Letter to Brian: October 12, 2018

Dear Brian,

I haven’t written you in quite a while so this is gonna be a little long-winded, I’m afraid.  Certainly not due a lack of things to say but rather a lack of knowing just how to say them.  Tomorrow will make 8 long years since I found out you had taken your own life.  While that’s certainly been weighing on me, there’s been something else I’ve been struggling with a great deal.  I’ve been going back and forth and back and forth (and back and forth some more) in my mind about whether or not to publicly share this.  Doing so is going to put myself in my very most vulnerable position yet and I fear that the interweb trolls may dish out things that I’m not quite strong enough to withstand.  But… after a lot of sleepless nights and self-examination, I’ve decided that it’s important to my well-being (and possibly even some stranger’s well-being) to just speak my truth and get it all out in the open.  I’ve been so fearful about admitting to it out of embarrassment, shame and fear.  I’m not sharing my story in the hopes of receiving any pity, attention or outreach from anyone; in fact, I’d prefer that I not receive any of that at all. It’s only out of self-preservation that I’m sharing; I hope that this will release all the tension and discomfort I’ve been experiencing. The secrecy has been eating away at me and causing so much pain and has only served to create more loneliness and seclusion for me.

I’ve only told a very select few about this because I’m embarrassed and, moreso, I’m ashamed. On July 3rd of this year, just 3 months ago, I attempted suicide.  After decades of depression, self-harm and chronic suicidal ideation I’d never, ever actually followed through with a plan or attempt though I’ve been so dangerously close dozens of times.  Many things have stopped me over the years, mostly always concern for those I’d leave behind.   After you died, I wanted so badly to end my own life as well but just couldn’t do that to our Mom; to lose not one but two children to suicide would have been just too much for her to bear.  After she passed nearly 3 years ago now, the feelings have become so much more aggressive and I’ve felt even less grounded here in this life than ever before.  In fact, while cleaning out Mom’s home I came across her bottles of insulin in the fridge.  There were many moments throughout that week that I thought about how it would be so easy to just do it right then and there… I had the needles… I had the insulin… all I needed was the nerve to follow through.  But instead I dropped off all of her unused medications at the police station like any responsible citizen would do.  There was just still so much to do… my demise would have to wait until I’d settled Mom’s affairs.

Nearly a year after Mom died, I moved back to our hometown in Minnesota.  I thought maybe being back here with so many people to support me would surely help these feelings subside.  That just hasn’t been the case.  I’ve had many great moments over the past few years, of course… but it seems even after a night out with friends sharing many laughs I still find myself sobbing uncontrollably as soon as I’m back home alone.  It’s just always there… lurking underneath the surface.

About 5 months ago I posted something on Instagram joking about the dangers of online shopping and Amazon Prime after a few glasses of whiskey; I’d gone and purchased myself a $500 gas-powered generator in the middle of the night.  We all had a nice laugh about it… but the truth is, it wasn’t an accidental drunken purchase.  Though I have since returned that generator, I actually bought it with the intention of using it to die by carbon monoxide inhalation by running it in a small, enclosed space.

I guess I’ve stalled here a bit… I suppose I should tell you about THE night.  After work, my boyfriend and I were cooking a nice dinner on the grill and enjoying a few drinks and talking.  Things were really going well between us and we made each other laugh endlessly.  We truly loved just being around each other; I was really happy with him. At some point in a conversation about the future, I’d told him that someday, (not anytime in the near future, but someday) I could see myself marrying again… or at least  be committed long-term to one person and share a life and a home with one another. That possibility gave me some comfort and hope. It became pretty clear that he was uncomfortable about that as he became very quiet and withdrawn. As I was getting our food dished up to eat, he got up and walked to the back door and said, “I gotta go.”  I said, “Um…. I’m sorry?  You’re leaving?  You’re not going to eat?”  He replied again, “No.  I have to go.  I gotta go…. I’m sorry I wasted your time.”  I began to sob like a crazy person, begging him to stay and talk to me.  There was no explanation, no conversation, just an “I gotta go.”

I wish that I were exaggerating when I say that I made a complete fool of myself crying and pleading with him.  I begged him to please, please, PLEASE stay, admitting to him that I really didn’t want to be left alone that night.  His response was to turn and walk away without looking back.  If he had, he’d have seen me in the fetal position on the floor of my breezeway crying and saying to myself under my breath, “I can’t be alone.  I can’t be alone.”  After a year and a half together, I felt that I at least deserved a conversation about ending our relationship… certainly more than, “I have to go.  I’m sorry I wasted your time.”  (I mean… I assumed that what he was doing was breaking up with me; I wasn’t totally certain until the next night when I received a text asking me if he could drop off my belongings I had left at his house.) That’s not how you end a relationship with someone whom you love and respect. In his defense, he had admitted to being a complete stranger to the dynamics of a truly healthy relationship never having experienced one before.  What he didn’t know, and what I certainly wasn’t going to tell him, (because I didn’t want anyone to try and interfere with my plan) was that in the next room I had a folder ready to go that contained a suicide note, a copy of my will, a list of my emergency contacts, my driver’s license, passport, credit cards, social security card, passwords to all of my online accounts as well as my wishes regarding any funeral arrangements. I’d already spent the previous months purging my belongings, donating items, giving things away to friends and tossing a great deal of it in the garbage so there would be less to deal with after my demise. Having the person who said that they loved me treat me that way made me feel as though I must be worthless; I figured, if I really mattered, he’d have stayed when I said I didn’t want to be alone. I’d already disrespected myself by continuing the relationship after he’d been unfaithful to me early in our time together.  He’d apologized and cried and begged me for another chance.  (I clearly made the wrong choice; I foolishly thought someone that was trying so hard to keep me must have actually saw themselves having a future with me.) I can’t stress this enough: I wasn’t about to kill myself simply because I got dumped; it just happened that getting dumped was the very last piece pulled from my wobbly, Jenga Tower of a mind to make it crumble to the point of desperation. If it hadn’t been the breakup, it would have been something else, I’m absolutely certain of it.

I put the folder on the counter and made sure that everything was order.  I put the cats in their room, made sure they had plenty of food and fresh water and said my tearful goodbyes to them and asked them to forgive me for leaving them behind.  I tossed the beautifully grilled Ribeyes and potatoes in the garbage.  I took all of the dishes and cookware and tossed them in my dumpster.  Why leave them out for someone else to clean up?  And why on earth would I have spent any time washing them when I knew I’d have no use for them in the future?

