Finding out he killed himself forced me to question everything.
When I graduated from high school, my life was in a pretty precarious situation. After making the decision to move in with three girls — two of which I had never formally met prior to our move in date — and proceeding to have more run ins with the law in a single night than I had in my entire life, I had a decision to make. Do I risk the rest of my savings by living in a house that supports booze more than textbooks and having to pay my mom back for all the classes I continue to fail or do I put in my 30 days notice and get the hell out of dodge?
The decision came easy, as I’m sure you can imagine and shortly after moving in, I was back at home with mom. This stay; however, was short-lived as the house was on the market and shortly after my return, an offer was put in — the first after nearly 2 years of silence. It was bittersweet to say the least. With my dad’s work situation, it made the most sense for my mom to relocate to where he would be, only this meant moving 170 miles away. Within 2 weeks of moving out and back in, I was trading in my peace and quiet for packing tape so I could move myself to wherever I was to call home next.
I ended up moving to the same city where my parents went, being that I had few friends left in my hometown and the move also meant being nearby to the majority of my family. Shortly after the move, I enrolled in the local college and continued to work towards my Associates Degree so I could then transfer to a four-year university and earn that Undergrad!
After the boxes were unpacked and the apartment was ready, I began to acknowledge just how lonely I now was. I had left all familiar surroundings, I knew no one at work yet, and I wanted to just have the option to meet someone. I decided to start with the way most of the modern world and the millennial generation tends to — by dating app. Plenty of Fish, to be exact.
I began scrolling through the profiles until I found one that sparked enough interest to initiate a conversation. None really went well until I found one particular message nestled among the creepy, that convinced me to respond. He replied shortly after and conversation seemed to flow. It consisted of the typical “first chat” questions like Where are you from? What do you do for work? How do you like to spend your free time? We found a few similarities, which is usually a good indication and prompted further questions. After nearly 15 or so exchanges, we got onto the subject of school and where each of us attended, as we both shared we were still enrolled. The unfathomable happened and we learned we both go to the same school, but that’s not the craziest part — the crazy part is that we had several classes across the hall from each other and had likely passed each other at least a hundred times before then. In my fantasy head space, I figured a meet and greet had to be in the cards so I decided to shoot my shot and asked if he would like to meet that evening after one of my night classes.
Side note: This next part is ill-advised.
We met in the parking lot, per the plan, and engaged in conversation for a while. About an hour or so into chatting, I felt drawn to more dialogue and with his place an hour away, I offered up mine as the location for such to take place. We spent the night building rapport and getting to know one another. We didn’t spend too much time apart after that. Part of it was because we didn’t want to; the other part was due to the commute for him.
Our relationship was brief, but grew as much as you can imagine with family meetings and most nights in each other’s company. I was thankful for his patience with my puppy, who I was horrifically under-prepared for, but was never going to give up on. (She has since grown into the love of my life).
He and I were similar in ways where it worked, but our differences were what ultimately drew us apart. He was big into fitness and despite my shared love for the gym, I adored the diet aspect of it less. Because of that, he insisted on managing my diet, cooking my meals, and our version of dessert was when he swung by Fresh Market or Whole Foods on his way over and picked up a mini pastry for each of us to finish within two bites. I appreciated the thought and this unique form of affection.
His laugh was contagious and he was the kind of guy who walked like he had cement slippers on, but when you looked down and saw house shoes, you couldn’t stay annoyed for long. He enjoyed aesthetically pleasing things and the finer things in life, so he would take me out to dinners that mandated a formal dress code.
I was totally out of my element.
I wasn’t surprised to learn he hadn’t been in many serious relationships and that he found opening up to be difficult. This being because of his focus on school and fitness, both of which would go hand in hand when it came to the career being pursued. Because of this, the deer and headlights look is to be expected when vulnerability found its way out. I have never forgotten the night he shared with me, not only that he loved me, but that I was the first girl he had ever said it to. That should mean something to anyone.
Shortly after this conversation took place though, things got rocky. Our differences became more apparent and I didn’t see myself committing to him so I ended the relationship. I have no idea how badly it hurt him or if it even did, because soon thereafter, I was blocked on nearly every form of social media. We had one additional conversation afterwards, roughly 2 years later, that was flirty, risque, and then nonexistent. I never saw him again after the split.
Last year I was scrolling through Facebook, killing our most valuable asset, and came across a post from a friend…one with a picture of he and my ex. The weird thing was I had no clue the two even knew each other. My ex wasn’t from anywhere near the area and as far as I knew, the two had never crossed paths, but it wasn’t just the fact of the photo itself, it was the last line of the post:
We will miss you forever.
My heart sunk to my stomach and for the first time in my entire life, I wished my ex had an identical twin. My next question was how — how could this have happened? He was so healthy when I knew him so he couldn’t have been sick (an ignorant school of thought, I know). Maybe a car accident? I sifted through the profile of the person who posted the photo, desperate for an answer and then I found it: suicide.
I began to question everything, but the worst part for me was the fact that he had taken his life 6 months prior to my finding out and this post was merely a reflection of the anguish still being felt by those touched by him while he was alive. I had no idea because he blocked me on social media so without the post being made, I likely would have never known.
I had two Instagram accounts at the time — one for business and the other for personal. In realizing I was only blocked on one, I searched for his profile and found his last post — the one in which he announced his decision and that in choosing to remain silent for so long, rather than seek help, he is to the point where he can no longer tolerate his own existence. Hundreds of comments. Zero replies.
Then the next post.
His brother notifying followers of my ex’s passing and where they can expect to find the information related to arrangements in the upcoming days. The magnitude of questions that flooded my mind in those moments were borderline unbearable. I tried my hardest to recall our last conversation prior to the split. I wondered if I was a part of the beginning, the middle, or the end of his battle with depression.
Then the most haunting question of them all: was there something I could have done to prevent it?
I had to shake myself rid of this grueling thought and remind myself that the final decision was his, but the next one in my life is mine.
I had survived two suicide attempts myself so the next question was: what made me special enough to survive?
Then I realized it wasn’t about comparison of decisions and the measurement of importance, but what I would do with this fact going forward. It didn’t matter that I tried and failed and that my ex had different outcomes, it mattered that I still have the chance to change my mind — on anything.
I quit the job I was unhappy in. I ended the relationship I had been breaking my own heart by staying in. I got my own place and I figured out what I was going to do as me. I devoted more time to writing than I ever had before. I removed all elements of toxicity from my life and made amends so there was no bad blood. I gracefully exited myself from all social media and started reading books instead. I started a small business with my sister and begin participating in events on the weekends. It nurtured our relationship and gave me a positive distraction during the time I was still navigating my emotions. I learned that being the kind of person you want to meet is imperative and Maya Angelou was right when she said the way you make others feel is what counts.
I rejected the notion that my decision to end our relationship years prior generated an impact that tainted the years after it. I responded to any statement insinuating responsibility with the reminder that it is undeserved and the thought alone will benefit me in no way. I replaced the concept of blame in reference to suicide with gratitude for a longer journey instead. I gave myself the opportunity to be confused, angry, and hurt. Then I forgave myself.
“Forgiveness is really a gift to yourself — have the compassion to forgive others, and the courage to forgive yourself.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher
You can’t save everyone, but you can save yourself.