Today is my brothers birthday. Dennis Edward Smith would've been 45 today. A small milestone that we surely would've given him shit for, no doubt. He died when he was 29 years old in a car accident in Tucson Arizona. Many years have passed and I still remember it all like it was yesterday. Every little single, stinging detail of that day. The thing that stands out to me today was how I felt that morning when I was getting ready for work at 6am when I still didn't know. We had been together the night before at a BBQ celebrating that end of a fantastic semester that both he and I had at school. He left the BBQ around 7:30ish to go and pick up a couple friends and bring them back to the house. That was the last we saw of him. At 10:00pm I left to go home because I had to work in the morning. I woke up the next morning and while I was getting ready for work and blow drying my hair I remember thinking to myself..."if something happened to him, I'll be okay. It will be hard, but I'll be okay." About 15 minutes later my best friend knocked on my door to deliver the news. I forgot all about telling myself that I'd be okay. I wasn't okay. Nothing was okay. My world just shattered into a million different tiny pieces that would never be put back together again. The rest of that day and the days that followed were not unlike anyone else dealing with a tragic and sudden loss. For me, I couldn't pick myself up and move on. I didn't have friends around me that told me it was perfectly okay to grieve as long as I needed to. I had people around me that questioned why, 3 months out, I wasn't "over" it yet. I worked in a shitty industry and with a lot of shitty people. Not everyone was shitty but many of them were. I found that I couldn't produce at work, and I didn't care that I wasn't producing. I found that I just couldn't do a lot of things. About 6 months of this went on and I then asked for help. I was literally living under a black cloud, I knew it, moreover, I knew I didn't want to be there anymore. I just didn't know how to move on. I had no idea how to move on in a world without my brother Dennis. I went to my primary care physician and explained the issue, but she knew. I was prescribed my first antidepressant. It took a little trial and error with the meds until I finally got to the right one that began to work for me. And it did begin to work for me. That black cloud I was under was starting to lift a bit. I still missed my brother in an inexplicable way but I no longer felt like I was stuck. I felt like I could start dealing with my grief for the first time. Folks, medication saved me. And I have been medicated ever since then. I have gone through various medications to make sure I am on whats best for me. I have been an advocate for antidepressants for many years now. I know what they did for me and what they have done for countless others. Unfortunately, there is still a crappy social stigma that goes along with antidepressants and there shouldn't be. I wish more people would share their stories openly because you never know who you may influence and help. Perhaps that morning I found out about my brothers death...when I told myself I'd be okay...it was looking way beyond into the future. When I would be okay. I am still medicated and I still have bad moments of depression and anxiety, but I am being treated and am much better than where I was years ago. I am okay. Tonight Mom and I are going out to dinner to celebrate Dennis's birthday, as his life should be celebrated and recognized. Dad is still in Florida so he cannot join us. I would like to think that Dennis would be right along side of us with a glass of something....toasting his life with us!
I miss you terribly Dennis, that will never change. Days like today are a reminder of how much we love you and how much we miss you. As is every year, we'll have dessert with a candle in it just for you. This last picture is the last picture of you ever taken. You were on top of Sandia Mountain here in Albuquerque, the only visit you ever made here. It is a perfect recognition of who you were here....on top of the world!
Dennis Edward Smith
10-22-69 - 5-25-99