All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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World Suicide Prevention Day: Dearest Samantha…

“WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY is an opportunity for all sectors of the community – the public, charitable organizations, communities, researchers, clinicians, practitioners, politicians and policy makers, volunteers, those bereaved by suicide, other interested groups and individuals – to join with the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the WHO to focus public attention on the unacceptable burden and costs of suicidal behaviours with diverse activities to promote understanding about suicide and highlight effective prevention activities.
~ International Association for Suicide Prevention ~

Not long before Christmas, 2008, I lost a much-loved and close friend to suicide. Her name was Samantha, and she was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. Never judging, never cajoling, never belittling, she sought to find the best in everyone she came across and help them shine their light on the world. Talking of her – especially of her death – is something the brings me great pain, so much so, that I will frequently and often shy away from doing so.

She would have hated that.

Today, I’ve decided to share with you an unsent letter I’ve written to Samantha; the first step I’ve taken in the long and winding healing process before me. It was written as a stream of consciousness between 8:30am and 8:59am on the 10 September 2013; World Suicide Prevention Day.

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10 September 2013

Dearest Samantha,

It’s been nearly five years since I last wrote those words. Back then, in those days of hope and courage, writing them filled me with such girlish excitement, for I knew that within hours I’d be reading the words ‘Dearest Addy’ followed by your (usually) bizarrely convoluted yet courageously honest, rambling retort.

But now?

Writing those two words fills me with sadness, for not only do I know there will be no reply, I know you won’t even be reading the words I’m struggling to find. How exactly do you say miss you thank you fuck you in the same letter without sounding like an uncompassionate, unstable jerk? How exactly do I release half a decade of pent-up, unspoken emotion without triggering me into doing the unthinkable? How exactly do I say what needs to be said without alienating my meager readership?

Let me guess, if you were going to reply to that string of questions you’d write some pithy, intellectual quote from some random bugger I’ve never heard of. You know, like the night you told me “If you worry about what other people think, you’ll always be their prisoner.” I guess that quote is as apt for this letter as it was for that random, heart-warming conversation. Like with everything, I overthink it to the point of exhaustion instead of going with my gut and doing or saying what I know in my soul I want to.

Bugger it.

You fucking broke my heart, Samantha, you know that, right? And I’m not just talking a slight crack or a minor fracture. I’m talking exploding it into a million gazillion tiny pieces that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men wouldn’t be able to put back together again without the help of the king’s woman.

What the fuck were you thinking? Fucking seriously? You didn’t even talk to me about it and you damn well know that you could’ve done, especially after all the emotional bullshit you dragged out of me. Were you embarrassed? Upset? Pissed off? Angry? Confused? Scared? All those things, probably, considering I’ve been in the position you were many times. And yeah, I know, I never asked for help either. But I never had someone the way that you had me. I would have understood, Samantha, you know that. So why the fuck didn’t you talk to me?

And don’t try to tell me it was accidental. You and I and your sister know that it wasn’t. Sure, I’ve tried to convince myself time and again over the last five years that it was all a big mistake. That you didn’t mean it. That it was just one of those things no-one could have predicted. But that entry, in your journal, the one for your sister…that was a goodbye, Samantha, and there’s only one bloody reason for writing a goodbye under the circumstances you wrote it. And that’s to say goodbye!

You knew you were leaving because you’d planned it. It was suicide, wasn’t it? However much I don’t want to, I already know the answer to that question. Why else have I chosen today of all days to write to you?

With all these fucking f-bombs you probably think I’m angry with you. Well I fucking am. Seriously. I am. You’ve never seen me this angry! Every fucking day for the last four and a half years I’ve been trying to make sense of why you did what you did, why you couldn’t talk to me, or Jess or anyone. Why you felt you had to go through everything all on your own – especially after all that time you spent bitching to me about never seeking help or opening up to anyone. Pot calling the kettle black, maybe? Or just a good ole fashioned dose of do as I say, not as I do.

So yeah, I’m effing fucking angry with you.

But I’m also missing you. Deeply. Absolutely. Unequivocally. Missing you.

