Blake Pfeil, Operations and Digital Coordinator
Ever since TMI Project announced its upcoming collaboration with the Trevor Project this coming November, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Nick.
I mean, if I’m going to be completely honest, I’ve always thought a lot about Nick. I tell myself, Well, yes, Blake, it’s hard not to think about your ex-boyfriend.
He was your first love.
And he committed suicide this past September.
Obviously you think about him a lot.
More recently, my preparation for TMI Project’s partnership with the Trevor Project has got me thinking about Nick even more. TMI Project and the Trevor Project have put out a national call for submissions to celebrate the Trevor Project’s 20th Anniversary (20 years of monumental, pioneering contributions to the LGBTQIA community). We’re on a quest to find stories from people who have been affected, changed or saved by a call to the Trevor Project Suicide Lifeline in the past 20 years. This November, 8 participants will be given the incredible opportunity to take a TMI Project true storytelling and memoir development workshop in NYC alongside Trevor Project Founder James Lecesne (did I mention he’s an Oscar-winner?) and TMI Project co-founders Eva Tenuto and Julie Novak– which will culminate in a live performance off-Broadway. (And most importantly, for participants chosen from outside of NYC, transportation room and board costs will be covered.)
My role at TMI Project has given me the privilege of doing all sorts of outreach to LGBTQIA organizations across the country. The more I chat with leaders, staff, and board members working tirelessly at community centers, youth shelters, and LGBTQIA foundations across the nation, the more I realize that Nick and I never really talked about his mental health. It was this awkward, unmentionable elephant in the room, this dark cloud constantly loomed over him and filled him with so much anguish and shame. I always worked my hardest to be there for him in those split-second-shift moments where he’d go from sunny to lightning stormy in a matter of seconds– but try as I might, reaching him during those spells was impossible. Of course it was. I was 20 and in no way equipped to deal with the severity of his illness.
Even after we finally broke it off completely, I’d check in on Nick from time to time, through friends, making sure he was okay. Then one day he reached out to me to apologize for all that had happened between us. He knew I was in New York, and I agreed to meet him. We met on the Upper West Side at some pub. We’d both gotten sober. After our meal, during which the apology came and was accepted, we took a walk in Central Park and talked and laughed and dreamed together. It was the perfect day.
Nick, I think about that day a lot. I think about the fact that you never felt like you had someone to go to so you could tell your story. You didn’t know that you had access to tools to beat this thing, this mental illness which claimed you. It makes me really sad, of course. I almost can’t believe it. Sometimes I still hear your laugh. It’s packed away in the suitcase in my head, where I stored everything you gave me, our whole story.
Your story, in all its complexities, the one you never felt like you were allowed to share, is safe with me. And as the summer ends and fall comes and when the 8 brave storytellers take to the stage in NYC on November 5th to share their own personal stories of struggle and triumph, I’ll be thinking of you. I’ll imagine that you’re in the audience next to me, cheering those courageous souls on who, in some way, at least in my mind, stepped forward to share their survival stories, to honor yours.
Click here to learn more about TMI Project’s partnership with The Trevor Project and how you can apply to join us in NYC for a storytelling workshop and performance this fall.