It has been 1826 days and we have to talk about it.

Lists are always my go-to, for everything, even when it comes to trying to make sense of it all. “What is worse?” I write on the top of my list and I try to organize my thoughts:

  • Not remembering the absolute last word I spoke to you.
  • Not being able to sleep for a week after I heard the news.
  • Having the reoccurring dream where you stand at the foot of my bed and beg me to go with you. The words, “Krissy and Ricky will take care of each other, I need you.”
  • The fact that you aren’t here anymore.
  • The fact that I went weeks without talking to you once we both moved.
  • Not knowing you were ever suicidal.

Depending on the day and what has happened my lists differs. The first and the last two bullets are always interchangeable. If I feel guilty that day, like I could have done something more, the last bullet goes first. If I can convince myself that the beauty behind not knowing what word I spoke last to you means that it isn’t the last conversation I will have with you, then I put it last.

I remember getting home later than usual. I didn’t have time to procrastinate or goof off because I had an AP US History test the next day and I needed to study. I had this gut feeling to check my computer real quick. Someone wrote a status, “Rest in Peace Wee-man.” I was rolled my eyes at the fact that someone would post something so heinous on April Fools Day. Death isn’t something you joke about and I was still pretty sensitive over the one year mark of my Great Grandma passing away and the fact that three kids from my high school committed suicide over break.

My phone started ringing, it was my friend’s girlfriend, the one who made the post. I answered the phone ready to lecture her on her poor sense of humor. Before I could even answer her question, “did you hear,” I hung up the phone and called my best friend Krissy.

Jacob had lived across from me for the majority of the years that I lived in California. He was the typical, older guy from across the street, with a cool car, played his rap music too loud, had a job and could have everybody laughing on the entire street within one single joke. We got to know each other my freshmen year of high school (his senior) and by the time that the ARMY stationed my family somewhere else, we had spent the majority of the summer together, with Krissy.

As the phone rang, I paced alongside my bed. I was too nervous to sit down.

She didn’t even say hello when she answered. I heard that she was crying and I knew that it was true – Jacob was gone.

 If I had to guess it would have never been Jacob. He wasn’t the life of the party, he was THE party. Everywhere he went. I can’t recall once seeing Jacob have a bad day, not once. But that is the thing about depression; you don’t always know who is being tormented by such a monster. The next day we called each other, were we going to be able to get ourselves to California for his funeral? I was still in high school, so I didn’t have much freedom to do so. Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go anyway. I wanted to be as far away from it all as possible.

 Before the mourning process could even truly begin, we were told not to talk about it. So it has been five years, and we have yet to truly talk about it. And I am so tired of being quiet. I cannot be quiet anymore. By silencing ourselves into not talking about depression or suicide, we are creating a culture of apathy. I use to think that I was being hypersensitive, taking every suicide story that I read about or heard about personally. Why couldn’t I talk them out of it? It is such a loaded, nearly impossible question considering the fact that I never knew most of these people but then guilt and the unforgiving takes years and years to overcome.

It wasn’t even until last year that I realized I forgave Jacob for leaving. Maybe I am being wrong in saying this, but I don’t think that he meant to. I think that he was just scared. I don’t think I can blame him anymore because it is true: life is difficult, it is messy and it is scary. And we have to courage up and help each other along the way. We have to courage up and ask for help when we need it. 

Why is it that when we hear the devastating news that someone has cancer that we organize potlucks, book drives, offer to take over carpools, etc. but when it comes to someone being depressed we tell them to get over it? We knock it down to something so dismissible that we leave those most vulnerable in our society to feel ashamed. We all have baggage and we all have burdens, so why don’t we help each other out by unloaded our bags together, instead of pushing for us to run away? 

And we have to stop making jokes about it.

It is not okay when you post things on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. telling people to go kill themselves. It is not okay when you post for someone to kill you – it is not a laughing matter. In fact, it is rather insensitive. As we allow ourselves to continue and make lighthearted jokes about killing ourselves or having people do it for us, it allows us to cultivate the idea that depression and suicide are light hearted jokes. And they are not. And I understand that some people truly do it as a way to reach out for help. One of Jacob’s last posts on MySpace was “Someone lay me down like Lassie. 

Posting that you want to die for ‘likes’ or attention is not okay.

When we see things like this on the internet or in text messages, we have to act. Simply check in with that person. We cannot keep turning a blind eye to these things and we cannot keep using them as punchlines when we have a bad day. Many people can attest to that when I see things like that on Facebook, no more than a few seconds go by after reading it, that they don’t have a message in their inbox from me.

Sometimes I wonder just how far away are simple things like asking people “how are you?” and genuinely listening for the response, we are away from feeling less lonely in the world. You will never regret being the one who calls, even if it is months later.

So here it is.

The Earth has rotated around the Sun a total of five times now and I would like to think that through all of the tears, sleepless nights, guilt and dreams in which you appear has made me better. When I am having a bad day or I am too grumpy to even smile at strangers, I think of you, and I choose to be kinder. When I don’t want to get out of bed, because it seems like being under the covers is safe, I choose to live harder. And when I am so broken, I send that text “hey I need you,” because of you.

 Five years later, and I am still learning so much from you. I know that I never go a day without you being near. Every day, I am striving to be the person that you needed.

I miss your laugh.

I miss your smile.

And your crap mixed CDs too.

Let’s be kinder.

Let’s be a bit more vulnerable.

Let’s start talking; because it has been 1826 days, and I need to talk about it.

PS. To all of those who are reading this and have thought about suicide, thank you for staying. Thank you for giving another day a chance. But more importantly thank you for giving yourself another chance. You are needed here. No one can replace you. We need your story in this world. Thank you for being here.

 PSS. Although I am not a counselor or therapist by any measure, my inbox is open for you. And I will hold your hand as we try to navigate through this world together. I am here for you. Let me care for you.