"You got bricks in those gloves?" my boxing partner said. "You can hit hard."
"Thank you," I said. "I've been through a lot of sh*t as of late."
She had platinum blonde hair in a short tousle on top of her head, gradually getting shorter to almost a Navy man's cut at the base of her head. She wore a bandanna like the one 2Pac wears.
"Me too," she said. "That's why we come here, right?"
The buzzer beeped and it was time for cross, cross, hook, cross, kick, kick, knee, knee, sprawl once again.
I started attending boxing and jiu-jitsu classes in Idaho. It felt like the meeting of some long-lost relative. Where had this sport been all my life? It felt so natural and powerful. Healing. After I moved from Idaho, I didn't pick boxing up again until I went a couple of times to Takedown Gym. That's where I brought TJ, and I couldn't return to it for a while-- but when I did--I wished I had returned much, much sooner. The sport is still as fresh as the current Minnesota snow to me, but it brings focused attention and it's nice to just not think and hit for an hour.
A few weeks ago, I attended a "grieving from the loss of a loved one by suicide" meeting. Driving to the meeting, I cried uncontrollable cries. Who wants to attend a meeting with that type of title? Though, I am grateful that meetings like that exist. The lady hosting the meeting asked me, "Are you mad at your brother?"
"No," I said. "I'm mad at the way mental health is treated in America."
I'm mad at the fact that mental health has always been an issue, and we're still ashamed to talk about it. I'm mad at the fact that to get into a clinic when I was suicidal, I first had to get a note from a doctor that said I should go see a therapist. At the time I didn't have insurance, so I'd have to go to the doctor and spend $247 to get a note from him to see a therapist that'll cost $180 a session. The number of times I've had to fill out that damn questionnaire that asks if I'm thinking of harming myself and if I think the world would be better off without me is... many.
I'm mad that we tried to get TJ to see a professional, who was several weeks out.
This is not the providers' fault. I am so grateful for every single individual doing their best to fight the fight for mental health in America. Therapists are weeks out because there is such a problem with mental health and that many people need help. Even if it's not a crisis situation, I think every person should have a therapist to help them work through certain difficult seasons in life, we all have them.
While I was driving back from the "grieving from the loss of a loved one by suicide" meeting, I was listening to a random playlist from my Spotify. It suddenly skipped several songs ahead and landed on a Kid Cudi song that TJ sent me back in college. I had never heard of this kid, Kid Cudi, before... but TJ sent it to me so I figured it must be good.
It was the song "Memories," and we listened to it over and over again. We had way too much fun listening to this quite repetitive song. Driving home from this meeting talking bout TJ and how much I missed him, and how I wasn't mad, I listened to "Memories" and said out loud to an empty car in the backdrop of a dark night with a white moon, "I'm not mad at you, Teej, I just miss you."
I never imagined I'd be the "connection" for others when they experience great loss, but it has become this way. I have met other sisters who have lost brothers, wives who have lost husbands, and children who have lost parents.
Losing Teej has helped me understand that the other side of life is actually a lot more real than we think it is, and I march forward in this life each day with him as if holding a burning torch for the two of us. In everything, he is with me. In driving fast, in driving slow, in boxing practice, in yoga, in writing, in listening to music, he will always be in my memories.
If you know someone struggling with their mental health, I suggest finding your local NAMI chapter. I used to share an office with the executive director of the Idaho chapter, and even STILL I didn't think of reaching out to them dealing with the loss of my brother. They have free online meetings and depending on where you live -they might meet in person. Every situation is different, and that's probably the toughest part of dealing with mental health in America. It comes with such different levels of severity, and changes so quickly.
Every April/May, I publish an article about mental health because May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Last year, I started the article with this quote and it's just as relevant now as it was when it was spoken:
“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in." - Desmond Tutu