At the end of the tunnel

Student shares story of supporting a close friend in their journey with depression from start to finish, finding the light at the end of the tunnel

March 2, 2016

*last names omitted to protect identity  

 

Long dark hair rests on freshman Bella’s shoulders as she sits indian style on her bed, surrounded by walls plastered with posters of surfers, skateboarders and artists. A vintage feel that perfectly describes her personality. The vibe of the room is carefree, but today, hers isn’t.

Her eyes seemed stormier than usual. Her face is nothing but subtle and composed, considering how hard this is to talk about. She takes a deep breath before letting the harsh word roll out of her mouth- suicide.

Bella had her own run in with this dreadful word one fateful snowy day last December. Her best friend for six years was contemplating suicide.

“I knew he was going to because day by day, he would tell me,” Bella said. “He was like ‘I’m starting to get depressed, I don’t know what to do about it.’”

As time went on, his depression got worse and his days grew darker. He disguised how he felt with a misleading smile and happy performance.

“I was there from the start of it.” Bella said. “I knew him better than anyone so I knew when he was happy and I knew when he was sad. Every single day he got increasingly worse and worse. And sometimes it was like, oh he’s fine, but then, the days where you thought he was getting better, he was actually getting worse. He was just getting better at hiding it.”

Embarrassment is common in people who are suicidal. Bella says her friend was embarrassed of himself, stressing to her if she ever told anyone, he would never talk to her again.

Clinical Psychologist William Kooistra says the best advice for a friend who is struggling is to try and bring in other resources such as counselors, parents and teachers. People who are suicidal often isolate themselves emotionally, so interpersonal contact is important.

“Unfortunately, in our culture we often consider psychological struggles such as depression, anxiety and suicidality as signs of weakness,” Kooistra said. “The cultural mythology suggests that persons who are emotionally and spiritually strong should not suffer from depression or anxiety. This idea often contributes to isolation, embarrassment and shame on the part of someone who is suffering.”

Kooistra stresses that it is important to shift this stereotype and advocate the ideas that all people suffer in their own ways. He says that a true sign of strength is the ability to voice our struggles and seek help when needed.

“I knew he needed help but I didn’t think it was to the point where I needed to tell somebody,” Bella said. “He was my best friend so I didn’t want to do anything to hurt him and I knew he was a strong person. It’s kinda like you think that they’re never actually gonna go through with it.”

That day finally came.

He sent her a text message that read, “I can’t do it anymore. I’m going to.” Thoughts of life without him flew through her mind.

“‘Oh shit, I’m about to lose my best friend, somebody I have talked to every single day for six whole years,’” Bella said. “I sat there and I pictured my life without him and I broke down and I cried. I mean, I couldn’t fathom a world without him. I didn’t want to be in a place where he didn’t exist, and I told him that. I couldn’t do it, no matter what promises I made to him at the time. I had to tell somebody, so I told my mom.”

After Bella told the news to her mom, Kelly called his parents as fast as she could. Bella, crying, begged her mom not to call. But knew she couldn’t live with the alternative.

“I knew I had to respond quickly,” Kelly said. “I couldn’t wait to call his parents the next day or even hours, I just knew that I could not wait.”

The household was chaotic.

“I spoke with his dad and said ‘I just wanna let you know I didn’t wanna have to make this call, I would have wanted to tell you in person but I didn’t know when that would be and just felt a sense of urgency,’” Kelly Schincariol said. “‘Your son’s been talking to Bella about committing suicide.”

His father sounded calm on the phone, though Kelly believes he was most likely in shock, but seemed grateful for the call.

“His parents talked to him about it and got him a therapist,” Bella said. “He said he hated therapy but he was so thankful that I told somebody about it because if he hadn’t told anybody, he wouldn’t be here now. There was no way I could have saved him by myself, even though I wanted to think that, because I didn’t want him to go through the pain of people finding out. It’s impacted my life so much ’cause I saw him getting progressively sad day after day and it was terrible to watch. I had to be there for him even when I didn’t want to. I’ve never been more sad, but I knew I had to stay strong for him. You have to be there for the people who can’t be there for themselves.”

Bella’s friend didn’t talk to her for almost two weeks. He felt betrayed by the fact that she told her mom about him. Those were the worst two weeks of her life, but also the best because she finally knew he was safe and was going to be helped.

At the end of the tunnel, there is always a light, for Bella and her recovering friend, the light is finally starting to shine through.

“Now he is better, again he is the happiest person I’ve ever met,” Bella said. “He just needed help, I think. He didn’t want me to tell anybody, but the fact that I did is the reason why he’s still here today. He’s happy. I’ve asked him before, ‘Would you ever go back to that? I just want to be here for you’ and he’s like, ‘No, honestly I would never do that again and if I did, I will tell you because I know you can help me now. I know there’s a reason why I’m here.’”

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