365 Days of Coping
I think I’ve been looking at this draft for about a year now. Typing and deleting, trying to explain to myself and to those around me what I’ve been going through. I’ve never really been so open and public about what I felt through this whole situation….I mean I’ve told some friends…but some are still not sure what to even ask me or say to me. So I do what I do best….explain through a keyboard on some blog rather than crying in front of you in a coffee shop and making everyone in the room all sorts of uncomfortable.
365 days have passed of “I think I am going to be okay enough to face today”
525,600 minutes of a life spent without my best friend.
I remember everything about that day like it haunts every memory in my mind, sucking away all the good days and binding them into one chaotic dream. Actually this whole year has felt like a dream that I’m still waiting to wake up from. It still plays on repeat like I’m sure it does for every one of my friends and Austin’s family. I spent so much time thinking about every detail.
I woke up, ate breakfast and got ready for the day. Phone buzzing from a constant group chat with Camra and Raisa about the humid and cloudy day that was August 27th 2013. We wanted to spend the day wandering around the National Seashore taking pictures and getting away from the world for a little bit. I’ve never wished more that I had made one last phone call to re connect with reality and tell him how much I loved him, and I can never go back. The day was long and hot and we were too distracted by good music and the rapid click of the camera shutter to pay attention to the world around us. All I remember was a feeling in the pit of my stomach to make sure my phone stayed on. The sun set and we drove to Nauset beach on a foggy and raining Tuesday night. We just wanted to be kids and not care about anything for a while. That was until my phone rang. Looking down to a friend calling saying “I’ll call her back later”…I almost didn’t pick up, but something told me I had to.
The wave of panic that flooded over my body as I could barely understand the broken mumbles:
“Where are you?”
“You need to come to John’s house right now.”
“There was an accident.”
“Austin was in an accident.”
I dropped everything.
I had to get there.
I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, I thought It was all going to be okay because my mind was too frantic to put the pieces together that everything was most definitely not okay. I remember feeling my pulse leap out of my body as I drove faster than I should have two towns over and being so confused by a text in capitol letters that read “DON’T POST ANYTHING ONLINE”. “What would I have to say that I’d put online” I thought over and over.
It wasn’t until I pulled in the driveway I knew something was wrong.
There in a circle stood the majority of our friends: pacing. crying. kneeling. hugging.
The only thing I could think to say was “What happened” frantic as I launched myself out of the car into the arms of my friends.
To that was responded “He didn’t make it.”
He didn’t make it.
My body fell to the ground and I can still remember the shattered cry I let out when I collapsed to the ground as I realized my best friend was dead. John picked me up and held me in his arms as I cried for longer than I remember. I kept saying “No.” Like a broken record; like I thought if I said it enough times it would change something. I don’t think I could ever explain to anyone else that wasn’t there the grief and cries we all heard and felt. The cries of two parents who had to bury their son. The cries of a Brother sworn to protect him no matter what and the helplessness Seth felt. Their weeping haunts me.
It was the saddest day of my life. I would never wish that pain of loss upon my most hated enemy.
There is no right way to grieve. People tell you when you loose someone, you go through “The 5 Steps of Loss and Grief” and I guess we all did in our own shitty ways.
1. Denial and Isolation
This isn’t happening. This is not real. I am dreaming. This is a sick joke guys, come on stop its not funny. Austin you can come out of the house now and stop fucking with all of us. It’s not funny anymore. I have to be dreaming. I’m dreaming. This is a nightmare.
This is a fucking nightmare.
But I wasn’t dreaming. This wasn’t a dream. This was a sick twisted serious reality that I was not about to accept. I spent a good three hours directly after i found out denying the fact that this was real and pretending that I wasn’t sitting on the front porch of my ex boyfriends house watching everyone I love chain smoking and punching the walls to sort out what the hell was even going on.
So I turned it off. I cried and cried and cried and held on to every person I could so they could cry into my shoulder and lap. I was terrified to let anyone out of my sight. I just yelled in my head over and over again “Why? Dear God why did you do this. Why is this happening” I could not agree to the facts.
