These Days

For the last few months I’ve been thinking about a getaway vacation where I could completely disconnect from the world (phone, Internet) and just sleep, read, hang out in a pool, and drink. I planned it after a long time deliberating on a location. The day before I purchased my plane ticket, a friend contacted me and asked if I could consult on a project. The prospect of making some money and having a paid trip to my second choice destination made sense to me. I arrived four days early for the vacation part that I desperately needed.

I know this was a better choice as a vacation because the last thing I needed was a vacation where I spent seven days alone. I would have also charged the entire trip so this also makes financial sense. I spent the first two nights of my trip with friends. The days and tonight have been on my own. In many respects, I think I am becoming a little too comfortable on my own. Yet, I feel this pull towards people and the need to connect. Overall I am grateful for tonight because I needed the time to just shut down.

I know that my current job leaves me tired —physically and emotionally. I love my job. I do. But, it requires me to be “on” all of the time so when I leave work I am drained. I think I would struggle if I were in a relationship because I don’t feel like I have much else I can give to people. I am definitely pushing myself on a physical level. I am into my second 21 day schedule of the chemo drug and can feel it affecting me a little more than I expected. The doc added a steroid so I could better tolerate some of the side effects, plus the combination has shown more success. I think it has just made me more emotional. So I have all of this going on — a very busy new job, continued push to improve my health, adjustments to a new job and city, and just living life.

One thing that came up the other night was my description to someone that I finally feel like I am back to myself after a year and a half of angst. I spent that same night staying up until 4 in the morning, drinking most of the booze I had purchased, listening to music, and just looking at the stars. I kept thinking how life has just turned out in a weird way. As much as I joke around with everyone, I am far too serious about everything. I am trying so hard to relax on this trip but I think it is impossible. I am incredibly stressed about everything. I can’t get my brain to just shut up. So that is where I am at these days.

Moments

I have had a weird week of emotions. It hasn’t felt as if I am living in the present. It started last week when I saw the documentary, Life Itself, about Roger Ebert. I grew up watching At the Movies with Siskel and Ebert with my dad and sister. As an adult living in Chicago, I would see Roger Ebert on the streets of Chicago or rang up his purchases at a store I worked at during a holiday season. I thought he was a terrific writer so I commented every now and then on his blog posts. I was in the Chicago area at the time of his public memorial service. I briefly contemplated attending but I had to get to Indianapolis. I think I cried off and on throughout the movie for the memories it stirred up of childhood and some of my favorite Chicago places, such as O’Rourkes. Seeing glimpses of a former building on the Northwestern Memorial campus stirred up less pleasant memories. It made me miss my dad but some of my favorite Chicagoans such as Gene Siskel, Studs Terkel, and Roger. 

A few days later, I landed in Seattle for a conference. It was a different conference for me in the respect that my usual conference pals weren’t attending. With the additional free time for myself, I went to see the movie, Boyhood, on the first night. Following the same characters over a period of years, the director shows moments from their lives as they go through childhood and enter college. There is a line somewhere in the movie about how life is made up of moments. While that is an obvious statement it didn’t leave my thoughts for the week. The week in Seattle kept bringing back memories of different moments of my life. 

An ex of mine was at the conference. We had some time to catch up on the first day. An odd thing about us is that I really don’t remember that much of our time together even though we were together for three and a half years and lived together for at least two of them.  What I remembered was the last time I stayed at the hotel was right after I returned from a trip where I hooked up with Mary. I had to go to the University of Washington for a meeting with several colleagues. I spent most of the drive and stay in the hotel secretly texting with Mary. Things ended with Jane within a few weeks of that hotel stay. Another person at the conference was someone I had not seen since 2000. She was the head of reference at a branch library where I worked full-time during library school. While I was at the main campus, I worked closely with her and her staff. As my situation deteriorated at this library and I had to leave when I filed a discrimination suit, this librarian stood behind me. Her and a few others provided references as I searched for my first professional position. They knew I had been treated poorly by library administration. They shared in my celebration when I won my suit. To see her fourteen years later as I am now in a position that I would have never expected in those bad days was something we both acknowledged and celebrated during different moments of the conference. I spent some time with a former colleague during my very early days at the University of Oregon.  