I miss the endless conversations and email exchanges. I miss the completely random challenges we set ourselves. I miss the laughter and the tears, the smiles and sore cheeks. I miss you, Samantha, just you.

From the moment we first met in that ramshackle bar in Adelaide. From the moment my hand connected with your posterior. From the moment we lay beneath that tree sheltering each other from the cold. From the moment you messaged me and asked if I was the guy who’d streaked for you. I knew, deep down, that I had someone in my life who understood me completely.

I think – nay, I know – that this was the reason I loved you as completely as I did. Not once, ever, did you judge me. All the mental health shit that was consuming me back then, all the non-existent self-confidence and wishing I would just toddle off and die. You never once criticized me for being weak or wrong or lazy, you just got it. And I’d never really felt that before. I’d never felt anything like it. You weren’t someone who was trying to fix me or control me. You weren’t someone who was trying to mold me into someone you wanted or change me into someone I was never going to be. You listened to me; to my wants, desires, needs and feelings and you just let me be me.

But you did more than that, didn’t you. You knew there were parts of me that I couldn’t understand, which had confused and befuddled me for most of my life, so you chose to help me. You didn’t force it or demand any recompense, you just took time out of your life to help a scared little boy realize that he wasn’t someone to be afraid of, that all the confusion was just another part of me, a part that should be loved and cradled rather than punished or neglected.

And I’m pretty sure I never thanked you for that, until now.

Dammit Samantha, where have you been the last four and a half years? Although, if I were being honest, I’m kinda glad you haven’t been around the last four and a half years because you would hate the ‘man’ I’ve become. So consumed with trauma and pain, heartbreak and isolation, you wouldn’t recognize me anymore. The me that tore your ladybug underwear in a frenzy of excitement? The me that karaoked the hell out of Common People? The me that streaked down that bloody cold shopping mall? I can’t find him anymore. And you’d hate that, wouldn’t you?

That’s what you didn’t have to deal with Samantha; all the pain you left behind. You didn’t see Jess cry her heart out for three straight hours. You didn’t see me tear a room apart in a frenzy of grief and loss. You haven’t had to deal with the emptiness and sorrow that you left behind in the souls of the people who loved you – which were far-flung and many, dearest Samantha.

In spite of the anger I still feel (anger that would probably make you giggle, as it always did) I don’t hate you for what you did. I can’t, no matter how much I want to. I know what it feels like to want to die. I know that the only reason you did it was because of the pain you were feeling. Because of the pain that had consumed you past the point of whatever coping mechanisms you had.

For that’s all suicide is, isn’t it Samantha; suicide is what happens when someone’s pain outweighs their coping mechanisms of dealing with that pain. We’ve both been there, but only I crawled out the other side.

I can’t hate you because I miss you so much and one of the main reasons I miss you, is because I never had the opportunity to thank you for all you did for me.

Until now, in my own version of your bizarrely convoluted yet courageously honest, rambling retort! :p

A few months ago, one of my voices wrote a letter to you. You never got the chance to know her because she was something I was always too scared to talk to you about. I know it wouldn’t have made a difference to you if I heard voices, but I was too scared to talk about them to anyone back then. If you get the chance, you should read it, for she misses you too.

In her letter she talks about some of the things she misses about you; your random way of eating MacMuffins, your gorgeous way of pronouncing Tangerine, your ladybug underwear (oh, your ladybug underwear!)…and you know what, however much she lingered on the pain of your death and the senseless loss of your beautiful life, she’s right. I should be focusing more on all the wonderful things about you rather than getting lost in the pain of your death.

I should spend more time remembering what it was like to be curled up beside you as we watched My Neighbour Totoro or spending hours rambling away over a pint or two in some backstreet dive in Glasgow.

Or thinking of the way you leapt up in fright after sitting on that plastic chair in MacDonalds or how you helped me deal with the pain of abuse more succinctly than anyone else I’ve ever met.

Or perhaps I should be thinking of how you always weaved red into your outfits, of your ongoing love/hate relationship with your curls or the way you tried to lick your nose whenever you were excited.

