There is always someone that you can talk to—you are never truly alone.
|The 2015 Goucher cross country team; Collin far left (holding John)
Since I started college three years ago, I have helped someone cope with the suicide of a family member, talked with three friends struggling with suicidal thoughts until they were able to get professional help, lost a friend to suicide, and attempted to cope with that loss.
When the one-year anniversary of Collin’s death rolled around last week (October 11), I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to post. A happy memory, an honest look at the end of my friendship with Collin, something about how I’ve grown closer with some people from Goucher in the past fews months.
Last fall, I began school at Susquehanna University after transferring from Goucher College. I was registered to take public relations, something that made a lot of sense considering I was a public relations major. I dropped the class within the first week and added a literature night class to fill a graduation requirement. The class met once a week: Tuesdays from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Each week, a group of students presented on one of the major plot structures. My group’s plot structure was tragedy. When we walked into class on October 11, my professor asked if we were ready to present. He had us present at the beginning of class, the only time he had a group do that at any point in the semester; typically the presentations happened after break.
Halfway through class, during our break, I went to the bathroom and checked my phone. I had a message from Sean, a Goucher cross-country teammate that I had not talked to in months: “Hey Julianna I’ve got some bad news I’d thought you like to hear.” I thought someone on the team was going to be out for the rest of the season with a running-related injury, nothing major. I scrolled through Facebook while I waited for a response. I saw a post from someone at Goucher that I never actually met, we had connected through one of those tacky freshman Facebook groups. It said something about rest in peace Collin, something about thoughts being with the Goucher community. I frantically tried to think of any other person that went to Goucher that was named Collin. I came up dry.
This all happened in a minute. Sean responded, “I’m not sure if you heard but Collin took his own life today.” I didn’t cry. I was in shock. Class started and I stayed; what was I going to do if I left? Eventually, as the professor continued to talk about tragedy, I began to cry. I went to the bathroom, got toilet paper, and went back to class. Little tears, under control. Then I lost it. I needed to leave. The professor announced group work and I packed my bag and indelicately told my group work partner that a friend had just killed himself. She reminded me to hand in the weekly assignment. I walked up to the professor, handed him my paper, and repeated myself. He made sure I had someone to talk to before letting me leave. I called my mom as I walked back to my dorm room, but I realized that I would need to hang up to tell my roommate why I was back from class nearly 90 minutes early–and why I was sobbing.
I walked into the room and opened my mouth in an attempt to explain. Before I could form any words, Abbie jumped off of her bed, enveloped me in a hug, and said the two words that still stun me: “I know.”
My teammates at Goucher had been worried about me. They weren’t sure if I had heard about Collin and didn’t know if I was okay. A former teammate’s roommate’s mom work at Abbie’s mom’s bookstore. Through a series of crazy connections, they got in touch with Abbie so someone could check on me.
I left and took a walk around campus. I ended up spotting my ex-boyfriend and took it as a sign to tell him; he had known Collin after all. Despite the breakup we had just gone through, he was incredibly supportive and comforting.
That night and in the days to follow, I was so lucky to be surrounded by supportive people. Most times people didn’t know what to say and I was less than delicate with my wording when I brought up what had happened to Collin. It was off-putting to people who tried to talk to me about it; they weren’t used to suicide being talked about in the way that I was approaching it.
It’s a year later and I still don’t know how to feel. So much has changed in my life, related and unrelated to Collin’s death. I’ve reconnected with people from Goucher that I shut out after my decision to transfer. I barely run anymore, because running is haunted. Most importantly? I’m not afraid to talk about mental health.
When I logged onto Facebook on the anniversary of Collin’s death, I expected to see posts from his friends. In addition to that, I saw videos about Mental Health Day, which was the day prior. I saw news articles about John Green’s new book, which discusses his own struggles with mental illness (specifically anxiety.) We’re getting better at talking about mental health, but still have a long, long way to go. If you think someone is struggling, reach out to them. It doesn’t matter if you know them or not: what’s the worst that could happen from reaching out? What’s the worst that could happen from assuming someone else will?
Also, here’s Collin eating a bagel. He was so fond of this (slightly creepy) picture that he made me send it to him.