Another Open Letter

Content Warning: Discussion of suicide and grief




It feels like every morning I wake up and something new has happened to shake me to the core.

Carleton College is a private institution of higher learning. It is deeply flawed in many ways. It is still struggling with a past rooted in racism. It is still working to provide justice to those who have been sexually assaulted on campus. It is still a long way from being an equitable community.

But it is also full of some of the best students, administrators, and professors in the world. I am so grateful to have met some of these beautiful people.

There are some who I never got the chance to meet.

In my junior year, Paxton Harvieux, Michael Goodgame, and James Adams were killed in a car accident. I did not know any of them well, but over the next three years, I came to know them through the people they left behind.

This past year, Zach Mitchell was taken by cancer at the age of twenty-two. I had a few conversations with Zach. One of them I’ll never forget, we were out in the prairie the summer of 2014 and he told me about being diagnosed while studying abroad in New Zealand. I remember being amazed with how open he was and how positive and vibrant he was. I still wish I had something as genuine to give back to him.

This morning, another Carleton student died. I did not know Sid Ramakrishnan. I will never meet him now. I have no doubt that he was a being as human and wonderful as the rest of us. And I have no doubt that this is another wound opened in the already bleeding heart of a community I love.

I have no words to tell you how to feel. No words to tell you what to do with this loss. I only know that I love you. Absolutely and fully. And if there is anything I can do, I will do it. I know that the ways we cope with grief are not always “healthy” or “normal”. And I don’t really care about those labels. I just want you to take care of yourself and to know that you aren’t alone.

I wish I had said it sooner. I wish I could say it more.

You are not alone. You are loved. You are enough.

There are times when the world shrinks. And all you can see is the promise of relief, an escape from the pain and the fear and the shame . But there is a corner, and I promise you, I promise you, you are about to turn it. And the world on the other side is really beautiful, if you can just hold on.

For many months last year, and on and off again through the last six years of my life, I have struggled with depression. Sometimes it is set off by particularly stressful events. Sometimes it just sneaks up on its own.

I have attempted suicide twice and I stopped keeping track of how many times I’ve considered it a long time ago.

It is not something that I control. It is not something that is my fault. It is not something that I need to feel ashamed of. It is my brain releasing different levels of serotonin and dopamine.

If you have also struggled with depression and suicidal ideation know this: it is not your fault. It is not something you need to feel ashamed of. It is your brain releasing different levels of serotonin and dopamine.

That doesn’t make it suck less. It doesn’t make your pain less real, but it isn’t your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve it.

And don’t listen to people who don’t understand. Don’t listen if they describe people with depression as “weird” or “too much”. Don’t listen if they say you’re being needy or that you’re doing it for attention. Don’t listen to those people because they have no idea what they are talking about.

Listen to me.

You are not alone. You are loved. You are enough.

There aren’t any words I can say to bring back the people you have lost. The only thing I have to offer is this thought, it’s weird and out there, but so is life:

If you are thinking of someone, then their memory is triggering neuronal cascades in your brain. These neuronal pathways trigger chemical, that is to say physiological, that is to say physical reactions. That means that when you think about someone, they really are still there with you. They are in your heart beat, they are in your breath, they are with you.

They are always going to be with you.



One thought on “Another Open Letter

  1. Laura, I have read several of your posts this evening. The Open Letter, Vote for Hillary, Bookish, and Happy Bithday, Blog. Wonderful pieces all. Thank you for your sensitivity, compassion and articulation. Happy to be your kin.


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