Please don't go

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Our last conversation was a relatively mundane one. It was Thursday afternoon. He had texted me asking if I was free to film something that night. We decided to push it back. I asked him about a problematic friend of his, who he was beginning to distance himself from. Seven days later, we were at his funeral.

Mike had struggled with addiction, and though he didn’t talk about it much in explicit detail, he never shied away from the subject either. In one of the sketches we shot, he labeled a character’s death as an opioid overdose without skipping a beat. 

He was writing, creating, performing–all of the things you associate with a comedian who is doing well and has his shit together. Now we talk about him in the past tense.

I saw him the week prior to film a couple of sketches and he did seem a little off. Mike always had respect for the work and took it seriously. For this shoot, he showed up late and was visibly frazzled. I didn’t think too much of it and obviously I should have. I wish I had said something instead of just assuming he was fine. I was shocked to hear that 5 days later, he had overdosed on heroine and fentanyl. He has been gone almost a year. I often think about the things he’d be doing if he were still alive. The things we’d be making. I get a little angry and then very sad.

I started writing this yesterday, in the wake of Mac Miller’s overdose and death. I saw the outpouring of love and support on social media. By all accounts, he was an amazingly talented artist, collaborator, and friend. All things I would use to describe my friend Mike.

I stopped writing because I didn’t really have a thesis and maybe I still don’t. But about an hour ago, I received word that one of the best guys I ever met ended his own life last night.

Ryan was so fucking funny. We met in an improv class and I was genuinely excited whenever I would get to do scenes with him. It was a privilege. His comedy was different and it was fun to participate in–an honor to be let into his own world he created. We auditioned for house teams together the following winter and when I asked if he could help me with sound engineering on a project, he said yes, no questions asked.

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In all the time we spent together, I had not even one inkling that he struggled with mental health. This may be something he shared with closer friends but outwardly on a social level, he was a funny, jovial guy who wrote music and did comedy. Anyone who follows him on social media knows that he performed on great shows this summer with his long, shaggy hair and warm smile. 

I used to hear about addiction, depression, suicide–things that used to be so far away. Now it feels like they’re getting closer to me and to everyone. They are taking young lives and devastating communities. You can talk to someone, even really know someone, and be completely oblivious to the pain they are grappling with. Tell your friends you love them and then, even more than that, really love them. Be there. Listen. And make sure they know they aren’t alone.