Year #14

It’s that time of year again. The fourteenth year in a row where I don’t know how to grieve properly. My best friend died on March 4, 2000 when we were in the 8th grade. He was struck by a car and died on impact. My eyes are already filled with tears and I’m on my fifth sentence of this entry. I don’t always think about him besides this time of year, but his death was what started my downward spiral into depression and fourteen years later things haven’t changed. I will always remember my 6th grade math teacher making us get up and march around the school on “March Forth” (4th). That stupid pun and of course it falls on the day my friend died, so I never forget either.

I remember every finite detail about that day. I was in Sunday school and one of my friends whose father was a local firefighter was asked to share the information with our class, since my church was in my town and most of the kids went to my local middle school. I remember the feeling of numbness in my head, and I started shaking. My friends on either side of me grabbed my arms to steady me before I fell off the chair. I don’t know how I lasted through the hour without falling apart, but I did. As soon as class was over I went running out of the room to find my mom, who had found out in church and we both fell to shattered pieces. The 5 minute ride home felt like eternity and as soon as we told my dad, he packed up his shit, grabbed my brother, and took him fishing. That is how my family deals with their problems, and that is why I still do not know how to grieve over this loss. I remember calling my other best friend and having a conversation about the sirens that she had heard (the accident happened near her house).

I went to school the next day and was surrounded by love. Love and boxes of tissues. The school provided grievance counselors and I remember the anger I felt at how all the popular kids took advantage of getting out of class. They tortured my best friend daily. They were bullies towards him day in and day out. They did not deserve the time I needed in these groups. I can remember each person that sat in the group with me. My dad took me to the place where he died and I tied a yellow ribbon around the closest telephone pole and laid flowers at the base of it. His funeral was private so the school put together a memorial service that his temple hosted. I was the last one to speak. The day before he died he thanked me for being his friend. I wrote a letter to his parents, but they never wrote back. He was an only child and they were Croatian immigrants and I believe they moved back to Croatia after the accident.

My parents never seemed to grasp the fact that I failed to grieve. As I became increasingly depressed and rebellious through high school, they never once thought about the underlying causes of my behavior. Every behavior has a root cause, and for me, it was the death of my friend. I got a tattoo a few years ago with one hand holding another from above, with the date March 4, 2000 at the bottom and a banner that says “Hold On” at the top. I got it in memory and in honor of him. I just wish I knew how to say goodbye, since I never got the chance.

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About gabe126

I'm a 29 year old gay trans guy who lives in Philadelphia. Gabe is not my real name, well, it's my middle name, but for anonymity's sake, let's go with that. I hold bachelor's degrees in both music and special education, and I am currently 2 semesters away from graduating with my masters in special education and autism studies. I am disabled due to severe mental illness (bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and OCD). I play the trombone and piano, although it's been a few years since I seriously touched a piano. I have 5 tattoos and another one planned, I just don't have the money right now. Derek Jeter, former Yankee's shortstop, is my husband.
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11 Responses to Year #14

  1. soaretigan says:

    First let me say that I truly and deeply wish you the best in your recovery process. I haven’t ever had a close friend or relative die, but I have always believed that if you want to talk to someone who has passed, you just have to talk to them.

