In November 2013 I lost a good friend to mental illness. Both of us had a nerve injuries to our arm. I have had a brachial plexus injury since December 2008 and have struggled with the nerve pain since then. My shoulder and arm were paralyzed for 1.5 years and while I have gained 80% of the movement back, the pain is still awful. We bonded over the frustration of no one understanding how hard it was to live with chronic pain.
Her injury was much more recent and I felt as though giving her hope that things would get better was my job. She struggled with deep depression as well as drug abuse. She was in therapy but still felt like no one understood. She felt like talking to those around her just made her seem like she was complaining and everyone would get sick of it. I understood completely what she meant.
I think most of us with mental illness can understand that though. After a while, when we tell people that we are down, it just seems like people say, “What’s new? You always feel that way. Why don’t you do something, go out, have fun, get a hobby, spend time with friends, etc, etc.” We seem like a burden to those around us. I think it got the best of her.
Her only escape was drugs. It took away not only her physical pain, but her emotional pain too. I feel guilty many times because I feel like I should have done more. What if I had been there for her more? What if I had listened more? What if I had pushed her to get into a rehab? What if I had shown her more hope, and pretended that my life was better and not complained about my pain in my arm so much? Would things be different? Would she still be alive?
Unfortunately that is what mental illness does, it is a vicious disease that tears us apart and lies to us about our lives. And when substance abuse is involved it clouds our minds even more. These two things took away my friend. They stole her from me. I know she made the decision, but I also know that if she hadn’t been affected by these two diseases that her decision might have been much different than it was that night. Her outlook might have been much more hopeful.
Despite that she left this world 8, almost 9, months ago, I still think about her all the time. Sometimes I am jealous that she is not in pain anymore and I still struggle physically and emotionally. But then I think about all the pain she left behind her – the pain that her family and friends feel. I look at it and think about what would happen to those around me if I let mental illness win. I have to stay strong. I have to keep fighting this battle. I have to win it – for me, for my family, for my friends, and for her.