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.

Advertisements

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 originally wrote this for my friends who lost someone to their addiction, and then it became something for all those we lost in 2016 to both overdose and suicide. Now, for another friend. You’re already so missed. RIP.

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 this: 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 that 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 differ 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.

I’ll Take Your Darkness So You Can Go Into the Light

It’s odd when you meet someone who really honestly truly gets you. There are infinite types of these people and infinite ways for them to enter your life, but my personal favorite are those tropical storms that roll through and engulf your soul. Those are the ones you find yourself most amazed by. They relate to you in every way imaginable and you have so few differences you pretend there are none at all. You instantly click: maybe drunkenly on a basement floor or maybe in the back of a cab or maybe through a mutual friend. Maybe some universal being just drops them into your life and disguises it as an exchange of phone numbers. They’re the ones you can share a pile of nachos with or split an entire ice cream cake or even devour both in one sitting. They know about your darkest parts and they’ve felt just as dark. They place a blade in your hand, not because they want you to do it, but because they trust you not to. They trust you not to let the darkness escape out through your veins and have nowhere left to go but into their lungs. And you don’t. You put the blade in your pocket with I’ll just do it later in mind and then later comes and you still don’t do it but you don’t know why. It just doesn’t feel like the right thing to do anymore, and you go to sleep.

Sometimes those people and you clash. You scream at each other in parked cars and punch holes through each others’ walls and spread horrible, regretful things about one another that shouldn’t be forgivable. Sometimes your feuds last minutes or sometimes months but eventually, the “differences” are worked through or glazed over and you’re right back to throwing your arms out the sunroof blasting the whitest of white girl pop and smoking a bowl while laid out in the middle of the street. These are the people you expect to be in your life forever. Growing up means changing and sometimes you move states away or go weeks without talking but you know they’re not actually far. The moment you suddenly remember the blade you left in your pocket all those years ago, you know it’ll be just minutes until they’re on the other end of the phone reminding you of the day they placed it in your palm in the first place, reminding you of their trust in your strength. They do more than support you, they teach you how to support yourself. They live through it with you. They hold you up and drag you along beside them to be sure that you get to live your life as fully as they do. They understand and they help.

These are the people you expect to be in your life forever. When you remember that blade and you know they’re on the other end of the phone to talk you off the ledge. When you meet a cute boy and you’re dying to send eight thousand pictures and every single detail you can find back and forth with one another. Growing up means changing, but growing up shouldn’t mean standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, frantically trying to toss your items on the conveyor belt and quickly glancing at your phone to be greeted by a text reading “I’m so sorry to be the one to tell you this…” It shouldn’t mean holding your breath while waiting for your taxi and trying to keep up the small talk with your driver for the entire nine minute drive and then longer as he helps you carry your bags into your apartment. It shouldn’t mean accidentally smashing all the eggs and your new wine glasses and it shouldn’t mean collapsing on the tile floor, unable to breathe or speak. You never expect to find yourself attempting to scrape together what few acceptable items you have for a memorial service and hop on a plane to Boston in the middle of the first week of a new semester. You never expect the weeks of “I’m so sorry for your loss”s or the “how are you doing?”s or the numbness that suddenly takes their place in your soul. You never expect having to watch other friends shatter as they try to come to terms with something that some of you aren’t sure you ever will. You never expect to find yourself drunk in the parking lot of a church at three AM because you just wanted to drop by and say hi or clutching a stupid Red Sox sweatshirt every night in hopes that they’re really laying beside you, watching Rapunzel and inhaling chips. You never expect to lose the ones who were supposed to be in your life forever.

These people knew about your darkest parts but they’ve felt darker. They trust in your strength but it’s because they have to. If they don’t trust in yours then how can they trust in their own? They know you aren’t ready to give all the way into the darkness. They know you still have some light in there and they see it and they reach for it, but theirs is buried too deep inside of them and although to us it’s so bright it’s nearly blinding, someday they just stop seeing the tiny flicker. Someday they just give into what they believe they’ve become. They trusted you not to let the darkness escape out of your veins and into their lungs, but they never promised to do the same. You breathe in the darkness and you walk over nails every single day and remember their trust in you because you owe them that.You breathe in the darkness and you keep that blade in your pocket and even when you find yourself in a personal volcanic eruption, you keep the promise you made to your friend years ago. You breathe in the darkness and you take solace in the fact that now, they are only just light.

