Since my mom's death, there have only been a few people who I have met who have dealt with the suicide of an immediate family member. Adrianna and I connected through the theatre / Twitter scene in Toronto a few years ago and though we've only spent a bit of time together, I've always felt greatly connected due to her experience and the path she has taken as a result. She has been a great supporter of Life is Sweet month and I'm grateful to have her as a guest blogger.
Loss is sometimes greater than leaving your umbrella on the subway. Sometimes you lose someone you love. Forever. That’s what happened in the year 2010. It was a foggy November night when a knock at the door changed everything. My brother Andrew had killed himself. My father wanted to tell me in person so he came to my doorstep at midnight on November 12th 2010. Ever since then, things haven’t been the same. I lost more than my brother that night: I lost my home, because my boyfriend left so I had to move. I had to give my cat away. My workplace was forcing me to take minimal hours. I felt like I had lost my life. I felt like I had lost my self.
Bereavement was harsh and looked a lot like depression. I have select memories of the first year of bereavement. They are dark, sad, and drenched in alcohol and loud music. But through it all I was writing in my diary. Despite having two therapists (one just for me and one for family and group therapy), I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I wrote and wrote and wrote to try to work stuff out. In my past life, a.k.a. pre-2010, I was a playwright of historic adaptations. So writing was a part of my old self that carried over into the new. I would write out conversations with my brother. I would write out alternative endings to our story set in other universes. I would write out the things I ate for breakfast, on the rare occasions I managed to eat breakfast. I just wrote. It was my private therapy. In the end I would use those diary entries and fake letters to deceased and living loved ones as fodder for a solo show about bereavement and suicide—“Everything but the Cat…”. Creating this not-so-one-woman show, dealing with all the above, was my attempt to come out of this with something helpful, something to contribute, something to say about the terrible truth of suicide.
I want Andrew’s story to continue. I hope to educate those around his age that they are not alone. My brother was depressed and needed to hear he wasn’t the only one experiencing the weight of transitioning into adulthood. He needed to hear that life can get pretty dark, sad, lonely and downright awful at times. But in an age where everything is photo-shopped, auto-corrected, and Instagram-filtered, it’s hard to remember that. It’s so easy to be tricked into believing that everyone else’s lives are so frickin’ perfect. So when yours is not, you question yourself. What am I doing wrong? I’m wrong? I am wrong, it’s me. And that can be a dangerous headspace to live in.
I want to tour my show to get that conversation out of the dark and into the open. I want people to know that failure in life is not optional – everyone experiences it. Really, failure is a gift; a gift that sucks. But the part that failure sucks out of you makes room for something else, something potentially better, something new! I want to help people embrace that dark feeling and understand that it is only temporary; it is only a stepping-stone towards something much better. And what if the embrace lasts too long or you don’t know how to let it go? I want people to know that it’s okay to talk to a therapist. It’s okay to see a doctor about medication. It’s okay to do what you have to do to get yourself back to you.
I lost my brother. I lost my self. I will always miss my brother, but I won’t ever miss who I was, because it helped me get here — to me.
Adrianna Prosser is a Toronto based actor and playwright. You can learn more about her project at www.everythingbutthecat.net