Last year on Aug. 23, my parents made sure to get me to come over to their house. We met friends right before so they could have a chance to meet our new baby boy, and then we headed over. My sisters were both there, too. I thought they just wanted to visit with me and the boys. I was not suspecting a hidden agenda. There was a shift in the energy in the room. Everyone grew subdued, on edge. I sensed something was wrong.
“Should we tell her now?”
I immediately started guessing what it was: “Did dad lose his job? Did someone die? Was it Aunt Lisa? Did she kill herself?”
If I had known that Aug. 20, 2019, would be the day you chose to leave us, I would have texted you back. Thanked you for congratulating me on the birth of our second son, thanked you for your prayers, and asked for help in dealing with the postpartum depression and anxiety that took hold so fiercely. Instead, in our text conversation are a bunch of unanswered texts from you. A one-sided conversation I decided not to engage. And now, I can’t take that decision back.
The day you left the world, I was longing to leave myself.
I felt an immense feeling of failure even though, objectively, I had done nothing wrong. This sense of defeat and fear that I would never have relief, that this pain would be something I’d have to deal with forever made me long for an escape. I said, “I wish I could just die.”
Perhaps at that same moment, you left us. In your final moments when your body was clinging to life, but your soul had already left, I myself was wishing I could do the same. Somehow without realizing it, we were connected in that moment.
But instead of letting our mutual battles against mental illness bring us together as allies, I let my own mental health take that opportunity from both of us. I am sorry. I wish more than anything I could respond to you directly before it was too late. Mental illness made my world so small. But even in the midst of your mental health fight, you never stopped caring and reaching out to others, serving and helping the least of these.
When I heard your spirit had left the world, a shock filled me.
A sorrow I can’t describe shook me – a potential for a deeper relationship with you had been taken from me. I was filled with guilt; perhaps if I had responded, I could have saved you. And a fear that perhaps someday, it would be me leaving my loved ones behind, flooded my consciousness.
It has been over a year now, but your absence is still felt. I still fight the guilt and the sadness, but I am healing. And I know you are at peace. I cannot blame you for leaving, I only wish that on Oct. 11 in recognition of World Mental Health Day, we would not be walking in your honor and memory at the Out of the Darkness Virtual Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and that it would just be an ordinary day like any other. I wish I could have saved you, but at least I can carry you in my heart and keep up the fight for the both of us.