This is the story of my friend, Aaron Scott. Aaron was a friend of mine for as long as I’ve known the word “friend.” I remember spending the night at his house watching Conan movies and playing G.I. Joes when we were young. We would have to get up before dawn because he had a paper route. His mother, Angie, always helped get the papers rolled and ready, then she’d drive us around the neighborhood as we ran the papers to customer’s doorsteps. After the papers were delivered, she always made us a real breakfast. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, not cold cereal. I remember they had a small breakfast nook, like a small “booth” at a restaurant. I also remember lots of laughing.
In middle school, we prepared for what we figured “real life” would be like by reading books on how to become ninjas and shooting at each other with BB guns, defending his backyard from the Russians. Between Nikolai Volkoff, Rocky IV and Red Dawn, we were pretty sure the Russians were our biggest concern … till girls.
In high school, we played pool in his basement and Dungeons and Dragons on his screened-in porch. Role-playing games were a big part of our gang’s childhood. I think we all liked the idea of stepping out of our normal lives, where we were still just kids in an adult world. Old enough to have a voice but not old enough for our vote to count. It wasn’t just escapism and excitement that we sought, I think we liked the idea of being heroes. Saving imaginary farmers, that lived in imaginary cities from imaginary dragons with heroes that were reflections of ourselves we learned courage, honor and loyalty. Even though the dragons were made out of paper, those morals stuck. We were stubbornly idealistic, and Aaron in particular could get violently angry about injustice.
This is how I will always remember Aaron, a true friend, a young dreamer and a courageous hero. This is how I will always have to remember Aaron, because I will never get to see my friend again, at least not on this earth. It turns out that Aaron and I didn’t only share many childhood memories, but we both were dealing with the same mental-health issues. We never really talked about it to each other. I regret that with all of my being. My friend took his own life 13 years ago.
I found out when a detective from Arizona called me one morning asking if I knew where Aaron was. Aaron had evidently tried to contact me through an old email address that I hadn’t used in years. He tried to reach out for help and I didn’t hear him. In my head I get that it wasn’t my fault, people change emails, but in my heart I felt like I had let my friend down in the biggest of ways. Maybe I couldn’t have helped him, his family tried to help him for years, but then again…maybe I could have. I still get headaches when I think about it.
I called the detective back every day to see if they had found Aaron or if there was any new information, if there was anyway I could help. Then one day the detective told me that they had found Aaron and I wouldn’t be able to tell my friend goodbye.
My intentions for this article was to share what Aaron meant to me, and I think I have done that, but I had also planned on writing about how mental health can affect not only those that live with it, but everyone else who loves them as well. Then I contacted Angie, Aaron’s mother, just to make sure that it was ok with her that I share Aaron’s story, and the response I got from her was ….enlightening, on a level I couldn’t ever hope to achieve. So I wrote her back to ask if I could use her letters in this blog, and she graciously agreed to share her story of Aaron’s struggles with depression. The following is the unedited (except for one name change) transcript of our conversation.
Ryan: Angie, I can’t express how much it means to me that you support this blog I’m trying to get going. Aaron is a big reason why I feel the need to share my story, I miss my friend, and I am working on writing just what he meant to me, but I wanted to get your blessing first. The last thing I want to do is share someone else’s pain who is not ready to re-live that moment. And I didn’t want to just print the story without giving you … a warning, so that when you do read it, you know what you’re getting into. I love you Angie, from the bottom of my heart.
Angie: Well Ryan. I don’t know what I can take. I know there is a lot I don’t know. I tried to get Aaron help and when he wouldn’t go, I did. I want you to share whatever you want. If I feel it’s too much, I will just stop reading. Then maybe come back and read more later. I feel that I have been visited by Aaron’s energy (Spirit) a few times in dreams. Very lucid dreams. It is comforting. I also feel like I receive clues or truths about the darkness he felt at times. I am at peace regarding his choice. I just miss him so much. Everyday, all day. I am able to function thanks to grief counseling, my wonderful husband, yoga and meditation. I started getting better last year. Took awhile I know. But all we have is time … Anyway, I actually feel myself coming out of the fog. I’m recognizing feelings of joy and happiness occasionally. I would say I’m actually feeling again. Forgot what that was like. Well, don’t want to rattle on too much. You really are an excellent writer. I like your gentle writing style, the easy way you speak about your emotions and thoughts. I always felt you were a very loving and gifted person. Thank you Ryan. I love you too and always will
Ryan: Thank you Angie. I am not sure what all Aaron was dealing with either … I want to share what he meant to me in life and how his choice cemented in me that I can’t go that route. I also think pointing out that mental illness doesn’t just affect those who have it, but everyone else who loves them is an important talking point. Writing this blog has been more freeing than I could have ever imagined, I am very much into meditation as well as martial arts, but I’ve resisted counseling. This may seem like a dumb question from a 40-year-old man, but how did you start? I went to a psychologist a few years back for about 6 months, but I never really trusted him enough to tell him anything beyond the superficial. The drugs they put me on made me feel like I was trapped inside my own body. I would be smiling and laughing but on the inside it was like was thinking “Help! Please, don’t walk away, I’m stuck in here!” I guess I’m just trying to get the courage to try again and could use some support. I love you Angie.
