It was back in 2014.
I met her at a dance event in Korea.
Nobody there knew that my life had almost ended 4 days before the event.
I certainly didn’t know that hers was going to end 6 months after the event.
We both had depression.
I made it through.
I invited Sam to write this story because she shall not be forgotten, because we could have done better, and because there are still lives hanging on a thread that can be saved.
It’s been 2 years. But it never felt too far. Candlex really grew out of the crack between life and death. This is one of the stories that lit CandleX. Reading, editing and talking about this story with my friend, the author Sam, has brought back so much emotion that had already settled.
There have been many times in life that I have wondered if I will be forgotten when I am gone. You must have wondered the same.
“Rest in Peace, Amy. You are never forgotten“
Author | Sam
Editor | Xiaojie
I stepped into the apartment. There she was, pale and still, lying on the bed. I was in such shock that I could feel my head start to spin and my body becoming disoriented. I had to breathe consciously and focus on what needed to be done as rationally as possible. The hours that followed seemed such a blur. I just remember slowly the police coming, the media arriving with cameras, friends supporting me, and then it was declared:
Amy was dead.
Amy (I changed her name for privacy reasons) was around the age of 30, with a talent for art and design, she made her living through freelance graphic design projects. She was a quiet and timid girl, but also had a good sense of humor and a smile on her face. We met each other through a dance community and I noticed she had a sparkle in her eye whenever we danced together. I have been part of a dance community for many years, and through this, have had the pleasure of meeting people from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and professions.
Amy was a lovely person and didn’t seem to have any more troubles in her life than anyone else. We enjoyed dancing together at social events, and would have the occasional conversation, before one of us was asked to dance for the next song. She was pleasant, kind and gentle and I grew fond of her as time passed, even though we never became friends outside of the social dance events. Every now and then during a social I would notice Amy sitting in the corner, alone, looking a little down. Sometimes I would ask her for a dance and this would bring a brief smile to her face before she returned to her slumped position in the corner. Other times it was worse and she would have tears in her eyes and people crowded around her, but in contrast to this at other times she was full of life and energy.
Initially I judged her as a person to be emotionally unstable, and as my own personal experiences with people in the same condition didn’t end positively, I decided to keep my distance. With this prejudgement in mind I noticed other signals, like emotional outbursts via Facebook statuses where she pleaded people for help and I simply labeled this as attention-seeking behaviour.
One evening at a dance social, Amy was in another slump and so I asked her what the problem was. To my surprise she opened up and told me some of her troubles. It was then that I realised that maybe this wasn’t attention seeking and there was possibly something more going on. However, I wasn’t sure and I was still defensive and skeptical. But when she said she had suicidal thoughts and that she had already attempted to commit suicide, alarm bells rang in my head. However, she was clearly ashamed of herself and distraught about what had happened to her and she begged that I didn’t tell anyone else. My empathetic and compassionate nature kicked in and I gave her my word.
A week later she rang me unexpectedly and was crying on the phone, saying she didn’t know whom to turn to and she divulged her thoughts and said how scared she was. I calmed her down and gave her some general advice, but more importantly I thought she should seek a professional therapist. I gave her the contact details of a therapist I knew and offered my support suggesting we meet for coffee. Numerous times she cancelled at the last minute saying she was too weak to get out of bed, or that she couldn’t face anyone. I said it wasn’t a problem, but when I pressed her about contacting the therapist she replied that she hadn’t yet.
Weeks passed and I heard nothing from Amy, but one night I got a call from her boyfriend Luke (name is changed for privacy reason), saying he’d received a video from Amy. The video contained her last words and that she was going to kill herself. He wasn’t in the country at the time and so I rushed to her apartment. Luke gave me the code to enter, and I stepped into the apartment…
For some time afterwards I couldn’t sleep as the image of her appeared in my mind every time I closed my eyes. I lost my appetite, I couldn’t perform in my profession and I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it for some time afterwards.
That night is something I will never forget, but the most profound thought that stayed with me afterwards was that I wished I had done more for her. I can never bring Amy back, however I can tell you my story in hope it provides support in some way.
I am fully aware that everyone with depression has a varying intensity of symptoms, and Amy reached breaking point with the monsters (as she described them) that were in her head. In her last words she apologised that she never went to the therapist and maybe if she had the strength to do so things may have been different. When I heard that sentence it struck a chord with me… why didn’t I take her to the therapist myself? Maybe if I had and had not kept my distance she would be alive today!
I will never be able to predict what would have happened in such a hypothetical situation, but I hope that my story can encourage others in such positions to act rather than not. It still may not make a difference, and to a certain extent the outcome is not the responsibility of objective bystanders, but of the individual with the condition. However, trying to help in any way possible may be a catalyst towards positive change for those who suffer.
Every now and then, I think about Amy. Not that I knew her well, but we were both on that fine line between life and death.
Sometimes I take a moment to notice these ordinary things: the rays of sunshine, my desk at work, the smile on my friends’ faces, and my mom and dad’s voices on the other side of the phone… I was ready to let go of all of this for peace of mind. Now I appreciate each day that I am connected to this crazy wild world.
Each day is a gift.
Being here now, I wish I could tell her that there is an end even, I know you can’t feel it.
Now for the rest of us, this is more than a story. This is a lesson! This is an alarm for us to know the symptons of depression (go to our depression symptoms lesson for the full list), to know how we can support friends with depression, to understand the red flags and step in.
Stay with them, save a life.