Last Friday, on my way out to grab lunch, I checked my texts. I don’t do that very often – I am not even usually in the same room as my cell phone. But I think I was waiting to hear something from someone so I checked at lunch.
There was a message from my friend Marie, telling me that a friend of ours had passed away. For privacy of the family, I will call her Isabelle.
I had to read it several times. I honestly didn’t really understand it. I thought at first that it said that one of Isabelle’s sons had passed away, but after several readings, I got the right of it – Isabelle had passed away and Marie would call me later to give me more details.
It was really hard to grasp. Have you ever had that happen? You know something, but you don’t really KNOW it. It’s like your brain refuses to acknowledge it. Anyway, I had lunch and in a weird state of numbness I worked through the rest of the afternoon.
When Marie and I spoke later, she further explained that Isabelle had died from suicide the weekend before.
Needless to say, that added another dimension to the loss.
I knew she had struggled with mental health issues – it was something that we shared. She had been a great support to me in my struggles – it is always nice to be able to talk to someone who knows what it’s like. I hope I provided the same support to her.
We saw each other 2 or 3 times a year before the pandemic, in addition to keeping in touch on the phone and text. But the pandemic naturally put a stop to the visits. Instead, we talked on the phone a couple of times and texted. The last time we spoke on the phone, several months ago, she was in an upswing. She had loads of good, positive things going on and I was so happy for her.
This week has been a challenge because I’ve been fighting against going down the rabbit hole of “I should have done more. If only I had….” I know that is not a healthy place to go, but it’s hard to completely erase the thought from my head.
A couple of people I’ve talked to have asked the inevitable “I don’t understand…why would somebody do that?”
I know they are in their grief, so I don’t answer, but honestly, I get it. Now…don’t panic. I’m not suicidal. But I understand how someone could be if they have a really bad bout of depression or other mental illness.
From my own experience, I can see becoming tired of fighting it. Even when you are doing all the “right” things (therapy, medication, physical activity, etc etc etc), it doesn’t totally take it away. And it’s e.x.h.a.u.s.t.i.n.g. I can understand how, if it’s really, really bad for someone, they are just too tired to fight it anymore.
Then there’s the “false reality” aspect. Your brain can trick you into believing a reality that is different from actual reality. I’ve experienced it those times when it’s been really bad for me. I think: “I’m a horrible person. I don’t bring anything good to anyone. Nobody really cares one way or another if I’m here or not.” An entire litany of ways I’m a useless bag of flesh.
Thankfully, as I’ve come to know and understand more about my own mental health struggles, the other side of my brain is better able to combat those thoughts and say, “No, Lucy, that’s not true.” I force myself to run through lists of things in my brain that provide proof that the alternate “I’m awful” reality just isn’t true.
To be honest, I think I’m just lucky that I haven’t gotten to a point where both of those things (exhaustion from fighting and alternate negative reality) haven’t both been super bad at the same time, to the point that I accept it as truth. I try to stay vigilant with it so that doesn’t happen.
Naturally, I don’t know that this is what happened for Isabelle. But I can understand how it could.
So, sadly, the illness won this time and I was at her funeral today.