Perhaps I should be thinking of all that could have been had I had the courage to tell you how I really felt about you, instead of beating myself up for remaining stoically silent throughout our time together.

But you knew that already, didn’t you?

I’m not going to say goodbye, because I know I’m going to write to you again. I don’t care that you may never read these words or that people will think I’m weird for wanting to write to someone who has passed on. Like you made me realize all those years ago; I don’t want to be a prisoner anymore, not to them, not to you and certainly not to myself.

I really did love you Samantha. And I think a part of me always will.

Wherever you are, wherever you may be, I hope you’re causing havoc and being as naughty as ever.

With all my heart,
Addy xoxox

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Further reading:

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Teaser Tuesday (September 10)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along with Teaser Tuesdays! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• Be careful not to include spoilers!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

◊~~~◊~~~◊

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher

ThirteenReasonsWhy

I first read this book in late 2009. At the time, I was both homeless and suicidal. What was left of my life meant nothing, my days were just an endless cycle of pain, survival, dreaming of death, pain, survival, dreaming of death. Fortunately, I was able to fight through my urges and survive to write this post today, but many are not so lucky.

Every year in Australia, suicide claims the lives of over 2000 people; most of whom could have been saved.

This beautifully written book refuses to bow down to the taboo of suicide. It is a book that handles this most painful of topics with compassion, empathy and strength. It is a book that explores the conscious (and sub-conscious) indicators most people who are considering suicide reveal to the world around them; indicators that, should people be more aware of them, could save lives.

This World Suicide Prevention Day, why not choose to read a book that could one day save a life?

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World Suicide Prevention Day: Breaking the silence

In 2000, I discovered that a wonderful human being I’d spent time with in Canada had taken her own life. Even now, twelve years later, I still think of the hole that Rachel left in my heart.

In 2009, I befriended a beautiful soul who had contacted me through this blog. She was searching for hope, someone to help her fight the demons inside her as all her friends had fled. Unfortunately, her pain overwhelmed her and she committed suicide. I’ve never forgiven myself for Stephanie’s death.

In 2010, a homeless man I had acquainted myself with decided to end his isolated, unloved life. He never revealed his hopelessness to me or anyone as he believed no-one cared. He was wrong.

In 2011, an acquaintance in a boarding house I was living in ended his life during a drug induced episode.

Suicide has touched my life far too much. Two members of my family have attempted suicide on multiple occasions, on at least two of these it was only good-timing that enabled them to get the medical intervention needed to save their lives. Close friends have attempted suicide; all good, beautiful, talented people who felt they could no longer deal with this crazy little thing called life.

The first time I considered suicide was during my teenage years. The first time I actively acted on these thoughts was in 2000, a few depression filled months after learning of Rachel’s death. In 2006, my desire to end my meager existence overwhelmed all rational thought. In 2007, I took both an overdose and, a few months later, tried to hang myself following months of loss, pain and abuse.

Since then I have done what I could to seek help before these desires overwhelm me, but that hasn’t prevented at least one attempt a year for the last half a decade; the most recent of these being at the end of last year. All attempts to gain support have failed, leaving me fighting these feelings alone.

Something no-one should ever have to do.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Today is the day I can’t stop thinking of Rachel, Stephanie, Gareth and Malcolm; of the losses that could’ve been and the surprise that I am still here to write these words. There hasn’t been a day gone by that I haven’t mourned the un-necessary loss of these radiant souls. Not a week where I don’t feel the river of tears that coursed my cheeks or the sticky wet blood that stained my arm.

Our society has a tendency to bury suicide with codes and cleverly worded articles. To a degree I understand this need for caution; this need to protect those most vulnerable. But fostering such a shameful silence only encourages people who need help the most to remain silent themselves.

Not once, before any of my attempts did I turn to family or friends first, terrified of the judgmental shame I had convinced myself would follow.

Every day in Australia six people lose their life by suicide. Every year, over 2000 lives are needlessly lost, leaving behind millions of family, friends and loved ones who will never be able to heal their broken hearts.

Forever left wondering what could have been had they known of the pain their loved one was in.