To the Friend We Lost to Herself

*This is something I wrote the day after we lost Meg. know that I shared it months ago but I wanted to share it (the edited version) again now that it’s about to be six whole months without a single crazy adventure and without hearing that laugh and without seeing that smile. I also know there were a number of people who wanted to read it who never got the chance due to the timing it was posted, so here it is on my new “blog” or whatever. I love you Meg, forever and ever. All my love goes to the Durands every day and I’m grateful I was able to be a part of your lives. This may drudge up some uncomfortable memories, and if so then I am sorry, but I hope in the end it is helpful in some way. 

You weren’t a perfect human. You didn’t always make the right play. You often did things first and thought about them later, and sometimes it landed you in quite a bit of trouble. You were impulsive, and did a lot of things that I know you ended up regretting (but not for long!). I hope this doesn’t come off like I’m speaking ill of you, that’s not the case. We loved all of your imperfections just as much as the rest of you, and I think maybe you forgot that somewhere along the way. I think maybe you forgot that nobody expected you to be perfect. Maybe you forgot that we loved each and every scar on your arms and we loved each and every bruise on your heart – and we still do. They helped to shape you into the beautiful, amazing friend that we were lucky enough to know. Although, I guess even we missed a few things. Everyone has secrets that they’ll never share with another soul, and you were no exception. You were always so open and honest but you still kept some things hidden. When you were set on something, you were set on it. If you didn’t want anyone to know, no one ever would.

What gets to me the most, dragging itself through the molasses in my skull, is that you didn’t tell anyone. I’ve found myself asking “why” over and over and over again, as if the answer to that question will bring me solace. Why didn’t you tell anyone? I think I know the answer, and that’s what worries me the most. I keep telling myself what we’d all like to believe: you didn’t mean for this to happen. It was a mistake, an accident, a momentary horrible lapse in judgement that you’d instantly regretted. But you’ve made mistakes before and you knew most mistakes could be fixed. You knew how they could be fixed. You knew each and every one of us had our phones in our hands and would have done anything and everything we could to help you fix that mistake, just like you’ve done for so many of us so many times. Yet, you didn’t call. You didn’t send us an “SOS” text. We didn’t receive a single cry for help. So I start to wonder if maybe this wasn’t a mistake. Maybe this is what you really wanted, and if it was, I think maybe I can almost accept that. If you thought that’s the only thing that’d make you happy then I understand why you had to. I wish you hadn’t, and I wish you’d let us help you find other ways, but I understand why you did. I hope you’ve finally found the happiness you spent your whole life searching for.

A lot of people turn to religion to help them cope through times like these, and many of our friends have. I envy them. I’m grateful that religion exists because it brings so much comfort to friends and family in times of need. The idea of you smiling down on us as an angel in heaven is truly a beautiful one, however not one that I can bring myself to believe. I’m too hardwired to need solid answers and too impatient to look for them. I don’t have the same warm core that all our friends have and that you always had which helped you rely on faith and love and trust. You know me, I’d rather find my answers in a bottle than in a book. So who do I have to turn to? Well, I always had you. I’m sure in some ways, I still do. The messages turned green days ago but that hasn’t stopped me from sending them. I have no idea if you can hear me but that hasn’t stopped me from whispering “I miss you” every time the thought has creeped into my mind. I may not have a God to guide me through this loss but I have myself, and I have all the answers I’ve made up in my head to explain why you’d choose this, and I have you.

There are a million heartbreaking or hilarious stories I could tell of your strength and tremendous generosity, but it’s hard to go back to some of those memories. All I can say is that there were times where I was in the same place you often found yourself, and you saved me every time. You drove twenty-five minutes to the middle of nowhere to find me on the side of the road and put me in your car and drove me another thirty-five minutes to Emerson to get me help. You left parties to answer the phone in the middle of the night to talk me off the ledge. You and your wonderful family took me in more than once when conditions at home made it impossible for me to live there. You stood by my side while I faced all the people that made me feel like I would never make it out of high school, and you helped me know when to befriend them and when to let them go. You were truly one of the few I’ve ever known that did things for my own good, with no intention other than to help me. You did more than just hold my hand while I fought my demons, you were right next to me swinging your own sword.

“Thank you” is a powerful concept hidden beneath a common phrase, and it’s often said out of politeness rather than pure gratitude. I wish I could invent a phrase stronger to describe how truly grateful I am to have known you, and to have been lucky enough to call you my friend. I know wherever the universe brings you next, you’ll take it by storm. I don’t see you as weak or as having given up. I don’t see what you did as selfish or cruel. You were just ready for whatever was next, and I hope you’re loving every second of it, as we all did with the time we spent with you.

Sleep well, my friend. I’ll always love you, and you’ll forever be my rock.