Archive | November, 2013

The five stages of grief

26 Nov

Denial:
I read the email with the subject line “Really bad news” over and over again, pulled over on the side of the road. And even when I was screaming and sobbing and literally gasping for air, I was still sure that it was the worst practical joke of all time. Obviously I knew it was true, because I can’t remember the last time I cried so hard, or if I ever have, but I was equally sure that there had to have been a mistake. That I would get a follow-up email explaining that she was a medical mystery but alive and well. Or that Roxy would call me and tell me that herself.

The more people I called to tell, the harder it was to not believe it. And with every incredulous response, I had to be the one to say, yes, really, it’s awful but it’s true. You say that enough and you can’t deny it any longer. The numbness sort of melts away and the pain sets in. When I called Alex and he told me what happened, I could see it perfectly in my head, even though I didn’t want to, and there was no doubt any longer. Still, there are moments when I wake up from all-too-frequent naps and think, wasn’t that a fucked-up dream I had. I can’t wait to tell Roxy about it.

Anger:
This, I internalized. And I’m still having a hard time letting go. I’m not angry at Roxy for leaving or at a higher power for taking her — though please, I beg of you, don’t talk to me about God’s plan, because if God has a plan, it’s being an asshole — I’m angry at myself for not being a better friend. And I know that sounds like I’m being too hard on myself, which I maybe am, but you don’t know how bad I could be about keeping in touch. I looked at our last IM conversation: She was just checking in and I said I was too swamped at work to talk. That was true, but I never got back to her. So fuck me, really.

I didn’t know she was suffering, and I should have. I didn’t make the time to see her when she was in town — because yes, we were both bad at making plans and following through, especially over the last couple years, but couldn’t I have tried a little harder. She had a birthday card for me that Alex has now, and I’m still so angry at myself that in my darkest moments, I don’t feel like I deserve it. I’m worried that by admitting all of this, it sounds like I’m seeking reassurance, but the truth is I know I fucked up. As time passes, I will accept that I fucked up because I’m human, not because I’m a bad person. I won’t let myself off the hook, but I’ll at least be less pissed off.

Bargaining:
I’m not sure about this stage. Apparently it’s about trying to regain control, but all I feel is helpless. There is a part of me that will sit here and say, I could have been there for Roxy more and helped her through her depression, and then maybe she wouldn’t have needed the medication, but that’s absurd. I know how depression works, and it’s not simply a matter of cheering up. I remember in high school, she would start to feel better and then stop taking her meds, and the dark feelings would come back, and I would say, “It’s not just a mood. It’s your brain chemistry, and you have to treat it like a medical problem.”

But do I wish I could go back in time and stop all of this from happening? Of course. I keep having the fantasy of calling her a week ago and saying I had a premonition and she needs to see a doctor immediately. They would find out what was wrong, and treat her accordingly, and even though she’d still need to find a new regimen to deal with her depression, she would be alive. These are pointless thoughts, and I resent even having them. There’s nothing any of us could have done, realistically. But what if, what if, what if.

Depression:
I’ve been medicated for years, so I’d almost forgotten how bad I could feel. Since getting on Prozac, I’ve found that in those dark moments, I’ll experience a sharp pang of sadness and then feel it subside. I’ll exhale and wonder if I’m numbing myself too much, but I’ll be grateful to feel OK.

Only know it’s not subsiding. I feel fine when I’m distracted enough to forget, and then it all comes rushing back and I’m crying again. I’m afraid to leave the house, not that I want to, so I just sit here and watch bad TV and eat junk food under a blanket. I know it’s important to feel, but I’d forgotten how wretched these lows are. And while I believe that I’ll be normal again, eventually, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to hear “Cavanaugh Park” without crying or see a photo of us without burying my face in my hands and trying to shut the world away. I’m told this is just how things are from now on.

Acceptance:
I’ll let you know.

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Roxy

24 Nov

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Roxy is gone, and I don’t know what to do except write.

We got set up on a blind date, if you can believe that. I was 16, still very much in the closet — even to myself, really. We got Thai food, and I felt awkward because I knew things were never going to work on a romantic level, so I was kind of a dick to her. She probably should have written me off as an asshole, but she didn’t. I think she recognized a kindred spirit, something I soon picked up on as well. As weird as it was to imagine dating her, it was even weirder to think of her not being in my life.

