sihayadesigns: (Me: Illustrated)
[personal profile] sihayadesigns
I have always processed difficult things in writing. I know that makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. If you think that you would feel uncomfortable reading this entry, please, for my sake, skip it. It is not for you.

I am a writer, but when I'm handling my own emotions, not always the most eloquent. So what follows is just sort of a portrait of where I am emotionally right at this very moment. I don't know where I'll be tomorrow, or in a week, or a month. It's also predominantly focused on me, and how I am coping with my complicated, messy, and sometimes selfish feelings around the death of someone I deeply loved. A memorial, a post for her, may come later, when I've had more distance and time to choose my words carefully.

Comments on this post will remain private/screened. Also, major trigger warning for the topic of suicide.

___________________

If you are not already aware, [livejournal.com profile] tamnonlinear passed away in the early hours of yesterday morning. She had been facing a number of challenges-- personal, heath-related, financial-- and it seems the results of the election were the final straw. She'd decided it was time to let go.

Abby was one of my best friends in this life for over a decade, and I loved her. She was a regular fixture at my house for movies and dinner. She convinced me to go to my first bellydance class, and we attended class together for about a year before she stopped dancing herself. She came to many of my performances as I continued on. She danced with me at my wedding. She took me on a long walk through her woods. She baked me several batches of her legendary brownies. She helped me move house. She took care of my cats when I was away, soothing my anxiety with many texts and pictures every day I was gone. She shared her fandom loves with me, many of which then became my fandom loves, as well. She giggled all the way through our trips to haunted houses near Halloween. She introduced me to Longwood Gardens and treated me to one of the most magical experiences I've ever had there, or anywhere else. When Nox was diagnosed with cancer, she held me as I sobbed, wracked with anxiety and grief. When he needed an emergency visit to the vet following biopsy complications, she showed up, held my hand, and quietly paid the bill, knowing that I had just spent 2k on his care and was financially strapped. She spent her last Christmas Eve with me and my husband, baking cookies and watching holiday movies. She was a stalwart source of comfort and companionship.

She was in my heart. I loved her like family. Hell, I loved her more than a lot of my family. I thought of her as a spiritual sister.

More broadly, Abby was someone who did what good she could whenever she could. She would boost signals whenever there was someone in need. She saved countless animals. She used her body as a shield at abortion clinics, protecting vulnerable women from unfathomable hatred and abuse. She was, down to her very core, a good person who believed firmly in right and wrong, and I am proud to have loved her.

As time progressed, she more and more took on the social niceties of a feral cat. And I say that in an affectionate way-- lord knows, she'd know exactly what I mean, and would probably agree. She was as generous as she was misanthropic. She was also one of the most stubborn people I have ever met. When she dug her heels in, they stayed planted. That was a quality that was often preservational for her, but could also be profoundly harmful. A true double-edged sword.

She was someone whose sharp edges cut. She built a hedge of thorns around her as protection, and sometimes even those she loved got stuck in them. In the end, much to my eternal regret, I was one of those people. But I loved her, thorns and all. I never stopped.

___________________

My grief over Abby's death is hitting me in waves. Sometimes, I'm comfortably numb. Others, crying so hard I cannot speak without hyperventilating. Still others, weeping quietly while I try to eat, or write an email, or respond to texts. My breath is always ragged, always gasping. My chest feels like it has a physical weight upon it.

The details of what follows was strongly filtered in the last two months.

For the last seven weeks or so of her life, Abby and I had not been friends. She ended our friendship suddenly and unilaterally, for reasons that I still do not fully understand. Her stated view of what transpired in the last year or so of our friendship is not at all my experience of what happened, and I was completely unaware that she had any concerns at all regarding our friendship until she informed me of her decision to end it. She said a lot of things that were hurtful and confusing to me, and I tried to keep telling myself that depression played a large part in them, because I knew (and still do) that they were not true.

In a lot of ways, I was devastated and grieving long before I received notice of her death, with all of the extra mixed anger and sadness of a sour parting mixed in. But I was doing my best to respect her stated boundaries. I removed her from my social networks because seeing her postings made me break down with grief at how much I missed her.

The last thing I told her-- both on her voicemail and in writing-- was that I loved her. I will need to cling to that in the months to come.

I think, now, I understand a little bit more about the whys of our friendship crumbling beneath my feet-- it is clearer to me now that she had likely been thinking about ending her life for long enough to be actively planning it as a distinct possibility. It explains why she returned a bunch of my belongings to me under false pretenses on the evening of our last dinner together. It explains the carefully considered way she presented her final messages to the world.

Still, I had believed her when she said that she would not harm herself while she had her cats to take care of, and that she wanted to re-evaluate our friendship after a few months' distance. I think, however, that the election changed all of that, and was the final straw atop her other troubles. I cannot judge her for that. I don't like her decision, but I understand it, given the challenges she was facing. Even though it devastates me, I understand it.

