I haven’t been the same person in a long time. After the loss of one of my favorite people to ever exist, I found that I was a completely different person. My usual procrastination turned into just not giving a fuck about anything. My already established sensitivity went into overload. My budding depression bloomed into something that made me barely recognize myself in the mirror.
I started the fall of 2018 on a pretty high note. I had just chartered a sorority on my campus, became one of the editors of the university yearbook, secured a fall internship and a campus ambassadorship, enrolled for classes in my new major and had my best friends at my side ready to take on the world.
Things started to change when my boyfriend at the time lost his mother right before my birthday. Looking back on everything, I know that I made selfish decisions during that time that included not being there for him the way he needed me to be. For the next month or two we went back and forth on whether we should be together or not before officially deciding to end things in October after five years. Even though we had agreed to remain friends, I consider that my first loss of the semester.
As I moved more into the month of October, I was getting a handle on this big change in my life. Homecoming was coming up and I was excited because my friends and I had been so focused on our schoolwork and extracurricular activities that we hadn’t had much time to hang out, especially since we weren’t all roommates and living in the same building for the first time since we started college. The weekend before homecoming week came and I had gotten my hair done to prepare and my girls and I were planning a trip to Six Flags for Sunday to kick things off. However, that Saturday changed everything. One of my best friends, Samya, had been rushed to the hospital from an asthma attack and by that next Tuesday we were informed that we had lost her. Now, I won’t recount everything because I don’t want to trigger anyone involved or relive the toughest week of my life. Just know that this event changed my life forever. October 20-28 will never be the same.
“Loss is a straightforward equation. 2 – 1 = 1. A person is there, then she is not. But a loss is beyond numbers, as well as sadness, and depression, and guilt, and ecstasy, and hope, and nostalgia—all those emotions that experts tell us come along with death. Minus one person equals all of these, in unpredictable combinations. It is a sunny day that feels completely gray and laughter in the midst of sadness. It is utter confusion. It makes no sense.”What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
November came and to be quite honest, I don’t remember much of it. I spent my days sleeping on a friend’s couch all day, skipping classes, trying my best to ignore my responsibilities, eating maybe one meal a day, smoking way too much and pushing away those trying to help me while developing a codependent trauma bond. In hindsight, I know that I can’t beat myself up too much for all of this. I mean, I had lost someone I considered to be a sister at only 20 years old. By the time November 15th came around, I already dropped 30 pounds and my real friends were becoming more and more concerned but I insisted that I just needed some time to get back to who I was before. I now realize that I’ll never get back to the old Deni, I had evolved into a new version and I will continue to evolve into newer versions of myself as time goes on.
Winter break came into play and I was able to slightly reconnect with myself after getting away from Howard’s environment and constantly being around things that reminded me of Samya. I got back to writing and eating and I was surrounded by family. And you know your girl did a little retail therapy. Then, on the day after Christmas, I lost the aunt that helped raise me.
I should have taken the next semester off but I was too consumed with the idea of not looking weak and not wanting to miss out on springtime at Howard and becoming a prophyte for the first time. So I went back to Howard for Spring 2019 and tried to prove to myself that I could rise above the grief and depression by taking on full-time credit hours, new e-board roles, and more responsibility within my sorority.
I was wrong.
I spent much of the spring rebuilding friendships I had torn down in the fall and living out new experiences in fear that I would miss out on them by dying young too. I acted out of character academically, sexually, socially. My lowest point of my life is ironically one of the prettiest sections of my Instagram feed.
Summer rolled around and I stayed in DC for summer classes and got a real job for the first time in a long time. Living alone in DC over the summer truly brought me the clarity I needed. The codependent friendship that has been rapidly building over the course of the past seven months didn’t seem as fun anymore as I tried to focus on restoring my independence, my sanity and my GPA but I kept at it because I thought we were “true blue and tight like glue.” To this day, that is one of my favorite summers. I spent majority of my time alone but I felt like myself again, a newer version but one that I actually liked. I filmed my first documentary and abstained from the things I thought were causing me emotional distress. Of course, my grief continued especially as it was unhealthily attached to someone else’s but I starting to really feel like I could escape the fog that had clouded the first half of 2019. I’d gotten back into my healthy eating habits, exercise, and something about astrology and numerology had me wrapped up in learning outside of school which I hadn’t done in a while. Things were looking up.
My birthday came (and Samya’s right after that) and albeit fun, I was grappling with the fact that I was older than Samya would ever be and that alone sent me into a reevaluating period. Senior year started and I realized I wasn’t ready for the real world, no matter how much I tried to convince myself or how many accomplishments I may have had. I was choosing fun over practicality again and again only to end up at another low point. I was suddenly dealing with the consequences of all the bad decisions I made in my early grief stages and it was hard. Shit, it’s still hard. However, I’m choosing to live my life from a place of love and forgive for the mistakes I made when I wasn’t the real me. I’m working through each obstacle with a more positive mindset, one that’s not afraid to take accountability and apologize and actively make better decisions, even if that means taking a little extra time to figure out what those decisions should be.
For anyone that is currently in their early stages of grief, please know that it is okay to ask for help, it’s okay to take breaks, it’s okay to make mistakes. You won’t appear weak for taking a step back from your regular life or your so carefully thought out plans. One of the strongest things you can do is admit that you aren’t ready for something. So many people gave me this advice and I wish I had listened but now I’m having to deal with accepting that I didn’t and move forward because the world will not wait for me to be okay again.
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