If they had just asked “Hey, are you okay?”

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Today is the day my heart goes out to all who have lost people to suicide. The day where I beg of you to think of those you love and show them you care. To raise awareness of suicide and convince the world it needs to be talked about.

Today is the day I urge you to end the insidious silence surrounding the most preventable cause of death.

My articles:

In memory of Stephanie: Her Grace, My Guilt
In memory of Rachel: Because you never know if today will be your last

World Suicide Prevention Day (conversingwithnovels.wordpress.com)
Suicide prevention a responsibility of all of us (napavalleyregister.com)
WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY – Sept 10th (thedepressedmoose.com)
The Funeral – world suicide prevention day (thedepressedmoose.com)
Creative not destructive – Suicide Prevention Day (radioadelaidebreakfast.wordpress.com)
World Suicide Prevention Day (gempayten.wordpress.com)
A deadly silence that has to end (theage.com.au)

In memory of
Rachel, Stephanie, Gareth and Malcolm

You will never be forgotten


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World Suicide Prevention Day: Stephanie; her grace, my guilt

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Today I am thinking of Stephanie and Rachel. Of Gareth and Malcolm. Of all the people I’ve known whose lives ended before their time. Today I am doing what little I can to break the silence and shatter the stigma over suicide.

~ Stephanie: Her grace, my guilt ~

For Stephanie

Would you mind if I pretended we were somewhere else, doing something we wanted to…

…cause all this living makes me wanna do, is die cause I can’t live with you…

Stephanie was 23 years old. A gifted photographer, raconteur and writer with a knack for seeking out the beautiful in the forgotten, bizarre, banal and sad. Physically, in an ironic twist of fate, she was very much a cross between Kathy and (later) Sa5m, only with flaming red hair and porcelain skin. She made me laugh, a lot, with her jet black temperament and an ability to play with words that I could only dream of. If we’d had the chance to meet face-to-face, I like to think a friendship would have blossomed. But the life that shone brightness into the lives of others was taken by the darkness that suffocated her from within. And it was my fault. I was responsible.

…and you don’t even care…

Steph first contacted me because she didn’t know where else to turn. Her email just said Hey and found your blog and a few other niceties that I hear from time to time; all of which bolster my confidence and make me feel that sharing my life isn’t such a bad thing after all. Then it said I think about death all the time too, that must make me as loony as you, hey? and then signed off with a single thanks only with an x in place of the k and s.

I didn’t write back after reading it. I didn’t spend much time online back then other than the necessary job hunting. My blogging had ended months earlier, overtaken by a cacophony of problems  following the events of Alice, moving back home, trying to rebuild my life and stabilising an unsupported mental health problem. All I did that was leave the Internet cafe after signing off and headed into town.

I spent the night walking through the islands, my favourite spot in Inverness, thinking a pantheon of thoughts. Of my stupidity with Grace, my guilt, of that line, of wombats and shinglebacks and CVs and Vegemite and feather dusters and pizza and Jack Bauer and Kathy and Mae and Diane and pyjamas and promises both kept and broken and jam, who doesn’t think about jam? But always my mind kept coming back to Grace, my guilt and that line. When I eventually returned home in the early hours I curled into bed and when I woke up in a sweat after a particularly disturbing dream knew what I had to do.

…Would you mind if I pretended I was someone else…

There was a reason for putting that word there. The amount of things she could have written are endless: cheese, jam, butts, the Doctor, pancakes, whipped cream, wombats, Battlestar Galactica, voles, badgers, the whole army of small mammals that had invaded my blog posts, sex, undies and a plethora of random things that popped up from time to time. Why death? Why emphasise that word?

I’d known from the fist time I’d read it, I just hadn’t wanted to admit it. I convinced myself I was being paranoid, that I was seeing it everywhere I went. I’d wanted to forget about it. I didn’t need more proof that Kathy had been right all along. I should move on and forget about it. But I couldn’t, not with all the guilt in my heart. Whether I wanted to admit it or not that flashing neon sign had been blinking away for a day – nope, not “LIVE NUDES” but “CLASSIC INDICATOR”. Could I take the chance that I was just reading something into her words that weren’t there?

