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How My Cousin's Suicide Affected My Own Depression

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Earlier this year, my cousin died by suicide. I didn’t know he was struggling, so it was a complete shock. I don’t know if anyone really knew. My cousin’s death hit me in ways I don’t think many people would understand. You see, I’ve experienced suicidal ideation for the past eight years. I’ve lived with severe depression and tried everything in the book to cope with it, yet it still affects me immensely. My depression has taken me to places no one ever wants to go. I’ve attempted suicide twice and my therapist has intervened multiple times when I had plans to do so again. Let’s just say I wouldn’t be alive without other people stepping in to help me.

Feeling the aftermath of my cousin’s death is surreal. At the time, I was still in intensive treatment following my residential stay for my eating disorder and depression. I’m so grateful that I was still in treatment five days a week when my cousin died. Honestly, I’m not sure how well I would have dealt with his death otherwise. Since that day, I’ve felt different. The idea of suicide feels different to me, too. It no longer feels like this paradise of relief that I could escape to. Now, whenever I have a suicidal thought, I’m filled with guilt.

At the funeral, I felt like I was a fly on the wall, coming back and haunting my own funeral. I could see the emotions of everyone there. The building was packed. I could see my aunt crying out in pain over her only son. I heard his sisters speak about all the good memories they’ve shared. I felt a heaviness in the room I’ve never felt before, even at other funerals. During the service, the topic of mental health was talked about and we were reminded that it’s OK to reach out. It’s OK to not be OK. We are not alone in our struggle. All I could think was, “It should have been me.” It’s hard to live my life knowing what he must have felt leading up to this. I know what it’s like to plan. I am not mad at my cousin at all for what happened, but I get mad at the situation and how it changed the comfort my own suicidal thoughts would bring.

I judge myself for still having suicidal ideations. Shouldn’t the loss of my cousin be enough to shake me out of this? Does my continued desire to die make me a terrible person? Does that mean I don’t care enough about other people? When will I finally “get” it? Why do I feel so guilty about him dying?

I feel guilty it didn’t change my desire to die by suicide. Part of me feels like that means I don’t value him enough as a person. I feel like it means I don’t care, but I do care. I wish I could describe the weirdness of the whole situation. How do you make someone feel the déjà vu that I felt? I know that my cousin dying doesn’t mean I can’t still be depressed or suicidal anymore. I’m trying to not let this invalidate what I’ve experienced over the last 25 years. Everything I’ve been through is real and has played a part in shaping me to be the person I am today. Everyone has the right to own their story, regardless of what else is happening in the world around them.

It’s still OK to not be OK.

GettyImages via Grandfailure

Originally published: October 9, 2018
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