J was a father, a son, a husband, a teacher and my friend. When J walked into a room it was filled with warmth and love. His smile was as bright as the sun and there was nothing that a hug from J couldn’t fix. His gentle approach to life was calming.
J suffered from mental illness and for years I did not even know it. He was on medication that regulated his emotions. I believe that even when he was medicated he never quite felt okay. At one point he decided he would try to deal with his illness without the help of medicine. He stopped taking what had been prescribed for him and that is when I saw the friend I knew slip away.
My biggest regret is I did not understand mental illness. When I noticed the changes in J I attempted to distance myself from him. Instead of asking questions I avoided what was making me uncomfortable. I did not realize how he was suffering and truthfully I was too scared to deal with it.
The morning I received the call with the terrible news my heart was broken. I could not believe he had slipped away and that things had become so awful. More than anything I wanted to tell him how special he was to me, how important our friendship was, and how I wanted to be there for him. I lost that chance; I had waited too long.
My hope is that society will begin to accept mental illness as a true sickness. I believe it is not a choice or state of mind. I do not want people who are burdened with mental illness to be ashamed or embarrassed. If they can reach out to others their support system will be widen and strengthened.
I miss J very much. He was an incredible person and a wonderful friend. The world was a better place because of him and now it is a bit less special without him.