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I had a vision that my friend who died by suicide hugged me.
He said, “I’m sorry I left you.” Months later, I dreamt he came back to life, we kept hugging and I knew he was okay. Then I woke up.
Longing for my friend has interrupted my days. I miss little things about him, like how competitive he was or how silly he could be. I miss his dark sense of humor and ability to find “dank” memes. I miss how he listened to me. I miss how we shared books and how he underlined a ton of text in my copy of Tiny Beautiful Things. I miss our talks about life. I miss how he was the only one in an inpatient facility who played board games with me. I miss how we played Zelda Twilight Princess and solved it together. I miss how open he was about his life and suicide attempts, one of which landed him in the hospital after meeting me.
I was in an inpatient facility due to a bipolar breakdown. One day, he was sitting across from me in the dining area and started sharing his story with everyone. There were long cut marks on his arms. Some patients were afraid to ask him about it. Others judged him.
We got out of there together. Alive. Safe. Overcomers. I took him to church with me, gave him books, sent him inspirational things, listened to him, encouraged him, and gave him resources. It wasn’t enough.
He made another suicide attempt. His sister got in touch with me. I watched it play out on Facebook. She tried to get information from friends and family about his whereabouts and his conversations with them. Then, he came back online. He was fine again. He was sorry. I told him I was so grateful and that he could keep the books I lent him, including a signed copy of Perks of Being a Wallflower.
A long time passed. We talked off and on. I thought things would be better. I thought he would turn it around. In the inpatient facility, I told him when things are bad, it’s like an arrow moving backward. You pull it back to plunge it forward so it can travel farther. The bad things propel us into our destinies. That’s what I believed. It wasn’t enough to save him. I couldn’t show him his path. I couldn’t help him to find a reason to stay.
His last words to me were, “To die.” I had asked him what he wanted to do with his life, what his goals were. When I got that reply on Facebook, I quickly relayed it to his sister and blocked him. She told me she would take care of it. She acted and he was reported. A few times, I wanted to unblock him but knew he liked me more than a friend. I figured it might get messy if I tried to truly help him. I didn’t want him to get attached the wrong way.
Out of the blue, I decided to unblock him. He friended me a few weeks later. He started to like statuses of mine, but we didn’t message back and forth. I didn’t ask how he was doing. I was too afraid he would want more than a friendship. I knew I didn’t have the resources or energy to be more involved beyond warning his sister, directing him to the suicide hotline, and telling him to get help. I was struggling with my own suicide ideations for many years and couldn’t rescue him while I was drowning. Though I tried.
One day, I checked his Facebook and there it was. “RIP man I miss you.” Messages like this poured in from many different walks of life. He made a friend wherever he went. It was his warm personality and kindness that drew people in.
I was too late. I had the chance to ask him how he was doing. It ended the way I always feared it would. Suddenly, I was angry at myself. I should have never let him go. I should have listened more. I should have sent a simple, “How are you?”
But his ideations and attempts had been constant. Someone told me it wasn’t my responsibility to keep him alive. The guilt was too much though. It was like a heavy blanket I couldn’t pull off, suffocating me. I couldn’t just kick it off. I had to feel it. I had to let it weigh me down. I had to learn I couldn’t save everyone. I couldn’t save my friend. I tried everything and failed.
It made me wonder, “What am I doing?” My own goals were to be a self-help writer and help people to overcome the odds. I had overcome everything with a different outcome than my friend. I’d found my faith again. I’d risen from the ashes. I’d learned to cope. I’d learned how to navigate the mental health system. I’d learned to live.
Why couldn’t I teach him those same things? Why couldn’t he be inspired by what inspired me? Why couldn’t he be moved by the things that moved me? Why couldn’t he feel what I felt?
Survivor’s guilt. I had plenty of it. I wasn’t able to resolve his suicidal ideations. I knew he suffered from mental illness and needed medication. I knew he had an unstable home life and had no one he could really turn to. His family only hurt him. His friends were less than mature.
What he did have though was a spark. He was my only comfort in that inpatient facility. He was my only friend there. We passed notes back and forth and laughed at the same things. I became his unofficial therapist from day one. I was always trying to give him hope.
Now I know it isn’t up to me. I don’t have to save everyone. It’s impossible. I found the quote, “You can’t save someone who is not willing to participate in their own rescue.” Still, my newfound purpose after regaining my stability took a hit. I wanted to use my story to save others. I wanted to help. Was I wrong in setting a boundary with my friend? Was I wrong in letting him go? Was I wrong in not asking for an update on how he was after so much time? I could drive myself mad with the questions. I go back to them all the time.
All I know is that there is no reason for suicide. It’s an irrational, impulsive move that millions take every day. It’s depression. It’s mental illness. It’s loss. But most of all, it’s our mind lying to us. I learned in the inpatient facility that people get tunnel vision. All they can see is the pain. My friend couldn’t see me reaching for him. He could only see his desire to leave the world and run from the pain.
When I had that vision of him saying sorry, I knew in a way it was to bring me closure. It wasn’t my fault. He loved me too. And I did everything I could.
There were times I was angry he didn’t return my books. Now I’m glad I got to give him something before he left the world. Now I love the underlined text because he wrote them. They are a reminder he lived. He wanted to share himself with me. He wanted someone to listen.
I’m glad I got to be his friend despite the tragic outcome. I will always miss him. I will never stop asking why. But I know I will live. I will still help others. I will still pursue my purpose. I will take him with me in my heart. I will never lose sight of the vision I have for my life because of this loss. I will listen to my friends but not live in self-blame if they don’t learn from my advice. I will not blame myself for his death anymore. I will always be his friend.