Published: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2013 20:09
‘Rock bottom’ is just an abstract concept until you find yourself looking up and realizing that concept is now your tangible reality. And whoever said, “When you hit rock bottom, the only way is up” clearly forgot to mention the fine print – how difficult getting out really is.
In February 2010, I hit rock bottom. And in many ways I’m still trying to climb my way out. My journey to the lowest of lows revolves around something a lot of people experience in some way, but often times don’t like to talk about: suicide.
On Feb. 23 of that year, I got a phone call telling me that my friend Giac’s little brother had completed suicide – a distinction his family makes from the term “committed suicide.”
Joe was 17 years old, just two years younger than me. His birthday was the week before. He had just gone on a ski trip with his family. He was working on his essays for his college applications.
That phone call was one I could never have prepared for. The idea that Joe actually passed away was so far-fetched I just didn’t believe it. I had just lost a close family friend the month before and, selfishly, I didn’t want to deal with another death so soon.
I had been friends with Giac for about seven months. We played music together and in that short time, we had become pretty close. I didn’t know his brother that well. I mean, I knew him and he knew me, but the extent of our conversations – which only happened three or four times – was a few sentences at the most.
How could the death of this kid who I barely knew have such a profound effect on me?
I still don’t know the answer, but the whole situation had me thinking a lot about suicide.
After the funeral, I struggled a bit with my classes, but I didn’t think anything of it. I just chalked it up to the hardships every second-year engineering student had. I fell behind in some of my classes but told myself, “You’ll catch up next week.”
I never did.
I’d spend my nights playing my guitar by myself instead of studying. My family could tell something was wrong, but I never wanted to talk about it. The truth is, I didn’t know what exactly was wrong.
For some reason, I had become fascinated with suicide. Not that I was glorifying it or I even was suicidal; I would just constantly be thinking about it. It pushed me into a dark place and I knew something needed to change.
After withdrawing from the semester and confronting my depression, I started seeing a therapist who told me it wasn’t strange for someone my age to be having these thoughts after what I had experienced. In fact, she said it was normal.
I know a lot of people think about the darkness of suicide, and my experience has taught me that it is important to verbalize your fears. I’ve learned that I should start talking to the people around me a lot more than I do because you could never guess what’s going on in your their heads. It is important to know the phrases “I’m fine” or “I’m good” are just words; there is usually something more behind them.
I am inspired by the way Joe’s parents handled everything. They showed such poise and understanding. They knew the importance of bouncing back from this tragedy and how it could influence others.
“No matter what we do, I can’t bring Joe back,” Joe’s father said last September. “The only way we could give back in some way is to share our experience and hopefully save another life.”
I understand there are a lot of things out of my control. But that is exactly why it is so important to make that extra effort to change the things you can, like finding out what your best friend is actually thinking, or why your little sister is locking herself in her room all the time.
Joe’s death was unexpected. And I think that’s what hurt the most.
Every day, I wear a green wristband with the words “Reach Out” etched in yellow writing in honor of Joe. It is a constant reminder to go that extra mile to reach out to the people around me. Although I had a hard time climbing out of that pit, I learned a lot about myself. And in a way, my struggle has come to define who I am now.
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, and anyone who takes part in the cause will tell you an important part of preventing suicide is communication. So, I encourage you to take that extra step and “Reach Out.” Who knows – it might just save a life.