I placed this note on the counter where it wouldn’t be missed:

Having lost my own brother to suicide, I’m certainly no stranger to the immense grief that is left in the wake of someone taking their own life. This is my only regret; I leave knowing what this will do to those who care for me and for that I am so deeply, deeply sorry.
It’s certainly not one single event or trauma that brings me to this choice but rather nearly 40 years of wrestling against an overwhelming will to die that has been present in my mind since early childhood.  I’m so incredibly tired.  I’ve done the therapy.  The medications. The switching of medications. And more switching of medications. The calling of friends to talk. Support groups.  Hypnosis.  EMDR Therapy.  Talk therapy. DBT Therapy. Yoga therapy. Biofeedback therapy.  QNRT Therapy. Biofeedback. Natural remedies. Reiki. Healing Touch. All the self-books you could imagine.  I’ve gone so far as to try psychics and past life regressions. Even when any of these provided me a little relief for any amount of time, it always came back.  I’m so tired of it always coming back.  Because it always will; and as always, it will come back worse than the episode before it.
Much like my brother, I’ve never in my life felt truly grounded in this world… even at my best, I’ve always felt like an outsider and painfully uncomfortable in my own skin.  There’s a disconnect that all these years of therapy and soul-searching couldn’t seem to repair.
This emptiness in me has always been present… and with each trauma, loss, failure or failed relationship in my life it seemed as if larger and larger pieces of my soul were being carried off and that persistent emptiness grew larger still.
The only responsibility in this is mine… and mine alone.  Those closest to me have done everything possible to make me feel heard, supported and loved. No additional amount of love or attention could have created a different ending to my story.
This quote sums it up:  “The time came when the pain it took to stay was greater than the pain it took to go.”
My cats are in the spare room. Please, please… someone take wonderful care of them and continue to love them for me.

I washed down a heaping handful of sleeping pills with an entire bottle of rum.  I hung blankets up over the windows in my garage (to prevent anyone from seeing me in the car from outside) and pulled my car inside.  I sat in the driver’s seat, with the car running, until I passed out. The last thing I remember was lying back in the seat and looking up at the ceiling of my garage and saying “Momma and Brian, I’m coming.  I’m coming to be with you,” then drifting off to sleep.

I know that on any given night that 2 sleeping pills will ensure that I sleep soundly throughout the entire night; so I figured it was safe to assume that a handful of the same pills in tandem with a shit-ton of booze surely would keep me asleep long enough for the carbon monoxide to do it’s thing. But for whatever reason, I could just Not. Stay. Asleep.  I drifted in and out of consciousness in there for over 4 hours.  I had such a terrible headache and I was absolutely soaked and dripping in sweat and just couldn’t take it any longer.  I was so damn uncomfortable.  And also very angry that I could not stay asleep. I was so certain that I’d planned it out to work.  I was so angry at myself; not that I’d attempted to end my life, but that I couldn’t even do that right and I’d failed at yet another thing. I finally decided that maybe it wasn’t meant to happen that night and that I’d just have to try my back up method the next night.  So I stumbled back in the house and laid on the couch and slept a little bit on and off through the night as Golden Girls played on the TV.  To this day, the sound of that theme song brings back the smell of sweat and exhaust.  I don’t care for it.

I had the next day off of work being the Fourth of July.  Late in the afternoon, I decided to put my plan B into action. I went to Menards to pick up a few “supplies” for my next attempt.  As I wandered through the aisles, I was still overwhelmingly shaky and dizzy so I gripped the handle of my shopping cart for support.  I wondered if those walking past me could smell the stench of exhaust coming out of my pores; I could sure smell it… but then again, I didn’t really care. It felt so surreal making small talk with the cashier, watching him ring up all of my items wondering if he had any clue that a few hours later I intended to collectively use those same items to end my own life.  As the day progressed, I had decided, “Maybe I can just hold on for a few more days.  I’ll finish out the week– button up some things at work and then just kill myself on Friday.” But Friday arrived and after having a nice evening with my friend (who did not know about my attempt) I thought to myself again, “OK, tonight turned out to be sort of decent.  Maybe I’ll give it a few more days.” Some dear friends came to visit me on Saturday against my will and I’m so grateful that they did; it did me a world of good… but I didn’t tell them about what I’d done. They didn’t take no for an answer and just showed up at my house.  It felt good to be reminded that some very wonderful people care so much about me.  Then Sunday rolled around… my best friend came to pick me up and get me out of the house for the day; no small feat given that I still couldn’t stop crying, barely spoke and was still feeling pretty ill from the carbon monoxide inhalation; of course, she only thought I was just inordinately down about my recent heartbreak.  We spent the day driving around in the country and stopping at the occasional antique store and I even ate a little bit, which was a vast improvement over the previous 5 days.  But I couldn’t wait any longer… I hated that there was this horrible “secret” that I was holding inside and as we sat there in her car, I told her about what I had done.  It felt really good to release that to another human being so the weight didn’t feel quite so overwhelming.  Over the next few weeks, this friend absolutely saved my life.  She kept me completely occupied and distracted and allowed me to just hang out with her family when I didn’t feel I could be alone at home.  She let me cry and just stare into space when I wasn’t capable of engaging. (I lovingly referred to her as my “babysitter.”)  It’s not lost on me that if she hadn’t done all that I may not be here today.

Something always seems to get in the way and I find some reason to wait “just one more day.”   I recall one day on my way home from work I was contemplating attempting again soon; however, when I got home and collected my mail, I found that I’d received a beautiful necklace from a friend I haven’t seen in quite a while and it was accompanied by this note:   “Sweet Laura, you and your life are a gift and a blessing to this world. Please never stop trying, we need you. You are loved and treasured and beautiful.” I just burst into tears and asked the universe why it kept sending me signals like that telling me I’m supposed to keep trying??  It’s getting harder and harder but I still keep receiving little signs like this that tell me to wait a little bit longer.  And now… it’s been over 100 days of “just one more day.”

Unfortunately I’ve been engaging in self-harm (cutting) again; I’m sure I should feel ashamed about that, but the truth is that release is helping me to keep moving forward right now.  I realize it isn’t the healthiest outlet, but it works so I’m ok with it for now.  And having my sweet kitties, Bart and Fiona, to come home to is also very helpful… it would be really difficult for me to come home to a completely quiet house.  Those furry little souls are always happy to see me and are content to just be there with me, no matter my mood.

It’s just that I feel everything so, so deeply that it’s unadulterated agony.  Even the smallest things cause this deep, pulsing ache in me that just hurts so much.  For example, I recently came upon a teeny tiny mouse on a cold morning, it was lying on it’s back at the curb of a gas station parking lot.  I quickly realized it was still alive but obviously suffering.  I can’t explain it, but I just couldn’t leave a little being there to suffer and die alone. The thought of that physically hurt me inside.  So I picked it up, placed it inside a tissue box and took it home with me; I hand-fed it formula every 2 hours for the next 24 hours and it continued to improve; it had a safe little habitat warmed with a heating pad and ate out of my hand and completely melted my heart.  That little guy had such a strong will to survive.  A very kind acquaintance of mine took the next step and drove the little mouse up to the wildlife rehabilitation center an hour away when my work schedule didn’t allow me to do so.  I was made fun of a little bit for rescuing “just a mouse” though most people were extremely kind to me and applauded me for the love in my heart for what most considered to be an insignificant little creature.  I just didn’t see it that way; what I saw was something in pain and that I had an opportunity to do something about it.  So I did.  That’s just one example of how things are so hard for me sometimes… this time I was able to do something to help that sweet mouse and affect some change; but most of the time I see things happening around me (and the current state of our country is a big one) that make me so weak inside knowing someone or something is hurting and knowing that I can’t do a single thing about it.  It reminds me of a terrible sunburn; when your skin is so badly burned that it hurts to wear clothes, to shower, to be outside in the heat… even to touch it. Your skin on a normal day is unaffected by these benign acts… but when it’s inflamed like that, everything hurts. My soul and my heart are like that sunburned skin– things that seem so small to the outside world are burning me up inside. It’s almost surreal, sometimes; I’ve become so adept at hiding what’s really going on inside me that I am constantly hearing from people I meet, “Gosh, you’re so cheery and upbeat and friendly, I love it!”  I’ll smile and please everyone by exercising my “appropriate social behavior” but as soon as the door closes behind me and I’m alone… it all comes tumbling down.

