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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.