February 8, 2016 was supposed to be a lot of things. It was supposed to be a lazy day full of studying, catching up on sleep, and preparing for the week ahead.
It was none of those things. If I am being completely honest, that day was a blur. A blur that consists of my phone ringing and hearing the tense voice of one of my best friends, hurriedly leaving my house, driving in silence, hugs, tears, phone calls, and more earth shattering silence.
Saying he died seems so unreal. In previous experiences with death, there was a chance to say goodbye-with Allen I feel like I barely got to say hello. Allen was one of the best people I ever met. He could light up a room simply by walking in. His charisma was contagious and his influence was felt. In addition to all these spectacular traits, he was a warrior. A warrior who lost a tough battle
Allen was battling depression. He fought hard and still lost. Not only did he loose, but his loved ones lost a large part of our lives. Allen was a private person and did not talk much about his struggle, which is why when I was tasked with calling people that day, I did not feel like I was lying when I said “Allen died unexpectedly”- that’s what we told people, he died unexpectedly. Now that I have had time to process that day and think about it, I kick myself for phrasing it like that. Sure, it was unexpected to us. We didn’t know what the war zone in his head was like. People suffering from depression do not always feel comfortable or know how to communicate what they are feeling.
Why is this? Is it because it makes them a bad person? NO. Is it because they do not want to be stigmatized and viewed as weak? Studies say, absolutely. How do we change this? It is up to the survivors, the loved ones of the lost, and the ones still fighting to remove the stigma associated with mental health and depression. Cancer, heart disease, and other illness are researched and advocated for on a daily basis, mental health awareness and suicide prevention deserves the same attention.
I thought February 8, 2016 was one of the hardest days of my life-I was wrong. It was only the beginning of the hard days. Now I have to face a world without one of my greatest friends and mentors. I have to scroll by his name in my phone and remind myself not to text him. I have to pass the exit to my second home and not go visit him. I have to change the radio station when I hear the beginning of “You Should Be Here.” I have to replay every conversation we ever had and hope he knew how much he means to me.
I am trying not to focus on him not being here anymore, I try to live in a manner that honors the life he lived. Living like he did before he got sick. He gave his all in every task, no matter how large or small. That is why I will work tirelessly to bring awareness to mental health and suicide prevention. On April 24, 2016, I will be walking in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Walk in memory of Allen. The link is included below, and I hope you will feel inclined to check it out and educate yourself to save a life.
To those of you fighting, KEEP FIGHTING. Your life is valuable and your worth is endless. To those of you with a loved one fighting; support them, encourage them to seek help, love them, and choose your words carefully. To those of you who have lost someone; I am terribly sorry for your loss and pray for you daily. And to those we have lost to this ugly battle; you are gone, but never forgotten and I hope your soul found the peace it was looking for.