CW // This content contains descriptions of self-harm, and also refers to themes of suicide. Please proceed with caution. If you are having depressive thoughts at the moment, please do not continue.
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[Wednesday 1:38 AM] Sarah
So do you want to talk about it?
[Wednesday 1:39 AM] Josee
[Wednesday 1:39 AM] Sarah
[Wednesday 1:44 AM] Josee
I’ve said everything I wanted to. I’m not sure. I think that I will be okay.
[Wednesday 1:45 AM] Sarah
Are you going to bed now? You should. It’s late.
[Wednesday 1:49 AM] Josee
Just some writing. I have a hazy story inside my head, and I’ve tried to write it out but the words don’t seem to mean anything. But in all seriousness, I think I just need some time to sort things out on my own. I’ll write later. I’m looking forward to it already.
[Wednesday 1:51 AM] Sarah
Great! I’m so glad to hear that.
An hour later
[Wednesday 2:51 AM] Sarah
You know something, Josee—you can always talk to me when you are feeling alone. You know? I was thinking about our friendship and what it means to me, everything.
Has it occurred to you that I know absolutely nothing about your life? The things you like, the kind of music you listen to, I don’t know of it. I’ve talked to you for so long but it’s dawning on me that each time when I do, you are just listening to my feelings. You’ve been a great friend, but some days you can be distant too.
Are you okay?
[Wednesday 2:56 AM] Josee
Hey hey, it’s all okay. All’s good here. (Why are you still awake?) Did I ever give you the impression I was not okay? I’m sorry if that was the case. I’ve never been comfortable in telling people how I feel. You don’t have to feel bad about anything. I feel assured enough that you are asking me if I’m okay. That’s more than enough for me, Sarah. Believe me, I’m okay.
[Wednesday 2:57 AM] Sarah
Okay, Josee. I believe you. I can’t wait for you to teach me how to paint tomorrow, can we please start with painting trees?
[Wednesday 2:58 AM] Josee
GO TO SLEEP LOL.
“I wish I hadn’t gone to sleep that night.”
Everything made no sense to Sarah. She cried occasionally, trying to make sense of her emotions, but she was getting colder and stiffer. It is well known that she and Josee had been friends for 8 years. She felt certain that there was probably a time, at least a few occasions where Josee was smiling, laughing, and having fun with everyone else.
She had also read stories from Josee. Josee was a great writer, she had a way with words that made things feel real. Some held a pessimistic outlook on life and development of irrational fears, some filled with anger and hurt. But Josee was alright. She was having a stable income and was advancing in her life. But Sarah also recalled a time she saw one of Josee’s artwork; a woman weeping in such silent and bitter distress that Sarah’s heart almost moved out to her. Yet all she could mouth to Josee was, “Your art is beautiful. I wish I could paint like you.”
Everything happened so fast, without warning. No one knew Josee had been mildly to moderately depressed with several episodes of major depression. At first, everyone else thought she was just having a bad day, perhaps it was seasonal depression. They hadn’t seen her sitting in her room using her tears as to ease the wounds she had inflicted on herself. And under all that summer heat, no one seemed to ask Josee why she wore sweaters and long sleeves. It seemed clear to Josee that her body was a canvas and the knife was a paintbrush, and the only paint colour she had to express with was red.
Letters. There were letters in Josee’s desk too. They found many letters in her handwriting. She wrote letters to her father, her mother, brother, Sarah, including some other friends too. They never sent them, and she wrote to them as if she was already gone, like she knew she was never going to see them again. In her own words too, in every letter, there was a common theme of her concealing how she felt. Damaged, unworthy, unseen, unheard, undeserving, broken beyond help… a cry for just wanting to be enough, to feel enough, that she was worth living in this place.
For there were so many days Josee couldn’t bear to be around people at work too; she would detached herself from work and tried to go solo whenever she could. It was always easier to not have to hide and lie to people that she wanted out. All of those feelings of not belonging, not being like everyone else, having to hide how the voices in her head makes life exhausting, isolating… it all made her feel small, ashamed, and tormented.
It was hard to take in. Sarah buried her face in her hands, mourning came as a sad song, soft and low. Josee had her great sides too, she could be cheerful, giddy and witty. The people around her felt assured, and when they reached out to her, she would politely decline things, laughed it off and change the subject. Maybe, maybe what Sarah never understood was, all this while, the writing, the art, the changing of subject, were all cries for help. She could canalise her feelings into a coherent one; she only knew how desperately she wanted to turn back time. Crying seemed to be the only sensible thing to do now.
The night of Josee’s departure
[Wednesday 2:56 AM] Josee
No, I’m not okay at all. Hey hey, it’s all okay. All’s good here. (Why are you still awake?) I’m scared of falling asleep. I’m scared of being awake. I don’t know what to do anymore, Sarah. Help. Please for help. I don’t think I will make it tonight. It feels so suffocating to be here. I feel trapped even when all the doors and windows in the house are wide open. I going to put a stop to it. I’m going to stop feeling this way. I just want that fucking noise in my head to stop. I will put an end to this. Every second of everyday, I think about silencing that voice. Did I ever give you the impression I was not okay? I’m sorry if that was the case. I’ve never been comfortable in telling people how I feel. But I want I’ve always wanted to know if I was a bother to you? You don’t have to feel bad about anything. I feel assured enough that you are asking me if I’m okay. That’s more than enough for me, Sarah. Believe me, I’m not okay. I want to kill myself tonight. If I don’t make it tonight, I just want you to know, thank you for staying with me all this years as a friend. I love you and I’m sorry.
Josee Lee Williams (11 March 1996 – 4 July 2021) died from an overdose. The last painting they ever found in her room was a tree in shades of red. Looking closer, through it all, the tree seemed like a sentry to the bloody landscape, the stoic guardian of so many souls, a beauty that encouraged the spirit to dance though words, to make odes to its branches that spread heaven-bound. And in the strong light of the new day, gives liberty for the senses in those moving leaves, the thousand green hues and the soft whispering in the wind that sings “You’re okay now, Josee. All is well.”
Having going through severe depression myself, I can say in my own case that depression isn't a fixed form, it comes it all sorts. What is heart-breaking though, is coming to terms with depression, my mind tries to reason with it. I force yourself to feel, to be vulnerable, to reach out to someone. It's hard, and it's painful. It's a cycle of self-hate I put myself in, and I disappoint myself. That's when the thought of killing myself seems 'worthwhile'. For when I look around and find that world has moved on, and I can't seem to catch up... a race I'm so scared of losing. I contemplated back and forth on sharing this piece. I understand the consequences that comes with sharing such a personal part of me, but it's not a piece of me that I am ashamed of. I just wouldn't know how people would take it. If you read this until the end, know that I am always 6 feet deep inside my mind, but I still keep living every single day.
I wrote this piece for many reasons, how depression is a silent killer, and it makes me realise how important it is for me to be grateful for my loved ones, as well as be aware of what I say to a friend or stranger. Because any moment now, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Any moment can be an event that impacts our lives one way or another. If you just need a friend, someone to connect with, someone to listen, I’ll be here. There are also many people who would care for you, please reach out. ♡