7 years ago today, I came home from school to the most devastating news that my dad committed suicide (more on that moment here). Some days, I look back and have no idea how it’s been 7 years and how I’ve manage to make it so far since then. Other days, it feels like it was yesterday and I still cry myself to sleep (not baby tears, like bawling my eye out because it still hurts so bad). I didn’t have the best relationship with my dad. He wasn’t my best friend or the most incredible role model a daughter could hope for. But, he was still my dad and I loved him with my entire heart. He tried to teach me about things like money, how people think, and how the world works and I was too naive to listen. Now I’d give anything to replay those conversations and to cherish the wisdom he was trying to give me.
RELATED: Losing a Parent to Suicide
Hold your loved ones close everyone. Make sure you ask people around you genuinely how they’re doing. Be compassionate enough to notice when someone is off. When you see someone dealing with depression, help guide them to all the supportive resources out there and even more importantly, reassure them that it’s OKAY to get help. Mental health matters. When you don’t know what to do, the worst thing is back off and leave. When someone is depressed, there’s no right words we’re looking for you to say, we just want you to be there. Let people know that their feelings are VALID – not matter what kind of feelings those are. Don’t offer advice or talk about your experiences in that moment, just listen. Listening is so powerful.
It took my 5 solid years to start accepting what life had thrown at me. Those 5 years included what are supposed to be some of the best years of one’s life, my senior year in high school and my time in college. I feel like I just sort of floated through them. While I tried to keep it together, I was such a mess inside. And, because of the fear that someone might see me falling apart, I hardly let anyone in. I was in an amazing sorority, where I had the opportunity to make lifelong friendships. Yeah I built relationships, but I could only let people in so far before I would start backing away. I nearly stopped communicating with my friends from high school in college because 1) I didn’t have it inside of me to emotionally maintain relationships and 2) I was so incredibly busy with modeling, babysitting, studying, and anything else that kept me away from having to sit down with myself.
I’ve spent years literally jam packing my schedule and distracting myself every moment of every day to keep out the questions and the pain. Maybe that’s part of the reason it still hurts so bad – I ran from it and never truly gave myself the time to let it sink in. If you’ve lost someone to suicide (or anything else really), don’t just back into normal life. Give yourself time to grieve and the space to process and absorb the loss.
Two years ago, I finally start to accept my dad’s suicide. More on that and what pushed me to publicly share my store here in my guest post on the Holl & Lane Magazine blog.
Throughout the past year and a half, I’ve let yoga take a much larger role in my life. For the first time in so long, if ever, I’m finally becoming aware of truly how important it is to slow down and fully live in each moment live gives us, the good and the bad. And while most of the time that’s a rewarding realization to carry out, it’s also brings up a lot of shit. There are times when I feel even more emotional than I did right after my dad’s death. There are times when I’m on my mat at the end of class in shavasana and tears just start rolling down my face. It’s harder now to tuck away those feels and that pain, which is probably a good thing because the worst thing is to feel nothing at all.
Over the past year, I’ve started having these terrifying dreams where my dad is still alive and this is all a lie. They are so vivid and realistic that sometimes I don’t want to wake up. I know it’s my brain’s way of still trying to process things, but there are times where I can’t sleep for days because I don’t want to bring myself to deal with the emotions the dreams bring up. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night or in the morning in an intense cloud of depression because it kills me that these are just dreams.
One of my favorite quotes is, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” It’s so important to live by this. Even the most Insta-perfect people can be dealing with life shattering events or spells of depression and anxiety. We truly have no idea. So before you write a complaint, make a rude comment, or post a negative rant on social media about how stupid other people are, stop and remind yourself that there’s more to someone’s life than what is presented on the outside. In the twisted world we’ve grown up in, unfortunately, this is hard to do, but I’m working on it, and you should too.
Most importantly, talk about mental health. Start a conversation and end the stigma. Leave your judgement behind and realize that depression and mental illness doesn’t discriminate. It can impact anyone at anytime. There are so many things in the world we can’t cure or prevent, but this is something we can. ?Mental health matters.