So after cleaning off from the dream, I headed back into town to use the Internet for the second day straight. It was a response that I kept controlled; thanking her for the kind words, telling her a light-hearted anecdote about getting lost a few weeks earlier and then, without being confrontational, asked if she was okay.

…with courage in love and war…

When her response came a couple of days later it was – excuse the crude metaphor – as if she had vomited her life onto the screen. Far longer than the first, far more emotional, and from the first read through I could sense two things:

1) Like me, she kept everything bottled in.

and

2) How similar she and I, and our experiences, were.

She told me of abuse both emotional and sexual, of being dumped by text message with no explanation, of self harm and depression and trouble getting an official diagnosis. She lamented her lack of friends as most had sided with her ex and the rest had fled out of fear of her “unhappy” mood. Her family didn’t understand why she couldn’t just “cheer up”. She’d lost her uni course because of the illness. She was lost, alone and scared. She told me she’d been researching ways to kill herself when she’d come across my blog.

She’d read every post and page (one of the few who has) and wishes she had the courage and strength I did. She’d written to me out of desperation, fear and that she felt she knew me somehow.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t me any more. That events had changed me. I wasn’t strong or courageous. I was weak, selfish and guilt ridden. I was then, as I am now, as far from the “Addy” who’d written those words as I’d ever been. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the person she believed in was gone.

…I used to think that’s what I was…

Instead I told her how she was brave for admitting her feelings and seeking help. She was courageous; as any abuse and mental health survivor is. I asked her to seek help; urging her to go see a Doctor, a professional, talk to her family and make them understand things were not all okay. Failing that, to call Lifeline and seek assistance there.

I also asked her questions; who she was, what she loved, where she was, talk to me. I wanted to know about her life, about the things that warmed her heart and ignited her soul; to focus on her passions instead of the darkness within her, all the while encouraging her to seek professional help.

This is how I found out that she resembled a red-haired Kathy/Sa5m with a delightfully naughty grin.

This is how I found out about her love of photography and art, and her obvious skill in both areas.

This is how I got to know who she was and what made her tick and smile and laugh and cry and feel all gooey.

…but now this lying hurts too much…

All this from just emails, a few MSNs and the need of two lonely people to feel as if someone cared about us. Two people who seemed so alike, whose experiences had been so similar, who had known agony and loss and the exquisite incomprehensible link between pleasure/pain and life/death. There was a reason we’d found each other, there had to be.

…And I don’t know what for…

So why, I’m sure you’re asking, if you got on so well did you not meet? Well, there’s the rub, the further irony, for she lived in Australia – Sydney to be exact. Whereas at the time I was 15000 miles away in the Highlands of Scotland.

So why, I’m sure you’re asking, if you got on so well, and were so concerned, did you not get help for her? Well, I tried. I only had an email address – she wouldn’t give me her phone or snail mail. Plus, I’m not Willow; blogs, HTML, websites and porn – sure, we can all do that – but hacking? Sorry, my skills and ethical code prevent me from doing this.

I did what little  I could; all I could think to do. I talked, communicated, offered support, all those things that had eaten away over of the guilt of Grace and Rachel. Here, now, with Stephanie, I had a chance to make up for the mistakes of my past. Slowly, I thought I was getting through to her.

And then…nothing.

And then…still nothing.

And then…even more nothing.

I began checking my emails less, threw myself deeper into job hunting and self-harm and Wire in the Blood and had to stop watching during the last scene of “Hole in the Heart” because the silence from Steph was deafening my mind.

I’d hoped she was on holiday.

I’d hoped she was in hospital.

I’d hoped she was happy.

Getting laid.

Getting hugs.

Getting kisses and bum squeezes and tickles.

But she wasn’t.

I found out after nearly three weeks of silence that I’d failed (yet) again; that Stephanie had hung herself.

