Today is just an ordinary day like any other. For some, it’s actually a happy occasion, as many are celebrating Independence Day, their birthdays or the simple joys summer has to offer. Others just go about their daily routines without too much of a hassle.
So did I, exactly one month ago today. It’s Tuesday, the fourth of June. I was standing in my kitchen, making lunch and casually responding to some WhatsApp messages while keeping an eye on the stove, so the eggs won’t overcook.
As I was about to close the app, suddenly, a new message appeared at the top of my screen. That’s a pretty lengthy one, I thought, coming from a friend I went to school with and haven’t seen in a year or so.
He told me that Paul, a mutual friend within our group of school friends, took his own life a couple of weeks ago, with the funeral taking place in our hometown within the following days.
And then it just hit me. A gut-wrenching punch went to my heart and through my whole body.
In that moment, nothing else mattered while I was just blankly staring at the screen of my smartphone. There was this empty and numb feeling inside, or worse — I didn’t feel anything at all, as I struggled to process the unexpected news about his sudden death.
At first, you‘re trying to convince yourself that it’s a blatant joke. That someone lost a stupid bet and didn’t think of anything better than that.
But as the seconds go on, you realize that this one’s real and something irreversible has happened. There’s nothing you can do to prepare yourself for something like this.
I can’t imagine how painful it must be for parents to lose their son who was only 22 years old. That has to be a pain like no other.
No matter how often you face the death of someone close to you, it will always leave a scar on you that you’re gonna live with for the rest of your life.
Still in shock, I immediately booked a flight to my hometown for the next morning and embarked upon a journey that would take me to my roots, reconnecting with old places, friends and memories.
It also gave me some time to reflect not only on past times and the beauty of life, but also how transient it is.
Yesterday marked a special day. I visited Paul’s grave for the first time after the funeral last month. Although it gives you some comfort that he doesn’t have to go through his pain anymore, it just hurts to know that he’s gone, forever.
I knew that Paul faced major depression for a long time and remember having talked with him about his experiences with psychotherapy from time to time.
He once mentioned that he tried out medications temporarily while seeing the psychiatric clinic more as a way to not having to live back home, so to retain at least some form of independence as a young adult.
Had I but known in how much pain he must have really been. Most people who never went through something similar just won’t understand.
Even though I moved a lot and lived in quite a few places during the last couple of years, I dearly wish that I would have checked on him more often.
The last time we saw each other was almost a year ago, when he and another friend of mine came to visit me in my student town. I’ll always cherish these couple of days and memories we had together.
In the blink of an eye, everything can change. You never know when it’s the last time you see someone in your life.
Now, going through the last pictures of us together, I just lose it every single time.
The worst thing about depression is actually the part about losing yourself. Trying to understand your own mind without being able to do so and losing interest in what you once loved. It’s torture in its darkest form, really.
As I once read on Reddit:
You don’t want to live but you don’t want to die. You don’t want to talk to anyone but you feel very lonely. You wake up in the morning and simply wait for the night to come. It’s like trying to laugh at a joke that isn’t funny. Trying to smile for a photo you don’t want to be in. It’s like waking up in the morning and hating that you actually woke up. It feels like someone is just draining the energy out of you every moment you are awake.
Many people underestimate that part of the self-loathing comes from others as well. Parents making you feel guilty, society giving you the feeling as if you‘ve failed in life because you’re not living up to certain expectations and so forth.
We live in a system that rewards competition and greed — like, if it’s not something that you want to pursue in your life, you’ll somehow feel misplaced. Seeing everyone succeeding in life just keeps you in a downward spiral of doubt.
The real question still remains — what can be done about it?
„It’s not your fault.“ - Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting
There are days where I have this lingering hope inside — that more people would increase their awareness towards depression and mental health, so both of these psychological issues could be finally treated with the seriousness they really deserve.
It just hurts seeing so many people instantly judging someone in a negative way, taking it lightly or turning a blind eye to the issue as soon as they hear about someone’s depression.
No matter where and who you are, people still care about you, even if you don’t want to believe it, and life will get better.
Never ever shy away from starting therapy or calling one of your local suicide prevention hotlines if the feeling of inner restlessness overwhelms you. The girls and guys there would love to listen to you!
Having someone to talk to is probably the best thing for you at this moment. Your friends and close ones can help to a certain degree, but there’s just no real substitute for a professional therapist who can guide you the best on your way to bettering yourself.
Meanwhile, you can also give Jordan Peterson’s thoughts on the topic of depression a try. Being a clinical psychologist, he helped a lot of people become better in many ways. Just be warned that it’s quite an emotional video.
If you have recently lost someone, first and foremost, I’m so sorry. I wish I could just give you a big hug right now. There are no words to describe the amount of pain that you’re going through.
It certainly took me a while to get myself back together, being able to go on with everyday life as usual. In the first few weeks, I wasn’t able to sleep without seeing Paul in every dream or go a night without crying.
I really don’t know what I would have done without music, my sister and my closest friends in a time like this. Thank you so much for just being there for me!
As cliché as it sounds — time really heals all wounds, but only if you let it do so and embrace all of the grieving stages.
I know that it’s hard to accept this, especially if everything is so fresh, and it’s totally okay to feel this way. Even if you feel somehow indifferent, as it initially happened to me, don’t be too harsh with yourself.
You’re not emotionally cold — it’s just it’s hard to know what to feel at all when suffering from psychological shock. Believe me when I say that there’s nothing wrong with that.
In hindsight, I’m so glad that I started writing about it, as it really allowed me to express my feelings and helped me cope with the emotional fallout that I’ve experienced.
Occasionally, I still leave Paul a message on WhatsApp, and even though it somehow feels weird, it really helps as a coping mechanism to deal with his loss. I guess that I’ll stop doing that at some point in the future, but as of right now, it just helps me a lot.
I wonder how grateful I should be for each new day with all its facets, ups and downs. Being able to just be myself, to capture all of the summer breezes, feel the cold of the winter on my skin, hold my loved ones in my arms, enjoy the sparkles of love and live my life to the fullest.
Something Paul will never experience, ever again. How can people within this context even say that life’s too short?
This one is for you, Paul Marek Kilka. I’m so grateful to have had you in my life and still ask myself — what if I had messaged you a couple more times, just to talk, to tell you that I’m there for you.
I still ponder on all the why’s and what if’s, but realize that in the end, it isn’t going to bring you back either. Life just goes on.
I’ll always remember you as the humble, laid-back and honest friend that you were to me since the first time I met you back in school.
Goodbye, Paul. Fly on, wherever you may be.