I’m not terribly interested in seeking any therapy.  I’ve done decades of therapy, I know what to expect and I suspect I’ve gotten about all I can get out of it.  Besides… my insurance only covers two providers in town and neither are accepting new patients.  I’ve reached out to a few other providers up to an hour drive away and again… not accepting new patients.  I even reached out to the amazing therapist I saw in Texas for 4 years; she does remote sessions but unfortunately she can’t do out of state sessions due to licensing laws. The demand for therapy is far too high for the supply of therapists these days so help is really hard to find.  Finding affordable therapy is a great frustration.  And I’ll be honest… I’ve run into more than my share of providers who were not very warm it’s so difficult to open up and bare your soul to someone who doesn’t even seem to want to be there.

I saw a quote by author Matt Haig this morning that gave me a bit of encouragement to follow through with publicly sharing my story like this; it read:

Mental illness isn’t weakness.  And silence isn’t strength.  I was never stronger than when I was ill.  And never braver than when I first told people.

I hope that someone out there can relate to some of this; it will have made this painful and humiliating confession worth it.  I’m going to keep taking this life thing one day at a time.  After all, it’s gotten me  this far… I suppose I can keep trying.

Please, Brian… if you or Momma have any pull of the celestial kind, give me a hand down here, would ya?

I miss you and Moomie so, so deeply.

Love Always,
Laura

 

 

 

 

Letter to Brian: January 27, 2015

Dear Brian,

Well, I did it. I finished watching the entire “Six Feet Under Series” this weekend. I miss it already.  There is something so comforting, to me, about a show that so openly talks about death and the shit that happens to those left behind.

I watched as a sister, fresh in her grief, stared blankly up at the sky as though her brother’s death literally had taken her soul away from her and left her empty inside.  She said, “He was my only brother.  He’s gone. I’ll never have another brother.” I remember those days so clearly, Brian.  Moving about but feeling disconnected to the places and faces I came across.  Going to sleep crying.  Waking up crying.  Lying on my bed staring out the window in bone-weary silence when the tears simply ran out… staring into the sky but not really seeing anything.  Not connecting to anyone or anything.  Nothing mattered anymore… nothing at all.  I’ll never have another sibling; you were it for me and with one painful phone call that lifetime of being a sister to you was just… over.

The show showed the self-destruction that often occurs following a traumatic death. Nearly all of my days were all the same at the beginning: I’d wake up in a fog, believing it had just been a bad dream and then begin sobbing when I realized it wasn’t a dream at all. I’d leave the house in whatever clothes were closest to me, making no real effort to put myself together. I’d go to work and fight tears all day. I’d leave work for my lunch break spent crying in my car.  I’d cry all the way home when the work day was over. I’d drink at least 6-7 glasses of wine, smoke some pot, take a few sleeping pills and pass out before 8:00 and the next morning I’d wake up and do it all over again. It was so exhausting missing you and I really didn’t want to feel anything at all.  I had very little desire to answer the phone or reply to emails or texts and I was just so fucking depressed.  I was so angry, though not at you… just at what my life had become. I was just barely getting by; I’ve come a long, long way since then.

I felt so at home watching “Six Feet Under” because it so beautifully showed all the stages of grief that people go through… and reinforced that those stages very often don’t go in any particular order… and that you can relive any and all of those stages at different times in your life– grieving the loss of someone so close to you is a lifelong process.  I can say that after 4 years it does get easier… but it’s ALWAYS there.  You are still on my mind– every. single. day.  In the beginning I was bombarded with all of the sad memories and all the ways I hurt your feelings or upset you over the years and wished so badly that I could get a do-over.  But these days it is far easier to come up with happy memories… there sure are a lot of them.

Another thing that I found so comforting about the show was the continued “presence” of those  who had passed. They often “saw” and spoke to those who had died; whether it was real or imagined (though I believe that to be real) isn’t the point… it was that even after death we still want to incorporate our loved ones into our daily lives.  You’re on my mind so much that with each decision I make or when things happen to me that I want to share I imagine that your spirit is with me sharing in the news or comforting me when I need it.  Though your body is gone, you still very much inspire me.  I can’t let you go completely and I’m fine with that, actually; you’re always going to be a part of my life, though in a different form than before.

And the show was just so honest!  I wish our society didn’t tiptoe around the subject of death so much… and the topic of a suicide death is far more taboo and people just don’t want to talk about it.  I’ve eased up a lot over the past 4 years.  In the beginning I wanted to talk about it all the time– to anyone who would listen. It was always on my mind and was such a distraction that I often thought I shouldn’t have been allowed to drive a vehicle.  If someone honked and zipped around me while flashing their middle finger at me for failing to see that the light had turned green a part of me wanted to chase them down and jump out of the car and scream, “I’m sorry I made your life so difficult at that stoplight… my brother just killed himself!  If a few seconds longer at a stoplight is the worst thing to happen to you today then you’re in great fucking shape!!”  That anger was always just barely concealed beneath my expressionless surface.

I’m grateful that through talk therapy, art, setting appropriate boundaries with people whom I do not feel safe, medication and simply the passing of time that I have come to a place where I can remember you without breaking down.  Don’t get me wrong, I still fall apart a lot… but not all day every day like I used to.

And if I’m being completely honest, I can foresee myself watching the entire “Six Feet Under” series again in the future.  It’s good for my soul.

On a side note, I just turned 41 on Saturday… I did always love the birthday cards you used to get for me.  I really miss that and I really missed not talking to you on my birthday.  But you were still there with me, dude.  I miss you.

Love,
Laura

Letter to Brian: December 30, 2014

Dear Brian,

Well… I managed to get through my 5th Christmas without you.  Christmas Eve seems to be extra hard for me as that was always our family’s big celebration; we, of course, celebrated Christmas Day as well… but there was always something extra special about Christmas Eve for us.  It was just… magical.