I went off one afternoon to my favorite Seattle bookstore. It stirred up memories of trips to Seattle with L. The whole time walking around the city made me nostalgic for the PNW in a way that my trips to Portland had not. Finally, I spent yesterday with a friend who I also met during those early Oregon days. Between these moments of memories of early Oregon days, time with L, or my time in Chicago, I had a hard time finding who I am in this present moment. It also didn’t help that attending this conference reminded me of my early days in the profession when I attended conferences without knowing many people, attending the majority of sessions, and still learning new things.

Despite all of these moments of looking back at things, I felt comfort knowing I am in the right place. I really like my job. I like where I live. I am relieved not to be in a relationship. I have great people in my life. And, I am figuring out things. I am definitely more settled and more at peace with things than  who I was in 2000, 2002, 2003, or 2012. 

 

Oh so much better

I survived the anniversary weekend. I survived the conference. I am going to make it.

Conference was good. I spent a lot of time with friends who are becoming more important to me. I celebrated my birthday with an amazing group of people who really mean so much to me. I am lucky. I know it. A few of us were emailing the other day and commented on how we feel lucky to share our lives with our group of friends. I wonder sometimes how I landed in this profession with so many smart, funny, and caring people. I should also add fun because that was the best part of last weekend — all of the laughing. It was desperately needed after last year’s annual conference or the events in May.  

If I have a favorite memory it is probably last Sunday afternoon. Four of us hung out by the pool for several hours just laughing and talking about anything except work or our careers. We were goofy. Relaxed. Not worried about anything. It felt amazing.

I was really nervous about the anniversary of Elston’s death. It was on my mind in Vegas up until the last few minutes. I just remembered the worry at last year’s conference when the dog sitter kept calling to say she was sick. From the minute I stepped off the plane in Portland until she died three days later, I was hit with one of the worst losses I’ve ever experienced.  I know it triggered six months of downhill behavior. It probably started before she died but her death really set me down that path. 

I wanted a weekend of remembrance. I didn’t want to wallow. I went on nice walks. I caught up on sleep. I checked out a new restaurant. I tried to be good to myself. I made it.

Randomness

This is somewhat earth shattering — I am doing better. The other day I actually felt content with everything – where I live, people in my life, recent decisions I’ve made, and even accepting some of my current issues. I am no longer beating myself up for some of my recent mistakes. In fact, I have shed quite a bit of anger that I’ve been carrying around for the last six months or so. I am not sure what has contributed to these feelings other than a bit of acceptance, healthier decision making, and having recent events put things in perspective for me. I know I have several tests ahead of me (hello Las Vegas trip) but even that is causing less anxiety than previous conferences. I just know I am in a better place so I should handle things better. 

One of my ongoing issues is my fatigue. I was really discouraged last week with my lack of energy in the evenings. I would come home from work and immediately take a two hour nap. I would watch television since I couldn’t focus enough on reading or anything else. Unlike the last time with radiation, the fatigue is worse than the GI stuff. I’ve decided to try a few things to help in the evenings. I am going to drink a protein shake as soon as I get home to get me over the first hour of downtime. I am also going to try and go on a walk right after I drink the shake. I want to see if that helps boost my energy. 

The other good thing that has happened is I saw my sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and niece this weekend. It was a quick trip since they were on their way to Colorado. It was still nice to see them for an evening/morning. My niece seems to be doing better. In fact, I think we connected quite a bit on this visit. 

Finally, a nemesis from my early years passed away over the weekend. He was one of my teachers in 8th, 10th, and 11th grades. He was not a nice person. He definitely did not like me. I took him for 8th grade Latin so I would trek to the high school from the junior high, which was across the street. I really don’t remember much of that year or the class. It was during 10th grade when I started disliking him. It was outright hatred during my junior year. I took Spanish those two years from him. I can’t tell you one thing I learned from him other than how not to teach students. We started off each class with what he called “card grades” — a random assignment of vocabulary that you had to pronounce and spell. You received either an A or F. It was stressful for most of us, especially since he would ridicule students when they missed a word. It was not uncommon to have elaborate cheat sheets on our desks. It made up a huge portion of our grade.

