It has been a little over a month since my uncle lost his battle with depression.

The days have felt like they are crawling by. Like I am in a glass cage watching everyone else’s lives go on, while mine is at a halt. I feel like my world stopped. I can not fully describe to you what losing someone close to you feels like but sadly, for a lot of you, you know first hand.

You know all too well the feeling of being in a blur and your mind just races with a thousand thoughts and feelings all at once. You remember being places but have no recollection of actually BEING there because your mind was somewhere else entirely. Trying to continue going through life feels nearly impossible because there is something around every corner that reminds you of them, and hits you right in the gut. It feels like you will never stop missing them, and your life will never go on, or worse, you fear that life will go on and you might forget about them.

I have learned a lot through all of this and am continuing to learn. I have learned that those who are close to us engrain a part of them in our hearts. They do this by the things they teach us and show us. They do this with their unique quirks like the way they smirk or shake their head at you when you do something dumb or embarrassing, their laugh, or the way they jam out to their favorite song. The moments when they are unmistakably themselves is when a piece of them is engrained into our hearts forever.

I have learned about mental illness and watched as it changed someone I love into an unrecognizable person, someone who could not escape their own darkness. I watched the struggle as he tried to fight his own mind, an invisible prison he was trapped in. I can not begin to understand what it would be like to have my darkest thought run through my head nonstop all day, every day. To me, the occasional dark thought is scary enough. How strong must he have been to fight for so long.

I was shown that mental illness really is an illness. We have scans, blood tests, diets, surgery, treatments, you name it for almost every illness. But what happens when the brain gets sick? It is a part of our body so we would be naive to think that our brain cannot fail, struggle, or get sick.

When someone has cancer they get chemo. Sometimes the chemo works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes cancer gets caught too late and there isn’t much that can be done. The same goes for mental illness. Sometimes the medication, rehab, and therapy work. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is caught too late.

Suicide is not weak. It is not shameful. It is not something to spread and gossip about. You never know how long someone has been fighting. Can you imagine if almost every second of the day you were trapped in your worst, darkest thoughts and regrets? I do not fully understand and I never will. But I do know that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary pain. When the brain fails, it affects every aspect of life. We will never know how unwell someone else’s brain was or is. We will never know the repeating thoughts and paralyzing scenarios they cannot stop replaying in their head. We will never be able to judge them or look down on them for losing a battle that they fought bravely every. single. day.

I am sad. I am deeply heartbroken and it feels like there is a hole in my heart. I have some guilt that I should have done more, called more, told him how important he was to me more often, that I should have been there. Sometimes these thoughts stop me in my tracks and haunt me. Part of me wants to blame myself. I feel anger, rage and a darkness over me. I am not strong enough to blame myself for something so heavy. At the end of the day, yes I could have called more. I could have told him how important he was more than I did. I could have been there more often. I am not sure that would have changed the outcome.

He had fought this darkness for so long, longer than anyone knew. No words I could have said would have magically made it go away. No amount of time I spent with him would have healed his brain and took away his pain. I wish with every ounce of my being that I could have taken it away from him, that he could go back to being his true self.

I will always remember him as his true self. As the most fearless person I have ever known. I will hear him in every song he showed me and jammed to with me. I will see him in the dark parts of the pool where he told me that sharks are and then continued to laugh at me when I would be scared. I will see him in birds nests like the ones we used to climb up trees to check on. I will feel his fearlessness when I am scared, and how he would push me to be brave. He may be physically gone, but he left me with lessons, signs, memories, and unconditional love. He is still here with me, in my heart.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the darkness please know this: You are loved more than you could ever possibly know. You are more than your darkest thought and your worst mistake. There is nothing that you cannot come back from. You matter and are important even when you do not feel like it. Please reach out to someone you trust and talk to them. When you share your darkness and burdens with someone else, they become lighter and less scary. This struggle does not make you less of a human. It does not mean you are weak or that something is wrong with you. You are loved and enough, exactly as you are. Please speak up about the heaviness on your heart and let those around you know how they can help and love you better.

If you have lost someone to suicide know this: I am so sorry for your loss. There are no words that will ever be enough. It is not your fault. There will come a day where the hole in your heart does not control your life. It will still be there, but you will be able to live with it. They are not gone, you hold them in your heart. Try to remember them for who they TRULY where, not who the darkness made them become. They loved you so much and were proud to know you. You are loved. You are not alone. Learn from this and live, love, and treat people better than you have before.

Everyone is fighting a battle that we do not know about. Be kind and show love always. Ask when you need help. Tell those around you how important they are to you. Let them know how loved they are and remember just how loved you are.

From someone who struggles with feeling loved,

From someone who has a hole in her heart from a loved one who is no longer in this world,

From someone who is learning how to love people better,

From someone like you,