Secure Your Anchor To The Light

It’s insane to think about all that can happen in one year. It’s so amazing to me that you can actually become an entirely new person in just twelve short months. The whole world can transform into a completely different place. Maybe a year ago you were stressing about GPAs and SATs and other ominous acronyms and now you’re sitting back enjoying your summer before you go off to your dream school for the next four years. Maybe you were going through a vicious breakup and swearing you wouldn’t survive and now you’re going on a date with that cute guy you met at the bank (or let’s be real, on Tinder).

A year ago I was smack in the middle of the worst year of my life. Just 8 months earlier I was in a horrible five car pileup in the center lane on 275. My car was totaled. I had nightmares of car crashes for weeks and had to start taking the 2-hour bus ride to and from work. The next month I was missing Christmas with my family and fighting to raise enough money to save my best friend’s life. I was bedridden, calling out of work and drowning in anxiety and fear that I would never get to see my baby again. Then it was January of 2016. I was nursing a broken cat back to life, knowing very well that the doctors said she probably wouldn’t recover, and sitting on $5000 in vet bills. When we finally made it out of the risk period and it looked like she was going to be okay, I went to Walmart to buy her a new collar to celebrate. I was standing in line at the self-checkout with my groceries and Cat’s new present when I got a text.

“I’m so sorry to be the one to tell you this, but Meg’s gone.”

I dropped the eggs. I closed my eyes and took a long breath. I finished scanning my items, called a cab home, and brought my groceries inside. The door hadn’t even closed before I dropped to the floor in agonizing sobs.

The next few months were a blur of razor blades, blackouts and benzos. Nothing prepares you for losing a friend to suicide. I didn’t leave my bed for weeks. I dropped out of school and quit my job. I ignored all my friends and began despising the people I once loved. I ate too many white sticks and blacked out for days at a time. I was the farthest from okay that I have ever been, so deep in the darkness, no speck of light could reach me. I self-destructed.

Around this time last year, the dark storm clouds in my head were starting to fade. I slowly started to come back to the real world. I was nowhere near okay yet; I still had another car crash, mono, a heartbreak and a suicide attempt ahead of me, but I came up for air for a little while. That little break was enough to restore some bit of hope deep inside of me. Something in me anchored onto that light and though I dove back down into the darkness and lost it for a while, I eventually found it again and started to climb. Now here I am, in 2017, alive. I just got home from a job that I love and I’m sitting in the bedroom that I’m in the process of remodeling, texting my (human) best friend and petting my two healthy cats. I have real friends who genuinely care about me and a blade hasn’t touched my skin in months. It’s an entirely new world and I’m an entirely new person. I’m happy.

I know that this has been long, but I hope that you read it and that you see that no matter how dark your life gets, it’s always possible to come back to the light. You might be ready to end your life today, but think about how much can change in a year. A year from now your life will be in a different place than it is today, and don’t you want to stick around to see what that’s going to be like? Don’t you want to give yourself a chance to be happy? I’m living proof that it’s possible. I always say cliches are cliches for a reason, and this is the perfect example: It gets better.

 

 

Dedicated to everyone who lost someone this past year, and to anyone who may be hurting.

The Ongoing War Against Suicide

There are so many things I wish I could tell you. Both from before you left us and from now, as they happen. Things happen all the time and my first thought is “I have to text Meg…” and then I remember. Often, I still do text you, just to make myself feel a little better, but that never works. I’ve been watching old videos and the ones I find myself rewinding over and over are those of your laughter. It was such a beautiful sound. It was something I didn’t cherish enough when you were still here. Each time you laughed represented a time that you were overcoming your battle with depression. Each time you laughed, the depression took to the back burner for a minute and you felt happiness. I took that for granted. We all did.

Anyone that knew you would say that you didn’t let your depression overcome you. We knew it was there, but you didn’t let on to the fact that it overwhelmed your thoughts constantly. You smiled the brightest of smiles, concocted the most ingenious plans, laughed the most contagious laughter. We knew you struggled but we didn’t all know how much of you it really consumed.

But that’s how it always is, isn’t it? Nobody ever sees it coming. Nobody predicts a suicide. Every single day we watch people suffer from depression and none of us are ever concerned that that person might be considering ending their lives. In fact, some people continue to bully these people despite the pain they see them dealing with. Why is that a thing? Why do we put aside our worries of suicide just because one person seems “more depressed” than another? I think we’ve all seen that some people can do a wonderful job of hiding it.

