And that’s how I feel about what I encountered on Sunday during my team’s long run.
Our 12 mile run took us through the Fan area of Richmond, and we spent a good bit of time on Floyd Avenue, which was gleefully dotted with extravagant Halloween decorations.
But it wasn’t the Halloween decorations that were scary and drew concern. It was the large gathering of first responder vehicles that we could see from a mile away, almost as soon as we turned onto the road. As we ran closer, we realized it was 6 police cars, the supervisor’s SUV, an ambulance, and a fire truck. There was caution tape up, and people were gathered outside the taped area. What I thankfully did not see was a young man hanging from the second floor balcony. I don’t know if we will ever learn what really happened, but it appeared to us that it was someone who took his own life. Several of our team members did see, and were visibly shaken, understandably.
It’s traumatic to see death, for sure. Anyone with an ounce of empathy thinks about what could have been for this young man. Why it happened. How his family and friends must feel. How on earth we happened to cross paths and view his fate.
My daughter lost a classmate who took his own life just a couple of weeks ago. Another young man. Someone who was viewed as a nice guy and a leader in her school. They actually had a short conversation on the day he died. She was pretty upset for a few days, and they were merely acquaintances.
As someone who visits dark places more often than I would like, I feel a strange mix of emotions when I learn that someone has lost their battle with depression. I understand the desperation of that moment when one decides to take their life, because I’ve been there. Depending on where I am in my incessant cycle of lows and highs, I might actually feel a tinge of peace about news like this, as if I feel the release of their pain. But then what they don’t see is the pain of their friends, family, and even acquaintances. Even someone who never knew them, but witnessed the outcome of their battle. And I feel sad for what their life could have become past the darkness.
And this is what my team is feeling. Sports Backers reached out to our marathon sponsor, VCU Health, who issued a statement from one of their mental health professionals addressing our feelings and possible need for support. It was well written and timely, and I appreciate it.
Depression is a liar. It tells you you don’t matter. It tells you that you are a burden. But seeing the result of someone’s battle lost reminds me that life matters. My life matters. Your life matters. The world would not be the same without our presence in it. But some days, I merely survive. Some days, I win. But I’ve never lost. I hope I never do.
I have a couple of friends who truly know how dark my world gets. They know who they are. But without these few, I may have ended up like this young man. If you’ve been in this place, please know that you are not alone. Reach out to someone. Anyone. Even the suicide hotline. But please, don’t let the darkness win. There is light. I promise.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.Amanda Gorman
National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.