High school was not easy for either of us. The more we talked, the more we realized we liked each other more than almost anyone else we actually went to school with. At one point, we were spending so much time together that I look back now and have to remind myself we attended different schools. Because she was there when I needed her: She got it, and she got that nobody else did. And while we weren’t the only people in each other’s lives, sometimes it felt that way — like we were two outcasts against the world. I had never read Perks of Being a Wallflower, because that was the kind of book we’d make fun of, but I knew what it was about and secretly related. Being a freak sucks, and then you find another freak to spend your time with. And fuck everyone else.

We had two main anxieties: being single and being overweight. We couldn’t fix each other, but just sharing our insecurities made it all a little easier. I keep saying that I don’t know what I would have done without her, because it’s unfathomable. She was my therapist before I had a therapist. We actually argued a lot, probably because we had so much in common, but also because there was so much pain shared between us. I remember nights we spent driving aimlessly, screaming along to Something Corporate, which we knew was ridiculous but helped us forget the things that actually made us hurt.

Our favorite movie was Ghost World, because of course it was. We quoted it endlessly, and that summer before college, when we spent nearly every day together, it took on a new weight. I worried that we’d drift apart: She was staying in Los Angeles, and I was going off to Berkeley. And while we rarely, for whatever reason, acknowledged how much we meant to one another, I know the thought of separation scared the shit out of us. I bought two dolls, Enid and Rebecca, and I gave her Rebecca and kept Enid for myself — I guess because she was blonde, or because I’m selfish and always liked Enid better — and said something corny about how we’d always be connected. We hated being corny. We hardly ever even hugged.

And I think about that and wish I’d told her that I loved her more often than I did. But I also have to believe she knew.

Distance made keeping in touch hard sometimes. We were two anxious people who often got caught up in our heads. When she eventually transferred to Berkeley, it felt too good to be true: We’d finally be at the same school. She was already a part of my college experience, with her phone calls and visits, but I’m so glad we got to really have those two years together. And I’m grateful that she got to know all the friends I’d made in college — so many of them a little bit awkward or different — because they were our kind of people. On the surface, we probably seemed cooler than we were at 16, but we’d still admit to one another that we never really felt comfortable in our own skin.

When I think about college, it’s honestly a bit of a blur, and no, that has nothing to do with drinking. But I’m glad I can remember plenty of moments with Roxy, because that’s what I want to hold on to now. I remember going to dinner at a Persian restaurant — it was my first time, even though she had dubbed me an honorary Persian years before — and watching in awe as she ate raw onion. And then sitting on her bed and watching her play Animal Crossing and laughing, because that’s a ridiculous game, but also I was very stoned. I remember the night after my 20th birthday party, two weeks after getting dumped by my ex, when she came over and watched Phat Girlz with Melody and me. There’s a lot of pathos in that film. You’d be surprised.

Of course I remember the dark times, too. There were so many tears over boys who didn’t like us and — perhaps more to the point — over not liking ourselves enough. But we both let go of that adolescent angst, so there’s no real reason to revisit it. I’m just glad I didn’t go through it alone.

Besides, that’s not who Roxy was over the past few years. I was so proud to see her blossom (and again, so regretful that I never told her more often, so please, please tell your loved ones how you feel) into the brilliant, gorgeous, confident woman I can’t believe we’ve lost. She found the courage to love herself, and the results were incredible. I saw a Roxy that neither of us could have imagined at 16. She was vibrant and powerful, unique in a way that didn’t mean standing off to the side. It’s no surprise that her boyfriend Alex fell in love with her, because how could anyone not fall in love with her?

Since I found out that Roxy passed away this morning, I have gone back and forth between feeling numb and sobbing, which I think is normal. I don’t really know — I’ve never lost someone so close before. I want to feel everything, but I also don’t want to feel at all, because even acknowledging that she’s gone is unbearable. More than anything, I wish she were here, sitting next to me on the couch. I’m thinking back to one New Year’s Eve we spent together, watching reruns of Degrassi and not even noticing the clock had reached midnight until the DVD ended. It was kind of perfect, and I wish I could have that back.

We used to talk about Enid’s Ghost World fantasy, getting on a bus and disappearing somewhere. It was an attractive notion when we were in high school, but I promised her that if I ever did that, I’d let her know where I went. I couldn’t imagine either of us leaving the other behind. Now I feel like she finally did it and forgot to tell me. And I’m closing my eyes and thinking about sitting on that bus stop and waiting for her, because I don’t know what else to do.