It has been a week. A real long, hard week. Not one that I had expected or anticipated or built into my highly-detailed calendar, either. Last week, I was blindsided by news that completely devastated me and much of my community. A close friend of mine, someone who has been a source of personal inspiration, who helped conceive my entire concept of queer and femme community, who was filled with so much light and sass and unapologetic fierceness, took her own life. Death and loss is always hard, but there is something unique about the way suicide impacts the people left behind - including a multitude of questions that cannot be answered. Even if we can begin to wrap our heads around the "why," the grief is compounded with guilt and anger and the heaviest sadness. I was blown away by how friends and strangers came together to support and love one another, but it was still so much to bear. Each morning I woke up with my heart pounding out of my chest, and with the most innocent of comments triggering me into tears. And I kept thinking about her, and how I would process these feelings with her, and how she'd respond to all the public grieving. And I thought a lot about my own past with depression, and how I was so grateful to still be here. I needed more than anything to disconnect, to be with my friends who also knew her and could share in our memories and pain and grief, and who could help lift the heaviness even slightly.
Ali and I ventured north to San Francisco, where we spent the weekend with our friend Alysia (a brilliant, soulful writer who is currently fundraising to self-publish her graphic memoir, here). We cried. We cried a lot. But we also laughed, and took in the sunshine at the top of Dolores Park, overlooking the city, and crossed the bay bridge, and climbed to the top of a hill overlooking all of Oakland and the East Bay, and indulged in dumplings and the best ice cream from Bi-Rite and Humphrey Slocombe (honey-lavender and secret breakfast, respectively), and we marched through the mission - a neighborhood which holds so many of my most transformative memories. We promised each other to feel alive and keep ourselves alive and keep our extended communities alive - because we all really need each other. And with that, my chest stopped pounding and breathing felt a little easier.
Yesterday, Ali and I drove back down the coast. From San Francisco to Los Angeles, through Santa Cruz and through Monterey and through the forests and coastlines of Big Sur. I wanted to feel awestruck. I wanted to be reminded of all the greatness surrounding us, and of how lucky we are to be alive and experience even a tiny fraction of the magnitude of this earth. I wanted to experience the views, to treat myself to the $5 bunches of local flora from a tiny town called Moss Landing, to eat fresh avocados and to smell the crisp air that blended together sea salt and eucalyptus and drops of rain. We saw a beach full of sunbathing elephant seals, and giggled as they made their way across the sand. With so much heaviness in the previous week, I so badly needed to be surrounded by beauty and sheer positive energy - and somewhere between the hills of San Francisco and the redwoods lining the edges of the sky and the rocky cliffs of Big Sur and the seaside that glimmered in tones of teal and cerulean blue, I found it.
If you are struggling with your mental health and are in need of support or resources, please, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or access MentalHealth.gov to help find healthcare providers in your area.