Author's Note: This is a letter I wrote to my childhood best friend, who I had a falling-out with. I regret it, but the past is the past so you must make your amends and then move on. Maybe someone else can relate to this. After all, isn't that what writing is all about?
There's something about the slight awkwardness, the tight smile we give each other, that slices me every time I walk by you. Each time I take a step away from you, a different memory comes rushing back, from years past and lessons learned. I did everything with you; we were inseparable for years and then, suddenly, we never spoke.
And it was my fault.
I made a mistake, one that I can never make up for. I was confused, lost, angry, hurt, heading for a breakdown but unable to talk to you, or anyone else, about it. You broke my trust, true; but I was over it the day after it happened. I just never told you that because of the confusion and fear—fear of losing another good friend, one who I'd gotten in way too deep with.
We didn't speak much for a few months. Going that summer after freshman year without hanging out, as we called it, was hard. You had been my closest friend for nine years. All I wanted to do was text you, call you, show up at your house, even—just to talk to you and let you in in hopes that you would understand the chaos going on in my mind more than I did.
But I didn't.
Because of the fear.
We had a class together sophomore year. I was secretly glad when I found out; maybe, just maybe, we would talk and become close again, although I knew that I didn't deserve that. You didn't have any obligation to give me the time of day, much less talk to me about your life.
So we didn't talk much for the first few months of the school year. A smile here and there, an offhand comment about the cramped state of that tiny health room, an embarrassed blush during the gym portions of each quarter when one of us did something wrong and the other could tell it was coming. It was different, not being close, but it was better than not speaking at all.
Then, in November, I heard that you had tried to kill yourself.
I can't explain what it was like to hear that. I don't even remember. I was in shock. You were the fifth person I'd known that had attempted suicide in the past two years of my life. First it was a cousin; then an aunt; then a close friend; then my father, only two months before; and then you.
I was numb. Terrified. Immediately guilty. If I was a better person, I would have dialed your home phone and asked to talk to your mom and let her know that if you or your parents needed anything I would be there. But I'm not a better person. I was just a scared little girl with an awfully guilty conscience.
When I found out, I was at that friend's house, the one who influenced my decisions on everything previously. I just looked at her blankly for the longest time. I couldn't pay attention to America's Next Top Model, despite the fact that it had become one of my favorite shows. I couldn't really process anything. It just kept playing in my mind: She tried to kill herself, didn't you hear? No one told you?
But when I did process it, only one thought ran through my mind.
If you had succeeded, would your parents have called me and told me when the funeral services were? Would I get a chance to redeem myself, no longer wrongly speak ill of you, apologize to your parents and your family for aiding in fucking you up to the point of suicide?
I kept imagining what you would be wearing. What your hair would look like, how they would apply your makeup (you had always liked it heavy; you said it contrasted with your skin well. And you were right. It does), if they'd put you in a dress.
I cried on that friend's shoulder for hours that day. She was there for me and never judged me. She let me talk, say my fears, tell her about how I felt responsible for both you and my father taking that desperate measure. She didn't like you, and may still not, but that day she was a saint. I will always owe her for that, and for being there when I needed her the most.
You were gone from school for a little bit longer than a week. I'd become familiar enough with depression and suicide that I knew where you were—the psych ward, probably at Children's. My dad had been in a psych ward for almost two weeks not long before. It was still ingrained in my mind. That phone call we got from my step-mother, the one saying that she had kicked my father out due to him drinking again and going insane, is ingrained in my mind.
I was worried sick about you while you were gone—literally nauseous. I didn't have any right to be. We had both moved past the fight, and were with different crowds; we'd talked about all of that. Still, though, I was the one who had given up, not you.
And I had given up even after you'd been talking to me about your depression, and even after I'd talked to you about mine.
So when you came back to school I was determined to talk to you, to let you know I was there. It took me a few weeks. When you came back, you were very withdrawn and I didn't want to make things worse on you. I was spiraling downwards pretty quickly myself at that point. Things weren't going well with my family, relationship, or gay status. I was almost positive that my father had passed down the bipolar disorder; and even if he hadn't, the depression I was feeling was still there, full-force. I felt—and still feel—that my life was slipping away from me and that I was losing every bit of sanity I had held onto when the sadness first started years ago.
Yes; I had been suicidal three years previous and never told a soul. You guessed it, though, even if you never approached me about it; you are the only one that did. I haven't ever told you this, but you are the only person outside my family I would go around that year. Anyone else made me uncomfortable, shaky, even sadder. But you cheered me up; it was like you were in my head and knew exactly what to do.
I beat my demons on my own that time—I'm proud of that. But they were making a return, and some of it was because of my own stupidity when dealing with the situation we got ourselves into when I came out to you. You were rightfully hurt due to the fact that I had told a few other people before I had told you; I felt awful for that. You may not have had an excuse for telling anyone that I was bisexual (now-pansexual) before I was ready for them to know, but I had no excuse for turning my back on you after that, either.
I don't remember how long it took me to approach you. Longer than it should have, I know that; even when you sat by me at lunch we only talked about light things, other than when I told you about my father's problems and when you told me about the occasional hospital stay or breakdown. That was my desperate attempt to show you that I still cared. I don't know if it worked or not, but I know that the first time I hugged you to comfort you a weight was lifted off of me.