This year I was in Maryland for the Holiday and it was the third one in a row where I didn’t celebrate back home in Minnesota with family.  It hasn’t been intentional, but I’ll admit that I do find it easier to be away from all the reminders of you during this time of year.  Somehow it’s easier on me to be in new or unfamiliar surroundings where the ghosts of our Christmases past aren’t circling around me like vultures waiting to prey on any bit of happiness I manage to muster up each Christmas now.  I suppose it’s that your absence is all the more obvious when I’m engaged in the “usual” traditions without you.  It’s just not the same and, quite frankly, it hurts. I know so many survivors who have changed the way they celebrate the holidays… even going so far as to take a trip far away during that time of year just to get away from all of the reminders.

This year I managed to get myself sick, too; so while in Maryland I managed to have myself a little meltdown a few times because, well, I was feeling sick, I had my “monthly lady-time” and a load of the exhausting cramps that typically go along with it and on top of the deep sadness I was feeling over missing you, I felt as though I was tossing a wrench into the holiday celebrations of people that I care very much about.  I had myself a few tear-stained pity parties when I found myself alone in a room for a bit.  I was also struck with the grief of guilt when I found myself having moments of joy without you; though I know you’d want me to find happiness a part of me punishes myself for allowing myself those instances where I realize I’m moving on without you. It feels like I’m betraying you and I don’t think that guilt will ever completely go away.

Christmas Eve I was alone for a good hour or two; my sweetie wasn’t feeling well, his parents had gone to Christmas Eve Mass and his sister had returned to her home.  I sat there alone on the couch in the deafening quiet and stared into the lights of the Christmas tree and my mind drifted back to holidays past.  Suddenly I could see your face and hear your laugh and my heart longed to go back and relive even just a few minutes of any one of those nights.  My eyes filled with tears upon the realization that the only way I’ll ever spend Christmas with you again is just as I did on the couch that evening– with your ashes in a pendant worn around my neck and with your signature tattooed on my left wrist and your essence forever burned in my memory.

There used to be a home video of you opening a present from me on Christmas Eve back in 1994.  I’d given you a hilarious gift and I told dad to keep the camera on you as you opened it because it was sure to be a monumental moment.  And it really was.  For about the next 15 minutes straight you laughed and laughed and laughed and I could hardly contain my joy seeing you enjoy the gift so much.  A few months after you died, I searched frantically through every single one of VHS tapes of home movies to try and find those few minutes of footage and, to my dismay, it no longer seems to exist; it was taped over by something far less meaningful and my heart broke all over again when I realized it was gone.  I’d give anything to see that video again… to see and hear your laughter again.  Particularly since the last few years of your life your sadness was palpable and I’d love to be able to relive those moments of your pure happiness and perfectly infectious laugh.

I truly hope that wherever you are now that you’re free of that deep sadness that burdened you at the end of your life.

Merry Christmas, dude.

Love,
Laura

CHRISTMAS

 

 

 

 

Letter to Brian: December 17, 2014

Dear Brian,

I used to really love this time of year.  I loved the snow… the anticipation of Christmas… and I absolutely LOVED shopping for Christmas presents for you. Having lived here in Texas since 2009 this will be my 6th Christmas without snow and now that you’re gone it’ll be my 5th Christmas without you, too.

Yesterday it sort of all caught up with me; I’ve been pushing it down and distracting myself pretty well but hearing the news of the suicide of a young man near my hometown just pulled it all back up right to the surface.  My heart was breaking for this family who is now dealing with the loss of their future with their son but also for me as I remembered exactly what it felt like upon getting the news of your death and the days, weeks and months that followed.  I lost you two months shy of Christmas in 2010 and your absence was all the more pronounced during the holidays and I mourn for the family facing their first Christmas without their loved one. This recent death makes two suicide deaths related to close friends of mine in a single month.  It’s just too many.

Every Christmas since you died I find myself looking back at holidays throughout the years and some of the fun we had exchanging gifts.  We were always good about getting each other some pretty great stuff.  But the joke gifts we’d exchange were often my favorites!! Do you remember the year you opened up a box from me and pulled out a teddy bear?  You looked horribly confused, and rightfully so; you were a young man in your late 20’s, after all.  But the reason for the bear was soon revealed as I secretly pulled a small remote from my pocket and pressed the red button in the center.  A split-second after pressing that button the bear sitting on your lap began to fart.  You laughed so hard!  (Almost as hard as I did.)  I almost wished I’d gotten one for myself; after all, who wouldn’t want a remote control-operated farting bear??  Simpsons items were always big with us, too; I still wear the Homer Simpson slippers you gave to me about a dozen years ago and the talking Homer Simpson clock I gave to you one year I now proudly display on my bookshelf at home.

This year I’ll be heading to Maryland to spend Christmas with my sweetie and his family and it’s the first Christmas I’ve looked forward to in six years.  (Having moved here in November of 2009 I wasn’t able to come home and spend that Christmas with you and then 10 short months later you were gone.)

I so vividly remember Christmas Eve of 1990; I was a junior in high school and you were a sophomore.  You and I basically spent the whole night together, just the two of us as Mom and Dad weren’t speaking to each other and hadn’t spoken much in weeks.  We were pretty certain that a divorce was imminent.  You and I sat alone at the base of the tree opening our gifts as well as those gifts from Mom and Dad to each other as they had no interest in joining us.  It was a tough evening, for sure… but we had each other and I was so grateful for that.  It makes me so sad that my partner in all of that is gone.

My grief just feels so very close to the surface this time of year… and I just can’t seem to get enough sleep.  I’m overwhelmed and absolutely exhausted each and every day and in the past week alone have started to cry three times in stores when I spotted families shopping together or see a family headed home to decorate the beautiful pine tree braced to the roof of their car.

I’m missing you more than ever, dude.

Much love always,

Laura

Letter to Brian: November 20, 2014

Dear Brian,

I attended a funeral yesterday.  As I sat there crying alone in nearly the last row in the dark auditorium it occurred to me that it was the very first funeral I’ve attended since yours 4 years ago.  And this wasn’t just any funeral… I was there to support a friend who just lost her brother to suicide.

I knew going would bring up a lot of terrible things for me and I was pretty worried about how much it might set me back in terms of my own healing.  But the thing is, as hard as it was for me to do, I would do it again in a heartbeat.  So many people don’t “deal with death well” or “don’t know what to say” or are “uncomfortable at funerals” or simply don’t go because they didn’t know the person who passed. But I’m not one of those people. I remember exactly what it felt like to be sitting in that room as we mourned your death and I was so grateful for each and every single face I saw, whether I recognized it or not.  It meant the world to me to see so many people there that might not have even met you but they cared enough about us to come and offer support by just being there.

I didn’t know this man who passed but yet I mourned so deeply.  I mourned for the sadness that drove him to take his own life. I mourned for my friend grieving the loss of her brother.  I mourned for the wife and young daughters he’s leaving behind.  And, I mourned for you all over again because it reminded me of the things you never had the chance to experience but that I wish you had.  I have often been sad that I never got to see you get married to the love of your life or have children or find a career about which you were truly passionate.  As I watched the slide show, I saw photo after photo of a man madly in love with his wife and his daughters and who had found true joy in his career; I wished that you had found those same things for yourself while you were here.  Though I’m not naive enough to believe that the outcome would have been any different; after all, this man had all of those things I desired for you and it still wasn’t enough for him to overcome his own darkness.