I refused to.
I think I honestly still do.
I’m expecting to wake up one day and this whole past year not have happened.
But this was not a dream.
Stage One : Check.
What the actual fuck. This is bullshit. This is a lie. This isn’t real. Why is he dead. Why did he have to die. Why did he die. WHY. What the hell. Why is this happening. He was so good. He was my best friend. Why did you take him from me.
I’ve screamed this over and over again in my mind and out loud for a solid year now. My emotions on a suicidal roller-coaster from vulnerability and the exposure to reality. My anger over time has eaten me alive at certain points. Denying the fact that someone so good could be taken for no apparent reason, or at least a reason that was acceptable enough to even possibly give an answer to this event. I screamed, I screamed so loud and for so long I lost my voice for three days. I cried, oh I honestly don’t remember a day in the past year I have solidly not cried for at least 5 minutes or more…let alone the hundreds of nights I cried myself to sleep.
But then I didn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep for a month. Putting me on edge and skyrocketing my anxiety into a constant stream of panic attacks at least several times a day. I wanted to sleep, but every time I closed my eyes the words “He didn’t make it” drowned out every other thought, so I didn’t let myself sleep. Causing my delusional fantasy of “This isn’t real” to in fact become real. In walked around like a ticking time bomb, shaking and jumping at very phone call i received. I hated God and everyone around me. I was so angry. I denied everything I ever let myself believe blaming everything I could on nature and on him for taking away someone I loved so much. I was livid. I yelled and hit and almost broke my fist from trying to punch a mirror like they did in the movies; expecting that to help me feel better when it only made me worse.
I was so angry at every factor of that night.
Worst of all I was so angry at Austin that night.
I wanted to call him and yell at him so many times.
“How could you be so stupid?”
“Why the hell did you take your bike out on a foggy night?”
“You never take your bike out on a foggy night”
“You never drive like that”
“Why did you do that Austin?”
“Why didn’t you call me, I would have come pick you up”
“I always picked you up from the bar”
“Why didn’t you call me?”
“Why did you drive your bike that night Austin?”
I yell at him in my mind, I didn’t know how to get through a life without him. I still don’t. I fought with my version of him that I believed could still hear me, telling him how angry I was at him for making that choice and how stupid it was of him. But then telling him over and over again how much I loved him and how much he means to me and how I would do anything and everything to take his place so he could be alive. I probably sound crazy, but sometimes I still have conversations out loud to myself to talk about all the things I would tell Austin about. And it was so selfish of me to do so, but It was the only way I could stay in touch with what was left of my sanity.
Stage Two: Check.
If he called me…….If I was there….what if I was there, I could have stopped this. What if he had gotten into the car with the other girls? What if he didn’t have his bike that night? What if I would have called him and asked him to hang out with me instead, would he still be alive? What if he never went to the bar that night? Could I have saved his life if I had just picked up my phone and called him like I had wanted to that whole day? What if?
It is the “What If’s” that absolutely destroy us. The self blame and loathing we throw at ourselfs even though there was no possible way we could have know this was going to happen. We still go through the what if stage of blaming ourselfs for not being there to stop it.
I would take his place if I ever was given the chance. And that’s the honest truth that some people may not believe. But he deserves to be on this earth still more than anyone of us. He had so much left to accomplish and passions none of us really ever understood, Joshua’s cure for FOP he wanted so desperately to help find was just one of the many things on his heart. I made excuses for all the unanswered questions that immobilized my mind. Bellowing out my proposals to the heavens begging the Higher Power to let me take his place in an attempt to postpone the inevitable.
None of my cries were recognized or acknowledged.
I called his phone..often. It was destroyed and lost in the crash, but I still called it and sent it a million text messages just to see if he would respond. I called to hear his voice; terrified I would forget the way he pronounced his vowels and his contagious laugh that lit up my day.
I will never get to hear it fill my ears again.
Austin was smart. He was unbelievably intelligent, kind and creative. He always out the world above him when he didn’t have to, I don’t think i ever found a selfish thread in his personality in the years we spent together. I mean maybe he was a little greedy with his corner store paninis but let’s be honest, who wouldn’t be?
