I’m going to be honest, because I never have been.
Last Thursday I found myself crying on the bus back home. I found myself feeling scared, anxious, and tired. I was sitting in front of a person people call my best-friend, seated next to someone I’ve never known. I turned up my music, cried, and fell asleep, but before I did I wondered whether or not I could find a way to convince the bus driver to let me off. I figured this option would call too much attention to myself so I slept and ignored the conversation happening in the seats behind me.
My sophomore year of high school I had to find a new circle. I was kicked out of what was the “intellectual” crowd. The people who were deemed special at a young age, the types who did nothing and did alright. I fit well into that crowd, but I was removed and I was left in the middle of two circles I wasn’t fully apart of. I like to say that I peaked my sophomore year, it was the only year of high school I enjoyed, because the last two turned into a blur of emotions and memories too painful to remember.
The night before my junior year, if there was anything to learn from HIMYM it should’ve been “nothing good happens after 2 a.m.” I did some stupid redacted shit that fucked up my self-esteem, but that first day I was a bubble. It wasn’t long until I burst, but that first day was perfect. In addition to my staggering self-esteem, my junior year was soon met with hospital visits to my Tio getting a titanium rod placed in his right leg, a bone marrow transplant (happy birthday), and chemo. I was on the verge of tipping over and then a classmate tragically passed away, I fell. I fell into one of the darkest periods of my life. I have always hesitated in saying I was depressed. It seems now a days anything remotely upsetting is depressing, but I’m going to call it that. I was depressed. I would spend nights silently crying contemplating the possible ways I could successfully kill myself. It was an idea I would explore, and very quickly deny. I would show up to school exhausted, but alive. I found myself being irritable, sarcastic, and cold. And so this new circle, that had learned and grown to accept my presence began to accept me as the irritable, sarcastic, cold girl. It hurt that none of them could see how sad I really was, but how could they have known if this was the only version of me they had ever interacted with. How could they have known?
I never willingly told anyone about my Tio. I had internalized the family mantra, “no hay que confiar in nadie,” and so I told no one, because I trusted no one. But one day I stayed after school to go to a Relay for Life meeting–what better way to subdue this helpless feeling, than feeling like I am doing something to help–and one of my newly made friends was telling me to ditch the meeting and go with her to another meeting. She told me to come and join her. She was tugging on my arm, my sleeve, and finally my hand. I refused and I pulled back and she kept pressing, asking me why. Until I burst into tears telling her my Tio has cancer. She looked at me in shock then in concern and then she apologized. I told her not to worry about it. How could she have known?
My first day of senior year I was in the back seat crying, begging my parents to take me home. It was almost a yes, but I had 13 years of perfect attendance on the line and so I reluctantly got out the car. That year, I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror. I couldn’t look at any part of me without feeling absolute disgust. I struggled to talk and make eye contact with people within my own circle, let alone anyone outside of it. I was an absolute wreck and the adults in my life like my parents, my sister, and some teachers were starting to take notice. They would ask me if I was alright. They would ask me if everything was okay. I would struggle to get out the I’m fine from behind my closing throat. There was one morning, it was a weekend, after getting no sleep and waking up early that I contemplated phoning a friend. A friend who had moved away before my depression. I walked into the bathroom and debated whether or not to tell them about what was happening with me. Finally, I just hit the call button. I honestly couldn’t tell you if they picked up or if I let the phone ring and ring until it went to voicemail and I left a message. All I can honestly tell you is that I frantically and profusely apologized for bothering them. After hanging up, my head felt like it was going to explode from the rush of blood and adrenaline it had received. I don’t know why I called them, but I’m sure it has a lot to do with the fact that they knew a part of me that no longer existed. A lot of it must have been that I sensed their sincerity in their feelings for me.
Then something shifted. My self-esteem was no longer as bad (thanks Mami y Papi), and I suddenly felt like I needed to be proactive. I felt that if I kept myself busy enough I could distract the depression away. I rejoined cross-country. I couldn’t tell you if I ran one race that final year. I couldn’t even tell you about practice. I started seriously considering college and getting together paperwork I needed to send in for FAFSA. I have a notebook, a pink notebook with a gold string documenting this exact shift. It goes from threatening to kill myself, to planned out afternoons. I applied to two colleges last minute. I probably could’ve done more. I probably could’ve done better but the fact that I’m here—I think I did alright. I was getting myself back, a self that didn’t cry nightly, and that was really all I was concerned with. I didn’t care about scholarships, I didn’t care about AP exams, I didn’t care about the senior experience everyone was so hell bent on me experiencing. I just wanted to get into some routine of normalcy that included me being able to look myself and the mirror and smile. I graduated, with honors, and those fucking 13 years.
Recently, I was cleaning out my room when I came across my senior letters from that year. I sat down to read them and everyone who felt obligated to write me a letter said roughly the same thing, “I don’t know what to say.” It was strange seeing in writing the question mark I was in people’s minds. I could see them scrambling looking for a memory to bring up and share, and coming up empty. It was strange knowing that even two years of orbiting around the same crowd and they still had nothing to say. It was scary to think that my “friends” would’ve been asked by the counselor, “did she seem depressed, were there any signs?” And they would most likely have responded, “no she seemed normal.” Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I get it now. As depressed as I was there was no way for me to create deep meaningful relationships. There was no way we could’ve created memory banks of one another that overflowed, mixed, and melted into all the others. I never really gave anyone the chance. I never really gave myself that chance.
Fresh out of high school I believed college was going to be that fresh new start. That summer I decided to really work on myself. I found the silver-lining in everything. I was laughing, and I was looking and seeing myself. I was excited and filled with a new-found appreciation of day and night. I remember when I ran into people from my circle when classes started, and all of them were confused wondering who I had become. I looked around at them confused, wondering who they thought I was. And it was that moment and many other moments that led me to realize that they have never known me. I was broken when they knew me. I was a fragmented version of myself that I never again want to become. That is who they expected, and that is not who they saw standing in front of them. I again can’t blame them. There is nothing that I can change about the past, but the past does get carried on into the future. I can’t change the past but what I can do is learn to accept everything that has been carried over. I can learn to validate my emotions and my feelings and the remaining residual resentment as real. Although, my resentment towards this circle, that took me in, may be unreasonable, I can’t deny its existence. I have spent a lot of time trying to pinpoint exactly where my distrust towards this crowd came from. It’s been ongoing this distrustful feeling. I started to separate myself from this circle, as a result. This feeling of distrust and unease I couldn’t seem to shake. It seemed like my fresh new start was really an extension of the past I was hoping to run away from and that Thursday it became clear to me. My fear, my anxiety, my exhaustion wasn’t because of who was sitting behind me. Instead, these feelings were the extension of a past that I had been trying so hard to deny and repress—and suddenly it was right behind me, close enough for me to know it was there, yet far enough away that I could ignore it. Then I realized it was my junior year, 4 years ago I was a different person, contemplating death at every moment. The parallels terrified me. It was having the past be so close was just a reminder of a time I never wanted to relive. I am so scared that my last year’s of college would become a blur of emotions and memories—not because the memories don’t exist, but because remembering them would hurt too much. I don’t want history to repeat itself, and it’s the chance that it can that terrifies me.