During the service a number of his friends got up to speak about him and it got me thinking that I wished we had done that at your service.  Through the stories they told they painted a picture of a caring, loving and absolutely hilarious man who made a room immediately better just by walking into it.  Looking back I honestly don’t remember if we didn’t have people speak because we didn’t ask or if there just wasn’t anyone who wanted to do it; I do wish now that I’d have spoken but at the time it really wouldn’t have been possible.  I was far too devastated to gather my thoughts let alone get up to present them to a crowd.  But as I sat there last night and listened to the stories and learned about the man my friend called her brother for 44 years I smiled, laughed and cried with everyone as though I had known him for years.

It’s funny how your perspective on death changes as you age and experience different kinds of loss.  I vividly remember being so angry at Grandpa Don’s funeral in 1992; I was a senior in high school and you were a junior.  That was my first taste of true loss– the death of someone to whom I was close and it hurt so much.  I was in so much pain yet I looked around at the adults who were laughing and carrying on and I thought, “how can they be so cruel to laugh at a time like this?”  But now I look at the ability to share stories that make us laugh and remember the wonderful times as healing and that was one of the most beautiful parts of last night’s service– all the laughter.

After the service was over I stayed in the back waiting for a break in the flow of the crowd to approach my friend for a hug before I left.  As I stood there alone, puffy-eyed, still choking back vigorous waves of tears a couple who had been sitting nearby were glancing in my direction a number of times and, just before they left, the gentleman made his way to me.  He placed his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was going to be alright.  He said, “you’re all alone up here and you look pretty sad, we just want to make sure you’ll be OK.”  Seems like a simple gesture but having just experienced the emotional upheaval of the previous 90 minutes, all alone, I was so grateful for having been acknowledged in that room full of strangers.  Random acts of kindness are pretty wonderful.

As soon as I mapped out a relatively open path to my friend I made my way down to her and we just hugged and cried for a long minute.  No words were needed, really.  She knew I shared in her grief and I recognized that she shared in mine as well.  I wished so very deeply that she didn’t have to experience the agony that I’ve just spent the past 4 years trying to escape.  Because you really can’t escape it, Brian.  The best thing I’ve done for myself has been to just allow the feelings to be there and accept them and let them run their course.  You just have to go through it to get through it, you know?

I left the auditorium and continued to sob and struggled to catch my breath on the long walk back to my car… I was so overwhelmed and just physically exhausted. Grief is a funny thing… for something that is so emotional, it can also make your body absolutely hurt all over.

I can’t say if my being there was helpful to my friend or not… but I do know that I couldn’t imagine not going.  It’s just so important to have people that care about you at a time like that– even if no words are shared, there is so much to be said for the healing energy you feel from just the presence of others whose intentions are to help you share the pain for a while.  I felt that at your funeral and still vividly remember a moment during which I felt so loved and supported– I can’t quite put it into words but as  I looked around the room at your service it literally felt as though my spirit was being lifted up and cradled in the arms of everyone there.  I am certain I’ll never find the words to describe how wonderful that moment felt.

On my way to work this morning the events of last night still weighed heavily on my mind and I was doing my best to convince myself that I would make it through the day in one piece.  Then I got another little sign from you, Brian.  Of the two pennies I received back in change at the McDonald’s drive-thru (you know, for my daily dose of Diet Coke) one of them was a 1975 penny– again, the year you were born.  I hardly ever see them… so I’m taking this one as a sign that you knew how hard last night was on me and that I was in desperate need of a little bit of a reminder that you were there with me.  I was needing that reminder… and I’m grateful.

Love Always,
Laura

 

Letter to Brian: November 8, 2014

Dear Brian,

I’ve held off on writing about something for a while now… but each time I see the story pop up on Facebook or in the news it triggers a reaction in me that I just feel the need to talk to you about.

The first time I saw the headline it read, “29-Year-Old Woman: Why I’m Taking My Own Life.”  I really didn’t know what to expect upon clicking on the story but it turned out she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and does not have long to live.  She chose to leave her home in California and relocate in Oregon where they support the “Die With Dignity” cause and it is legal to take your own life with medications in instances of terminal illnesses.

It was a little triggering for me to read the story but more so to read the comments from readers around the world. People had so many horribly judgmental and cruel things to say about this young woman’s choice. For as long as I can remember, and from as early an age as one can possibly understand what this choice means, I have supported it.  I know that if I were given a death-sentence such as this young woman that I too would want to choose how and when.  If I reach the point at which I can no longer move or care for myself and pain continues to grow and snuff out any quality of life I would want to be allowed the freedom to decide how much longer to prolong, or not prolong, the inevitable.

While it’s a completely different situation entirely, I have similar (and very controversial) feelings towards suicide.  The important difference being that I absolutely don’t advocate for suicide but yet I do understand why some people choose it.  I think that’s precisely the reason that I’m not angry at your choice, Brian; I truly understand it and while I would never have supported you in it or helped you with it… I understand.  The thing is, you were in so much pain.  Anyone that has been in the position of feeling like a “prisoner in your own body” due to a crippling depression that leaves you praying to the stars each night that you just don’t wake up in the morning will understand.  It’s not a matter of simply “having a bad day” or “losing your job” or “going through a breakup” anymore than it was just a “minor illness” for the woman who chose euthanasia for herself in the end.

In response to her story another woman posted, “My Mom has the same brain cancer diagnosis Brittany Maynard had.  She’s fighting to live as long as she can.” The thing is… she very well may have the same diagnosis but not everyone who has that same cancer will be the exactly same; some might respond better to treatments than others… some might be further along in their illness… some might have been diagnosed more quickly… some might have other factors contributing to their physiological deterioration; it’s not fair to judge another person for what they believe to be a “weakness” in giving up hope.  In my opinion the same applies to mental illness and suicides.  The are people out there who might believe someone is weak for taking their own life and would say, “I get depressed all the time and I don’t run out and kill myself… I keep trying.”  Or, “I’ve survived way worse than that guy has and look, I haven’t given up.”  There’s just no possible way to know absolutely what it is like to be in another person’s shoes so judgement in these situations… well, there just shouldn’t BE any judgement in these situations.

Brittany Maynard made her choice and on November 2, 2014 she left this world surrounded in peace and the love of her husband and family and I wouldn’t dream of judging her for making that choice.  I wish her family comfort and appreciate the difficult feelings that must have come up for them in supporting Brittany’s decision.

I’ve said it so many times before, Brian.  I understand why you couldn’t stay.  But I still wish you had.