During my junior year, he had me sit in the front row, right in front of his desk. We bickered a lot. It wasn’t uncommon to see him turn bright red when he would get angry at me. At one point, my parents had to meet with him because of my failing grade and attitude. They were not happy. So, I ignored all of my other classes and just focused on Spanish. I bumped my grade up from an F to a B. I still hated him. Later after I went away to college and took college level Spanish, I returned to the high school for a visit. I made a point of stopping in his classroom to tell him that two years of Spanish with him left me completely unprepared for a college course. I complained about the pronunciations and basic stuff he skipped over. He admitted that he dumbed his class down. Great. Rather than focusing on tormenting his students, he could have tried to engage us in the course material. He did tell me that day that he always respected how I stood up to him. Whatever.  I had a weird reaction to the news of his death — not sadness. I don’t know. I didn’t feel good about his death since I think he was just a sad, lonely man who hated kids. I guess I felt pity.

What to do…what to do…what to do

I have a friend who is mad at me. I am also mad at her. I don’t know what to do. 

I’ve known Joan for ten years. We’ve been close friends for seven of those years. We’ve never fought before. We’ve had periods of distance but not for any reason other than being busy. There are so many things I love about Joan. She has the best sense of humor of anyone I know. She is also one of the smartest friends I’ve ever had. She is caring. She has been an important part of my life since 2007.

I knew there were moments last fall when I irritated her. I was irritating everyone, including myself. I sensed some growing distance before I left Portland. I thought it was because I was getting ready to move and some stuff going on in her personal life. In March, we were both at a conference. She greeted me with what was either a very rude comment or one laden with so much sarcasm that me, the sarcasm expert, missed it. We went to lunch with some friends. She gave me a really hard time about someone. Later, she gave me a tough time about something else. I was hurt. I also wanted to tell her what was going on with me but wasn’t sure if I would get the chance so I sent her a text updating her on my health. I thought it would be okay since we were starting to talk about it earlier that day when we were interrupted. I found out later that finding out via text really pissed her off. I am not always the most sensitive when it comes to health updates because I try to downplay it for myself. I just assume everyone is the same way. I tried explaining it to her. We talked. I thought things were okay.

We were at the same conference 3 1/2 weeks ago. I knew the moment I saw her that she was mad at me. She was cold. She hadn’t seen me for several months, yet she didn’t stop and say hi. It isn’t really the reaction I expected from someone who I used to consider a very close friend. The coldness extended into the next day. I found her later that day in the bar so I had a few drinks with her and another person. Things seemed a little better. It quickly went downhill back to coldness. It hurt. I assumed it was still the health stuff but I wasn’t sure. I wanted to talk to her but I wasn’t sure how to start the conversation. I wasn’t in the best head space that weekend. 

I found out the day we left the conference that she was really mad at me (through our good friend who was also at the conference). She was mad that I wasn’t making healthy decisions. She saw me drinking a lot, which she knew was not a good thing for me. She was also mad that I was spending a lot of time with someone who she saw as very unhealthy for me. She doesn’t like this person so she said she automatically didn’t want to join us in different social situations. If Joan had told me all of this, I would have been able to explain things. I would have also explained how hurt I was from the first bit of rejection I experienced from her on Saturday night before she saw me hanging around anyone or drinking too much. I decided I would send her a letter when I returned home when I would tell her how much she means to me and provide some rationale for certain things.

I haven’t sent the letter. A part of me is so tired of the high school drama. She said/he said. I fall into the same pattern when I am around the old group. I know as a friend that it can be extremely frustrating to listen to someone bitch\stress\vent\process the same thing to death and then they put themselves back in the situation that is just going to lead to more bitching\stressing\venting\processing. But, she never gave me that chance. She just assumed I would go in that direction when that wasn’t the case. A part of me doesn’t think it would really matter what I would say because it feels like her mind is made up. Now I am the one making assumptions.  I guess what has stopped me from sending the letter is I am tired of fighting for friendships. Why isn’t she fighting for me? What did I do that was so wrong? I realize this is very stubborn. I also realize I sound a little like my mother. It also isn’t in the spirit of the things I was thinking about after the memorial service. I know I hurt a lot of people that weekend. I have apologized to the people who felt I blew them off when I was in Portland and didn’t see them. 

