I grew up around the corner from the Stacey family and spent most of my childhood discovering life with Rachael. She was one of my closest friends and her family became my
second family. We did a lot together including growing up and going through our teenage years together. I had experienced my own journey with mental illness but never knew that there was something else Rachael and I shared.
Rachael’s own struggles with mental illness were always a part of who she was but did not define her. She remained the fun loving, beautiful friend I always knew. She continued to grow with me, share a table with me and journey in my own struggles with mental illness. I still remember the exact moment I found out Rachael had taken her life, I heard from another friend of the family who was in complete shock and looking for reassurance. I couldn’t believe it, and refused to cope with the loss of my great friend. Rachael had created a community of people around her, even when she didn’t think we were there for her, she made an impact even after she was gone.
After Rachael passed, it took me a while to come to terms that she had really left us. I couldn’t get the courage to face the truth, it took me over a week to even reach out to her family. I knew that I had to change things for myself and the people Rachael cared about. I needed to deal with my own struggles before I could really help others. I reached out to my own community to have support as I grieved and processed the loss of Rachael. I had to remind myself that although the feelings never go away and the constant surge of pain happened, that I couldn’t give up. Rachael’s life is worth something, and will remain an importance to me. I have to remind myself that although I can’t change the past or what ‘could have been’, that I can change the future for myself and others I care for.
Suicide is an awful part of a bigger picture, mental illness. Someone’s decision or thoughts of taking their own life are part of a bigger picture. Don’t take on the weight of this illness on your own, it’s too much for one person. Confide in whoever you can to talk through the emotions and keep the dialogue open. Even as someone supporting someone with mental illness, do the same. Allow yourself the time and space to process and deal with the seriousness behind this illness and give yourself the grace to feel the emotions that come with it.