Love Always,
Laura

Letter to Brian: July 24, 2014

Dear Brian,

It’s funny how I can be moving right along thinking I’m doing really, really OK… then out of nowhere I find myself sluggish and exhausted and just sort of…well…. an overall feeling of malaise.  Then I remember what day it is… and it all makes sense.  Even when my mind is not consciously aware, my body remains entirely aware of what was happening on this very day 4 years ago.

It was Saturday, July 24, 2010 and I was in Dallas visiting my friend Rachel for the weekend.  She and I were strolling around Target that morning when I heard my phone beep.  I looked down and saw that I had a text message from you that read, “Hey dude– I’m having trouble with my email.  If you get anything from me, just go ahead and delete it.”  I truly didn’t think much of it… I just assumed perhaps your email account had been hacked.  Rachel and I proceeded to shop and pick up snacks for our day at the pool that afternoon… your text immediately was forgotten and we went about our girls’ weekend.  I had no idea what that seemingly benign text would come to mean to me.

The next afternoon I drove the 3 hours home from Dallas.  I unpacked, took a shower and made myself a snack.  I sat down at the computer to check my email to see what I’d missed during the past few days.  Then I saw it… an email from you.  It was sent on the 24th and the subject line simply read: “Important.”  There was a word document attached and the body of the message said:

Hey Laura, this is very important and you will want to open it right away. –Brian

My first thought was, maybe I should just delete it as you’d asked me to do… but something in my gut told me to open the attachment anyway.  So I did.  These are the next few words I read:

Dear Laura,

I’m very very sorry to need to let you know this way, but if you’re reading this then that means that I’ve made the decision to end it all and it should be over and too late right now.  I scheduled this email to be sent with a time-delay that can be canceled, and I left plenty of time.  I’m sorry that you had to find out like this, but I didn’t know what else to do.

Brooklyn Park Police Department phone 763-493-8222

My front door will be unlocked. 

I can’t possibly describe the horror I was experiencing at that very moment.  Everything was an absolute blur as I read through 3 pages of your last thoughts and preparations– where you kept the title to your car, your life insurance policy, what to do with your cats, when the water heater had been replaced a host of all kinds things that someone who truly intended to tie up absolutely all their loose ends would include in such a final correspondence.  I raced to my phone to try calling you… no answer.  I called again… no answer.  I then immediately called Mom and asked if she’d gotten that email from you and she hadn’t– you’d only sent it to me.  I told her what it said and told her we needed to call the police and send them over to your house immediately.  Upon hanging up I instantly began calling your phone again and again and again… each time hoping for a different outcome– one where you’d answer your phone and be OK.

After about 10 minutes of fevered dialing my phone rang and I stared at the caller ID display. It was you.  It was YOU!  But after the letter I’d just read I was a little afraid to pick up… would it be you?  Would it be the police telling me they were standing over your dead body in your living room?  I answered the phone and I heard your voice say, “Hey, dude.”

Shit.  I don’t think a word exists that could possibly convey the amount of relief surging through my body upon hearing you speak.  You apologized for worrying me and said that’s why you sent that text– to stop me from reading the email you intended to simply SAVE, not SEND.  You told me how once you realized your mistake that you tried unplugging all of the cords to your computer in hopes of stopping it from being sent.  None of that mattered to me… I told you that obviously I was meant to get that message so I could get you the help you so badly needed.  In hindsight, I don’t know which would have been worse for me… having never received that email and having no warning about your imminent death or getting the email and proceeding to not do enough to keep you safe from yourself.

I began to wonder this week… thinking about what else might have been going on in the world that very same day you wrote that letter. So I decided to Google “July 24, 2010” to see what came up… to see what else was happening in the world that day as you sat alone in your home and typed up your suicide letter to me.  That very same day your horoscope in the Lawrence Journal-World read, “Take some much-needed personal time.  You have been groping with an issue and probably need time to process it.”  Boy, did you ever.  Selfishly, I wish you’d taken much, much longer.  You know, like about another 50 years or so.  But, I digress.

Just a few miles from where you sat typing, Natalie Merchant was performing at the O’Shaughnessy Theater in Saint Paul, MN.  In Baltimore, our very own Minnesota Twins were defeating the Baltimore Oriole’s 7-2.  Theo Albrecht, the 2005’s “20th Richest Man in the World” passed away. A number of celebrities (including, but not limited to, Rose Byrne, Bindi Irwin, Barry Bonds, Jennifer Lopez and Kristin Chenowith) were celebrating their birthdays.  And then… I found something breathtaking.  Turns out that the very same man who directed your favorite movie, “Gladiator,” had been working on producing a film project directed by Kevin MacDonald entitled, “Life in a Day” in which he was gathering video submissions from people all over the entire world from one single day: July 24, 2010.  Absolutely amazing.  After sorting through over 80,000 submissions containing a combined total of over 4,500 hours the end-result is a 95 minute documentary, shot by film-makers from all over the planet.  It was released in 2011 and will, to quote IMDB, serve as a digital “time capsule” to show future generations what it was like to be alive on Earth on the twenty-fourth of July, 2010.  While these people were presenting what it was like to be alive on that day, you were planning your own death.

I watched the documentary today and would you believe there was actually a part of me that I allowed to hope for a glimpse of you in there somewhere?  I thought to myself, “Wow, wouldn’t it be great if by some miracle by brother showed up in there in his own video submission that might reveal to me a shred of what he was feeling that day?”  I know… it was a long shot.  But you have to understand… I won’t get any new pictures of you.  I won’t get any new videos of you.  All I have is what I’ve already seen and I continue to long for more because it still doesn’t make sense to me.

Instead of you, I saw what the moon looked like that night.  I saw a couple getting married.  I saw a woman joyfully holding a pregnancy test stick in her hand showing the camera she was going to be a mother.  I saw a girl crying herself to sleep.  So many personal and emotional moments in that 95 minutes… none of which included you.  But then… I guess I already know what you were doing that day, don’t I?

I’ll continue to hopelessly search for you everywhere I look.

I miss you.

Laura

Letter to Brian: May 30, 2014

Dear Brian,

My friend Christine, a fellow AFSP Volunteer with whom I advocated in Washington, D.C. a few months back, is a suicide attempt survivor.  She was recently asked to write an article for CNN.com about her attempt and survival.  It was such a great article and I am so very proud of her and of what she is doing for suicide awareness. However, I made the mistake of scrolling down to read the comments that followed.  There was a lot of encouragement, which was so great to see.  But sadly, there were many disturbing comments made that reminded me just how far we have to go in educating people about suicide.  Comments such as these:

“Only wimps try to commit suicide, no sympathy from me.”

“Your 15 minutes of fame is over, come join the rest of humanity in our struggles while you are trying to profit from your own choices of death.”

“I disagree that anyone benefits from any of the sentiments you have expressed – you really are flat wrong in everything you have said. Fine, so go kill yourself. Even better, kill yourself to prove me wrong. You need one, maybe two more excuses, right? There are two more, easily. Off you go. When you come back desperate for more sympathy and attention and threatening to kill yourself if you don’t get it? Just call this # for all the attention that you need: 1-800-GIVAFUK”

“I can’t help you with this excuse-mongering. Everyone goes through periods of depression, overwork, anxiety, feelings of failure. You either work through it or you quit and try to kill yourself. It’s really that simple.”