I guess my point is we should always be on high alert. It may seem tedious or unnecessary to check in on people when they make a concerning tweet or Facebook status, but it’s critical. You never know which of those “I can’t do it anymore”s are real. You never know which post will be someone’s last. Tell your friends you love and appreciate them, to the point that it annoys them. Let it be known that you are available to talk for anybody who may need a shoulder to lean on. Keep volunteering and donating and doing the absolute most that you’re capable of, and most importantly keep laughing. Meg may have lost her battle but we are still in this war. Keep fighting so that we won’t lose any more of our friends.

It’s Not Always Us

An essay on mental illness

When things go wrong it’s human nature to look for someone to blame. Often people look for others to blame but for a lot of us with mental illness, it’s more likely that we’d choose the easier victim – ourselves. It makes sense. We’re the one common variable in everything bad that has ever happened to us. We’re the one thing that doesn’t change. Something I hear people say a lot is “I hate myself.” I say it too, often when I’ve done something embarrassing, but for a lot of people and even for me sometimes, it has a deeper meaning. We’re not saying it out of embarrassment but out of pure, true self-loathing. It’s because we blame ourselves for the bad things that have happened to us, and in some cases it’s true. It is our fault. We’re the idiots that got drunk and lost our wallets. We’re the hotheads who got into a fight at the bar and landed an assault charge. We’re the cowards that picked up a needle for the first time.

But it seems we often forget about another common variable, and that is our mental illness. It is never without us and we are never without it. Something so so important is the ability to recognize when it’s coming into play. It’s important to be able to recognize when it is to blame. It’s not always really us having a panic attack over a boy that didn’t text us back, but our anxiety. It’s not always us jumping from one wild decision to the next, but our bipolar. It’s not always us making the decision to pull out a blade or swallow a bottle of pills, but our depression. In order to stay sane, it’s crucial that you learn to recognize this. You’ll drive yourself mad blaming yourself for everything bad that has ever happened in your life. Sometimes it really truly just was not your fault. Your mental illness is never your fault.

I wrote before about how I’d never felt more suicidal than the day after I attempted suicide. A lot of that was due to the regret and embarrassment I felt both from failing but also for ever trying in the first place. I was embarrassed that my friends had to be practically stripped down in order to visit me in the hospital. Mainly though, I felt a bitter, almost cruel sense of guilt. I felt so guilty that my roommate had to drive me to the hospital on her first night back from vacation. I felt so guilty that my best friend was being attacked for not getting to me first. I felt so guilty that everyone had to change their everyday pattern in order to cater to me, the suicidal psychopath sitting in bed next to someone who “really deserved to be there.” What I’ve come to realize about that night is that it wasn’t me who picked up that bottle. It wasn’t me shoving pills down my throat. It was my depression, and it was trying to kill me.

This is not to say we should blame all our faults on our mental illness. As I said, sometimes it really is just our fault! Sometimes we really did mess up and in those times we should accept blame and deal with any repercussions that follow. However, sometimes our mental illness makes decisions for us that are beyond our control, and during those times we should cut ourselves some slack. It’s not our fault that we self-destruct. It’s not our fault that we’re sick.

 

Dedicated to a friend who needs to give herself a break.

Lovesickness and Rice Cakes

I remember being so in love with my disease. I wrote her a million love letters in a little pink diary bookmarked with a red ribbon. I specifically remember one day in late March, standing in line at the snack bar in the school cafeteria, blurting out “I wish I could have the eating disorder without the depression” to my best friend. I don’t remember how she reacted. She probably just laughed it off, but I was serious.

I remember depression always being the devil on my shoulder and the eating disorder being the angel. “Don’t eat” she cooed. You could hardly even tell where her throat had been scratched from her pointy white nails. “No! Eat! Eat yourself to death then punish yourself!” depression boomed. I suppose when you’re caught in between the barrel of two guns, it’s easy to rationalize that one bullet might hurt a little less than than the other. Love causes people to be blind to all the faults of a person. Maybe it does the same with sickness.