Angie: Well, I don’t know what all was going on either. I knew he had difficulties early on. I was really proud that he walked at 9 months, learned to read at four. It was however puzzling that he didn’t talk till he was 2 1/2. Then he talked in complete sentences. His favorite books were the encyclopedias at 5.
He had social problems in school and it was very hard for him. Miss Namechange was terrible and embarrassed him and another child in front of the class trying to make them fight each other. In 5th grade, his teacher treated him terribly too. I don’t even remember his name. I took him to counseling; well, actually it was family counseling (family problem, right?). But the counselor said sometimes bright children have social problems. In 5th grade, 10 years old, he wanted to kill himself. I stayed by his bed side pleading, begging, wanting to help in any way. The night past, he went again to counseling, but he wasn’t honest. He learned how to play the game. When I say honest, I mean he said that it was just that moment. Nothing was wrong, and he really didn’t mean it. I think that was the beginning of being careful who you expose your thoughts to for Aaron. I don’t know what the counselor said but he never wanted to go back. He called them mind manipulators. I feel bad about that.
Flash forward. In Utah, he had another super down depression. It was terrible for him. I won’t bore you with details, but after I talked to him, we had to get him home. That’s when I began to think it was something. He wouldn’t go back to counseling, so I did. From what I described, the counselor thought he had classic bipolar disease. I told him (Aaron) that, and he said that was probably right but he wasn’t taking any drugs or participating in any counseling. So continuing counseling myself, for Aaron, I learned that you can treat bipolar disorder without drugs, but it takes a specially trained psychologist in bipolar disorder. Talk therapy is what she called it. Nope, not for him.
So what happened happened. I could have called the police. He had told me he might choose suicide by cops. I couldn’t chance that. Maybe I’m an idiot but I respected him too much. I know at 62 that all humans die eventually (unless they turn into Vampires. Just kidding). Aaron chose his time and place. I was/am devastated. I sunk deep into a black pit of nothingness. I lost all feeling of love. That was not something I had skills to overcome. Tears flowed from my eyes day and night. My heart hurt so bad in my chest. I couldn’t smile. I couldn’t answer the phone or go out in public. I didn’t want to get dressed or get a shower. I couldn’t stop the pain. I had to go to my diabetic doctor for a check up. He told me about a counselor in Parkersburg. He said she was not like most. She helped me crawl out of the pit little by little. I would claw up the sides of the pit, and then fall back down. Claw up again only to slip a few feet. Eventually I made it into the sunlight after repeating that for about 10 years. (Slow learner) No, everybody is different, I know, I know. It’s been 13 years now. Hmmmm…. you’re a sly dog, Ryan. Maybe you should be a counselor. Honey, you go to interview the counselor. After all, they are going to be working for you. You don’t like them? Don’t hire them. Keep looking until it feels right. If you don’t want medication, go to a psychologist, they can’t prescribe medication legally. Having someone to talk to that doesn’t judge you and helps you discover the right answer inside you, is so awesome! Like, yeah! Yeah! That’s how it’s supposed to be! When that happens, you know you are ready to go on your own. You got it! You made the connection, you have the tools you need. Sadness still happens (life still happens) shit goes wrong, but you can feel it and let it go. New day, new start, new opportunities, everyday. I love you too. You can always talk to me. My phone number is
By the way, I believe in slipping in and out of dimensions. I believe there are many dimensions all around us. I think it happens to people in extreme physical and emotional stress. Just my opinion.
Ryan: You are my hero.
Thank you Angie Scott for sharing with us. You are an unbelievably strong person. Our souls are light, and with enough perseverance, we can out shine the darkest muck that life throws at us. You inspire me to continue. To keep my head up, grit my teeth and shine the fuck out of this world.