When I was eighteen years old I moved into my dorm at university and met the quiet and pretty girl that lived across the hall from me.
Her name was Nel.
Well, her name was actually "Ellen" but everyone called her Nel.
She was nice and also into theatre. Her study music was showtunes.
She would post pictures and quotes on her dorm room door. It's been ten years, but I still remember two of them because they resonated with me. One said: "If you are not enraged, you are not paying attention!" and the other said: "I want to live in a world where schools are fully funded and the army needs to hold bake sales." I thought she possessed an unusually high level of social awareness for an eighteen year old. I followed her example.
Nel and I had acting class together. I thought she was brilliant. I felt like she could see colours no one else could. Like a butterfly.
During our time at school together, I learned that Nel was a talented writer. She was working on a manuscript and asked some of her friends to read it for the first time. The manuscript was a story about her time in an eating disorder treatment facility. Nel was good at conveying what it was like to have anorexia, and the difficult road to recovery.
After school Nel went travelling. It was one of her favourite things to do. I followed her Facebook pictures closely, and since our time at university, we ran into each other at Hart House, Pride and here and there. Our text messages always consisted of plans to meet up that never came to fruition.
Despite this, mine and Nel's friendship was very active on Facebook. Nel posted statuses and memes about issues very close to my heart. It was also apparent that Nel was suffering from severe depression by this time, as she was very open about it online. She would post memes every other day that would attempt to describe what it was like to live with a mental illness. I admired her so much, she was so desperately trying to get people to understand. It is important for people to try and understand what living with depression is like. She was so brave to rail against the stigma.
And I thought Nel would win. I thought that she would go on to help end the stigma against mental illness and be a voice of strength for other people who were suffering. I thought for sure the darkness wouldn't take her.
This is why I was surprised, taken aback, devastated that on January 5th, 2015, Nel took her own life. I wasn't doing anything important that day. Just work and the gym. I would give everything I have to go back and be with her on that day. Beg her not to leave. Convince her that she had made enough of an impact in my life that if she was gone, I would care. Oh God, I would care.
This threw into sharp contrast just how serious depressions is. Like cancer, like heart disease, it takes people. It affects those suffering from it, and it affects those around the people who suffer from it.
This is my hope for the future, that these facts become widely acknowledged. That depression is a real illness, that is can be life threatening, and that doesn't only affect those suffering from it, but the friends, families, coworkers, lovers of those who suffer from it as well.
Now Nel is no longer here to keep fighting. So I will. For her.
I'll start by going here:
Lacey is a freelance Stage Manager who studied at York University. She enjoys biking, singing and playing guitar. Coffee and wine are her favourite potions and poisons.