When I was younger I’d spend hours online reading blogs and forums where the skinniest girls taught other skinny girls how to get even skinnier. I had hidden food stashes around my room where I stored all the candy my mom gave me on Holidays that I’d sooner die than so much as smell. I hid a little glass scale under my old stuffed animals in my bedroom closet which I only pulled out late at night, once everyone had drifted off to happier worlds. I put my journal inside my textbooks and during class would read and reread the notes I’d taken every day for weeks: Current weight. Highest weight. Lowest weight. Goal weight. Anorexia was my dirty little secret, and I cherished her like a child. I loved finding sneaky ways to drop my weight into conversation and hear the worries and pleas of my friends. I loved the satisfaction of seeing everyone around me grow up while I just got smaller. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels: A common phrase in the world of eating disorders that I truly took to heart.

Throughout the years of my illness I’ve had several people come to me for “advice.” They’d ask me how I did it, knowing very well that I was sick. They’d ask me for tips and tricks to avoid eating around family and friends. They’d ask me my opinion on throwing up, or laxatives, versus simply not eating. They’d ask me how to curb their cravings and how many calories I thought were in the chicken parm and green beans their moms had made for dinner. On my bad days I’d give them the information they were looking for. On my even worse days I’d stay silent, not because I cared for their health but because I didn’t want to give up my secret. I wanted to be the skinniest girl in the world.

What I’d say to those people now is this: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I helped you in your unhealthy quests to lose weight, but I’m even more sorry that you got to a point where you felt that you needed to ask someone who was dying for advice on how to get the illness that was killing them. I’m sorry that you, too, thought you could get the eating disorder without the depression and I’m sorry that I didn’t know enough to stop you. I’m sorry that I loved being sick more than I loved you.

I think, to a certain degree, I’m still in love with my disease. I see the faults and I know that it’s wrong but I still find myself praying to hear her sweet whispers in my ear. I still find myself wondering if the (exactly) 210 calories in those California rolls were worth it. Like really, truly worth it. I find myself begging the universe for the strength to practice again what I once thought was self control. The thing about eating disorders is they don’t exist without the depression. You don’t get the weight loss without the self hatred. You don’t get the body you always wanted without the hair loss, the mood swings, the lack of focus, the organ damage… You don’t get to just get skinny and have your world turn back into sunshine. Mental illness doesn’t just turn off when you’re done with it. Once you’ve accepted a life of sickness, there’s no turning back.

Please, eat.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week takes place between February 26 – March 4 in 2017.

Take action against eating disorders

Take the first step to recovery with this free online screening tool

Find a support group in your area

Toolkits for parents, educators, and coaches/athletic trainers

Information for parents, family, and friends

Information for those in recovery

NEDA Instant Message Helpline

NEDA Telephone Helpline: (800) 931-2237

NEDA Crisis Text Helpline: text “NEDA” to 741741

Quick Visit to Hell and Back

(Huge Trigger Warning)

On November 29th, 2016, I drank a little too much after weeks of darkness and swallowed all of my mood stabilizers – That’s what they give you when you’re so crazy you sometimes forget your own name. I don’t remember that night very well. All the events are out of order and jumbled. I don’t know if that’s from the pills or the wine or if I dissociated again. I’m swallowing all my pills with a glass of wine. I’m on the phone with my roommate. I called her? She called me? I’m falling asleep in the car; My roommate yells at me to stay awake. Everything is spinning and my eyes are tired. Some girl has my phone. She’s texting my best friend? She’s texting my mom? My roommate has my phone. Where is my purse? My roommate offers me a Xanax; her friend yells at her because “more pills? Are you sure that’s a good idea?” The nurse tells me to drink up. My mouth is filled with a chalky, thick, black liquid. I wake up in a chair. Nausea overwhelms me. I throw up all the darkness. They tell me I have a phone call… It’s already 7 AM? They offer me breakfast, and I give my bacon to the woman next to me. She’s crying. I’m watching Law & Order on the small TV behind the glass. I remember thinking, is it a good idea to be playing a show about murder and rape in a psych ward? Is this even a psych ward? Where am I? I wonder if the nurses know that this show always makes me feel sick. Finally the bus with the metal bars pulls up and I’m brought out in a wheelchair. I remember it felt like I was in a prison van, on my way to a life of orange jumpsuits. I remember thinking I was being punished.

