We can spend every waking moment with a loved one and still not know a single thing about them. The truth of the matter is the face we present to the world may not always be authentic. Laughs are easy to force and smiles don’t need a cause. Each effective to mask the emptiness that is felt inside and Ryan Reid mastered the art of expressing that false happiness.
My little brother, Ryan, took his own life in March 2018, a week after we celebrated his 14th birthday. I was only 18 at the time, living alone in my apartment an hour away from my home when I received a text from him. The time marked 11:04 and next to it was 100 words of how I did him wrong, how I helped him, and how much he loves me. The last word making it 101 words and the last thing he will ever say to me was “goodbye.” A text was sent out that night to everyone who impacted his life. These people included a few of his close friends, his parents, his two brothers, and me.
No one tells you how to react, there is no guide on how to recover, and I definitely can’t just Google “10 steps to get over my brother’s suicide.” Because honesty, there is no correct answer. I am alone on the path of grief, taking the wrong turn again and again, making me feel as if my thoughts are running in circles. The path is a jumble of emotions I’ve never felt before. One moment I am screaming at the top of my lungs ‘till I have no voice left about how much I hate him. The next I am punching the roof of my car, leaving dents unfixed to remind me of all the times I had done him wrong. My anxiety is always there creeping out to stop my breath and make it harder and harder to move. Those who attempt to direct me through this path only leave their voices of unneeded sympathy and advise echoing in my ears. The sound of sadness exiting from person to person with the added “you know it’s not your fault, right?” These statements and emotions only create speed bumps, slowing me down from ever healing. This is because, in my mind, it was my fault.
My wandering mind can’t help but blame myself. Truth is there is more I could have done, more I could have noticed, and more I could’ve said. I was selfish. I was so focused on myself that he didn’t get a chance to speak. Not that he wanted to though. Ryan’s problems were his, and no one else’s. He never shared the dark space he lived in. He did a good job but not the best job at hiding his pain through the smile that he wore. Looking back, there were cracks in that smile. Leaving room for his depression to spill out little by little, but too little for me to really notice.
I am taken back a few steps every time a kid with similar features as Ryan crosses my path. The characteristics of Ryan that I see in the younger generation scream at me putting my anxiety at an all time high. I start to panic. My arms feel numb, I am dizzy, and there is a sharp pain growing inside my heart. I want to yell at the parent who stands beside them “YOUR CHILD IS DEPRESSED” and the voice cries in my head “THEIR ANXIETY WILL PREVENT THEM FROM EVER TELLING YOU, SO DO SOMETHING.” With no reason to believe so, I automatically assume that they will kill themselves too.
These thoughts occur day after day filling my mind with roadblocks preventing me from reaching the end of grief. I don’t know when or if I will ever get over my brothers’ suicide but I do know the experiences I’ve had and the knowledge I can gain will help save many. Ryan took his own life and the alarming fact is he isn’t going to be the last one to do so. Until we understand the root to mental illness and how to address it, those affected will counting rise leaving more families like mine devastated. Realizing this, my father, Jason Reid, took a stand and released a TED talk, “The most important conversation you will have with your kids,” to inform other parents and families about this rising issue. My father also created a platform, www.ChooseLife.org. At Chooselife.org, it is our mission to end teen suicide by 2030. This goal, as far-fetched as it might sound, is necessary. We can sit back and be naïve or take action through bold statements to put and end to teen suicide. ChooseLife.org is shooting far with our goal to make drastic changes to better educate kids, teens, parents, and schools on mental illness. Suicide is a chronic epidemic that we see as a disease killing thousands of teens each year. We don’t have all the answers but we believe the first step is to treat this as we would treat any other health threatening disease. So, the question now is, will you be a part of this movement to end teen suicide?