"SOMETIMES PEOPLE HIDE STUFF."
I’ve been doing this blog thing for a few weeks now and have been overwhelmed by the love and support from around the world! You guys and gals really are the best and I’m so grateful that my words are resonating. For me, writing is a form of therapy and just as helpful to my own heart as it seems to be to yours. Lately though, my heart has been aching and today I’m going to share a bit more with you…I hope you’re ok with that.
Last time I shared the story of all the obstacles I faced in order to make it onto my very first red carpet. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to interview so many incredibly talented performers on many of the world’s biggest, flashiest carpets. In just a few days, I’ll be back in Las Vegas hosting the official Billboard Music Awards red carpet again, this year with Erika Jayne of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. She’s amazing and we’re going to have a blast!
I’ve had a good run lately, but like always, the road has been anything but smooth.
Two weeks ago, I presented at The Daytime Emmys. Miss Vivica A. Fox and I handed the award for Outstanding Morning Program to the team from Good Morning America. It was one of the coolest experiences and proudest moments of my career and they even aired part of the clip the next morning on GMA…that was awesome! I always love when people reach out to tell me they just saw me on TV; the support means the world to me. I’ve worked so hard to get opportunities like this one and felt an unexpected sense of comfort on that stage in front of a theater full of so many of my colleagues, many of whom are also personal idols of mine. That was the universe telling me that I belonged…that I was worthy of the moment.
I enjoyed the accomplishment for about 48 hours.
My boyfriend Emile and I spent the day after the Emmys poolside in Palm Springs. We work really hard and decided to give ourselves this single day to relax and put career goals to the side. It’s so important to check in with ourselves from time to time and if you’re in a relationship like I am, it’s also important that your partner knows you’re still engaged and present. We enjoyed the mini vacation, but the next day we headed back to LA and the grind continued.
As we approached the door to our unit, we noticed something odd on our neighbor’s door. A bright blue sticker was sealing the door and some sort of contraption had been placed over the knob, so that it could not be used. I’d just spoken to this neighbor the day before while I greeted my makeup artist and my date for the Emmys. We’d decided to get ready at my place and leave from there. My neighbor spent the morning standing in the doorway and mumbling to himself. I’d seen similar, unnerving behavior from him before. We’d been neighbors for 7 years.
It left my guests and me feeling uncomfortable for both him and for ourselves. As we left for the Emmys, we kindly wished him a good day and headed for the 10th floor elevator. It was the last time I’d ever see him.
The note on our neighbor’s entryway, the one sealing the door, was from the Coroner’s Office. He’d jumped from his living room window the day before, while Emile and I sipped margaritas poolside.
I immediately collapsed on the couch, my face in my hands and tears flowing uncontrollably. How was this possible? Why would he make such a tragic choice? What could I have done to prevent this? Was there anything I could’ve done to show him more kindness in the past 7 years? I was spiraling.
I began to take ownership of this monumentally tragic decision that our neighbor had made. I knew it wasn’t rational, but I’d never experienced something quite like this and the swell of emotions consumed me. The wall between us and the space between our front doors is no more than 8 inches or so in width. 8 inches away this man had struggled alone, for 7 years, in an apartment that is an exact replica of ours, only flipped.
We’d witnessed odd behavior from him over the years, but had never considered that this could happen. How could someone ever make this choice and I’ve asked myself over and over, “Could I have helped this lost soul?”
I pride myself on living authentically and connecting with others, yet I’d failed for 7 years to connect with a man living just inches away. That’s been a tough pill to swallow and the emotions keep hitting me at the most random times. I feel guilty for not doing more, grateful that I was not home to witness his death and fearful of what could’ve been, had he made a different choice and decided to act out in a different way, possibly harming myself or someone I love.
Mental illness is so often overlooked, because the stigma attached tends to make us uncomfortable. I’m not sure if he’d ever been diagnosed, but it’s clear to me that he was not well and unfortunately only saw one way out. That breaks my heart.