    Much love,
    Soaretigan

  2. Melissa May says:

    Hi Gabe. I happened upon this post, and I stayed to read your whole blog. I lost my mom two weeks ago – we were not speaking and I didn’t get to say goodbye. There are a lot of unresolved feelings and most of the time I spend my days simultaneously stepping into the hurt so I won’t run away from it and compartmentalizing my feelings so I won’t have to think about it, but I’m not writing to tell you my story – I’m writing because I want you to know I understand this. I understand the immense weight of this dark and scary place, this cavernous thing you’re staring into the mouth of. And after reading your other posts I understand that this is not the only fight you’re going through, not the only darkness you’ll walk through this month or this week or even this day. But you aren’t alone. Losing someone you love, depression, mental health issues – not clubs anyone feels great about joining, but I’m in that place, too. I know this crippling social anxiety and lack of care about self and the feeling of decay. I can’t promise that it will ever go away. I want it to, for you and for me – but what I can tell you is that you are not alone in this. You don’t have to walk this by yourself, shoulder it all alone. If you need someone, if you just want to talk, if you want a pen pal, if you feel lonely – I’d be happy to shoot you my email or information. We swim through the shit that doesn’t kill us so we can celebrate the next day that we survived. You are a miracle. You are worthy and valuable. You are precious. I am happy that you exist, because you make me feel not alone. I am happy that you exist because sometimes shit is hard and you just want someone to look at you and recognize that things genuinely suck so much and you don’t have to put on a front to hide that. I’m looking at you. I see that shit is hard. I’m saying me, too. You’re not alone. Don’t forget that. Please don’t forget.

    • gabe126 says:

      Hi Melissa, First off I am terribly sorry for your loss. Also thank you for your kind words. It helps me to hear that I am not alone, especially from someone who has gone through a similar predicament as me. I am trying to come up with more words but right now my mind has been completely blank all day, so again, thank you.

  3. Oh my… I keep starting to write a sentence and then erasing it. How do I express what I want to say in text, without body language, without tears, without sound? I share your experience of not knowing how to grieve. Not so intensely and not so young, but I am still shaken by the experience. It happened at the end of January. I’m all grown up, I have grown up kids of my own, but I still don’t know how to deal with the sudden death of a friend. I’m so, so glad that I didn’t have to deal with such a thing as a child and I’m so sorry that you did. The powerlessness of facing death at all is overwhelming, and I can only imagine that the powerlessness of being a kid just makes it a million times worse.

    I hope that you find strength for your own life, love and power to move forward, without ever having let go of your best friend’s hand.

  4. Ryk McIntyre says:

    It’s funny I should come across your blog. We deal with a lot of the same issues: grief, isolation, that “otherness”…

    For what it’s worth, you DO know how to say goodbye, I think.
    You’re just doing it in small, more manageable pieces. Regardless,
    you are doing it and I wish you all the strength and stamina you need.

  5. karen says:

    dear gabe,dear human
    i don’t know you at all, but i know mourning—especially in the last five years or so.i have actually lost count.the most recent was my mother, two weeks ago.
    some of what i’m reading here is a concern that you “don’t know how to grieve properly,” or that you didn’t, or that this is somehow a failure you share with how the death was handled by others at the time around you.
    it isn’t.
    please take this to heart:

    there is no proper way to grieve.
    there is no map for sorrow and coping with it.
    there is no expiration date or time span when grief ends.
    there is no getting over deaths as much as surviving them.
    there is no preparation for death, no matter the death or the who—someone close, someone peripheral,sudden, or slow.
    there is no wrong response, physical reaction, feeling or emotion to death.

    so if you need permission and space, i give it to you, others on this thread give it to you.be good to yourself. if you need to find a right ritual or day or hours to just absorb and feel, i suggest finding a tree or some outdoor space where you can be wild–where you can cry ugly, scream, be quiet and lean on that tree.i suggest creating something or an alter or a piece of art, maybe finding a ritual or a candle to light.
    you have a right to this.

    what i have learned is that grief is a wheel, an ocean of waves. it spins out of view for moments, and then it comes back.the tide pulls out, the waves return.
    grief shapes itself to the person.different moods present themselves, and like breath, they are temporary, they come in and release.
    change is constant.
    there is some comfort in this.
    i think grief is built this way so the spirits can live on and be remembered through us.
    that you still grieve shows the great love your heart is capable of,that your friend’s experiences still live with you.
    this is a good thing.
    hold on to this as you try to do the next right thing by your own life.
    our spirits, the people we know who have transitioned, can be our compasses.our reminders that we are all fleeting and precious and to make the most and the best of it.to hold those dear who value and see us, and to kind of shrug off the others.