As stupid as it sounds, I am at that point where I think if someone really wants me as a friend, well, they should fight for me. I know I am stubborn. I know life is short. But this is one case where I think we both screwed up and maybe…just maybe..I am not the one who owes the apology.  Maybe I am not the horrible person in this situation. Maybe it is time I see other people step up and make a case for our friendship.

One day at a f*** time

I feel better than I did two weeks ago. I even feel better than a week ago. But, I am not ready to proclaim victory because last night was a little bit of a setback. I know that I am (surprisingly) handling some things better than expected. For example, everyone at work keeps talking about all of the things that have happened since I started the job. They make comments on how I keep working through everything. During my evaluation this week, my boss told me that my composure over the last six months, especially over the last month, has defined me as a strong leader. He talked about my leadership skills, strong support on campus, and that my staff really like me. Normally, I would feel uncomfortable with this praise but this time I am just going to accept it. I know that I have handled a lot of work things as I’ve also been struggling with my personal life. The work stuff has not been easy. This past week was rough because I had zero energy. When I say zero energy — I really mean zero energy. Zero energy as in “it hurts to breathe” energy. Yet, I got through it. What else am I supposed to do?  We are facing major deadlines at work as regular work continues. We faced a memorial service for our co-worker. I had a “come to Jesus” meeting with the former director. And, I am still navigating a personnel situation that is going to explode at the end of the month. I had no choice but to show up and work through all of it.  I have another crucial five days ahead of me.

On top of the busy work schedule, I had two radiation sessions. I guess it is a better sign that this time (two days later), I was able to have a nice lunch yesterday and drink lots of coffee this weekend. I even had a beer last night. But, I am facing five sessions this week so I doubt I will say the same thing next weekend. Another difference between the last round of radiation and this one is that I am less gloomy and conflicted. I am just doing it. I am not over thinking it.

Personal life? I am not thinking about it. I am trying to focus on my niece, work, and when I can get my next nap. I am trying to reconnect with friends I haven’t talked to for awhile. I am struggling with attention issues. My focus is too limited to really read anything of substance. I’ve gone through this phase before but I hope this one doesn’t last as long. I am watching more television than I would like. I wish I could use that time to read but my brain just wants mindless stuff.

So the part where I don’t feel ready to say things are completely better? We had the memorial service yesterday. It was a little weird. I was very touched by what Steve’s friends had to say about him. I was touched by the staff and students who showed up. I was relieved when the singer sang “Our Father” because it was the most ridiculous voice I’ve ever heard. It immediately dried up all of my tears and helped me get through the rest of the service. Afterwards, I went to lunch with a few co-workers. I came home and slept. I did some things around the apartment. I thought about walking to the art fair in the neighborhood but I decided I didn’t want to be around people. I watched television. I read stupid fan fiction. And, then I just got hit with this spasm of grief and frustration over the last few weeks. It has been a lot. I mean, seriously, it is a lot for anyone to handle so I can’t beat myself up too much. I had that sensation of wanting to crawl out of my skin. I decided to call Bonnie. We talked about stuff but I didn’t say that I was upset or anything. I just needed to reach out and talk about cats, our upcoming conference, issues she is going through, and my imitation of the singer at the memorial service. It was enough for me to get control of my sadness.

Better Week Ahead?

Last week was brutal. Seriously brutal. On a professional level, I was in a position where I had to continue leading a group of grieving staff. I wasn’t sure I could do it because of my own stuff going on but somehow I managed to do okay. I ended up having quite a few staff thank me for the things I said and did. A few people told me I showed true leadership. All I did was act like myself because I was also grieving.  I am not sure how people will respond in the coming weeks as time goes by. We have the official memorial service this coming weekend. It will take some people longer to recover, which could create problems with staff who prefer to move on at a faster pace.