My family was in town last week and that helped me to cope. Emile’s mom was here too and prayed for me, which eased my heart immensely, but this week life has gone back to “normal,” except that it hasn’t. I spend most mornings home alone, sitting at my desk and working on my book while Emile is out earning a paycheck. Usually, I love this time alone because it’s my time to be creative and write from the heart. This week, I haven’t been able to focus because our apartment complex has finally begun the process of cleaning out his space.
In my family, when someone passes away, we all come together to reminisce and share stories of our lost loved one. Their possessions are divided up compassionately and given to whomever appreciates them the most. My neighbor apparently didn’t have friends or family, which makes this story all the more tragic.
This week, my mornings have been spent listening to random men tear apart his home and throw his life down the trash chute, about 6 feet from my front door. It’s devastating. I’ve felt anxious all week and on the verge of tears. I’m sitting at a coffee shop right now, hoping and praying that when I get home the process will be complete, even though I know it’ll likely take a few more days. Each time I leave my apartment, I struggle to stay calm and each time I return, I unlock my door with my head down to avoid catching a glimpse of that blue sticker, which is still on his door. This morning I said a prayer and opened my door to head to the coffee shop, only to find a large trash bin blocking my way. It was about 5 feet tall and I had to physically remove this bin, filled with my neighbor’s belongings, just to exit my own home. That hit me hard.
I’m a pretty resilient dude and make the choice to live each day with gratitude and joy. That hasn’t been easy lately, but instead of internalizing it like I may have in the past, I’m sharing. I’m sharing because I need to. I’m sharing because my heart is broken and my soul depends on it. I’m sharing because I never want this to be my story and I never want this to be your story.
I'm sharing, because I wish this weren't my neighbor's story.
I’ve suffered from depression at different stages in my life and there is so much more to this particular story that perhaps I’ll share when I feel ready to, but for now I just want you to know this. Whether you realize it right now or not, YOU are special and YOU are loved. We were each created with a unique purpose…for a unique purpose! If you’re struggling, reach out and talk to someone. If you have no one, find a therapist. If you can’t afford a therapist, call a hotline or find a supportive group online. Holding emotions in benefits no one, so here I am sharing mine in hopes that it might help someone in need do the same.
Unsure of whether or not to actually post this blog, something happened this morning that made it clear to me that I had to. Yet, again, showering and listening to gospel music to try drowning out the sounds coming from my neighbor's apartment were not working this morning, so I packed my bag and headed to a coffee shop to do some writing (which is where I am now). As I approached the elevator down the hall from my apartment, I saw the young man who had been cleaning out the apartment. I'd avoided him up until this point, but now we were standing on the elevator just inches from each other. In the bin, which was being taken down to the dumpster waiting in front of my apartment building, were my neighbor's dress shirts, many still in plastic from the dry cleaners. I realized this must be hard for this young man too, so I looked up and did the only thing I could think of.
"Hey buddy, I know this is some pretty heavy stuff and I'm sure it's not easy, but we all appreciate the work you're doing. Just know that I'm praying for you."
This young man, maybe in his mid twenties, looked up at me with a look that showed me how deeply he appreciated those words.
"Thank you. Sometimes people just hide stuff."
Wow. His words hit me so hard, probably because they were both simple and profound at the same time. They were the sign I was looking for. So, I decided to share this post instead of hiding it, because in doing so, maybe it'll help someone and maybe my neighbor, somehow, somewhere will know that his life is being acknowledged. So, let's acknowledge him and everyone else who has ever met this tragic end by doing our part to be more empathetic, more supportive and more genuine in our interactions with each other.
I want YOUR story to have a beautiful ending many, many years from now and I want the same for myself! Together, let’s honor those who couldn’t find a way to continue living by living each day of OUR lives to the absolute fullest; authentically, compassionately and with a purpose. I love you guys.
Also, if this post or any of my previous blogs resonate and you'd like to hire me to come give one of my SIGNATURE TALKS...CLICK HERE-------> http://www.ajgibsontv.com/one-pager/
If you're interested in working with me 1 on 1 and would like to receive more information about PRIVATE COACHING... CLICK HERE------>http://www.ajgibsontv.com/coaching/
P.S. Below I’ve included a list of resources if you ever feel like doing harm to yourself or others. I promise you that no matter how dark your current situation might seem, there is a way out.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
International Association for Suicide Prevention