Today my sister graduated from college. It reminded me of my graduation, of course, which was only two years ago, and how hard things have been for me since then. Commencement is a joyous occasion, but I found myself crying in the middle of the ceremony. I could only think about two things: how happy I was for my sister and how sad I was for myself. I thought about how much loss and hardship I’ve endured recently. There are three major losses I’ve experienced that I’m going to talk about: the loss of community, the loss of love, and the loss of a friend.
The Loss of Community
Commencement is a time where you leave behind a community that you’ve grown to know and love (hopefully) and are pushed out into the world. And it’s a loss. You lose the sense of having your friends next door, of having people struggling through the same classes you are, of commiserating over finals, and celebrating together when it’s over. Through the good times and the bad, you have backup right at your fingertips – friends, professors, et cetera. It’s different than high school, where you have a community, but it’s not your whole life. You don’t generally live, sleep, eat, and study at high school. But at college and university, you live there (at least at the beginning – if you end up moving off campus), you eat there, your friends are there, you take classes there, you do your homework there, everything is all there in one neat little package. Your entire social life, while it may be moved off campus, is based around the idea of school. You and your friends hang out when there aren’t classes, nights and weekends, during the day, whenever you want, whenever you’re not studying. Then suddenly you don’t have that anymore. Your friends move away. You have to find a new apartment, or move back home. You need to get a job, or move on to higher education. You eat in your own house or at restaurants. And that social life? It changes. Suddenly you’re alone more often, even if you’re surrounded by people at work, because your friends are also working, and when they’re not, everyone’s tired. You have to plan going out in advance. You still have nights and weekends, but you have to remember to get up for work the next day. Everything is…different. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just not the same.
For me, that loss was extremely difficult. My depression was getting worse and worse, and suddenly I didn’t have the support network that I used to. Sure, I still had plenty of friends around and there was always my family, but we didn’t hang out like we used to. I felt isolated and very, very lonely. It was hard not having that community behind me – supporting me and distracting me. Suddenly I was on my own, struggling with my mind, struggling to find a job, just struggling in general. But at least I had my boyfriend, for a few months at least, because then suddenly I didn’t have him either.
Loss of Love
My boyfriend broke up with me as my depression was reaching a boiling point, about five months after my graduation. He was such a big part of my graduation celebration that today made me think of him, and how much fun we had, and how much I miss him even still. It made me think of how much I loved him and how wrapped up in that love I was during my graduation. But I lost that love.
I don’t think he stopped loving me before he broke up with me – he broke up with me because he couldn’t deal with my depression anymore. He told me he still loved me. But that didn’t stop him from breaking up with me. And that hurt – a lot. Losing my boyfriend was a loss that took me about two years to get over, most likely because my depression didn’t let me mourn the relationship properly, it kept bringing it up. Regardless, I suddenly had lost a pillar of love and light and support, and in its place was nothing.
That really messed me up. I’ve written about it a little bit in my posts on depression itself, but I was utterly and completely heartbroken. It’s what triggered my first trip to the hospital, I stopped eating for 2-3 days, I wouldn’t stop crying. And I just didn’t know what to do. I still don’t know what to do about it. I don’t hurt as much anymore, and I’m not in love with him, but I still miss him. I miss being in a relationship, and I miss being in love. There’s a hole in my heart where love used to be, and maybe will be again, but for now it’s just empty.
Loss of a Friend
For this one I have to go back to my freshman year in college, six years ago. That’s when I lost my friend Kat to suicide. This is why I was sobbing at my sister’s ceremony today.There was a memorial song for a girl in my sister’s class who had died of an infection, and it just made me think of how we lost Kat. How she never got to graduate. And sometimes, I just miss her so much.
For three years, her death was the only thing that kept me from killing myself – I knew what it felt to be on the other side of a suicide and I couldn’t do that to my friends and family.
I remember the night she died. I had been trying to reach her all day with no success, but figured she had been studying, as sometimes you do in college. We didn’t always eat dinner together, so no big deal. I was with three of my friends, and as we left the dining hall and approached the dorms, we saw ambulances. It was a Tuesday or a Thursday, I’m pretty sure, and we commented on how someone had probably had too much to drink, because that’s why we usually saw ambulances. But then an acquaintance of ours ran up to us and said, “It’s Kat. Kat’s hurt.” We all ran to the dorm and up the stairs to her room, and ran into a mess of administrators who we didn’t know. We told them we were Kat’s friends, and asked what was wrong. They told us to go wait in the lounge downstairs. We did, and then nobody told us anything for hours.
We all tried to do homework, but no one was really focusing. We knew it was bad, but none of us suspected she was dead. We thought she had slipped and cracked her head open in the shower, or something, and was on the way to the hospital. I was mentally preparing a note to my professors about why I didn’t get my homework done, and getting ready to go to the hospital as soon as they told us and would let us. I remember little details – like one of my friends asking the RA (resident advisor) how bad it was but he refused to tell us anything. I remember frantically wanting to call Simon, who was Kat’s boyfriend at the time. I remember another friend staring off into space, tears in her eyes, like she knew something was coming. Then three people came to talk to us. They looked uncomfortably around the room and one of them said, “As you may know, Kat has died.”
We were stunned. We sat there in shocked silence, unable to breathe, unable to cry as that man /kept talking at us/. We wanted him to go away. We wanted to be alone together. We wanted to cry. But these people kept looking at us and talking at us about how we were feeling and should be feeling, and we couldn’t even cry. Then, another friend, who had just gotten out of class, walked into the lounge. I remember the way the three administrators; heads whipped around to face him, and the moment their gazes were not on us, we burst into hysterical tears, almost in unison.
There’s obviously more to it than that, but I can’t tell any more of the story now. I don’t want to relive it again and again. But I think it was important to type out that much. This is the biggest loss I’ve ever experienced. And I hope no one else ever has to experience something like this, though I know that’s impossible.
To the Future
Commencement is not supposed to be about loss or the past. It’s supposed to be about the success of the students, and the bright futures they are about to lead. But I can’t help but think about all the things I’ve left behind. On this joyous occasion I celebrate my sister, but I also needed to take some time alone to write this. To be sad. Because my last few years have not been the bright future I was promised at my commencement, they have been very dark indeed. And ultimately, we always leave things behind, that’s how we grow – but it’s hard when we don’t leave them on our own terms.