At 20 years old, I met a person that would come to be the single most important person in my life. When we met in San Diego, spending a summer away from the cold shores of Ireland, everything was perfect. We spent 4 months surfing, tanning, partying, having sex; talking until sunrise and eating more burritos than anyone thought was physically possible!
Falling in love with him wasn’t something I expected, but being in love with him is something I couldn’t have stopped even if I tried.
When we got home to Ireland, a slight contrast to the golden Mission Beach, we continued a long distance relationship seeing each other every second weekend. Living two hours apart brought a lot of complications but the pros outweighed the cons.
I knew about his depression, sure. Understanding it was a different story. I used to think that I understood the disease. I had a best friend attempt suicide and a younger brother that suffered from crippling periods of depression, what more did I need to know?
I thought I was prepared to be there when he needed me, I thought I was prepared to love someone with all my heart, someone that couldn’t always give me back what I needed. I thought I was prepared to stay calm in his moments of despair and to show joy when neither of us felt it. I thought I could smile through his hurt and his anger, I thought I could comfort him when he needed to be comforted. For a long time I did. I was stronger and braver than any 21 year-old I knew. I had faith in our relationship, I had faith in me but most of all I had faith in him, especially when he didn’t.
It was hard, but I didn’t care. I adored that man more than anything but one, cold, foggy Saturday morning I was blindsided by the realization that I could never understand what he felt, no matter how hard I tried I could not understand why he did want to be on this earth anymore. Was me loving him not enough? Did he not love me enough to stay, for me?
It’s true what they say; one moment can change everything. It was 7 am. The sound of my phone ringing made my hangover set it immediately. I knocked it off without even looking at the screen. It rang again. I squinted at the screen and seeing our picture of cheesy grins and his name flashing, I answered on the second ring. It has been four years since that day; I can still hear the agony and torture in his voice. It still brings tears to my eyes; I knew exactly why he was calling me. He was saying goodbye. In that moment, I did something that I thought he’d never forgive me for. I hung up the phone and without hesitation I called his brother. Up until that day, I was the only person who knew the extent of what he was feeling. His family was aware of a problem but not what I knew, he didn’t want them to know – he didn’t think that they would understand.
I was two hours away, his brother was 5 minutes away, and I couldn’t get to him. He could. That phone call, I know for a fact, saved his life. His brother, not to mince my words, shoved his fingers down his throat and forced him to vomit until the bile stopped coming up.
It took him months of, forced, therapy before he could forgive me for what I did. He had trusted me with his secret and I broke that trust, that is the only time in my life I have broken someone’s trust and not regretted it. I was terrified that our relationship wouldn’t survive his recovery. He wouldn’t speak to me about his treatment, our conversations we’re limited to mundane topics, like Breaking Bad and what to have for dinner. The one thing we did well was sex. We had an obscene amount of amazing sex; looking back, I now realize, it was a way of avoiding any kind of conversation about what was going on.
If I am honest with myself, and now whoever is reading this, that I was selfish. I wanted to be the person that fixed him; I wanted to be the person that was there for him, I wanted to be his person. In hindsight, it was probably that selfishness that helped me. It was that selfishness that stopped me from falling apart, this person that I adored no longer trusted me, meaning he wouldn’t speak to me. I felt empty.
It consumed my life, it consumer every part of me for months on end. I won’t lie, there were times when I thought it would be easier to walk away – let him fix it, if he didn’t want me there why should I stick around? There were also a lot of days that I was angry with him, why could he not see it – I saved his life! How was he not thankful for that? I was hurt and I was angry, but something inside of me would not let go.
That determination that was born from selfishness, and love, paid off. One day he invited me to a therapy session with him and he finally let me in. He said the most important sentence to me that anyone has ever said. ‘You saved my life and in doing that, you changed my world.’ From that day, we set off on his road to recovery, together. We fell in love in a completely different way than we had when we first met. I think it was when he realized that he couldn’t scare me away.
My mum once told me that she thinks there are two types of people in the world; those that inspire you and those that drain you, so always pick wisely. You’d have thought this would have drained me, but it didn’t. He inspired me; he fought hard, really hard. To this day, he is still fighting a battle everyday but it is a battle that he is winning and I have never been more proud of a person in my life. I don’t know how anyone could NOT be inspired by that.
We stayed together for two more years after that, eventually parting ways simply because there was no end in sight to the physical distance between us. My career began to take off and he went back to college meaning we had less and less time to spend together and it eventually became too much. We remain extraordinarily close for two people that have ended a relationship, we had and still have an enormous amount of love for each other and I hope that will last forever. There are days that I believe I will never have that love with anyone but him, there are days when I want to get in my car blow off work and drive across the country just to give him a hug but I can’t and I don’t. I think that the hardest part of breaking up with someone isn’t that you have to say goodbye, but it’s learning to live without him or her. Trying to fill the void, which is shaped like him, in my heart, is and has been so unbelievably difficult.
We were on the phone recently, speaking about how long we’d known each other and how different things are now and he told me that he could never ever thank me enough for what I did for him. I don’t see it as something I did just for him, I most definitely did what I did because I wanted him to be in my life forever. I could never imagine my life without his presence in it and it didn’t take me nearly loosing him to realize that, I have always known that.
I have heard so many people say they think that suicide it the easy way out’ or that it is selfish, and to those people I say you have no clue what you’re talking about. Unless you have felt the heavy, heavy weight of depression, you have no idea. I have no idea. Sometimes, I wish I could because I think I could help more people if I did, like my little brother, but if there is one thing I have learned is that being there, no matter what, helps. Showing your love for someone, regardless if you understand what is going on inside them or not, being there and showing undying love, helps.
If you are a girlfriend or a boyfriend or a partner, a sibling, a relation, an anything, to someone suffering from depression, just be there. Do not try to understand; don’t tell them to ‘keep their head up’ because sometimes they can’t. We all need to remember that we shouldn’t be afraid to fall apart, ever. Falling apart gives us a chance, an opportunity to rebuild ourselves, our lives, our relationships.
To anyone suffering from depression, reach out. You will be surprised at the amount of people that love and care for you.