“Mental illness is a frightening thing. Sadly there is no cure for crazy and your best bet is to avoid involving yourself in relationships with people with mental illness if possible.”

“Studies show that whenever the media does an article about suicide, in the months that follow, there is an increase in the number of suicides.”

“Enough with coin-phrasing yourself with ‘I am a blah blah blah’ , no you’re NOT. You’re just like everyone else who’s had to endure this neurotic self absorbed and heartless society.”

“”Hi! I was a miserable twat, and I decided to kill myself, now I’m making money off of it.”

“Suicidal people are also homicidal people. Very dangerous indeed.”

“This article is disrespectful. I’ve had many friends that went all the way. Shut up. I don’t care about your cry for help. How much were you paid for this crap? You are weak, just do it already.”

By surviving her attempt and going on to open up and share her story with others she’s letting it be known that she doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of and she is doing her part to create a society in which people are not afraid of seeking help when they need it most.  All of those hurtful comments do nothing but perpetuate the stigma surrounding depression and suicide! If that kind of response is what they can expect, why would someone seek help when they are hurting?  They are in genuine pain and to have it met with comments like, “you’re weak” or “if you can’t deal with the pressures of life that the rest of us have to deal with then just do the world a favor and just finish yourself off” would only serve to hurt them further.

But then I saw the TED Talk video above and was again more hopeful.  He was an officer that patrolled the Golden Gate Bridge for 20 years and prevented more than one suicide there. If only more people were as kind, understanding and respectful as he is!  I was struck by a few things he said, in particular.  When he talked about what to do if someone you know is suicidal:  “It’s not just the talking that you do but the listening. Listen to understand. Don’t argue, blame or tell the person you know how they feel because you probably don’t– by just being there you may just be the turning point that they need.” He also added: “For most suicidal folk (or those contemplating suicide) they wouldn’t think of hurting another person, they just want their own pain to end.  Typically this is accomplished in just 3 ways: sleep, drugs or alcohol or death.”

I don’t need to remind you that I’ve never been angry at you for your choice to end your life.  I know there are many in my position who are angry at their loved one for leaving that way… but as I’ve told you I know exactly how it feels to be in that mindset and to know that when you are in that dark place that there truly seems to be no way out.  To those who would say, “You simply need to change your thoughts– just think positive thoughts,” I would say this– exactly how do you change your way of thinking when the very organ in your body required to do that is what is failing you in the first place? Unless someone has experienced a depression like no other that leaves you feeling as though the only way to escape it is to die, they couldn’t possibly understand.  I’m not talking about just a bad day, or bad week, bad month or even bad year… but a soul-crushing darkness that weighs so heavily that you can’t possibly imagine it ever NOT being there.  I started having suicidal thoughts around the time I started self-injuring– at about age 5.  Would you tell a 5 year old, “Hey, buck up” or “pull yourself up by the boot straps” or “life’s hard, deal with it?”  There obviously was so much more at work there than just a “bad attitude” to cause someone so young to want to end their life.  There’s also the heredity factor, I’m well aware.  We have a robust family history of major depressive disorder and substance abuse on both sides of our family.  Suicidality is also very present in our family history as you well remember our father’s attempt in 1995 along with several attempts made by his mother, our grandmother, in earlier years.  I wasn’t aware until just yesterday that our aunt attempted twice to take her own life, as well.  Even among family, suicidal thoughts and attempts are kept a dark secret… so how can we expect people to seek help outside their family?

I look forward to the day when depression (or any mental illness, for that matter) is considered by the greater population to be a legitimate, treatable illness rather than a character flaw.  I am grateful that people like Christine who have lived through that horror are willing to step up and talk about it because people like her, who managed to survive an attempt on their own life, can provide invaluable an insight to suicide, mental illness and the hope that it can be treated.  And, hopefully, can keep spreading the word that it is OK to ask for help and create a world in which that help is readily and lovingly provided.

I really wish you had survived your attempt, Brian.  But sadly until a short 5 months before you succeeded in taking your life I was made aware that you’d already survived two previous attempts.  It isn’t lost on me that I was lucky to have had you around for another 10 years but selfishly I’d ask for another 60.  I miss you, dude.

Love,

Laura

 

Letter to Brian: May 12, 2014

Dear Brian,

I heard someone say the other day that all of the cells in the human body are replaced within 7 to 10 years and, as a result, that I may actually be an entirely different person than I was 7 to 10 years ago.  That was amazing to me.  Looking that fact up brought me to this quote by computer scientist Steve Grand:

 

“Think of an experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it?

But here is the bombshell: you weren’t there.

Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place … Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes

together to be you.

Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made.”

Now, I don’t know if that is true or not but it got me thinking.  If it is true, then within another 3-5 years I’ll be an entirely different person than I was when you were still alive.  Crazy!  Physical makeup aside, I can say with perfect certainty that I’m already a completely different person on the inside than I was when you were alive.

Losing you has changed me in so many ways, Brian.  I will say that one of the things that I’ve come away from this experience with is a new, almost animalistic need to speak up for myself.  I feel it is sort of out of necessity, really. I’ve struggled with my own depression my entire life and recall that my self-injurious behavior began at a frighteningly young age– about age 5.  I vividly remember what I believe may have been the very first time:  I was sitting cross-legged on the floor of my bedroom in front of my mirror and I was crying so hard.  I was so small!  I just sat there sobbing, looking at myself in the mirror and hating what I saw and being angry at and disappointed in the pitiful person looking back at me and I began to punch myself in the face over and over and over until it hurt too much and I cried myself to sleep in a wrung-out little heap on the floor.  It happened often– not always on my face so people wouldn’t see and ask questions.  If they did happen to see, I made up excuses for why there was a bruise– I fell out of bed, I tripped running up the stairs, something fell off the top shelf of my bookcase, etc.  I don’t think it was until I was about 17 when I finally fessed up to Mom and Dad (and you) in terms of admitting to how I got all those bruises and scars; when the urges were no longer satisfied by hitting I moved on to cutting with a straight edge razor blade.  As a result my arms, chest and legs are blanketed with scars of various lengths and severity.  The cuts actually became more severe over the years because it was not unlike the drug addict or alcoholic who, after years of an addiction, required more and more of their chosen substance to get the same effect as they did early on.  The cutting was never a suicidal gesture.  I feel the need to clarify this as I know so many people out there think of cutting as a pitiful attempt at suicide or simply an attention-getting scheme.  It is neither of the above.  As you are well aware, we didn’t live in environment in which we could safely express our emotions and feelings so they remained bottled up inside… cutting was a way for me to release that pent-up energy because it needed to go somewhere.  Imagine the emotions like a balloon being blown up… it continues to become fuller and fuller  and fuller until it is in danger of exploding; to self-harm was the equivalent of letting go of the balloon allowing all the energy to escape and I was immediately relieved and relaxed… until the next time.

