It was nearing the end of 2006 and the beginning of another college year for me. I was determined to have a fresh new start. The previous school year had been rocky and a rather dangerous one. In the previous October I had entered a tailspin - and hadn't even known it at the time. By Winter break in December I was completely unraveling. Without going into too much detail, I will put it simply: life had lost it's luster.
Writing about it now still brings me to tears. I was blessed (and still am) in those days to have so many people rally around me and give me the most incredible strength. Teachers, councilors, health administration, and even my financial aid officer all pulled together to make sure that I stayed safe. Still, it was a long and hard battle: how much help can others be when you don't have the desire to help yourself?
My friends kept me afloat. I leaned on them probably much more than I should have in a learning environment. Oddly - I had even managed to make new friends. One in particular was especially special. To be honest, I forget how we first met. Maybe we had seen each other on campus, and he sent me an e-mail (we had a campus Funnybook - the Facebook of the school, but in print, with everyone listed by first name). Maybe we were introduced by friends, and we sat together in the cafeteria. I don't remember because most of that school year is a dark blur.
What I do remember is how he brightened up my days. There would be entire weeks where I would not leave the dorm room - I wouldn't go to the caf to get food, I wouldn't leave to attend class...But there he would pop up in instant message, and we would invent different smiley faces for what seemed like hours. He took me on a hike once. He sympathized, but never enabled.
I remember being irritated. There was a party going on next door, and I wasn't there. I was eating dinner...which of course could only mean one thing: it was going to take me longer to get drunk with food now in my system. I don't remember how much I ate. Finally, we were off. The house was already full and I felt a panic-like desire to catch up on whatever I had missed out on. People were already having fun without me, and I desperately wanted to be part of the action. I "caught up" as quickly as I could.
Things went from bad to worse that night. And while much of it I don't remember, I do remember the important parts.
The next few days at school were hell. Rumors started flying - terrible rumors. I was so embarrassed. I was so angry. I was completely confused. My plan to start off to a better year was unraveling right before my eyes. I called my friend. "What happened last night?" I asked. He sucked in a deep breath, and told me. There it was - the truth. Simple really. Looking back, nothing too crazy or unexpected.
Yet in the days that followed, I panicked. Rumors of what supposedly happened that night were being repeated to me from every direction. Rather than believe the person who had stuck by me through some pretty dark hours, I believed others. Rather than sticking up and saying what I knew to be true, I let others do the talking for me. (Ironically he would later semi-publicly accuse me of "letting others do the talking", for a completely different reason.)
My silence destroyed a friendship. The more control I told myself that I had, the more out of control things became. I tried to prove to myself and "everyone watching" that I was fine - I thought that I could prove that everything was okay by going out to more parties. By November I was right back in the same dark place I had so desperately wanted to escape. In the same month I had an experience that literally rocked my world and jolted me awake. It was time to clean up.
For the rest of the school year I worked hard on cleaning myself up and getting my life and friendships back together. But I didn't ever really address the issue with him. I apologized, but I did so with anger. I later apologized again...and then considered apologizing once more. The full realization of my silence has brought such shame. What terrible person stands by and lets this happen to a friend? Even now my actions of silence haunt me. I know that I am still in the wrong because my dreams of this event are still vivid when I wake up. When the person next to me asks what is wrong, I - as what would prove to be the norm - have nothing to say.