Please stay alive
Growing up, I always felt that I was capable of feeling things a little deeper than my peers. I could empathise with the pain others were feeling, and I wanted to use that ability to make an impact on the world. I wasn’t always sure what that would look like, but I knew that I wanted to pursue something worthwhile. That is what I would’ve said at 16, and, quite frankly, that’s probably what I still would say at 21. However, I do have a little more direction in my life now, but it didn’t exactly come without its own struggles
I graduated high school in 2013 and felt like I was on top of the world. I was ready for a great summer with my friends before we all went away to college— our last summer before things would change. As it would turn out, my life changed before that summer, on June 7th, 2013.
That was the day my sister, Melissa, took her own life after battling Chronic Migraines for years. The physical pain, combined with the stigma that comes from suffering from a disease that exists mostly under the surface, finally proved too much. Losing my sister was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure. I honestly don’t know if there’s anything I can compare it to. In my case I was simultaneously numb, and more heartbroken than I have ever been.
After losing a loved one to suicide, I felt like the world stopped spinning. My life had been altered forever, but all around me people kept going through their day-to-day routine. It seemed like my family and I were on a different planet, stuck in a world were we didn’t speak the same language.
I didn’t really know how to move forward in the following months. How do you move forward when your life is flipped upside down? I felt like I couldn’t do this because I didn’t want to move on without my sister. If I just continued with my own life, I felt like I would be abandoning my sister’s story. If I didn’t think about her and how much pain she endured, who would? I felt guilty for laughing with friends, or doing something fun with my family. Combined with my own grief, this wasn’t exactly a healthy place to live.
It felt like this for a while, but slowly the wheel started to turn again. How could I honour my sister’s life while combining my adolescent passion for wanting to make a difference? Was it possible to use my pain to help others? This was about the time I started to follow To Write Love On Her Arms’ blog very closely. I would read blog after blog. I read about the struggles others have faced, and it helped me feel less alone in my own. I recognised the courage it took for these people to open up about, but also how important it was. These people were taking a stand against stigma and letting others know it was okay to not be okay. And it was okay, and even encouraged, to share your story with others in your community. Then it hit me, I have a story to share too.
I shared my sister’s story and my experience with loss whenever it seemed appropriate. Luckily, my community was ready to listen. My words were heard and they were met with the grace I needed. This gave me the confidence to continue sharing, and when I did that I learned that openness breeds openness. When I felt comfortable being vulnerable with others, they returned the favour, and then I had the chance to share what I’ve learned by working through my pain. My words landed on others the way TWLOHA’s blogs landed on me. That’s when I knew I found the purpose for my pain. If I could use the pain my family and I felt to lessen someone else’s, or to keep someone alive, that’s what I would I would do.
And that’s what I’m still trying to do.
I may not know you. I may not know your story. But I do know this: If you’re reading this, it means that you still have air in your lungs. You are still alive. You have overcome every, single thing life has thrown at you. Maybe life is hard for you right now, but as long as you’re still living, there’s still time for things to change. There’s still time to find hope, and there’s absolutely still time to ask for help.
If there’s anything I think my story has to offer, it’s that some of the hardest times in my life have put me on the path to some of the best moments. I believe that the same could happen to you. I’m asking you to please stay alive for that.