The second thing that happened last week was I decided to go ahead with the radiation now rather than wait until July or August. I guess I would put this in the “trying to make healthier decisions” category. I wouldn’t say I felt angels singing at my decision. I just went back to work and thought about eight radiation sessions before I travel at the end of June to a conference I don’t want to attend. I go this Thursday.

The worst thing is news of my niece. Anyone who knows me understands that my nephews and niece are the most important people in my life. My niece, N, is someone I have adored from the day she was born. The hardest move I ever made was when I left Chicago when N and her younger brother were young. She has always been this great kid — incredibly smart, quirky sense of humor, and kind. It is a little harder for me to see the quirky sense of humor since I don’t see her that often. She is still a little shy so it takes awhile for her to show all of those sides that I remember and love. My sister called last Sunday night to tell me that N was in the hospital for threatening suicide. She had a plan. Some issues of have been going on since the fall that were told to me. It broke my heart. I am naturally scared for her. I was her age when I started dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. What is tearing me up is that I am so scared she will follow in my path of on/off dealings of depression. It is the very last thing I want for her because it isn’t fun. What gives me hope is that my sister and her husband are much more caring and supportive than what my mom offered me (my dad was helpful in a scared way but my mom dominated the care I received). She is already getting professional help that I didn’t receive for many years later. This news shook me to my core. It is one more reminder that I need to pay more attention to the people I love.

Amazing Grace

I had to make a call this afternoon to 32 people letting them know that a co-worker had passed away today. This co-worker is someone I refer to as the soul of the library. I’ve told my professional colleagues, as recently as last weekend, about him and how he restored my purpose for what I do. Life as a night and weekend circulation staff member is not the most exciting, especially if you have been doing the job for 27 years. But, he loved his job more than anything. He told me countless times how grateful he was to work in our library. He told me several months ago that he approaches his job as not someone who is just checking out study rooms and items to students. He views his job as someone who is helping the next generation of surgeons, nurses, discovers, and doctors in the rural communities. He was able to connect his job to a part of the education of our health care practitioners in a way I had struggled with for years.

I told stories about him last weekend to people when they asked about my new job. I explained how our international students really sought him out for advice. When students graduated, it wasn’t unusual for them to bring their parents to the library to meet Steve. When new international students came to campus they would seek him out because they heard from returning students how helpful he had been to them.

Once a month, I review our reference transaction logs just to get a sense of the type of issues that come up. Steve’s entries were the best — he recorded the questions from people on why the security guards were now dressed like Darth Vader, history of dragons, and why Omaha drivers are so bad.

He is the kindest person I have ever met. And, yes I refuse to use the past tense. Goddammit.

Oh boy

Last weekend was a horrible one for me. I can’t say it came as a shock since I had been dreading it for awhile. What I think surprised me is how it has made me feel days later. I woke up this morning with a full blown panic attack because of the thoughts running through my head.

What did I dread? A presentation I had to give (weak on my part, everyone else was great). Friends I hadn’t seen since the last time we kind of argued back in March (person is even more angry at me now). Being around booze (failed that in the worst way possible). Being back in Portland (sad and wanted to hide). Seeing someone I really like who isn’t interested in me and how I would handle it (worst way possible). Keeping up my energy (surprisingly okay). Being away from work and things going on (okay because everything else was a mess). Not being able to escape since I was going to be on a mountain (avoided the temptation to walk out of the lodge and into a snow bank). I didn’t handle any of it very well. As a matter of fact, I think it was actually worse than what I expected.

I keep saying to a few people that I have lost a sense of who I am over this past year. There are a lot of reasons why I make that comment. I guess the primary reason is I no longer cope with things in the same way as before. I don’t feel as strong.Things I used to hold important and core to who I am are much harder to find. I can’t shake things off the way like I did before.

