I found out just before the closing party of BlogHer ’16, sitting in a blue chair in a fancy Los Angeles hotel room with my roomie and friend. As she finished getting ready, I scrolled the Facebook. As you do.
It’s never, ever good when you see a friend change their profile photo to that of or with someone else, especially an older photo. It’s even worse when the cover image also changes to feature the person in question. I clicked through, scrolled a little, and found my fears confirmed.
I spent most of the flight home somewhere in between sleep and a weird memory-dream state. I listened to music Biz and I fawned over during our freshman year of college; the unplugged Alanis album, Train’s first album, and Counting Crows’ This Desert Life. Many of my memories find themselves tied to music inside my photographic memory. I can tell you what she was wearing when we stood outside and smoked in front of the English building on a snowy day; I can see her hat, the flips of her hair.
It’s weird to look through photographs of yourself from sixteen years ago.
It’s especially weird to do so after the death by suicide of a college friend.
What happened between then and now? To any of us? To all of us?
Did she know I’d been there, too? Did she read or watch my Voices of the Year piece from 2014? Did she know I’ve been hospitalized since college? Did she know I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder? That sometimes depressive episodes sideswipe me and leave me feeling desperate and alone?
Did she know she wasn’t alone?
Being at BlogHer when I found out made my head feel kind of spinny, still does. That piece I wrote in 2014 was based on the public suicide of a man in my town. At the time, his death felt really triggering. Right now, the loss of my friend does not feel triggering. It just feels overwhelmingly sad. Overwhelmingly, unbearably, awfully sad.
I don’t know if it’s because I rather quickly slid downhill from that point in 2014, landing in the hospital the night I no longer wanted to live; things still feel fresh even though I’m in a good place. Maybe that’s it?
Maybe it’s survivor’s guilt. Maybe because I made it out of the darkness, and this beautiful, loving soul did not. Maybe it’s because I work for a non-profit focused on mental health and any loss feels like I’m somehow personally responsible for the loss; like I should have done more.
I thought about her last week, but I didn’t send a message. That knowledge will sit with me for a long, long time.
Maybe it’s because I feel hopeless and helpless, much like I felt back then. Maybe I just want her to still be here on Earth, writing and loving and breathing along with us all.
I don’t know.
All I know right now is that the world lost a light.
Rest in peace, Elizabeth Jean-Louise Adams. You will be forever missed.
Title from the song “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” from Counting Crows’ This Desert Life album.