Stage Three: Check.
I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to live like this anymore. I don’t deserve to live in a world when Austin is dead.
I was being so fucking selfish and self centered, and if Austin was here he would have kicked my ass a long time ago to tell me to get over myself and live my life to the absolute fullest. But the little voice in the back of my mind was not Austin, they were the thoughts and words he used to say to me. I locked them away so I could use every little piece of advice that boy gave to me over the years.
I used the words he said to me when he used to show up at my house, yell at me to get ready and take me on an adventure. We blasted top hits and all his favorite Blink-182 and AVA songs. Austin had this thing where he could only listen to about 6 songs at one time over and over till he over killed them and was sick of hearing the lyrics. But that was his idea of “fun fun fun fun”. He was the glue that tied our friendship together…and the glue that helped me keep it together half the time. When I was away at school in Boston, he would show up and text me to say “I’m here loser let me in!” We would wander about the city people watching and prancing about like he always did. I could listen to him ramble for hours, about shit that didn’t even make sense but I listened because it meant something to him. Goof.
But even those memories weren’t enough to get me through this dark time in my life. Because I started to destroy myself. Little by little I chipped away at the girl I used to be with a blade and a bottle.
I wanted to sedate myself for a few reasons:
So I could sleep: Not sleeping made me delusional and unresponsive. My mother shoved NyQuil into my mouth so it forced me to comatose myself for at least three days after two weeks of no sleep.
So I could eat: I lost my appetite. Barely eating at all that I lost at least 10 pounds. I didn’t see the point of eating if all I wanted to do was to throw it up from crying too much.
So I could stop crying: I couldn’t stop crying. It was like I was the never ending waterfall of screams and a million boxes of tissues. I didn’t know how to stop crying.
So the Panic Attacks would cease: That was never going to happen even if I had all the answers in the world. My chemical levels were so incredibly fucked from lack of sleep and nutrition and being so over emotional that my body essentially went into panic mode trying to sort through my brain waves and the never ending race that was my pulse and blood pressure.
So I would stop hurting myself: Self harm is a broad spectrum and can mean multiple forms. But don’t you dare read this shocked and judge me. Don’t you dare say to me “you did WHAT?!” Because you do not understand how my brain was not turned on and was not comprehending anything I was doing for months at a time. It’s something I’m not proud of myself for and promised I’d stop and never do again a long time ago. I broke that promise to not only myself, but I broke that promise to Austin. I promised him I would never hurt myself ever again after the last time…and I broke when I lost him. It was a distraction; a form of self loathing and a sick way of keeping my head attached that this is indeed my reality and life now. But hurting myself was not just categorized into the razor blade on my skin, but it was the drinking and the binging and the severe sleep deprivation. It was the self loathing and hatred i felt towards myself for not being able to save him. I tried everything possible to feel something.
But I couldn’t. I felt utterly empty. Nothing but anger and sadness and like a massive part of me had died when he left this earth. I shut down, pushing everyone away from me but trying to hold on to a life that once was so desperately for the fear of being forgotten. I didn’t know how to deal with this life I was now forced to live. A life without Austin, a life where the clouds were a little greyer and the sky was a little less blue. A life where I wish I could have said so many more things to him, and a life where I wish I could have said goodbye to him one last time.
I wake up some mornings and it’s a good day, I’m okay with life and I go on and live my day to the best of my ability. It isn’t until I’m alone I mourn for the boy I loved so dearly. I though getting my heart broken only counted towards boyfriends and the words ‘I don’t love you anymore’ but no one told me how your heart truly shatters into an unfix-able amount of shards when someone you care about more than you can explain to people is ripped up from under you, leaving you in tattered pieces tying to clean up the mess by yourself. But you can’t clean it up alone. You try and you try to put yourself back together, holding yourself with strips of duct tape in front of your family and your friends so they don’t see how much of you died alongside him. Other mornings you wake up and say “I actually can’t get out of bed today.” I have had many a day where I’ve skipped class or called out sick from work because I was so crippled with grief I couldn’t bring myself to speak to a single soul. Nothing prepared me for these emotions.
