Every birthday I reflect on the previous year: what have I learned, what has changed, where I want to be, etc.  Turning 40 this year is no different except I’ve been thinking about the whole 40 years.  Where was I mentally and emotionally for the other big birthday.  To be honest, I’m lucky to have hit 40.

Two months to the day prior to my 17th birthday, my brother took his life.  I know I’ve mentioned it several times but if you’re new here, you can read about it here: https://changingliz.com/2013/11/13/sean  It was life changing and I still feel the ripples today, the good and the bad.

It was an excruciating time and I wanted to die. I felt so alone because the only people who understood was my family who was falling apart in their own right too.  I didn’t want to talk to them because I didn’t want to upset them.  It was hard to talk to my friends because they didn’t understand and I imagine they didn’t know what to say.  At one point, I admitted I was suicidal and was essentially kicked out of school and had to see a psychiatrist before I could return.

Thankfully I was sent an angel, my high school guidance counselor.  I trusted her and she was my savior.  We met pretty regularly and she always had my back.  Little did I know that she was going through a difficult time as she lost her mother not too long before we met.  But she made sure I didn’t go down a rabbit hole and pushed me to keep going.

Eventually, it was time to get my drivers license and I couldn’t care less.  I didn’t want to do anything that was exciting to everyone our age.  I even got a great part in the local community theater play singing an iconic song from Godspell but quit because I just couldn’t do it.   I wasn’t anything amazing but I felt I lost my voice.

My senior year was better because I was too busy to think too much.  Visiting college campuses, prepping for SATs, and college applications were my focus.  Thankfully (and I think with major help from my guidance counselor) I got into my #1 choice.

My freshman year at college was amazing.  I met lifelong friends, became president of my dorm and almost failed out because I was having too much fun.  But one thing that really sticks out for me was the second anniversary of Sean’s death.  It was my first away from home and I was dreading it.  I decided to tell my friends about Sean.  And in turn, they took me out bowling to keep me busy.  I will never forget their kindness during that time.

Every anniversary and every birthday is hard.  But the big 4-0 has been a reflective time remembering where I was and where I am today.  Without those people in my life, I may not have made it.  I want anyone out there reading this to know that you are not alone.  Life can be damn hard.  So hard that you may not want to be here anymore but I promise it gets better.  It will never be easy because there will be other obstacles along the way but it sure is awesome.

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