In my last letter to you I spoke about our childhood or, rather, my own experience of our childhood.  While you were present for all the things I spoke about in reference to our father, we didn’t talk about it much other than we agreed that we both felt the same way with regard the lack of any emotional connection from him at all.  We seemed to be around solely to give him an audience to whom to preach rather than as little human beings to love and cherish and nurture into healthy, grown up human beings.

I don’t entirely know if there was ever any “hands-on” sexual abuse in my childhood though I have a few vivid memories that would lead me to believe so; regardless, the verbal and visual sexualization to which I was exposed at home certainly wasn’t appropriate.  I think I learned at a very young age that men were interested in women for one thing: their sexuality.  I clearly remember getting myself all dressed up to go hang out in the basement and do my best to flirt with the contractor working on our house– I was only 3 years old.   A few years later, using my little, plastic sewing machine, I made myself a halter top and wore it to the neighborhood grocery store and pranced around in that tiny shirt in hopes of catching the attention of a man who worked there.  And yet there was always the underlying feeling of being absolutely terrified of men.  As children you and I nearly always had a female babysitter but I recall one instance in which Mom found a male babysitter for us.  You were so excited, you finally had a guy to hang out with and who would play Atari and wrestle with you.  While you guys played in the other room, I stood at the front window and cried and cried and cried just praying Mom and Dad would hurry back; I wouldn’t let him anywhere near me because I was afraid he might try and touch me or make me do things I didn’t want to do. When I received a letter the summer of 1984 announcing who my 5th grade teacher would be that upcoming fall and I read that my teacher would be a man I cried myself to sleep for weeks because I’d never had a male teacher and I was deathly afraid of what would happen if I was ever forced to be left alone with him.  If I were to describe all the memories I have like those I just mentioned this letter would go on for miles so I’ll leave it there for now.  And the thought I keep coming back to year after year is that those feelings of horror are not innate– we are all born with a natural inclination to trust; I wholeheartedly believe that we LEARN those feelings of fear and distrust somewhere.

I really wish we had talked about this stuff more when you were alive, Brian.  As much as these letters help me process my feelings they are no replacement for having you here and it would be so much easier if I still had here you on my side.  You were my first best friend and are the only one who can really understand what I’m talking about.  There is something at work in my soul that is making it possible for me to finally get this stuff out in the open; it’s a poison that has been keeping me “sick” for a long, long time and it needs to make its way to the surface.  I realize the things that I have said, and will continue to say, will not be popular with everyone.  But a few wonderful friends have been reminding me that it is absolutely OK for me to say what I’ve been saying because it is MY life and MY story and if it will bring me some healing then I have every right to put it out there.

Stay tuned, dude.  More to come…  🙂

Love Always,
Laura

Letter to Brian: November 5, 2013

Dear Brian,

In writing these letters to you over the past few years I have primarily focused on your act of suicide and the way it has changed the course of my life.  You and I only briefly spoke about my own long-running history with suicidality, depression and self-injury… and it was only in the last few months you were alive that I began to really share those details with you.  I’d like to share more about that with you now.

When you first admitted back in May of 2010 that you were suffering from a deep depression, you also told us of two previous suicide attempts of which we were not aware; one of those attempts was actually while you and I were living together as roommates in our 20’s.  Those years were particularly hard for me too; I was extremely suicidal myself at that time… seems neither of us had any idea just how hopeless the other was feeling and we were living under the very same roof.  Turns out you and I were quite good at protecting one another… even if the other wasn’t fully aware there was anything from which they were being protected.  I know for me, the reasons for keeping my desire to die to myself were plenty.  For starters, I was embarrassed.  I told myself that “normal” people didn’t wake up every morning wishing they had died in their sleep. I couldn’t share that thought with anyone. I felt so strongly about wanting to die but recognized that if I were to reveal that wish and/or intent they would try to stop me and I wasn’t looking for attention or help…I was looking for a way out.  I also wanted to protect you and our family from the feelings that would undoubtedly be stirred up by such a revelation from someone they loved: feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, sadness and the crippling fear that they would not be able to prevent the inevitable– the last of which I experienced in excess the last 5 months of your life.

I remember the summer before you died, shortly after you accidentally emailed me your suicide note.  After receiving it, I desperately tried to help you.  I began to open up to you about just how deep and dark my own depression went and told you about a file folder I had which contained about a dozen or so methods of suicide I had deemed feasible for myself after much research on the internet.  For several years that folder, ironically, was a lifeline for me.  Somehow, getting up in the morning was a little bit easier knowing I had those plans in place if that day ended up being the one that finally broke me once and for all.  I cried myself to sleep nearly every single night and while I’m not religious, my last thoughts each night were prayers to “whomever or whatever is out there”… begging with every ounce of my being that they grant me some mercy and let me not wake up in the morning.

I am jealous of all you were able to accomplish despite your depression– mine has significantly held me back my entire life.  From a young age (and even now) it was partly because of my sadness and crippling shyness that I failed to engage in a lot of activities that other kids enjoyed and I longed to do but of which I didn’t feel capable or deserving.  Depression contributed to my constant inability to focus and I was repeatedly told by teachers over the years that “I didn’t participate enough” and that “I wasn’t working up to my known potential.”  I knew that. Aside from the fact that I did not possess the ability to kick those depressive episodes out of the way long enough to do what everyone thought I was capable of doing, I also had sunk deep enough to not see the point of it all, anyway.  I figured if I didn’t think I’d be here long enough for any of that stuff to matter, why bother?

You were so very smart, Brian.  And so motivated and dedicated and focused!  You always did so much better in school.  In more recent years you managed to hold down a few jobs at a time while going back to school full-time and training for a bodybuilding competition… and you did so well at all of those thing all at once.  I really envied that– especially now that I know you were suffering just as much as I was but yet you excelled at everything in spite of it.  Grandpa Ralph used to compare me to you.  He made me feel like a failure for having dropped out of college after only a few years… he said, “You’re just like your Aunt, she never finished anything, either.”  It hurt my feelings a great deal; my depression and my increasing bouts of self-injury were the primary contributors to me prematurely leaving school.  I feel pretty certain that he wouldn’t have understood that had I tried to explain it.

I still have not felt a shred of anger at you for choosing to end your own life.  I have felt that inescapable despair and truthfully I still have moments where I envy your choice.  I know that won’t sit well with a lot of people, but it’s the truth.  I’m here in this new way of life without you and  3 years later there are still moments the pain literally takes my breath away and I can’t imagine feeling this kind of pain for another 40 years.  I promised myself when I decided to share my letters to you on this blog that I wouldn’t “sugar coat” things to make them easier for others to read.  I don’t want there to be so much shame and stigma surrounding this stuff– depression, self-injury, suicide.  Keeping that stuff hidden only serves to give the illness more power than it deserves.  I find that with each word I share about my struggles I’m taking a little of that power back.

Thanks for listening, dude.

Love,
Laura