And I think I always have known that her life would end on her own terms-- she was far too stubborn to have it any other way. It was just who she was. I just thought we would have had more time together.




So here I am, broken. Absolutely shattered that we will not have the opportunity to put our friendship back together. Dumbstruck at all of the Abby-shaped holes in my life that I will continue to uncover for years to come. "We do not always get to recover," she said. It's as true for those of us who loved her as it was for her.

I cannot get the thought out of my head that she died believing that I did not love her the way she needed me to love her. My rational brain knows that depression lies, and she was firmly, inexorably within its grasp. Her depression certainly lied to her. Because of that depression, she'd constructed-- and clung to-- a narrative that felt false and alien to me regarding our friendship. Had she expressed her worries and fears to me, I would have told her-- as I did, in my final email, once I was made aware of them-- that I loved her and would support her in any way she needed me to that was in my ability.

But she didn't ultimately want my perspective, and dismissed it wholesale when I gave it to her. I learned that each way I reached out to her in the months preceding her passing-- whether was an invitation to an event, or a request for her near-encyclopedic gardening expertise, and so on-- had been twisted to fit her narrative through the assignation of incorrect motives and summarily rejected. My final, tearful voicemail to her was met with more of the same. Nothing I said or did was taken for what it was-- a genuine and honest expression of care and concern. It was, frankly, heart-wrenching and completely incomprehensible to me in light of our long and deep friendship. But of course, it wasn't really about me, in the end.

Maybe it was easier for her, in a way, to tell herself those stories. Maybe they made it easier for her to let go. I don't know. I'll never know. I'll only ever have this aching hole inside of me, and a never-ending sadness about the way our friendship ended. I wasn't even on the list of people she wanted notified of her death. This woman that I loved so profoundly had cut me out like a cancer, and I will never really know why. That's a kind of pain so immense that it's been utterly debilitating.

I keep telling myself that she loved me. She told me many times that she loved me. She showed me she loved me. Ultimately, who she was at the end was more sickness than the Abby I knew. My Abby loved me.

Still, the pervasive sense of guilt is strangling me, filling my throat with a sickly thickness that makes it hard to breathe and swallow. There is nothing I could have done, not without trespassing her boundaries and making her even more upset with me. It would have been utterly counterproductive and almost certainly futile. She was legendarily stubborn, and I had, after all, seen this pattern of behavior in her before with regards to others she'd cut out unilaterally (and, I thought, quite unfairly). But she died upset with me anyway, so maybe I should have kept pushing. But I didn't put the pieces together quickly enough. Didn't recognize that the danger was as dire as it was. The signs I watched for never happened, and I was caught as unprepared as everyone else.

This line of thinking is not helpful. I know it's not helpful. I can't help myself.

I keep telling myself that if there is an afterlife, which she didn't believe in, but maybe, if there is-- maybe we will see each other again. It's nonsense, I'm pretty sure, but it's comforting nonetheless. Because the other option is that she died upset with me, and there was nothing I could do about it, and that's all I'll ever get.




I always thought that she would come around. That in a few months, she'd be ready to talk, and we would fix things. Because we loved one another. I was angry with her, but eager to let go of it and have her back in my life. I was trying to be patient, to wait her out. To hold out hope.

My chest hurts. My head aches. My throat is dry and my eyes wet. I feel like I'm in a nightmare and can't wake myself up.




I am grasping for closure. I am trying to find it by helping her tie up her loose ends. I have been boosting the signal about re-homing her cats. I am putting together a proposal to take over her website and tumblr in the manner she would want them preserved. After all, the thing that prompted our friendship was my teenaged self writing her an email about my admiration of her website, a long, long time ago. (Long story short, I would like to create a team of folklorists and those that love the ballad to continue the site in her memory. I would be happy to oversee the administration of the site and coordinate a team of people to generate content. I do not know if my proposal will be the one ultimately chosen by her family, but I am submitting it for consideration.) I am trying to do the things that would have made the Abby who loved me proud of me. I am trying to honor her memory.




I feel like I'm standing outside, on the outskirts of the death of a woman I loved, scared that I am imposing because she was upset with me when she died. I am constantly second-guessing whether she would have wanted me involved in any memorial or tribute.

Remember it was the sickness. Remember how much she loved you, I tell myself.

This has been my mantra. Sometimes, it's enough. Sometimes, it isn't. Part of me suspects it's bullshit wishful thinking. Part of me knows that it's true. I don't know which will win out in the end.



Abby, I loved you so much. I still love you. I hope, wherever you are, that you have found peace. I am glad your suffering has ended. I hope very much that I will get to tell you I love you again one day.

Gettin' Down
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