I hoped, foolishly, that that would be the end of the story, the end of my misery. I was wrong. Instead of choking on my own vomit peacefully in my bed, I was stripped of all my belongings and thrown into a bedroom beside a nineteen year old girl who had kicked a pregnant woman in the stomach. She had a gash in her forehead from where she’d banged her own head into a brick wall. I use the term “bedroom” lightly because it was more like a cell. The beds were made of wood bolted to the floor and a plastic mattress about two and a half inches thick. There were no windows and the lights were dull. The bathrooms had to be unlocked by an attendant so I wouldn’t drown myself in the toilet, which was honestly starting to sound appealing. I wasn’t allowed to have a pencil, so I wrote in the journal provided by the guards in purple crayon. I had to be careful not to write that I wanted to die because the nurses checked. In fact, they checked every hour, slamming doors behind them as they traveled from room to room to make sure no one had strangled themselves with a piece of string. But that would be absurd, we weren’t allowed string.

Never in my life had I been more suicidal than the day after I attempted suicide. Hospitals are meant to be places where you feel safe, where you heal. This place was a black hole filled with the most unsettling demons allowed to walk the Earth. Patients wandered the hall in their hospital gowns, scratching away at their skin and trying to rip the monsters out of their throats. At night, the walls were filled with soul-shattering screams and the hauntings of hourly check-ins. I faded in and out of sleep under a magic spell they called Remeron. Mornings were filled with dry eggs eaten with sporks and apple juice in a plastic bowl. The days were long. I’d never lived in a place where the days were so long. I spent three whole days in that freezing Hell they called a hospital. (They wouldn’t allow sweatshirts because zippers are evil and hoods suffocate). Aside from my homicidal roommate, I was the youngest in the unit, and apparently the only one who didn’t enjoy watching informercials for twelve straight hours. So I sat. For seventy-two hours I sat and stared at the ceiling, thinking never again would I attempt suicide and fail.

That was the root of the problem, the focus on the fact I’d failed rather than the fact I’d tried to kill myself. I thought that going inpatient would mean group therapies, counseling, medication… Instead I was locked away from society and left to rot. In three days I saw a doctor only once, for about fifteen minutes, just for him to give me a diagnosis I’d already been given years ago. It wasn’t until the second day that I was given access to the medication I’d already been prescribed, and there was never even so much as a mention of therapy. That place made me feel worse than I had when I’d decided to take the pills. So I lied. I told them it was an accident. I told them I’d just had a bit too much to drink, and that I promise I’ll watch my drinking! I lied through my teeth and was released back into the real world on the third day.

I would love to tell you where I was and expose them for the truly wretched place they are, but I can’t. I was never even so much as given the name of the hospital. I’m sure if I dug through the stack of paperwork I was left with I could find it, but I left all of that with my charcoal-covered hospital gown in a dumpster a few miles from my apartment. Kids die every day. More kids end up in hospitals from wanting to die every day. I know not every hospital is like this, but enough are, and that’s a huge part of the problem. I was lucky to have an incredible support system after leaving that prison, but not everyone is. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there’s no accurate number for how many people are institutionalized for suicide attempts, but in 2015, 494,169 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm. That’s almost 500,000 people that could have been helped, yet there are still on average 121 suicides per day, and for every suicide it’s assumed that there are twenty-five attempts. That makes over a million suicide attempts per year. Over a million people that need help, and if any of them experience hospital visits like mine then they sure as Hell aren’t getting it. It’s hard for us as individual people to go up against numbers like that, but that’s exactly why we all need to. It can be something like volunteering, donating money for prevention research, or even something as simple as just being there for people. Just be kind, be open, and be here. It’s not that hard.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

 

Inspired by a piece written by a beautiful friend about her time in an institution and dedicated to those we’ve lost in the last year. Rest in peace.

The Illusion of Community

This isn’t a nice post, and it’s not about those who we’ve already lost. It’s about why we’ve lost them and how to keep from losing more. Thank you to the many people who helped me write this for your support and your points/opinions, many of which I pulled from. I hope those of you who do read this, understand where it comes from and why it needed to be said. Nothing can be done about those we’ve lost, but we can prevent losing more.

