I told myself I wouldn't. At first I found it almost inappropriate to write on a blog dedicated to photography, my professional life, and tid bits of personal information carefully added every so often. I cringed at the thought of creating anything because of it, whether it be another emotional self portrait depicting how I was feeling or post laying it all out there. Plus she would have hated that, all the attention on her. Instead, I photographed a more suitable, lighter portrait and drafted up a blurb mentioning a few new, "exciting" changes coming. Figuring I could push past this and deal with it somehow, because isn't that what you're supposed to do?
Four days after my 21st birthday this year, one of my best friends committed suicide.
Just writing that makes me want to stop typing and start crying.
It's become harder than I thought to convince yourself that you will never see someone tomorrow when you can feel them all around you at that very moment. All you can do is shake it off and keep moving, I've been telling myself. Even as I've surrounded myself with friends and family, you get to a point where you just can't talk about it anymore.
Until now, I didn't know what it meant to be all talked out about something but feel as if you hadn't even scratched the surface. It's exhausting to constantly ask yourself and be asked how you're doing, feeling each pair of eyes search your face for any sort of sign of falter, of a crack beneath the facade we so carefully have to keep together for society. You can be upset about something, to a point. Crying in public is frowned upon, I would know after I tried to keep my head down as I quickly walked past the strangers staring at the girl that couldn't seem to keep it together in Target that day. I don't remember much after hearing the words, "Jana took her own life last night", but I do remember moving away from the woman standing next to me, afraid she'd overhear me repeating the same words on the phone to my family and it would ruin her day.
I wanted to keep the death of a friend separate from my business. I didn't want to use it as an excuse in an email, it felt wrong to mention when client inquiries became follow ups and ultimately became lost opportunities. Life was moving along as it always does, as I felt I was too, when in reality all I had been doing was treading water in my own mind.
It's been a few weeks and I still find myself a little agitated when I receive an irate text from a friend I hadn't responded to or a client asking for something else. Didn't they understand? Don't they know how I'm feeling, how every day has become a struggle and I feel as if I cannot breathe? Of course not, how would they? Even mutual friends that experienced the same trauma, everyone heals and grows differently. So I kept moving forward, thinking I had to balance keeping up with work, my personal life and mending myself while racing forward with everyone else.
One of the things I found myself doing when I was training for Tough Mudder, a several mile long obstable course race, was I would push through any sort of pain. Whether it was physical or mental pain, I had to finish the set, do a few more seconds of burpees, run the full time I set for myself. I thought it was fine because the trained instructors teaching the workout didn't take breaks, friends that had been running for years were logging these mile times without stopping. I realized after how I'm lucky I didn't hurt myself, and if I had just taken a break for even a few seconds I would have been stronger than trying to struggle to the end with weak form.
I mention this because as I found myself sitting here tonight, head in hands as I became overwhelmed with just how much I had to do before I go skiing for the week starting tomorrow, that it's okay to take a break. To take time for yourself, to be selfish and even a little cranky every so often. Even though the planet won't stop for you, it will be there when you're ready. Opportunities may have expired, but maybe it's for the better as this world is so vast and the possibilities are endless.
The unexpected death of a friend or family is tough, real tough, even when the reason is clear. Cancer, car accident, natural disaster, you name it. Suicide can and will never be explained, not even in a letter a few sentences or a few pages long. Questions will always remain unanswered. The feeling that you weren't a good enough friend or "didn't notice the signs" doesn't fade easily, guilt sticks around a lot longer than any sort of pain I've felt before. I can't promise this will be the last time I mention Jana to you guys, I needed to take the time to admit that I'm not okay and am not sure exactly when I will be.
So I'll apologize right now to anyone and everyone I've brushed aside knowingly or unknowingly. I have texts left without a reply, voicemails I have yet to listen to, even a handwritten letter that should have been postmarked ages ago. What I can't and have never been able to do is apologize for how I feel. And right now I'm still hurting. I'm angry. I'm confused. Most of all, I just miss her. I miss my best friend and I need to take some time to really say goodbye.