The Lucky Ones

Today I can’t help but feel that I’m one of the lucky ones.

One of the lucky few that manages to see through the fog of depression before it’s too late. Who lives to tell the tale. Who finds a way to live with, and even sometimes draw strength from, an illness that takes far too many people.

I know I’m nothing special. I have no more strength than the next person. There were more times than I can count when I felt I didn’t have any strength at all. That’s why I’m lucky.

Most people who deal with depression don’t talk about it. Most people suffer in silence until they can’t take it any longer. Or if they do talk about it, they’re misunderstood, left alone, or worse… told to “get over it”.

I was lucky.

When I was finally able to talk about it, I had — still have — an amazing support system. Through the years, they’ve always been there for me, even when I wasn’t there for them. Even when I wasn’t there for myself.

And after years of struggling with this illness, after years of ups and downs, changes in meds, changes in doctors, they’ve stood by me. I could never thank them enough for that.

I’ve had periods of what I suppose you could call remission. I’m in one of those periods now. I hope it will last, but I can never take it for granted. Things can change with the snap of a finger. I know that.

But today, I’m more thankful than ever to be one of the lucky ones. That I didn’t put my family and friends in the position of leaving them without an explanation. I never understood what that would do to them until recently.

I’ve written before about my friend who lost his brother to suicide a number of years ago. His family has drawn strength from that loss by remembering him every year with a golf tournament that has raised a lot of money over the years for mental health. They’ve done an amazing thing with their grief, and I’ve been honoured to get to know his family and the tournament over the past few years.

This year, coinciding with Bell’s Let’s Talk Day (February 12) and with the support of TSN, the tournament and the life of my friend’s brother will be honoured. TSN filmed the tournament last year and will air a half-hour special about my friend’s brother on February 11. I watched a two-minute preview today, which is the reason I wanted to write this post.

Although I’ve been part of the tournament for the past two years, and heard his family speak about their loss, I’ve always felt slightly removed from it because I never knew his brother — until I saw the last few seconds of the preview. My friend’s youngest brother, speaking about coming home to find their brother was gone — watching him say it was the worst day of his life. That’s what finally hit me.

I know it’s selfish, but I immediately thought of myself. I thought about that night I tried to end it all, and how my parents would talk about coming home to find me gone and how it was the worst day of their lives.

I’ll never really understand all the pain my friend’s family feels. No one will. But I’m glad that my family never will either. I’m happy that I was one of the lucky ones. I wish I had known my friend’s brother and could have talked to him before he got to the point that he did. He was just a year younger than me. That means that when he died at 17, I hadn’t really come to terms with my depression yet, that I was still holding it in too. We were in the  same place, and for some reason, I ended up being the lucky one.  I wish we had known each other back then and that we could have both been lucky.

I wish I could take away all the pain his family feels at his loss.

I can’t, but I’m going to get more involved. This is my official new year’s resolution — only a month late. I’m going to do what I can for someone else who’s been in this awful place, who’s dealing with this god-forsaken illness. I don’t know how yet, but I have to do something. I can’t take my second chance for granted. I have to learn something from the amazing work my friend’s family has done for mental health, to follow their lead.

February is mental health awareness month. If you’re reading this, you probably have a connection to mental illness in some way. We can all do something to help those with mental illness. Be compassionate. Be there for someone who needs you. If you’re suffering, reach out to someone and talk. No one should have to go through this alone. I feel like I need to say that again and again — no one should go through this alone. My friend’s brother did. I sincerely hope that 14 years after his death, something around the stigma of mental illness might have changed.

You’re not weak. You’re not alone. Someone loves you. Someone wants to be there for you. Reach out. Don’t suffer in silence.

Be one of the lucky ones.

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