*UPDATE: I posted this on Facebook but for those of you that are finding this through another means, I’ll comment here, too. I’d like to make something as clear as I possibly can right now: This post was not written as a hate piece against Acton-Boxborough or to bash any particular group of people, including the teachers and counseling staff of AB. I was trying very hard NOT to refer to any specific situations and keep it as general as I could. I recognize that I didn’t do the best job at making that clear in the piece, but I’m a 20 year old college student venting on the internet… I can’t be expected to have the accuracy of the New York Times and the wonderful thing about wordpress is it always lets me go back and edit!!! I never expected anyone other than my friends to even read it let alone for it to blow up the way that it did, but I wanted to thank everyone who read it and messaged me today, and also apologize to anyone who may have misread the post or my intentions. There are quite a few people at AB that I love dearly, and I hope they know who they are (apart from those that I’ve already spoken with today). The fact that SO many people connected with this piece and told me that it was exactly how they felt is a huge sign that something is wrong. I hope you can all see this piece as a whole instead of just the little pieces of it that you may not like or agree with.

Probably most importantly: I cannot stress enough how much this is about loss as a WHOLE and not any specific person. I know with the timing, it may seem like it is about the two most recent losses in particular, but it is not in any way about those people or their experiences, as I do not know their situations and would never make assumptions. This was written through my own eyes about my own experiences and those of my friends.

(Before getting started, I urge you to take a look at this post, which is the one I originally wrote two nights ago about AB’s most recent losses. This post is not about those people, but is written through my own eyes about my own experiences and those of my friends.)

 

I know you’re not supposed to try to place blame in times of loss, it isn’t my first time around ya know.. I don’t think anyone should blame themselves and it isn’t any one individual or group of individuals’ fault, but all of ours. Acton-Boxborough has failed as a community and whether you played a role in that or not, that’s for you to decide. I’m not writing this to call anyone out, but to point out how wronged we have all been by the place that is supposed to be our home. I’m sure I’ve already got some people mad, especially those of you posting about how it’s such a beautiful community and how you’re so thankful to be apart of it, but bear with me because I do have a point to this.

First I’d like to point out that I literally just said “it isn’t my first time around.” I graduated less than three years ago and in that time alone have seen at least eight people in our community die, most of which being just in the past year and not including the (at least) three I saw during my time in high school. These people were my closest friends, my classmates, people I didn’t like and people I never knew, members of what you would call my “community.” In most of these cases, if not all, the cause of these deaths were either some form of overdose or suicide. I know right now I’m just relaying information most of you probably already know but it’s important to remember this. All these people in the same community, most just in the past few months, and all for the same reasons.

Second I’d like to backtrack to those people who are posting about how beautiful of a community Acton is and how it shaped us into who we are and how we should all be so thankful to live in a place that is so warm and welcoming. I will say this: you’re right about one thing. It did shape us into who we are. Unfortunately for a lot of us, instead of shaping us into college-level sports playing superstars it shaped us into suicidal balls of self-hatred who turn to drugs or other forms of self-destruction to cope with how we didn’t turn out as great as the rest of you. Because that is what Acton does to you. It drills into your head that if you’re not academically inclined or some kind of jock, you’re not as important. You’re not as good. You’re not as worthy. We all had different high school experiences, obviously, but if you don’t remember the immense pressure everyone felt junior and senior year to get into a great college and do better on your SATs than the kid who was mean to you in chemistry because you didn’t understand a question, or the girls crying in history class because they got less than a 95% on an exam, or the people that would literally drink during school because they’d just given up so long ago, then you’re lying. Do you remember being called a fat slut every day in junior high and growing up into an anorexic whore? Probably not, but do you remember the girl who did? Probably not, either. I bet you would if she died. Maybe that wasn’t fair. But do you remember going to your counselor and asking for help because your parents wouldn’t listen, and all they would do was call your parents? Do you remember detentions for getting into screaming matches in one of the common areas with someone who did something awful to you? Do you remember the whole main lobby being blocked off frequently and all the ambulances and all the hospitals and all the people who wanted to die? Do you at least remember seeing or hearing about any of this? Probably not.

I’ve said before, it is beautiful how the members of AB come together in times of loss. It’s always nice to see everyone’s kind words, and it’s clear that most of the sadness is genuine. What I can’t understand, though, is where you all were when these people were alive? Why didn’t you have any kind words then? In one case in particular I know no one had heard from or about this person in years, but you all had plenty to say about how great he was once the chance to make a Facebook status popped up. I know most of you people. I know most of you don’t mean it in the way I’m making it sound. I know most of you genuinely care and are deeply saddened by this constant news of death, but that doesn’t change the fact that no one appreciated these people until they were gone. If AB is such a beautiful and warm community, its members should feel welcomed and appreciated while they’re alive. Its members shouldn’t feel like they need to turn to drugs or suicide to feel better. If we had such a strong community, we wouldn’t have lost six members in the last year.