    our culture doesn’t give us permission to breathe, to mourn, to cope.
    that’s what traumatized you, as you recognize.
    it’s not your fault.
    you can reconfigure at any time.

    so getting up each day and putting on your socks and deciding to do the next right thing, to imagine what your friend would have wanted, to remember why you were friends and the good things—to step forward with that is a great accomplishment and puts you one step away from our dumb culture that wants us to just suck it up inhumanely and to continue.

    i have often seen the absurdity and had sick laughter about these things in times of grief.the world wants you to clock in and gets on your case about it. laugh, knowing that you know more of what is important and that that isn’t it.

    being ghosted, i’ve come to see, is a gift from the transitioned to the living.
    i can talk to them any time i want.
    i can even ask them things. they even show up (usually on bunny feet, but that’s just my narrative).
    i know so many by this point who struggled to live and to be here that it keeps me here.
    to live—even if depressed and kind of moody and fucked up—is still to live in their honor.
    sometimes, it’s THE ONLY THING that keeps me on this side—that if i get out of my own head for a minute, i don’t want to make another person grieve too soon if i can help it.
    i believe that sharing what keeps us here helps keep us here and it is part of why we exist.
    i hope this finds you and it helps in some small way.
    we are on this planet at the same moment, which is *amazing*.
    i send you love.
    i send you some light.
    when the warmth touches your skin,
    know you are not alone.

    with love
    karen garrabrant

  6. chewednails says:

    I read through all your entries before stopping to comment. We live on separate coasts and don’t know each other but, much of this resonates with me. I wanted to offer you some long distance support.

  7. Gary says:

    Gabe,
    Like some of the other people responding here I came across this post despite having never met you, and felt compelled to leave a comment. But it seemed like nothing I could say would be adequate. Your descriptions of anxiety and isolation hit so close to home, but my own version of those feelings don’t have their root in the death of someone close. I can trace mine back to a specific loss that happened years ago, but it’s a very different kind of loss. I would start typing a comment and erase it, thinking I had no business trying to relate.

    So while sorting through all this in my head, I decided to read the rest of your blog. And again, with each post the stories and circumstances would be different, but something in the way you expressed the feelings around them resonated so much. It comes across as very genuine, and I’m not the least bit surprised that other commenters have said they felt compelled to read the whole blog after finishing one post.

    You are incredibly brave for being able to express what so many others are hiding inside of them. It doesn’t matter if the stories or backgrounds are different, you are speaking for so many.

    You stated in your introductory post that your desire for this blog was to “provide a glimmer of hope that other people are out there struggling and we are not alone in our journeys.” You have done exactly that for me, at a time when I needed it, and judging by the comments, others as well. Just yesterday evening I was searching for anxiety support groups in my area, and was disappointed to find out the only one local had disbanded. The next day, I come across your blog. The universe is funny like that, sometimes.

    I know just the act of telling your story can sometimes feel like a release, and knowing that somebody, anybody is listening – whether they can relate to the story or not – can be helpful. Regardless whether or not they can offer a comforting or reassuring response. I hope you are finding that release to be helpful in your own way. I hope that each time you post something you are able to take a deep breath afterward, and feel pride instead of something else. I don’t even know you, and I’m proud of you.

    I hope that you continue to express yourself, because I would like to continue reading it. If you don’t mind total strangers bookmarking your blog, I will do so.

    Please be good to yourself. You deserve that. We all deserve that.

  8. Lee Knight Jr says:

    Good morning,

    My apologies for writing so much, it is particularly presumptuous as I have only just discovered your blog. I’m equally sorry if my tips aren’t very helpful or pertinent to any body reading them; from talking to fellow-sufferers I’ve found that depression is a very individual and complex illness, so a “one size fits all” approach to it doesn’t tend to work. Even for myself, specifically, some tips are only useful at certain stages in my particular form of depression , below is my Top 10 list of ways to beat the snot out of depression ( eventually)

