This Time Last Year

Last year, you were still you.

Until you weren't.


I'll always remember your expression, all confident, jittery - unlike yourself. Why didn't I notice you weren't well? Why didn't I see this coming? Something in my mind when I think back on this day is the same question: "Why didn't I do more".


I spent my better years with you by my side. Our friendship blossomed so quickly that in a blink of an eye, you were no longer the kid I'd see on Sundays but my best friend that got invited to my family parties. From basketball trips to family gatherings, late nights, and early groggy mornings. Life lessons, honest mistakes, frustrating arguments, and deep conversations. You were my person and I'd like to think I was yours.


The innocent core memories are like it was yesterday. Friday night, with no care in the world, drunk off liqueur and cheap beers, driving towards a club that played HipHop and RnB. My lungs filled with the cold air seeping through the rolled-down windows, blasting music we could sing to as we held on to our words talking about our future, the hope and the dreams we had, the careless thought factor of not knowing what may come next. They were one of my best memories with you.


And to think, we had the chance to re-create that memory when we got older, although it felt like deja vu, you appeared different. Obnoxious, over the top - unbearable. What happened to us? You left your ID at a friend's place where you had way too much to drink. I agreed to drive you back to get that time with you alone, hoping to investigate you to see if you'd slip and tell me what was actually wrong. Cautious of what to say, I still managed to get nothing from you. Little did I know, you were battling a battle no one else could help you with. You weren't the same person that sat in the passenger seat before. A part of you that I knew was gone. A memory I can recall from beginning to end, one that I wish would disappear from my mind.


That was just the beginning. Your quick witty remarks were brushed off; your aggressive tone; harsh behavior towards my dogs, us, and my family - you didn't mean it. Middle of the night phone calls of you asking if you could come by only to see you walk in with a bottle of rum you wanted us to polish on a Tuesday night. Forgetting that we had other priorities, we were moving on from the scene while you were stuck there - bachelor and all. I allowed it even though it killed me to see you this way. I did it to mask the truth of your behavior, to me you were doing it to spend that time with us, not because you were crying for help and didn't know how to cope.


We make mistakes and when we do, we try our best to fix what has been broken. I've been pulled out of a party that I was hosting to sit in a car with you and one of our best friends as you confessed the guilt that hovered over your shoulders. Hearing the torn words come out of your mouth that said 'I cheated'. Resentfully asking for my advice as I sat in the back seat looking at you with your head down in disgrace. I vouched for you then, even with a full load of disappointment, and I would have continued to do so.


I had my fair share of extreme low moments. I thought I had no one to talk to. I had the worst thoughts, so deep within its demon, I couldn't control them. It used to feel like a ticking bomb just waiting for the right time to explode. I don't know what going through hell feels like, but I'm pretty I was there. I needed to talk to someone that wasn't my partner, wasn't my sister, wasn't just a random friend. It was three in the morning and you were dropping me home. I was going through such a difficult time and with a little bit of liquid courage, I unraveled everything on you. Did you know you were the first person I told? As we sat in your car, you looked at me without any other expression but empathy as you told me that you were also going through something similar. We cried so much that time and I swear we vowed to seek the help that we needed. We were too far gone to realize it the next day, avoiding the conversation at all costs. Almost like it never happened.


Time had passed. We were heading towards different things and spent time apart until suddenly, you showed up at my place of work, expressing your appearance and asking if there was a place we could talk. I sat you in my office and already noticed the difference in your tone. You were upset. You wanted me to invite you over and I couldn't say no. I thought - It's one night. Until it turned into 3. We were afraid and worried about you - Everything was so new to us, so foreign and so difficult to understand. We didn't know what to do.


I hate thinking back to that night. You were cornered in a room, yelling at anyone that tried to tell you that you needed help. When my time came to sit in that room with the same best friend that sat with us in your car as you expressed your guilt, evidently - I was frozen, so worried about you and so sick to my stomach. I couldn't believe it and I didn't want to. I knew this was the turning point and the only priority was to help you get better. You looked at me with disgust, saying things you probably don't even remember - Yet engraved in my mind. You hated us and you weren't afraid to let us know. It wasn't our intention to corner you, better yet trick you. I just wish we did things differently.


Around this time every year, I struggle with my own mental health. The sun no longer rises with us and it sets before we're ready. My surroundings are gloomy, my mind is jumbled, and I need more time to recharge to feel like myself again, whatever that may be. Every October, I like to believe that you would show up more often because you understood. Even without consciously knowing, it always felt like you were always there helping me get through it. And now I'm battling this without you and finding every bone in my body to bounce back from my mind; so complex, so undesirable, so unforgiving.


It's been a year since we spoke, a whole year wasted away without seeing each other, encouraging each other, and helping each other at our worst. Birthdays, milestones, and memories that have completely been missed. I coped without you yet I still feel pain in my heart hating myself for feeling any sort of happiness while you're still struggling. I stare and find the words to say over text, only to hit backspace too many times - A whole damn year.


I hope you find yourself through all of the lows and all of your extreme highs. This is a disease you will fight through - But it can only be you. And when you're ready, I'll be here. But for now, you're not you and that's okay. I'm lost in this whirlwind trying to understand it, trying to make sense of it all. Trying to forgive ourselves for not getting the help that we both needed sooner.


I love you and I genuinely hope you're well.

With love,

Jonah





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