Stage Four: Current.
I think some of my friends are still walking on egg shells around me. I don’t know if they feel awkward or uncomfortable when I just start crying every once in a while…or I think it’s because none of them have truly lost someone their own age that they were incredibly attached to. I feel bad for them that they have to watch me go through so many emotions in the course of ten minutes. I’m much better now than I was 6 months ago, I’ll always be thankful for that.
Coping with loss is a ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. I’ve been living in this bubble…for the first couple of months after he passed I spent an unhealthy amount of time sitting at his site. I probably looked like one of those women who spends the majority of their time talking to their cats. But that’s how I was coping. I would sit and play music and just talk to him about everything I could possibly imagine.
When Austin was alive, I can’t even tell you how many times he was there to save me from myself. He got me through countless moments where I didn’t think I was going to make it. He’d come over at 3am just to sit with me if I was having a panic attack or he’d randomly stop by in the middle of the day so I could make him lunch and we would just talk. I don’t think I have ever been so open and honest with a person ever. There are some of my closest girlfriends I’ve know my entire life that don’t know half the tings I ever said in secrecy to that boy. He was so real and genuine about his feelings and opinions about everything to me. He didn’t sugarcoat anything, if I was overreacting to something he’d straight up tell me to relax and breathe.
But it was hard to breathe after he was gone. I didn’t know how to deal with his loss. Sometimes I would say to myself “Austin’s the only person that could officially get me through this situation.”
Even though I felt so incredibly alone at times, I still feel him with me. You know how some people say that when a person dies and has unfinished business a piece of them stays with you on this earth? I used to not believe in ghosts or stuff like that, but after this year I think otherwise. He haunted all of us this year, which in a twisted way doesn’t surprise me since he used to joke around and say “If I ever die, I’m coming back and haunting the shit out of all of you.” Sometimes I am conflicted about it though, I don’t know if some of it is just pure coincidence that I’m trying to pass off as a sign from him or if it really is him…For example one day I was sitting home in my room with the door and window shut, no fan on and all of a sudden my jewelry box flew across the room and onto the floor from my bookshelf. That doesn’t exactly happen for no apparent reason, all I know is I practically peed myself because it scared me so bad. Some have heard his voice, some have gotten missed calls from his number on their phone. All I know is we are all scrambling to hold onto every memory we have with him. I think all of us are so terrified that we are going to forget something we love about him, or a special moment…like it will fade away into nothingness. And that scares all of us.
But I do find signs from him. I see clovers everywhere. People will say something about embracing love or his favorite song would come on the radio. Austin had a tattoo, it was a club with the words “Embrace Love” alongside Richard who has the spade on his back that says “Keep the Earth Below my Feet” ironically they were their Halo 2 emblems, and we are all nerds for getting it tattooed alongside him on our bodies. But it’s a symbol of true friendship. It’s also my reminder: I got Austin’s tattoo placed on the inside of my left foot. It’s there so I can have him walking alongside me for the rest of my time here on this earth. “Embrace Love” has become more than a simple phrase in passing. I’m reminded every day to keep positivity in my life. Positive people, positive thoughts, positive actions. I’ve tried so hard in the past year to live my life in a way that not only honors Austin, but a life that he would be proud of me for. All I’ve ever wanted to do was make him proud of me. So far I hope I’m doing an okay job, I slip and fall into bad habits more than I care to admit…but I’m trying.
Not a day goes by without me missing him. He was the best friend I could have ever asked for and I am incredibly thankful for the time I got to have with him. Sometimes I think the world around you forgets that grief doesn’t go away in a weeks time, sometimes it stays with you for a few years or even the rest of your life. I don’t think I’ll ever get over his death.
Stage Five: Pending.
Austin- Thank you for your unconditional friendship, even though you aren’t here to make new memories i will cherish the ones we had. I hope I can continue to make you proud of me.
I will love you untill the end of time.