When I was in ninth grade, I got called out of my third period geometry class during a test. Hall pass in hand, I was supposed to go to the guidance counselor's office. They didn't tell me why. Absolutely confused, I didn't expect to meet one of my best friends in the hallway. Anne was on her way to the guidance counselor's office, too. Together, we walked the rest of the way to our destination. When we got there, the third part of our best friend trio was seated at the counselor's desk, eyes red from crying. Elizabeth looked up at the two of us and said, "I'm sorry."
I didn't know it then, but that day set the course of my life for a tailspin. I had thought that things were fine-- good even. But, they weren't. They were far from fine.
That day, the counselor threw around words like depression and anxiety. That day, my best friend threw around words like I tried to kill myself and more than once.
I was fourteen. I couldn't grasp at what any of it meant. I didn't understand what Elizabeth was feeling. I was mad at her. I didn't understand.
I'm twenty-one now. This past summer, I lost someone close to me. I got to say good-bye but that didn't make it any different. For weeks I felt something that I couldn't put my feelings to words. Then I could.
Empty. I felt completely empty inside.
Sad. But it was more than sadness. It was deep. Resonating.
Fear. What would come next?
Depression. There it was again. Seven years after hearing it from the counselor.
Anxiety. The feeling seeping into my life and taking over.
It was in those months over the summer that I found myself thinking about Elizabeth more and more. We had stayed friends, but we were never as close as we had been before that day in ninth grade. I wondered if she had felt as isolated as I was feeling. I wondered if she has felt as incomplete, as wrong, as sick, or as deeply hopeless as I was.
Thinking about Elizabeth back in ninth grade was like a wake-up call. It was a huge, neon, flashing sign. I would never know the extent of Elizabeth's pain and her depression, but I could understand it. I could finally understand.
I felt euphoric and remorseful at the same time. I was not alone. But, Elizabeth had been. Other people went through depression and the slew of emotions that I had also gone through. But, I had let Elizabeth go through it alone when we were fourteen.
Sometimes, people go through hard times. It's not their fault. It's never their fault. Sometimes, people ask for help. And sometimes they don't. But, they still need help. We, as humans, put up barriers to block out the bad, to prevent the hurt that can happen in life. We need to remember, though, that there are ways to break those barriers.
When Elizabeth finally told Anne and I-- and the rest of the people in her life-- what she had been going through, I couldn't grasp at why she was sad or why she had felt low enough as to attempt to end her life. Seven years later, I had a different perspective. I felt the low, the sad, but I also felt a helping hand guiding me out of the darkness. And the helping hand came from Elizabeth, even if she wasn't aware of it.
I wasn't alone.
A few months after my realization, I met up with Elizabeth for lunch. Every so often it was something that we would do, so it wasn't out of the norm for her. For me, though? I was going into it with an entirely different perspective than I'd had the last time we met.
When I saw Elizabeth sitting in the booth at the restaurant, I wanted to run up to her, to spill my heart out, to tell her, "I'm sorry. But, I understand now."
I didn't, though. I didn't want to bring up her past, her struggles. I wanted to be able to move on. So, instead, I just smiled, said hello, and hugged her extra tight.