An hour or two after posting Monday’s blog I received word that a teammate of mine took his own life. He didn’t race much, and didn’t attend many of the team rides, mostly for budgetary reasons. We went on one ride together, around this time a year ago. We talked for a bit, mostly about steel bikes, my custom one and his old Bridgestone. Other than that our conversation were limited to interactions on the teams email board. Where I wold occasionally give him a hard time about some inappropriate thing he had written. He always followed up my admonitions with an email off the board apologizing about what he said, or explaining why he wasn’t coming on team rides. There was always a hint of self hatred in those emails, which is something I should have picked up on since I know the feeling so well.
Monday I wrote how facing it was difficult, but needed to be done. I still believe that, but now with the remembrance that for some people it seems too much to bear. I know that feeling to. I’ve engaged that feeling multiple times in my life. At the time it seems so easy. A quick end to the near constant pain you feel. What its like to see the knife in your hand not as a way to prepare dinner, but as a way out. I know what its like to step out the door on a trip while planning on not coming home by putting myself in situations I may not come back from. To be a hundred feet off the deck and think about letting go. Two and half years removed, I now see most of my climbing as an attempt to end my life. Whatever I could do to make it look like an accident.
I got lucky and managed to find a way through that. But that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t come up. Now its a thought that passes from time to time. Just a flicker, then gone for months at a time.
It’s lame, and a cliche to say that incidents like this remind us that life is short, that others are facing battles we can’t comprehend.
Justin was making plans the weekend before he died. Plans to tour. Plans to finish school. Plans to race for Portland State’s Road Team. Suddenly those plans weren’t enough to keep him going. I know for many of us cycling is refuge – sport is a refuge, but as I said on Monday it is not enough to sustain us. It never hurts to ask someone how they’re doing. If you think someone is on the edge just ask. It could be enough to get them through whatever it is they are struggling with.
This is Justin doing something he loved. I wish I’d gotten to know this Justin more. I wish I’d had an opportunity to find out about the Justin outside of our shared passion. The one revealed here.