I was in my mid-teens, approaching the end of high school when my uncle died. Somebody found him in his car, parked by the side of a lake, gassed. It was Christmas Eve.
We weren’t particularly close, but I identified with him a lot. I can still see the wrinkle of his lip, still conjure his smell. At the time all I could remember was the last time I saw him, obviously distressed and bleak, as the family drove around town. All I could think about was the selfishness, the pain, the wreckage left behind.
Talking about mental illness is so ridden with stigma. It’s been 20 years, and I’ve barely even spoken about it with the members of my family. I know he’d suffered for a long time — all his life, really. It was known, but it was still, somehow, a mystery. Maybe today I’ll break, maybe today I’ll talk to somebody about it: your post made me realize I owe him that much, at least.