‘I am additionally struggling day-after-day’: An NFL participant on the lack of his sister

Editor’s word: This story was initially printed on Sept. 19, 2018.

Devastated by the suicide of his older sister earlier this 12 months, 49ers defensive finish Solomon Thomas opens up about his loss — and shares his newfound dedication to preventing America’s psychological well being disaster.

Ella was born in April of 1993, and I used to be born in August of ’95 — and he or she let me know she was my huge sister from day one. She got here into the room after I used to be born and wished me to play along with her, however I used to be sleeping. So she received pissed off and began screaming “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” That was Ella. She was the sunshine of my life from day one.

We have been all the time shut rising up. My dad’s job meant that we moved lots — from Illinois to Australia to Connecticut then lastly to Dallas, the place we went to highschool. Despite the fact that we have been two years aside, she was three grades forward of me in class. She was younger for her grade, and 
I used to be outdated. Later, after I turned a soccer participant who individuals type of knew, she was all the time often called Solomon’s sister. However for the one 12 months we went to highschool collectively, I used to be often called Ella’s little brother. I liked that. That is how I all the time noticed myself anyway — as Ella’s brother.

She was an athlete too, and he or she was sturdy and feisty and tall and exquisite. No one might mess along with her. It all the time appeared like she might conquer something … together with her youthful brother! By third grade, I used to be near 200 kilos, however she might nonetheless get the perfect of me after we would wrestle and roughhouse. There is a saying that it’s important to be slightly imply to play soccer. I am type of a soft-spoken man, so sooner or later after I was at observe at Stanford, my D-line coach requested the place I received my meanness. I finished and thought for a minute, and informed him that, actually, I received beat up too many instances by my sister! I do not know that I would be enjoying soccer with out her. I definitely would not have been taken third within the draft in 2017. She was all the time the inspiration for my toughness.

“I do not know that I would be enjoying soccer with out her,” says Solomon Thomas of his sister Ella. “I definitely would not have been taken third within the draft in 2017.” Courtesy Thomas Household

On the identical time, Ella had the most important coronary heart. She liked everybody. We went to San Francisco on trip as soon as and spent hours wandering round as a result of Ella wished to offer a greenback to each homeless particular person she noticed. She forgave each boy who broke her coronary heart and each good friend who did 
her unsuitable. On the day she took her personal life, a police officer handed me her telephone and informed me that the final texts she despatched earlier than she died have been to 2 pals combating despair. She was making an attempt to assist them.

Ella all the time had nervousness. She was continuously placing stress on herself to do nicely, or perhaps she was making an attempt to impress any individual. Once I was in eighth grade and Ella was in 11th, her greatest good friend’s brother died from a drug overdose. I noticed her undergo it. I watched her grieve and go to a extremely darkish place. It was a turning level for us. After that, she mentioned, “I would like us to benefit from our relationship and be the perfect we might be to one another.” From that day on, we by no means bickered once more.

Her nervousness received actually unhealthy when she went off to school in Arkansas. At first she was doing nice. However by her sophomore 12 months, in 2012, she was struggling in class. She was all the time very good — it was by no means a query of that. She simply began getting unhealthy grades as a result of she did not wish to do the work.

There was additionally an incident that is actually arduous to speak about. I’ve by no means spoken about it, however I am simply going to say it: She was gang-raped, and he or she was by no means the identical. She went to a frat home on campus, and there was alcohol concerned. She tried to inform individuals on the faculty, however they did not do something. Ultimately, she will need to have felt prefer it was her fault. She dropped out and did not inform us why.

Then, virtually back-to-back, a detailed faculty good friend of hers died and two different acquaintances died in a ship crash. Her despair received worse and worse.

Our household could be very shut. The 2 of us used to speak on a regular basis earlier than that. However throughout that interval, we’d ask her, “Why are you so unhappy? What is going on on?” She would not inform us. She did not inform our mom concerning the rape till two years later. She informed me three years later.

In early 2017, a couple of 12 months earlier than she died, we thought issues had circled. She was open with us about her despair. She began seeing a therapist and taking nervousness remedy. She mentioned it helped generally, however she additionally mentioned it was nonetheless arduous. There have been instances we thought she was getting higher. She would appear pleased, and issues can be going nicely with pals and at work. However then out of the blue she would get so unhappy once more. She would attempt to distance herself from household and go on her personal path and be a totally totally different particular person.

She moved residence to Texas final 12 months. Her despair was at its worst at Thanksgiving. She wasn’t having fun with her job. She had moved again in with our mother and father and was upset about it. She stayed in her room lots. Thanksgiving was robust, however we had an exquisite and wonderful Christmas collectively as a household, the 4 of us and my grandmother.

In January, I got here again to Dallas after the season ended to stick with my mother and father and prepare for a bit. Ella was there and we talked day-after-day in her room. About life, about all the pieces.

