It has been so long since I felt anyone gave a damn.
Tennessee Williams, Five O’Clock Angel
Last week, spring stayed smothered beneath the New England frost, with Venus in retrograde and the new moon encroaching, when I made a twelve-hour bid for new surroundings. I was feeling isolated and irritable, paranoid and passionate, oracular and obsessive, and bored as all hell—in short, quite the same as always—when I decided to jump a last-minute Greyhound to a distant city encrusted with filth and blank possibility. I found an old friend, fifteen minutes from the station. We picked up beer and cheap lipstick and matches. We wasted hours treading on the past. Over the last cigarette, she asked, “So, how are you doing?”
I glanced up at her, tapped ash into an empty can of Budweiser, and replied, with complete honesty, “I’m great.” We both laughed a little in spite of ourselves. Because when the hell, after all, was the last time I could say that?
Before mid-January, I had not been all right for a very long time. I say that it happened this November, but the truth is that it probably had been happening for a while before then, maybe even since the very start. Certainly from last April, at least, when I entered my own bedroom to find someone else’s blood on my sheets. The madness blossomed from there, and the circumstances got stranger, and people broke promises, or lied to me about whatever they fancied, and then the pressure was too much and I started to bend and break and blame myself, began to lose my then-tedious grip on reality, made all kinds of decisions that I might regret until the day I die. Then memory goes dark until late summer, when I forced myself through clinical treatments and resolved to try again.
But November was the most painful month, because a very specific wound had been reopened; I had been so sure that rusticating, taking this year off from university to focus on my health, would help me immensely. And maybe it would have, I’ll never know now. Because I listened to the pleas of all of the same people who were scaring me. I listened when they promised me that things would get easier and they loved me and would always be there for me and I should just give the coming autumn a shot—
And for a while, in October, things really did get better. We all tried harder. It honestly could have worked. We still had our dark moments, but they were nothing compared to what had come before. And as I felt each bump in the road get smaller, I could sense myself healing: it was only a question of how fast it would happen. I was starting to feel happiness, in brief but wonderful flashes, for the first time in almost a year. My dissociations were less and less frequent. My sense of self was coming back. I became more confident in asking for help. One night, not realizing how the sentiments might be construed, I felt ready to be candid with the people I loved about my occasional relapses into self-medication and self harm, and the fact that I was still considering going home for a few months if my conditions, though improving, were less stable than what I felt comfortable maintaining.
And then they gave up on me.
I never stood a fucking chance. They did not even give me a full month, time to find my footing or a new therapist—three weeks in their immediate company was all that I had, then I woke up one day and they were gone. That is not hyperbole, not metaphor. They were actually gone. Absolute, radio silence. I had experienced it before, from my father, and then again, from one absent lover, but never from my closest friends, and never from so many people at the same time. I nearly lost my mind in that first week. I felt like the most toxic thing alive. I wanted to grovel, I wanted to sob, I wanted to tear my teeth out. It was just so goddamn unfair. No one would tell me what was going on, and then a week later, with one false and frigid message, they purged their worlds of me entirely, never even permitted me an oppurtunity to speak with them.
So when did I get better? When did it stop hurting? Truth be told, I am not sure. But it has stopped hurting.
Don’t get me wrong: I still have more than my fair share of bitterness, of frustration, of the discomfort that comes with inevitable proximity. I still want to scream out at the world, because now that everything is said and done, I want you all to know what happened to me. I want you all to understand how unjust some of the treatment was, how one of my former friends laughed in disdain when I cried in front of him. I want to publish all of the messages. I want some explanation for the fact that I was branded “too unstable” for their company—until it was more convenient for them to reside where I was, and then the brunt of their accusations against me unraveled sardonically under the competing pressure of their own self-interest. I want to take every single one of you through my side of this horror-show: through all of the desperate attempts to understand, all of the people I reached out to seeking advice, all of the bids for “forgiveness” I made before realizing I was not the fucking problem.
Because whatever else you may think of me, I know what really happened in November, and I do not feel shame or remorse. Not in the slightest. Everything I did, I did because I was genuinely trying to make things better, or at my very worst, because I was resisting being shoved into a corner by a hydra-headed cluster of people who invented a false grave and expected me to crawl into it. Even now, I would accept some shred of their remorse, use it to bury as much of the hatchet as one still can, if they would only acknowledge the distress that they caused. But they are unwilling, or incapable. At any rate, perhaps it is more fitting for this to have ended in disrepair, because what they did was ugly and irreparable.
I used to wish that things could be different, that there could have been forgiveness or understanding before we parted ways, but I do not wish for that anymore. Hell, at this point the only thing I wish is that they had walked away sooner, or that I had walked away first. I spent so much time wondering what was wrong with me, or that place, that I never even stopped to consider how goddamn tired I was getting of watching people project the consequences of their actions onto everybody but themselves. I was completely numb to this way of living, blind to the absurdity of our actions. I forgot what it was like to be treated with real compassion or honesty or respect.
So at the end of the day, have I lost anything? Is it a “loss” if you are better off without the thing that leaves?
God only knows. It is almost unsettling, how much better the world has become since I stopped caring. After all, January came, and for all of its tragedies, it saw me through to new and better days. I found people who give a damn—or more accurately, they found me. Is there anything more refreshing than learning, after so much time, that there were better people out there all along? The ghosts of November have made their choice, and I will comply with the savagery of it. Yes, and I will fight back if I have to, tear each new accusation or indication or sidelong glance to shreds. I will not be crossed or criticized, they will not have my shame when they have not earned it—and I’ll be all right, I’ll always be all right, because I know that I am not alone anymore.
But this is something that happened to me, something I still have to face. This is something people should know about, because I have to deal with it every single day. I would not be surprised to learn that the others have forgotten or disregarded most of the events of November—safe as they are in the confines of their collective and collectively incorrect psyche. But truly, this is not about them. I mean that. It is not an indictment, or an accusation, or a confession (even though it inevitably contains elements of all three). This is just what happened. It is what I need the people who love to me to know about the past year of my life.
I am tired of writing in metaphor, of lending the subtleties of language to such mundane events. So here it is plainly: in November, my greatest fear was realized. I was left, without warning, by the people I loved the most. Just like I was when I was fifteen. Just like I probably will be again someday, in this lovely but unreliable life. And I fucking hate being left on my own—all I ever really wanted was to be the kind of person they would stay for.
But in the end, as I have said, it was for the best. Because I think I have a better shot this time around, with these new people, of forging friendships not animated by trauma, and so shielding myself from the fallibility of human love. But for those of you who have read this through, who have heard me out, I do ask one last favor. When you see me flinch at certain names, or shy away from certain people—please do not pretend any longer to be ignorant of the history behind this pain, which for a while was so real that I thought it was going to break me. I only hope that those of you who have professed your support of me and my health can acknowledge this critical fact. Because I want my voice back. I’ve earned as much.