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I lost a friend to suicide last week. Just as she laid bare the reality of the situation on her website, I won't disguise what happened like society does. Because the truth is, mental health continues to be stigmatized and discounted in the mainstream consciousness. It's why we are so hesitant to approach those we love and those who care for us medically about how we are feeling. Just a few days after my friend's passing, I had a conversation with another friend about the facades that we build ourselves for the outside world while we are desperately fighting an internal battle. And that just because we look happy, means we must be happy. But it's not that simple.
I only knew Tara for about ten days. We spent our Birthright trip in Israel together, and she was a wealth of knowledge to me while I was struggling. I was going through the worst digestive pain of my life, and she selflessly took time out of her travels to give me advice. A nutritionist by trade, Tara seemingly had it all. A great job in New York City, a knack for traveling and food, and a vibrant and radiant personality. But what she didn't outwardly project to the world was her persistent suicidal thoughts.
To an extent, I can understand Tara. It took me a long, long time to let those around me know that I struggle with depression and anxiety on and off. Sometimes it's so intense that I can barely function. And most of the time I just want to internalize it, lock away the key, and try to solve the problem on my own. With persistence and constant reassurance, I've been able to navigate my own mental health. But not without the help of my friends, who I constantly seek out for advice. It wasn't always that way, though.
I don't know what kind of help Tara sought to help remedy her struggles. I don't know how many of her friends knew of them, or who she talked to about them. But it's evident that she had felt apathetic for a long, long time. She begins her note:
"I have written this note several times in my head for over a decade, and this one finally feels right. No edits, no overthinking. I have accepted hope is nothing more than delayed disappointment, and I am just plain old-fashioned tired of feeling tired."
To think that she was struggling that long despite having, in her own words, "a great life on paper," is heartbreaking. It makes me think about the many other people in my life that could be experiencing the same sentiments, but don't know where to go or who to trust with their thoughts.
All in all, Tara's passing has further reminded me of the fragility and temporariness of life. To truly live, we must not only find purpose and passion, but we must also be present despite the omniscient nature of social media and technology that attempts to drag us away from what's right in front of us. A line from Tara's note especially made me realize the importance of presence and awareness:
"I often felt detached while in a room full of my favorite people; I also felt absolutely nothing during what should have been the happiest and darkest times in my life."
Tara's passing has also reminded me that we must constantly check in on one another with more than just a fleeting "hello, how are you." We should stop and listen and think and process and give one another more than a few seconds of our time. Because at the end of the day, time is all we have, and we must find a way to maximize doing what we love and being truly present with those we care about.
Tara closes her note with:
"All I ask now is for you to have one delicious (I mean a really really great) meal in my honor and let me go, no exceptions."
We must not forget those around us who left us earlier than they should have. Tara made a lasting impression on those she brushed into; myself included. She was an exceptional friend and a brilliant individual. To remember a friend who did so much for me in such a brief glimpse of life, I will have more than one delicious, really, really, great meal in her honor. I will have a lifetime of them. And I hope all of you do too. And if you are ever struggling, know that I am here to talk to you about whatever it is that is on your mind, as a human being and a friend.