On Jan. 23, the morning she died, I awoke early to go prepare at the highschool in Southlake. Ella wasn’t residence, however we simply thought she was staying with a good friend and weren’t too involved. 
I got here residence from my exercise round 11, and he or she wasn’t there. My mother texted me asking if I had heard from her. I informed her I hadn’t. My mother stopped texting me round midday. At 1, my dad known as and informed me what occurred. I used to be at residence alone. I collapsed and fell to the bottom, screaming and crying. Ella had a pit bull named Mickey. That second continues to be a blur. The one factor I bear in mind is Mickey licking my tears.

I stored calling my dad, who was in New York, and telling him to fly residence safely. My mother was at Ella’s good friend’s home, the place she died. My dad did not need me to go, however I needed to. I drove over there, hoping and praying it wasn’t true. However after I noticed crimson and blue lights flashing, I knew. I noticed my mother crying and walked over to her. Then we simply hugged and cried and screamed collectively.

Folks ask me what my life is like now that she’s gone. On the one hand, I am grateful for every day 
I get to nonetheless be alive. I am past blessed. I’ve two stunning mother and father; I went to my dream faculty; and now I get to play soccer for a dwelling. I understand how fortunate I’m. However I am additionally struggling day-after-day. Typically life simply sucks and I am going to a darkish place. She was my greatest good friend and my solely sister, and I will not ever get to speak along with her once more. I simply need her again, and there is nothing I can do about it. The times are arduous. The nights are more durable.

The one factor I do know for positive is that if Ella knew how a lot her family members have been struggling proper 
now, she would by no means have taken her personal life. And I do not need her loss of life to be in useless. I wish to assist different individuals who battle like she did and to assist different survivors. So many households are going by this proper now and struggling in silence. Each day is a battle. There’s all the time assist. There’s love. There’s hope. It is arduous to say there’s hope as a result of I will not see my sister once more. However there may be hope.

To households on the market going by this: The perfect factor you are able to do is keep collectively. It is all the time sooner or later at a time. At present you won’t be as wrecked as you have been yesterday, however your mother is likely to be. So pull collectively to help her. The subsequent day, she’s most likely gonna be the one lifting you up. That is the way it goes.

I really feel like somebody out there may be studying this proper now who would not understand how they’re going to have the ability to make it by the remainder of their life with out the one who has simply taken their life. Belief me, I do know that feeling. However I do know it may be executed, as painful as it’s. You’ve got simply gotta preserve preventing day-after-day. And to the people who find themselves combating nervousness and despair, please don’t really feel unhealthy about yourselves. Don’t really feel ashamed. It isn’t your fault. You feel that manner for a purpose. And there may be assist. You won’t discover the proper therapist at first, or the proper remedy, however preserve making an attempt, preserve preventing. Discuss it. Be form to yourselves.

I’ve seen that if you lose somebody to suicide, lots of people do not know what to say to you. It is human nature to ask what occurred if you discover out somebody younger died. However when the reply is that they took their very own life, individuals are inclined to get quiet and alter the topic, out of worry that it is too painful to speak about. I do know these individuals imply nicely, however I would quite speak about it than not speak about it. I am all the time excited about it anyway.

Speaking helps. There’s by no means a proper factor to say, so cease worrying about saying the proper factor.

I fear about my mother and father day-after-day. They’re the 2 most unbelievable individuals I’ve ever met. They present me their love day-after-day, regardless that they are going by the toughest day of their lives time and again. They battle day-after-day to reside for his or her child lady. They’ve this saying that for those who cry it is a good day as a result of it means you let it out.

This summer time I did a stroll for the American Basis for Suicide Prevention, and a couple of,000 individuals confirmed up. A woman who had misplaced 5 siblings and each mother and father to suicide got here as much as me and informed me I used to be being so sturdy. Me? That blew me away. I met a girl whose son took his personal life at age 10. Ten. This has to cease. Suicide is a top-five reason behind loss of life in America for ages 13 to 35, and in keeping with the CDC, charges are rising in each state however one.

We’ve to succeed in individuals at a younger age and convey consciousness to despair and nervousness and take away the stigma. A bit child is likely to be feeling depressed and never even have the language to know what it’s. The worst factor we are able to do is to disregard the warning indicators or encourage children to bottle issues up and never cry or speak about what’s bothering them.

I am making an attempt to determine methods to begin one thing to assist battle this nationwide well being disaster. I wish to go discuss to center colleges, as a result of that appears to be when children begin to really feel overwhelmed emotionally. I wish to inform them that they don’t seem to be bizarre, that feeling unhappy generally is OK, and that in the event that they’re feeling unhealthy numerous the time they need to go discuss to an grownup they belief. And I am going to inform them that if they do not have anybody like that, they’ll come discuss to me.

Dropping yet another particular person to suicide is one too many. Ella would not need that. I wish to reside the remainder of my life in a manner that will make her proud. 
I wish to assist as many individuals as doable.

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