Dave's funeral is today & I wish that I could be there to say goodbye, but this post isn't about being sad. I beg your indulgence and ask you to please take the time to read this to the end.
I had a friend tell me something profound that has stuck with me for the last few days. They had gone through a person close to them committing suicide as well, and what they said was this (I paraphrase, so my apologies, but this is what I essentially took out of it): When someone you love kills themselves, you have 2 options, really. You can choose to wrap your grief around yourself like a cloak and let it drag you down into the abyss, or you can honor who they were and what they stood for and celebrate life. I choose to celebrate life.
I'm going to talk openly and honestly about myself for a little bit here to give some context. I'm bipolar. For the better part of the last year, and on & off for a few years now, I've been suffering bouts of major depression. I was in a car wreck, right after art school in 2001, that made it so I couldn't draw for close to a decade. With a lot of hard work I got it back, and was getting fluid again. I worked on a few books, got a couple pieces into magazines, and was feeling pretty damn good. Then I had another flare up that took it away from me again in the most brutal way possible.
I was in constant agony (like pass out screaming agony). My studio fell apart and closed. A year and a half of opiates, muscle relaxants, minor spinal surgeries, and specialist after specialist who could not help me or offer a comprehensive diagnosis. Cervical radiculopathy, arthritic spine, 3 blown discs in my back, carpal tunnel, neurological, autoimmune, needs surgery, doesn't need surgery, etc., etc., etc. The last drug that they gave me was an old-school tricyclic called Amitryptaline, which was amazing for a week, and then started to kill my personality. By week 3, I was completely flat. By week four, the unbidden suicidal thoughts came. My brain pushed thoughts about killing myself for the better part of a week before I had a lucid moment and told Rach what was happening. I thank god for that, otherwise I wouldn't be here today. I found out soon after that Amytriptaline is incredibly closely related to and works along the same pathways as Cyclobenzaprine - a drug that I told every single doctor I had seen that I have an extremely bad emotional reaction to. I stopped treatment through Group Health immediately after.
I made a slow recovery afterward, but due to Dave, and the added acupuncture and chiropractic, I did get better. As of last November, I started drawing again, and worked on another book project, but I couldn't shake the depression. All the problems with my body got me into a place where my confidence was shattered. Having my art taken away from me again was too much. I went from being depressed because I was hurt and avoiding activities because they would exacerbate my situation, or cause me more pain, to avoiding things altogether under the idea that it MIGHT make things worse. I've sequestered myself away from most of my friends, and spent hours at a time sitting in a dark room, staring at a wall, because..well, it sounded like the best choice at the time. I felt...unworthy...broken...a million and one different, terrible things about myself.
I developed (and still struggle with) a hyper-realized fear of failure - to the point that I stopped drawing completely, even when on some level I knew that I physically could. I was so terrified of failure and of putting myself out there that it was better to just not start anything in the first place, because then it was impossible to let anyone, or myself, down. I did it all without realizing that giving up was really the biggest failing of all.
That's basically been the last few years of my life.
This week, I noticed something interesting and weird - in the last couple of days, really. Dave's death has done something to snap me out of my depression. As I've started to come out of the depths of my grief for the loss of my friend, I realized that the burgeoning sense of hopelessness has gradually disappeared, evaporating around me like smoke dissipating in a stiff breeze. Everything around me doesn't seem quite so dark anymore in the corners of my mind. My creativity is starting to come back, and I'm beginning to be able to envision what I want to draw again at least somewhat clearly. I've been more social in the last 2 days than I have been in a really long time, taking the time to reconnect with friends that I hadn't seen in over a year, and realizing again how much I love life and miss living it.
I can't help but think, that in life, Dave, you helped fix my body, and in death, you fixed my soul. And I thank you so much for that last gift, my dear, dear friend. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don't think I'll ever stop missing your presence, but I'll always carry a piece of you with me.