July 20, 2018

My high school sweetheart committed suicide: Here is what I learned

Grief. A word people do not truly understand until they lose something or someone near and dear to their heart. In my case, it was losing my high school sweetheart to suicide at the age of 17 on May 11th, 2016. I lost him to a dark place from which he did not know how to get out or reach out for help. It has been over a year since the trauma, but I still relive it through my pain and my grief. It has amazed me how one simple day changed my life forever. When someone you love dies by suicide, it’s like constantly trying to find closure in a never ending maze. It was hard not only going through a breakup but mourning over a death, while looking around seeing happy couples everywhere I went.

We were your typical high school couple. I would go to his football games on Friday nights in the fall and cheer him on. I would sit around his room and watch him play X-box or we would watch Netflix and eat too much food. We would drive around both of our small towns listening to our favorite music. Life was normal, and I did not see the red flags until it was too late.

He broke up with me out of the blue. A week later he said he was confused and realized how much I meant to him. Those words are some of the few last words I heard from him. I remember my hands shaking from controlling my tears on the other side of the phone, telling him we could work things out and we could get back together with time. But he was angry. I thought he was being a typical confused teenage boy. I was wrong. He had a secret he did not let show. He had demons that were taunting his mind. His pain was too much to bare.

When I found out what had happened I felt numb and in shock. How could someone I love be dead? How could someone I love take their own life? All I had were images in my head of how hurt he must have been, and all I wanted was to talk to him and make him feel better. But he was gone and it was too late. The only time I would be talking to him again was when I gave a speech at his funeral, looking down to see what was once my boyfriend was now replaced with a casket. I have moved away from my hometown of Hannibal, Missouri and have a fresh start here at Webster. But the flashbacks and pain will forever be apart of me and my story. I have learned to smile, I have learned to move on. But that day left a scar I will always wake up to.

I sat back to reflect on any red flags I may have missed while he was alive. I remembered him mentioning he had suicidal thoughts in eighth grade. He said it was fine and he got through it. He had mentioned he could not feel much. He was diagnosed with depression when we started dating 6 months prior to his death. He was placed on a medication called Prozac. Suicidal thoughts are one of its side effects. He at times forgot to take his medication daily, which could have played a big part in the end for his decision. I realized he had been fighting his demons, his pain and his toxic thoughts. I was oblivious to his pain because I never thought something bad would happen to him. He was always smiling and happy and he was the one helping me through a tough time in my life. But I soon realized he had been wearing a mask to hide his true emotions. You never think someone will harm themselves until it’s too late, and now my life is a bunch of could haves, would haves and should haves. 

After my trauma, I realized sometimes people show zero signs they are hurt and they keep it their secret. That is why mental illness is traumatic because you never know what someone is actually thinking. You never know how long they have been putting up a fight. Today’s society cannot be oblivious to death and to the fact someone they care about could be struggling with a deadly mental illness.

According to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention suicide is the 10th leading death cause in America today. 44,193 Americans die by suicide every year. The crazy thing is 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a mental disorder at the time of their departure. Society pushes mental illness to the side and because they can not see it, they assume it is not there. Mental illness is real and deadly and the day America wakes up to this is the day statistics go down.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention(AFSP) website, afsp.org, has many outlets for people to navigate depending on their situation. If you are suicidal, they give you the proper steps to get help. They also have videos of suicide survivors explaining their stories. They hold support groups all around the country, which is a great way to make connections and find peace.

After what happened to me, AFSP helped me in a way I am thankful for. I explained my situation to them and the next week a young woman named Kayla called me. She explained to me that she also lost the man she loved to suicide. We talked for an hour about how she got through it and how I will get through it. She emailed me ways to get involved with the organization. One example is joining marathons which are actually held in St. Louis at times. So no matter what your problem is, whether you’re suicidal, a suicide survivor, a suicide loss survivor or if there is someone you care about at risk, I highly recommend reaching out to this organization.

If you think the world is better off without you, I promise you it’s not. I promise you the pain you leave behind is worse than the pain you feel right now. Reach out, fight, know your life is indeed worth living and know you are never alone. Do not make a permanent decision, over a temporary problem. I know after losing someone to suicide, it did not only impact me but rather impacted a community and all the people who heard this story.

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