Acton-Boxborough does an excellent job at raising students, but not necessarily humans. It’s great at staying at the top academically but has no problem letting a few kids slip through the cracks. Have any of you noticed, since leaving AB, that other high schools and colleges make it a point to reach out to their students in times of tragedy? All those communities make counseling readily available, while AB stays silent apart from the occasional email to the parents or maybe a Facebook group. Teachers in some schools in the district were specifically instructed not to mention any of the losses from the past few weeks. Kids still in high school have told me that they haven’t had a single teacher say a word about any of it. How are you expected to go into school the next morning after finding out one of your friends killed himself or overdosed on Heroin, and then have everyone act as if nothing happened? How are you supposed to just act like nothing happened? Lucky for you, AB is great at teaching you to shove it all under the rug and keep up with your studies.

I know it’s scary, and parents don’t want to think of their kids as being depressed, and the school has other concerns, too. I know that it’s not a fun topic to discuss and it is different for everyone, but it’s such an easy thing to prevent. It’s so easy to teach people to love themselves if you start right away, if you start in what’s supposed to be their “home.” Obviously not everyone is going to be happy and love themselves, but significantly more people would. High school and college are supposed to be the greatest times of our lives, and there are people who aren’t even living long enough to find out if that’s true. Those of us who are still living are just going day by day and waiting for a text message to see who’s going to be next. People are really scared right now. It’s such a small town and we’ve lost so much, and it seems we only have each other to rely on and most of us don’t even like each other very much. It shouldn’t be that way. Our school and our community should be there as means of support, especially in times like this. Our school and our community should be actively working towards a solution and prevention rather than just brushing it off and moving on with the school year. Finally, I’ll end this incredibly long post filled with run-on sentences and rants and nonsense with this: Those of you who felt at home at AB, I am happy for you. I’m thankful that you’re one less person that feels like these people who have died did, like most of the people I know do. But please remember, a large portion of what you call your community does not feel a part of that community. A large portion of the people you know feel alone, and helpless, and cannot call that place their home. We can’t end depression or suicide, but we certainly can’t do it by ourselves, and Facebook statuses don’t help anyone after they’ve already died. We don’t need to lose anyone else.

A Promise to Those Suffering a Loss This Morning

I’m not going to pretend I knew him at all. In fact, I’d only met Alex maybe a few times at a friend’s house years ago, and honestly had to be reminded of that. But I know we had a lot of mutual friends and I’m seeing a lot of people hurting, both that I care a lot about and that I don’t even know. So I wrote this for those people, and I hope that in some way it helps. I also want you all to know that I’m here if you need to talk, or vent, or honestly just cry. I work from home so Facebook or cell phone is always a great way to contact me and I’m usually able to respond pretty quickly. My heart goes out to all of you, and to Alex and his family. Rest easy .

(This also goes out to the other members of AB who are suffering losses, as well. I don’t know that person, her family, friends, or much about what happened so I don’t want to tag or mention her or her loss but I hope someone sees it and passes it along to someone in that situation that might benefit)

*UPDATE, ONE WEEK LATER: I Heard some people in Acton might need something like this today. Heartbreaking to hear of yet another loss in our community, but I wish I’d heard sooner so I could have shared sooner and reached out to my little friends still in high school and struggling with it, and to the family members, some of which I used to know well. I don’t know anything about anything (and please don’t ask) but I love you all and I hope this, or maybe something else I’ve written, will help. Here if anyone needs anything. Let’s hope these are the last, and remember that it doesn’t stay bad forever. <3
(It devastated me to have to edit this post just now and change it to plural with the news of a second loss. Please don't let people forget how much they mean to you. Don't stop telling everyone you love that you love them every single time you talk. You don't want to realize how important it is after it's too late.)

So many in the Acton-Boxborough community are hurting right now after all our losses yesterday. I’ve had several people, both friends and strangers, come to me with the question, “How do you deal with death?” and it’s a difficult one to answer. Everyone feels things differently, everyone had different relationships with the person lost, and all pain is different. I suppose my answer to all of you for now is: you don’t. You don’t just “deal” with death. It is a concept beyond any of our understandings and something that takes a LOT of time to come to terms with. We lost Meg almost eight months ago and I’ve still yet to fully come to terms with it. Hell, it’s been two and a half years and there are still nights I find myself missing Noah. Don’t try to “deal” with death and just focus on yourself and getting through it, because I promise you that you will.