    Don’t despair everyone goes through a period of depression at some point or another in their life. It’s not how you got into it but how you come of of it that matters. If at all possible I would try to have a conversation with your parents and explain to them how you’re feeling. . Don’t ever feel hopeless because you have to always remember that hopeless feeling is only temporary. I remember that feeling many times when I was depressed but I always made sure I kept telling myself it’s gonna pass but I have to be the one to make the changes for that feeling to stay away. You are an incredibly intelligent adult who just needs to remind themselves of that sometimes because we all need to hear that even if it is just telling ourselves. There is so much to live for. This is a temporary situation, you can change things in your life slowly to become the person you want to be. It’s ok to cry but use that energy to your advantage crying is a stress reliever in itself. When you’re crying think of different things you can do to help change your situation. When you take that first step to change things you will have feelings of liberation and that is the feeling that you won’t want to end. It will change and lift your self esteem and make it stronger. You can do it just take a deep breath and believe you can do it because you can. I hope this helps a little. If you should ever need to vent or just someone to listen feel free to email me I don’t mind at all. Peace,

    Broadly speaking there are three main categories of depression that I seem to experience, and I have labeled them: the “mild stage”, the “moderate stage” and the “severe stage”, each with associated symptoms that I have learnt to recognize.

    SEVERE DEPRESSION:

    1. Sleep, and a lot of it, is the only natural remedy for my deep depression stage. Prescription drugs also appear to help, and speed up the recovery process.

    2. Struggling to fight through the severe stage impedes my recovery, as do guilt and the associated frustration. The situation appears to be analogous to a car with a flat battery; switching on the engine too early or revving it prevents the battery from recharging. When I’m really bad it not even possible to resist, as my mind and body seem to shut down.

    MODERATE TO MILD DEPRESSION:

    3. I now monitor my illness and keep records. It helps me to identify symptoms, and learn to understand my particular form of depression. When I’m trying different types of approach or treatment, it allows me to assess whether I have found something particularly effective, or not.

    4. I make an effort to keep informed about depression by reading the latest books or checking out web sites, etc. Most libraries now have a special section devoted to mental health and well-being. At the same time I’ve become wary of so-called experts who offer quick-fix remedies for depression, and I do try to be patient with well-meaning, but ignorant , friends or family who have given me unhelpful advice.

    5. Professional help, such as counseling, can also be useful, if it is available to you when you need it, however, unless you can afford to pay, I have found it that generally it isn’t. For myself, I only find it really helpful when I’m in my moderate stage

    6. Think about those close to you, and the effect your illness can have on them. Just feeling guilty is a waste of time and energy, but it is important to provide them with information to help them understand and cope. I found a book in the library for my husband, written specifically for someone in his situation (sorry I can’t recall the title or author), but most good books have a chapter dedicated to helping loved ones. Make a point of regularly showing that you love them, that you recognize THEIR needs, and that you appreciate all their support. In the past, I’m afraid, that I have been guilty of taking my girlfriend for granted, and using her as an emotional “punch-bag”.

    7. Fellow-sufferers are generally very supportive, and a great source of information and advice. Blogs or Boards or self-help groups have helped me overcome feelings of shame and isolation, and to start dealing with my illness in a practical way.

    8. Unfortunately, I have found that a sensible lifestyle goes a long way towards keeping me well . This means making sure that I get enough sleep, eat properly, exercise, go out in the fresh air, etc. I also have to be really strict about my alcohol intake because my natural inclination is to drink far too much, far too often.

    9. I can modify or change my own behavior directly, and alter the direction of my thoughts, but must accept my feelings of the moment. In other words, I have found cognitive behavioral therapy extremely useful in changing the way I think and behave, and so indirectly influencing my feelings. However, some negative feelings come unbidden, and I have found it less than useful to try and suppress or deny them.

    10. Therefore I have found it necessary to develop my own set of (effective and non-destructive) coping strategies for dealing with negative feelings, or external events and situations. Reassuringly, I have found that I can now experience negative thoughts or go through unpleasant experiences without panicking over plunging into a severe depression – a constant threat that has hung over me ever since I can remember

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