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.

What I’ve Learned Since You’ve Been Gone

It’s been a year since you’ve been gone. Actually it’s been a year, three months and a day since you’ve been gone. It’s weird that I’ve been on this Earth without you for this long. There’s so many things I’ve wanted to tell you. When the boy I liked broke my heart I needed to hear your comforting words assuring me that I was better off without him. When a “friend” monumentally screwed me over I knew you’d be here hating her with me and listening to me vent. I saw today they took our show off of Netflix, and I knew you’d be as furious as I was, but I couldn’t text you about it.

One year, three months and a day is a long time to think. I still think about you and how sad I am that you’re gone, but I also think about me and how much I have grown. Losing you forced me to grow up a bit faster than I’d planned. It forced me to think about things in ways I’d never considered before. Suddenly all the lessons you’d been brought into my life to teach me made sense, and I knew that I had to do right by you. I had to become the person that you’d always wanted me to be.

Since losing you, your lessons have really sunk into my brain. I’ve learned that friends should always come first, and no boy can ever change that. I’ve learned that the most important people in your life are the ones who want the best for you, and to always be available to those people when they need you. I’ve learned that true friends won’t let anything come between them (no matter how cute he is!!)

I didn’t always do right by you. I chose boys over our friendship more than once, which led to fights and led to me barely seeing you the last summer we had together. I will always regret that, but I refuse to allow that to dictate my future. I refuse to ever be that person again. It’s too late for me to make it up to you, but you always gave me the chance to rectify my mistakes. I didn’t while you were still here, but since losing you I’ve been working to do just that. I haven’t always done right by you, and I know nothing will make up for that, but I promise to never do anything like that to anybody ever again. I promise to be the friend you wanted me to be, the friend you deserved.

One year, three months and a day is a long time to think, and all I can think about is being a better person for you. I am becoming a better person for you. Thank you for coming into my life when you did and thank you for guiding me to become the friend I always should have been. It took a while, but I’m making progress, and I can only hope that you’re proud.

Love you forever, Meg.

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.

From the Friend of an Addict

Two weeks after my eighteenth birthday I received a call at work. An old friend, in hysterics. I could barely make out what she was trying to tell me, but I did hear one thing clear as day.

Noah’s dead.

I hung up the phone and, in shock, went back to work. I didn’t feel it right away, and I thought I’d be okay to stay but my manager insisted I go home. I told my friend I’d meet her, but on the way I guess it must have hit me. I pulled over to the side of 495 and just cried and cried. I remember not being able to breathe and starting to hyperventilate. I think I blacked out for a second.

Noah was dead.

And it was his drugs that killed him.

I remember thinking that I didn’t understand death. It wasn’t fair. People shouldn’t die from the things that make them happy. Noah was sad and his drugs made him smile again. He needed to smile again. He deserved to smile again. But now I see that it was only artificial happiness, and he didn’t deserve that. He deserved so much more. A better life, people to love him, a world away from drugs. He deserved true happiness.

Heroin terrifies me. I stay awake at night crying over the people that I’ve lost to such an awful poison. And I don’t just mean the people that have lost their lives, I mean the people I’ve lost to the drug itself. Some of the most important people in my life have chosen that path and they’ve become something that I can’t even recognize anymore. They’ve chosen their needles over me and I don’t know how to cope with that. I don’t know how to be okay with that. Addiction truly changes you into the worst possible version of yourself and that version doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as you get your fix.

It’s really painful for me to write about this. I apologize for the lack of structure and overall messiness of this post but it’s hard for me to put into words how I feel about this particular subject. It scares me. It hurts me. It absolutely shatters my heart. I recently told a friend I’d given up on her, and as much as it tortures me, I have to stick to that. It’s too painful for me to sit by idly and watch my friends tear their own lives to shreds.

Let me tell you a little bit about what it’s like to be the friend of an addict. It’s constant fear. It’s the feeling of dread you get every time your phone goes off because you’re always just waiting for that call telling you that they’re gone. It’s watching the pain of a mother just wishing her child would come back to her. It’s sticking by somebody when they steal money from you because you trust them to get better and then still seeing them deteriorate. It’s constantly hoping for them to find help and consistently being disappointed when it, once again, takes a turn for the worse. It’s endless false hope and disappointment.

That said, I still hold out some shred of hope that things can turn around. I still fully believe that if they really make the decision to get better, they can. With the right programs, the right will power, and the right support system, I firmly believe that things can get better, and when they do I’ll be right here waiting with open arms. You too deserve true happiness, not the artificial highs your needles bring you. And happiness is possible if you allow it, and I will help you find it. But for now, unfortunately, all I can do is wait and hope you find your way back to the light.

One day, out in the woods by the high school, I made a plan to write a romance novel about two of my great friends. One of you may be gone, but to the other: Please don’t let this be the end of your story.

Please find your way back to the light.

 

Dedicated to an old friend

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.