If you’re reading this, always trust in yourself and in the process.
The thought of writing this letter dawned on me when I heard one of my closest friends had started going to CAPS. I could only imagine how strong a person must be to admit to themselves that they need help. Through everything I have been through, I have never had the guts to admit to myself and to anyone else that I have needed help. Looking back, I wish I had.
My story starts on April 10, 2014, the day I watched my dad pass away in the hospital. There I was, sitting in the wheelchair I had pushed him around in for the last four months as he fought his fight against cancer. I sat there utterly stunned and hopeless as my entire family cried over his body. I was completely lost in my thoughts. I was unable to comprehend the unbearable truth that my biggest advocate was gone; the truth that I was never going to be able to look my dad in the eyes again and to tell him that I love him. Thankfully, the four people I will always consider my best friends, A.A., J.L., C.K. and J.M., each sent me a text message saying that even though my dad was physically gone, he will always be with me in my thoughts and through my actions. I took that to heart. The greatest lesson my dad ever taught me was that life is a process. There are going to be times when life hits you hard, when you feel absolutely miserable, and when you fail again and again. But those are the times that will define who you are.
Fast forward to two year later, on May 17, 2016. I came home from beach week to an odd feeling in my house. It felt empty. The last month had been hard on my mom as her father and one of her oldest friends died within weeks of each other. I went to my brother to ask him what was up. I asked where our mom and sister were. He said he couldn’t say. I kept prodding and eventually he caved and told me. My sister had tried to hang herself and she had been admitted to a mental hospital. That night I was more lost than I had ever been. The last two years I had been so focused on making sure that I was doing okay that not once did I make sure my sister was doing okay. I thought I had failed my dad. But then I realized something. Unlike my dad, my sister was still alive. I could still be there for her. I could still look her in her eyes and tell her that I love her and that everything will be okay. I still had the chance to be the big brother my dad would’ve wanted me to be.
It has been about a year and a half since that day and I can firmly say that my sister is doing really well. She’s in so many activities at her school and every time I talk to her on the phone she has so much to talk about. Looking back at all the pain that accompanied my father’s death and my sister’s attempted suicide, I am very appreciative. It may not be easy for me to admit, proven by the fact that I have only ever told 3 people in person at UVA that my dad is dead, but I am who I am because of those experiences, and I will always keep those experiences with me as life moves on.
Sometimes the process of life may suck. Sometimes you will feel pain and sadness that you cannot control. I am going to be completely honest. The last three to four weeks I really haven’t felt like myself. I attribute this reason to a missed opportunity that I will not go into detail about. So what did I do? I took control of what I could. I started running every night. I cleaned up my diet. I studied harder and reached out to my friends. You cannot control how you feel but you can control the mindset with which you tackle every day. And you know what? I feel like myself again. I feel rejuvenated. I’m back. I stayed resilient. I stayed tough and I always trusted in myself and in the process. Hopefully y’all reading this can too.
Patrick C., University of Virginia ‘20