…How could I be such a fool to think that there was anything that your love could bring to my life to my eyes what I wanna see that I wanted your love to belong to me…

It was my fault. I was responsible. I should have saved her. Through writing a blog she had chanced upon me, me, who she had asked for help, me, who had failed to stop her, me, the failure. Maybe if I’d never written this bloody blog in the first place she would still be alive; snapping photos, cracking smiles and relishing her love in the forgotten, bizarre, banal and sad?

…but I’ll stand if you want me to…

In June, I returned to Australia. The UK wasn’t my home any more, I knew that, I’d always known that. For the first time I flew into Sydney and wondered what it would have been like had Stephanie still been alive; would she have wanted to meet me? I took time to visit her favourite pieces in the National Gallery, moseyed the gardens and saw her reflection everywhere I walked. I took time to sit on a bench she’d loved and anecdoted about. I took time to walk over the bridge at night, stare into the icy depths, and question why I hadn’t succeeded in taking my own life yet.

When I visited her grave I sat for hours, thinking of her, of Rachel and the many souls lost to this despicable scourge.

I hated neither Rachel or Steph for what they’d done; I hate myself for not helping them. I didn’t blame them for being selfish; I blamed myself for not being there for them. They were in pain and I’d let them down.

The world had let them down.

A world where helplines must be paid for, where GPs charge over $60 and medicine and psychologists enter into the realm of extortion.

A world where there’s a blanket ban on ever talking about the dreaded ‘S’ word; where empathy is a swear word, it’s meaning forgotten.

A world where work, status, money, expensive jeans, over priced restaurants, fat cat politicians, alcohol and self – the increasingly omnipresent “me” – take precedence over the raw emotion we all as humans feel.

A world that needs to change, with immediate effect.

…my legs are strong and I’ll move on but honey I’m weak in the knees for you…

~ Coda ~

This year marked the third anniversary of Stephanie’s death. As I do every year to commemorate the day I cracked open a bottle of wine and toasted her life. I thought of the MSN chats we used to have; discussing everything from how shit she thought Sydney was to Conan Doyle to Samboy vs Smiths to her dreams. All the desires that burned away inside her that had become so hard for her to believe in.

As I drank in her honor I asked myself whether all the guilt I’d carried for those three years was warranted?

Shortly after first posting this back in 2009 I had a conversation with my dad. I hadn’t told him of Stephanie or what had happened for, over the years, I’ve learned to bottle up the pain and deal with alone. During that conversation he told me that it wasn’t my fault, that I shouldn’t blame myself for what had happened. If anything, I should be proud of myself for at least trying to do something when her friends had pushed her aside out of fear of her depression.

He told me something I’ve never forgotten; that talking to me during the last weeks of her life may have brought her some of the happiness that she’d been missing. That even though she took her own life, at least there had been some joy in her final weeks on this Earth.

When I sipped on that wine back in May, I was thinking not only of this but of the happiness she’d brought my life during those weeks. It is shallow comfort, to be certain. There is nothing more I would like than to know she is out there somewhere, dazzling Flickr and Facebook with her photographic take on the world, smiling her naughty grin and living the life she deserved.

I will always blame myself for her death. Just as I will always punish myself for not being there for Rachel, or Grace or any of the other people I’ve let down over the years. Whether this is good or bad it’s part of who I am, part of my highly sensitive soul, and there’s nothing anyone can do to alleviate this eternal grief.

Every year thousands of people die needless deaths because of the silence that hangs over suicide. A silence we should all be ashamed of. A silence I refused to be a part of.

For a brief few weeks I brought laughter and warmth to Stephanie’s life. A life that would never have ended had she not been shamed into silence by society’s obsession with cowering away from this issue. I tried to do something, however small.

And every year, when I crack open that bottle of wine, I will drink to this.

And to a unique woman who will never be forgotten.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Today I am thinking of Stephanie and Rachel. Of Gareth and Malcolm. Of all the people I’ve known whose lives ended before their time. Today I am doing what little I can to break the silence and shatter the stigma over suicide.

What are you doing today?

If you are feeling suicidal please contact your local help line (in Australia, Lifeline 13 11 14) or emergency health services. There is always someone who cares and you never have to deal with this alone.

Stay strong, there is always hope in the world.