Either way, when we did finally speak and have our first truly deep conversation, it was with your new best friend and our health teacher in the room. You had been telling me at lunch that day about these nightmares you were having, and the flashbacks from them. They sounded almost exactly like the waking nightmares, as I call them, that I get at times. I was worried about you after we talked, but tried to distract myself. You've always been a strong girl. I knew you could handle it, and if my advice had worked as well as you said it had, I hoped that I had helped at least a little bit.
But then, after the assembly that we had, I heard you crying as we were leaving the auditorium. I had a huge, two second long inner debate that felt like it went on for years—should I stay and comfort you and let my guard down, or go on my own way and not overstep the new, tentative friendship lines that we had just started to rebuild?
It was an easy decision once I considered the options. I gathered up my bag, let the other students file out in front of me, told the girls that I would be out in a few minutes, and then knelt down next to you and your best friend. I placed a hand on your shoulder and asked you what was wrong. You told me you thought someone was coming to get you, the man from your dreams; you could see him, you swore it, and he was coming for you.
I was completely shaken. I had daytime nightmares like this all of the time, and still do. But it was one thing for me to deal with them, and a completely different thing for a friend to deal with them. I wanted to do nothing more than hug you and tell you that it was okay, you weren't crazy, it was going to be alright.
So that's what I did.
I hugged you, talked you down, smiled at the girl you were sitting with. I had a hunch that she didn't understand where you were coming from, and didn't know how to make you realize that you were okay. I'm at the same place you are, so I tried to comfort you. I took off your glasses and wiped away the tears that had gotten stuck to the lenses ("The first thing I learned when I got mine was to not cry with them on, especially when you have on mascara. My sister got so tired of seeing me mad about it that she gave me her glasses wipe from way back when. Here, honey. They're clean now, make-up and tear free. It's okay."), then lifted your chin so that you would look at me and talk. It was hard for you, and for me; I could feel it in the way my body tensed up when I touched you and the way you struggled to meet my eyes, like we were brand new at human contact. But we weren't. We were just old yet new friends.
You told me about your meds, how they had been adjusted and how you weren't doing very well with them. I nodded at you and you wiped away your mascara tracks, took a few deep breaths ("Take a breath, hold it as long as you can, let it out, then do it again until you can breathe normally again. It always helps me. Counting helps too."), then replaced your glasses and gave me a very, very small smile.
"Thank you for staying to help me."
Those words shocked me. I wasn't expecting words of gratitude. Sure, we had been talking a lot more—we were discussing mental health problems in health class, and both ended up crying at the cruel jabs of the other students when they looked at you during the discussion of suicide, and me during the discussion of depression; how could we not talk and hug and take comfort in knowing that we still cared?—but I hadn't expected you to forgive so easily, not after what it did to your state of mind.
I was shaking by the time our teacher came back into the auditorium, tremors that were wracking my entire body. I was cold, my heart was racing, I was desperate to just let go and sob and get away because I was afraid of everything being destroyed. I think now that I was having an anxiety attack. I didn't run, though. I stayed with you while we had a note written (we missed the end of health and beginning of sixth period) and while you wrote down your cell phone number for me, and walked slowly with you down the hallway while you told me more. We were nearly to the point of splitting up when you looked at me and started crying again. "I don't want to kill myself but I'm so afraid of trying to again that I don't know what to do. Nobody is ever there to call and if they are they don't understand and I don't want to die, I don't."
My heart broke then. I stopped you, made you look at me, and said "Listen to me. You have a reason to live, and you can beat this if you try. If you ever need anyone to listen to you, you can call me. I'm an insomniac anyways, and since I'm not coming to school again until next week, I'll be up late until Sunday. I'm serious, honey. Don't hesitate if you need to talk. I'll be there, no matter what time of day it is."
I think I saw relief in your eyes, but I'm not sure. Either way, you smiled at me—this time it was a real one—and nodded and gave me a huge hug before we parted ways to go to our separate classes, with another thank you coming from you.
I was in a panic the rest of the day, but it was worth it.
Since then, we have started to talk more, especially when one of us is upset. You're allowing me to come back into your life, and I'm being as open with you as I possibly can. You hug me as a thank you and give me the privilege of listening to your problems and allow me to ramble on to cheer you up and make you smile. I have apologized, fully, to you for doing all of the awful things that I did. I can't ever make up for it, but hopefully I'll get rid of my guilt for it before long. You say you have accepted the past and begun to move past it. I admire that, and I admire your courage in dealing with everything that you have to deal with.
I know you won't ever read this; it's just a hypothetical letter to my childhood best friend, full of apologies and poor explanations and such. But I just want you to know that you really won't ever lose me fully. I'll be here for you through this rough time, just as you were there for me during my hardest times in middle school. We've both been through more in these past two years than any teenager should have to go through in seven years. But I have faith in both of us. I have faith that I can overcome my own problems. And I have faith that you can come over your depression disorder and move past your suicidal thoughts. I have faith that we will both find the will to live again, and that we will both discover what it is to be truly happy again, like we were in grade school when we first met, when I was the shy, awkward new girl and you were the chipper friend-to-be. I have faith that we can do these things both on our own and with the support of the people we hold closest to us. I know we can do it.
We always were strong girls.