I woke up this morning in a panic that maybe I have lost that sense because *this* is who I am now. Maybe I am this person who is no longer as considerate as before. Maybe I am this person who ignores the people who have stood by my side for years and takes it for granted. Maybe I am this person who says hurtful things to people. Maybe I am really this fucked up.  Maybe I am faking my way through my job and waiting for someone to notice that I am just a fraud. And maybe I am this person who finds comfort in the wrong things. I have done more embarrassing, hurtful, and stupid things in the last year than probably any other year in my life. What if this is the norm?

When I returned to Portland last Tuesday, I went right to Bonnie’s house and curled up on her couch. I cancelled everything I had lined up for the day and night. I slept. When I woke up, I couldn’t stop crying. I called Mary. She couldn’t even get me to stop sobbing to explain what was wrong. That was the funny thing — I didn’t know how to describe what was wrong. I was crawling out of my skin because I couldn’t get my brain to shut up. Bonnie came home later. We ordered a pizza. We watched mindless television. She knew that I didn’t want to talk. I was afraid if I said anything, I would lose one more friend. I woke up the next day and still couldn’t stop crying. I called a friend from the airport and made it through the conversation without losing it. He gave me some advice. I sent off an email to this person –  I almost missed my flight. I cried during take off. I sent an email to a friend who wasn’t part of the weekend debacle but I blew off on the Portland days/nights. I worked. I cried some more. I called Mary from my layover in Minneapolis. Cried some more. Landed in Omaha. I cried walking through the terminal to my car. Sobbed when I got home.

I’ve had other moments since then of random and uncontrollable crying. Fortunately, I’ve held it together at work and in other public places. I kept it together for a friend who has also had a rough week. I kept it together when my favorite employee suffered a massive heart attack and waited to hear if he would survive surgery (he did). I kept it together when another employee was also admitted to the hospital. I kept it together when I was hit with more administrative issues at work. I haven’t had a sip of alcohol since I returned, nor do I want any. I’ve been able to focus a little more on work.

I thought maybe I was starting to forgive myself for last weekend. And, then I woke up this morning feeling worse than I have in years. I am scared this is who I am because I don’t like this version of me. At all.  I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know where to turn anymore for comfort. I think it could take a very,very long time for my self-esteem to ever return but that is a minor concern compared to this. I just feel horrible for all of the things I’ve done and said. I wish my memory could be erased. I need the old me to return as soon as possible. What scares me is that it will be too late for me and all of the people who know that person will say I’ve blown it way too many times to make a difference.

Coming Up Close and A Sort of Homecoming

 

The last three weeks have been a bit rough with my mother. Not only did she tell me I was dead to her, she has sent two unpleasant letters, a nasty email, threatened to throw away some items from my dad’s side of the family, and told my sisters about my radiation. Needless to say, I didn’t wish her a happy mother’s day.

These songs remind me of a friend I made my junior year of high school, Lisa. She moved to my hometown at the start of our junior year. We had English class together. We didn’t become friends until halfway through the school year when somehow we started talking about things. We started hanging out on weekends. I will never forget hanging out at my house, drinking, and listening to music. We realized that Coming up Close was our favorite song on the album, Voices Carry, by Til’ Tuesday. It was not as popular as the title track so that made Lisa seem extra cool. It was that evening that I also shared with someone how I felt about my mother. I had told other friends but they had solid relationships with their mothers. Lisa was like me. She also had a difficult mother. We used to joke that our mothers were separated at birth. Lisa and I also shared a history of major depression. We quickly became best friends.

The remainder of my junior year was difficult. I drank almost everyday before school, sometimes during school, and usually in the evenings. At one point, I was caught by my parents because a friend’s parent called my parents to tell them of my drinking. After I left for school the next day, they searched my room and found a lot of booze. I was hauled off to a therapist the next day. Lisa and I developed a close relationship with our English teacher, Linda. Actually, I developed the close relationship with Linda but Lisa helped facilitate the closeness. She went to Linda because she was concerned about me. Linda reached out to me so I started hanging out in her classroom during her free hour that coincided with my study hall hour. I am not exaggerating when I say that Linda was the first person to save my life. She was the first adult to show an interest in me. She was a mother figure to me. I wanted someone like her to be my mother. She gave advice. She offered distractions by allowing me a place to come hide for an hour each day. What she didn’t realize was that Lisa and I were in a horrible place. For the first time, I found a friend who didn’t judge me for my suicidal thoughts. Both of us had a very dark sense of humor that led to me driving recklessly because what did it really matter if we crashed and died. We were sixteen and thought we would never live to the age of eighteen.

