I’ve been wanting to write this since it happened, but it’s been difficult for me to pull my thoughts together until now, even nine months later it’s difficult. I think it’s important to share experiences around mental health and suicide, not least of all because there may be someone who thinks they are alone, or is going through a similar situation and whatever you are going through, where ever you are please know YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
TRIGGER WARNING: If reading about loss, suicide or mental illness is triggering in any way to you, please do not continue.
Remembering Karla Mihok
In July last year myself and a group of friends on Facebook received a very shocking message. A dear friend had committed suicide after taking her youngest daughter’s life. The details are unclear as to why, and the friends and family she left behind were left reeling from the loss.
Personally it was incredibly difficult, more so because I am so far away. You’d think that the distance would help, create a sort of buffer from the reality of it, but no. Not this time.
I met Karla when I was temping at AMERIGROUP on a short 3 month contract. She was holiday when I started, but when she came back she was the one I reported to. When my contract was up I left for one week before returning on another temp contract. I won’t go into just how much working there, with that specific team has impacted my life in numerous and immeasurable ways because that’s not why I’m writing this. But as fate (or rather, the kind-hearted actions of the administrator working there at the time) would have it, I ended up with a permanent role with Karla as my first ever ‘proper’ boss.
Over time Karla became more than just my boss, but my friend, and by the time I left the company to move to the UK she was no longer my boss, but one of my closest friends.
After my move we kept in touch, more consistently than I did with anyone else (this was before Facebook and social media!), via email. It may not have been too often, but we both knew if we were thinking of the other we were just an email away and we were always there for each other. She helped me through the difficulties of moving to a new country, dealing with my own depression and dealing with a (small) loss of my own. She kept me updated on her two beautiful daughters, the eldest of which was only a toddler when I left the US.
I keep talking about how she helped me because that’s just how she was. Karla was as selfless as a person can be, giving everything to her family and friends and when she talked about her own life it was never to complain (at least not to me), but always with a sense of joy.
I had an email from her a few days before her passing. For a long time after I kept thinking that maybe if I had responded, instead of putting it off, she would have still been alive. This isn’t me blaming myself for her death, just wishing and regretting not being there for her when she may have needed me. It’s something I’ll live with forever, alongside the loss that’s felt when I remember she’s gone.
I don’t dwell on that feeling too much, but instead try to focus on her legacy. Each and every person that new her was touched by her light and love in some way and all of us carry that with us and are able to pass that on to others. With that in mind and in Karla and Katharine’s memory I’ll be participating in this year’s Walking Out of the Darkness next month.
It’s taken me nine months to be able to write about Karla. It will only take me a couple of hours to walk the 10 miles in London in a couple of weeks’ time, to help raise awareness for mental illness, work to break down the taboo that surrounds talking about it, and support others who have been affected, like I have, by mental illness. It is only one small thing I can do to help further Karla’s legacy…
And you can help me by donating. I’m raising funds for CLASP, who focus on breaking the stigma surrounding mental health issues and giving support to those affected and/or suffering. We all know someone or have personally been affected by mental illness in some way so can all understand the need to give support to someone when they need it.
If you can, please help me help others.