Eight years ago I lost a dear friend to suicide. It was a few months after I had been diagnosed with a rare and deadly cancer. My head was spinning and my fear was at an all time high. Her death came at a time when I was in an altered state. I had no clues as to the state of my friend’s mental health and assumed all was right in her world. My cancer diagnosis hit her hard. I recall her telling me of her surprise as she had assumed I had always taken such good care of myself by eating right and exercising. She expressed fear at the lack of control we have over ourselves and how it seems we are always vulnerable. Looking back now, there were red flags but they were small. She craved attention and often spoke in ways criticizing her own real beauty. She was a beautiful woman who could command a room just by walking in. She was an enigma, a complex soul. How was I to know her mental health issues were far beyond what I knew. I later learned she had 2 other close encounters with suicide but had been found in time. I also learned she had been in an inpatient mental health facility years earlier that had been joked about and given the name “the resort.” My friend had a long history of trouble and I had not known. I don’t my diagnosis was the cause of her demise but it shook her unstable world.
It had been months after my surgery when she called and cried when she saw me. It was not that I looked in ill health but I was not the same. I had changed according to her. She spoke softer to me and laughed less. She asked very little of my illness but just knew I would get through it and be like I used to be. She wanted her old friend back. My illness stayed on the surface between us. It was something to be avoided even though I was getting stronger and making a recovery. She nor I had no idea where to put it or what to do with it. I wanted to talk about it and needed to but she often changed the subject. We laughed light heartedly about other less serious happenings. The last time I spoke with her she confided that her son who was now 17 no longer needed her. According to her he was now a man and had his own life. That was on a thursday night and by Friday afternoon, she was dead.
I got the call from my husband that Friday telling me she had died. I called him a liar. I could not comprehend how she could have ended her life so flippantly when I was fighting for mine. I felt angry and betrayed as if I never knew her at all. I cried hard and I was raw. I blamed her, felt my anger and nursed my wounds for a long time. Of course I wanted to know why. Looking back, I know she was hurting and troubled and she must have felt there was no way to feel better. I wish she had told me. I wish I had known and could have made it better. Sometimes, we can’t make it better. That is a hard lesson to learn.