What I will tell you (and have already for some) is this: don’t try and hold it in. Don’t bury it deep down and tell everyone you’re okay. From the moment I got home after receiving the text about Meg until the moment I was driven to the airport for her funeral, I did not leave my bed once. I left school and laid in bed, constantly scrolling through Facebook reading everyone’s posts, searching for answers, ignoring all the condolence texts, not eating, and switching between full blown panic attacks and swallowing pills to keep me asleep for entire days. I did this for a full week.

I’m not saying you should do that, we all know I don’t exactly handle things in the healthiest of ways, but what I am trying to say is you don’t have to just carry on pretending like it didn’t happen. Stop trying to hide it and give yourself time to be sad. Stop searching for answers and let the ones that do exist come to you, because in some cases there may not be any. Stop trying to understand. Just collapse onto the floor or your bed and smash the furniture around your bedroom and scream at the top of your lungs and curse the universe or God or whatever you believe in and cry and cry and cry. Let yourself be miserable for as long as you need because no one in this world is expecting you to be happy. Take time off of work or school if you need to (most people will understand and if they don’t, screw them, find a better job or professor). Do whatever you need to do to get it out and let yourself feel all that pain, no matter how unbearable and impossible it may seem now. Let yourself feel the hurt and confusion and emptiness for as long as you need to and then once you have, you’ll see that you survived. One of the worst things you’ll probably (hopefully) ever have to face, and you survived it, though there may have been points you didn’t think you would. You survived, and that means you can survive the rest of it, too.

Those of you who have read my other posts know that I’m nothing close to being over losing Meg. As I said, the only thing I know for sure is that it takes a lot of time. There are still days, eight months later, that I find myself unable to leave my bed or having to leave a party because a song came on that reminded me of her. There are nights I find myself sleeping in her sweatshirt, with a photo of us beside me on the pillow. I still talk to her, every single day. Every sign I think I see from her, I thank her. Every beautiful sunset I drive by I say “there’s Meg!” I still text her phone when I need to talk, knowing I won’t get a response but imagining that she’s still receiving it somehow. And Noah, too. He died exactly two and a half years ago last Wednesday and I still think of him as I drive by the Grapevine or I see a bottle of Ten High. And clearly, I can still tell you exactly how long it’s been, to the day. His number is still in my contacts and if someone hadn’t texted back one day, I’d still be texting him when I needed to, too. I still flinch every time I hear the word “heroin” and I’m still deeply affected by the stories of similar situations to his. But I am surviving. It’s getting easier to drive through Acton and see all the places we used to go. It’s getting easier to live. I’m reapplying to schools and found a full-time job and finally started going out with friends again after all these months. I’m moving forward, and you will too.

I’ve said it a hundred times but I’d say it a hundred more if it wouldn’t bore you all out of reading this (assuming you’ve even made it this far), but this is going to take TIME. It’s going to hurt, really fucking bad for what feels like forever, but it isn’t going to be forever. One day you’re going to wake up and without even realizing it, you’ll wonder what to have for breakfast instead of instantly thinking of your loss and sadness. One day you’ll drive by the old parking lot you used to hang out in and think of your friend but you won’t need to pull over to cry. That hole in your life which that person used to fill will always be there. You’ll never forget them or stop thinking about them altogether, but someday it’ll stop hurting to hear their name. The secret is, rather than trying to fill it or avoid it, learning to live with it.

All pain is different and everyone goes through the mourning process in their own way. My story and situation differs from all of yours and the way you deal with it will be different than I did. I can’t promise you, and wouldn’t even try to, that this is solid, professional advice and that reading this dumb article will make you all better. I can’t even promise that anything I’ve said will help you. I can only hope that it does. You’re still going to be sad, but I hope I’ve gotten the point across that the devastation you feel now will not last forever. I’m not going to say that there will never again be times that it hurts, or that you’ll ever stop missing that person, and I haven’t lived long enough to even know the answer to that question, but I am going to promise you that it will get easier. It will get easier and it will get better and you will be okay. It’s going to feel impossible, and it will be hard for a long time, but I promise that you are going to survive it. I promise you’re going to be okay, and although I can’t promise this one, I do firmly believe that your friend will be right there beside you helping you all the way through it.