At some point, we decided to kill ourselves through a suicidal pact. We made plans. I remember sitting in study hall with Lisa as we wrote notes to different people. But I made the mistake (?) of telling Linda about our plans. Obviously, she freaked out. After school that day, I had to see my therapist who was thirty miles away. I told him what was happening. I told him why I wanted to do it because there was an upcoming event that led to my thoughts. I told him that Linda knew. He told me that he would call my parents and allow me to back out of the event. By the time I returned home, he talked to my parents. They had also received a call from the school guidance counselor who heard from Linda about our plans. My mom verbally attacked me. The therapist verbally attacked me on the phone. It was one of the worst moments of my life. I talked to Lisa that night on the phone and told her what was going on. While I was talking to her, she was attempting an overdose. I didn’t know it.

The next day she didn’t show up at school. Linda and I were both concerned when English class started and she wasn’t there. Linda sent me down to the guidance counselor to find out what was going on. I called Lisa and her dad told me she was in the hospital. It wasn’t our plan. We were going the carbon monoxide route. I didn’t follow through with an attempt because I had everyone watching me.

Everything changed after that day. Lisa and I remained friends but we were never as close. My parents didn’t approve of her so it was always hard to get time with her. She started a job, met a guy, and got pregnant at the very end of our senior year of high school. I had started to back away at the beginning of our senior year because I knew I couldn’t continue drinking before school. The year after high school I went to the community college while she worked and raised her baby with a husband. We hung out every now and then. She visited me when I went to the University of Kansas. We kept in touch off and on over the years. She is now happily married to someone else with some great kids.

The situation with Linda ended horribly. My parents asked her to stop talking to me. She was probably relieved because she was a recently divorced single mom who was trying to get back on her feet. She had two students try and die on her. I can honestly say her withdrawal fucked me up for years. It devastated me. She was the first adult I had trusted and she just walked away. It wasn’t until a year later that I suspected my parent’s involvement based on something she said. I used to search through all of their belongings trying to find some sort of evidence that they had contacted her. Five years after this happened, I even searched my dad’s office for any scrap of paper. Two years after this happened, I went back to the therapist just to find out the truth. He told me the teacher was in over her head. I am sure it is true, especially since I now have the perspective of time. But, she did save my life. I know that if I hadn’t trusted her, I never would have told her of our plans. I know we would have succeeded with the carbon monoxide plan.

In 1997 I came out to my mom. My dad had already passed away. She was normal about the whole thing. She didn’t ask a lot of questions until a few months after I told her. We were in Florida at a nice restaurant. She started asking me questions about coming out. She said that along with my dad they had always suspected I was a lesbian. I said that would have been nice to know since I hadn’t figured it out until much later. She said they suspected when I became too attached to Linda. It was when I knew for sure they had told her to stop talking to me. Sure there might have been a part of them that was worried about a teacher’s involvement as someone not professionally trained to deal with two suicidal girls but I knew at that moment that for my mom it was because of jealousy. I had an attachment on someone who wasn’t her. She turned it into something sexual because she didn’t want to admit I trusted someone more than her. Honestly, I never forgave my parents for what they did. It took me too many years to trust people after that junior year with Linda.

Even after all of this time, I think of that time with some nostalgia. Lisa and I used to drive around blaring “A Sort of Homecoming” (one of my top ten favorite songs) and singing at the top of our lungs. It was a cathartic song for us because I think we could scream along. The beauty of the whole thing is I gained a friend who was the first person to understand my dark side without any judgment. I still think about Linda. She is still teaching. I know I would do anything for her just based on that one year of my life.

Lisa and I still remember April 22 as the day when things changed. It is an anniversary I celebrate. What I celebrate I am not sure. I think about a day when I could have died. A day when I first experienced a major loss (Linda). A day when I hardened a little as a person.