This has been an incredibly long stream of posts, but I promise you all that it has a point to it. My freshman year of high school was an emotional roller coaster for me. The teachers expected more of you, everyone’s ego had become incredibly inflated, but with this there was more freedom of expression. No one could judge you because no one felt like it. Now there was still a pecking order in high school for who was more popular than others, and I fell kind of in the middle between the spectrum, but from what I could see was everyone was treated equally. As time went on I could tell differently.
Due to my learning disorder I was still put in lower level classes and still had to associate with my “feel bad about yourself”, counseling group. I became more self aware of my “condition” and with that I became more defiant and would often refuse to go to these classes. But my efforts in getting myself out of the group were futile. I went from going every two weeks to now going once or twice a week. I started to realize that these counselors were not helping whatsoever. First of all, there approach on how they came and got you was very poor. They marched into your classroom and would say out loud “It’s time for your support group!” which everyone really knew what that really meant, “Time to talk about why you’re in special ed!” Secondly, they pulled you out of class for the whole block which would set you back a whole class. And for what? I finally became brave enough and stated my case and said I would no longer be attending these groups because I was falling behind. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.
I was in church one day and it seemed like any other normal day. I had gotten a phone call from one of my best friends, Ethan. I thought that it was strange that he would even call. He never called unless it was to tell me that today wasn’t a good day to come over because he had family. But we had made plans to hang out with him and his family the day before. I answered the phone and I could tell that he had been crying. He said, “Hey Josh. Listen just so you’re aware my dad went out last night and saw that there was a car crash and I don’t know how to tell you this… but Ray Kopponen is dead.” Ray was the father of some friends that Ethan and I had. He was closer to Ethan’s family than he was to mine, but I still knew Ray well enough to know how devastating this would be on his family. I later used the same method I used to cope with Casey’s death. Some people just die by unnatural causes. But I began to believe that my life was going in this constant pattern that at one moment I was living my best life, and then I was cut down.
That pattern became very prominent throughout the rest of my high school life. One year after Ray’s death, Dylan, a kid that I played football with in fourth grade, had committed suicide. About six months after that, his best friend, Brian, would die the same way. I began to question my coping methods. I was taught that death happens to all of us because God wanted us to come back home early. But what about victims of suicide? Did he make that happen? Would he inspire one of his own children to do something like that just to come back to him? I began to wonder that maybe there was no God. If things like that happened then how could there be one?
My emotions would spin out of control not long after that. I was sitting in math class. Some of the kids in that class were celebrating the birthday of Dylan. My friend Anthony, who sat next to me since the beginning of the school year had said the most bizarre statement to me. He said “I don’t get how people can get to the point in their life where they can just take it away within seconds”. I was completely taken back by this statement. Anthony was the kind of individual who wasn’t very serious most of the time about anything. Not that he didn’t take things seriously when it was appropriate to do so, but he just had a naturally goofy personality. It came as such a shock to me that I didn’t know how to respond, and I did the dumbest thing imaginable, I ignored it. What was I supposed to say to that? Was he expecting a response? I presently ask myself this question about his statement often, “or was it a cry for help?”
I started to fall behind in my math class. I had gone to my teacher for help and he wasn’t in his room. I went to the math teacher that was just next door to him and he said he would be willing to help me. I noticed that his face was heavy, I figured it was just the stress of being a teacher, but it was much more than that. There was another student in the room with me who was also getting help with math. He went to that student and I had overheard him asking the student “Do you know what’s happening?” The student replied that he was aware. I being incredibly nosy in nature had asked what was happening. The teacher began to walk back to me and he crouched right in front of me and looked me dead in my eyes. There was so much pain behind his eyes. He then told me “Anthony was in a car accident this morning, they tried saving him, but the doctors couldn’t. Anthony passed away just about an hour ago.”
My whole body froze. I couldn’t speak. For a moment I lost sight of everything that was around me. I walked out of the room and into the bathroom and just stared myself in the mirror for what seemed like eternity. I tried to wake myself up from this cruel dream by splashing water on my face. I hit my head against the wall but it was no use, I wasn’t dreaming. Anthony, the smiley happy-go-lucky football star who always had a joke in math class, was gone. Theories later came out that Anthony’s death was no accident, but was planned and thought out by Anthony himself. The answer still remains unknown three years later. But his statement just weeks before his death still haunt me to this day.
I had a dream one night. I was in a pure white room. On the walls were math symbols and equations. As I walked further down I noticed a door in the midst of some equations. I opened the door and there was my math teacher giving his usual lecture. I must have not been noticed by the other classmates because the students were all taking notes and the teacher didn’t stop lecturing. I noticed an empty chair that had my name on it. I sat down and started to listen. Then a voice came from right next to me, “I bet this isn’t how you expected to see me again.” That voice, that chuckle, it was all too familiar. I turned to the seat next to me, it was Anthony. I wasn’t able to speak, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The whole room turned white and the teacher and the students had vanished from around us. He just stood there, with that same grin on his face when we sat next to each other. I finally pulled myself together enough to turn my emotions into words, I asked “so what pushed you?” He then smiled, looked up and said “Take care of yourself.” as he reached for my hand a giant gust of wind and sand came over us.
I woke up right after that. I couldn’t sleep after that. I had so many questions. Why did he come see me? I wasn’t that important in his life. Why was that the only question I could come to ask him? I went to his funeral shortly after that. I hadn’t cried until that night when I got home. I didn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I didn’t leave my room for almost three days. Not long after that there were signs everywhere for suicide hotlines, and posters of quotes about suicide and the effects it has on those who are left behind. They listed symptoms of depression. Motivational speakers came to our school to speak about the fact that it was okay to have depression and their personal experiences with it. I began to wonder if I was falling under that category. If my life was spiraling out of control to the breaking point. But what did I have to be sad for? I thought that depression was for those who didn’t have anything left to live for? I still had plenty of things I wanted to achieve. But if it meant feeling this way for the rest of my life, I didn’t want to go through with it. I tried going back to my group for help and advice, but it was futile. The focus was on this young man with ADHD. I needed an out and I needed it quick. So I came to the conclusion that I would take my own life.