts because I know just how close I was to not making it.
I notice my semicolon tattoo a little more these days. When I see it, I look at it for a second longer. When I look at it, I reflect a little more. When I reflect, I get a few more goosebumps.
I’ve made it through my first full roller-coaster ride, but I process all of these memories so intensely because I know how fast King da Ka shoots you out of the gate – when you’re least expecting. I pray that I know the warning signs well enough now, I pray that I am better equipped with a stronger toolset now, I pray that I never again feel my body so physically hollow and my chest so physically tight. But I know it is a possibility.
So, I process so intensely because of everything I have been through; everything my depression has put my friends and family through. And I also process so intensely because I know how fast it can creep up on you. And most of all, I process because I can process; I am one of the lucky ones. I was able to find my help, I was lucky enough to find my help.
And finally, I process publicly because he should be here. Because all 800,000 people who are estimated to die by suicide should be here. But since they aren’t, I will continue their fight. They had to do the unfortunate work of shocking communities, so I’ll do this work to continue their fights.