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How could you do nothing

The most painful goodbyes are the ones left unsaid and never explained. I think the worst aftermath of someone being torn from your life is remembering them at their lowest, or worse, not expecting a time you saw them to be the last.

My friend and I grew up together since we were young. We were so close, told each other everything, had each other’s backs, ready to take on the big, bad world together. I’d adjust my personality slightly around whoever I’m with so no one knew the real me. Except for him. He knew me. He was like the brother I never had.

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Growing up, life sometimes plummeted down enough that things got tough and began to fall apart. To us, our friendship was enough to help bear the struggle. I was always good at locking away my feelings inside. If I didn’t want the world to know my problems, no one, except himself would ever even guess I had any.

Being me, I tried to help him more than I ever helped myself. He was slowly deteriorating. Depressed at 13, self harming at 14, eventually suicidal by 15. However there’s a hard line between planning suicide and actually carrying it out. I remained a barrier, I’d never let him cross that line.

We felt so alone, because no one seemed to understand what we did. Isn’t it crazy that you can be so depressed and no one around notices? Not your parents, your siblings, your friends, your teachers, your classmates, no one. You can literally be on the verge of a breakdown and everyone is totally oblivious. It angers me to this day. Yet, months after fighting battles with his own mind, venting his feelings with me, several relapses and bad days, he was finally getting somewhere.

He was getting better.

Everyday he tried hard to stay strong until he was defeating his demons, picking up the pieces of his broken heart. He became happier, improved his grades, engaged in activities he used to love again, just genuinely getting his life back together and preparing a brighter future for himself. It gave me hope. Even if I wasn’t doing so well, I never had the heart to tell him, I never wanted to dampen his spirits or hold back his delicate progress. I’m used to keeping my thoughts to myself and my sick friend was recovering. He didn’t even want to die anymore, what else could I have wanted, right?

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Surrounding people became more supportive and he had goals he was constantly reaching. I felt quite happy for once, I even believed I was getting better too. Everything was beginning to feel right again.

He still killed himself at the end of May.

It was too unexpected. I came home after an exam, to find out my dearest friend had taken his own life, weeks before his 16th birthday. A wave of confusion and panic instantly washed through me, I couldn’t take it in. I didn’t understand, he was recovering. My eyes filled with tears thinking of his “good morning” text he’d sent me earlier that day. I never got a text back after that. Then distress took over, I felt myself break and it all started to fall apart. Again.

The demons were back, stronger than ever before, ready to pick a fight, looking for a win – and this time, I just let them. I’d never felt so alone in this world. Devastated, the summer I spent in 2018 was, by far, the worst. I felt anger, grief, denial, despair and disappointment all at once, but mostly, I felt guilt. I feel bad for even feeling guilt. I know I shouldn’t, yet the feeling of letting my friend down became heavy on me. I know he didn’t commit suicide because he wanted to, he wanted to end the pain. I felt like I hadn’t done enough to ease that pain. I know he was grateful for me always supporting him. I told him I’d be there for him whenever he needed me, and I was his whole life. But the one day he needed me, I wasn’t there. It was like a punch in the face, knocking me back into this sad reality.

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I knew I wasn’t to blame, but I couldn’t help but feel it. In the end, he couldn’t tell me what was wrong, after everything we had. I knew him inside and out, we couldn’t hide things from each other. With no suicide note, no explanation, no warnings, he’s gone somewhere I can’t bring him back. Now there’s this guilt I had to live with, for not being able to do anything. I constantly asked myself “how could you do nothing?”. I couldn’t take back that I did nothing. It was too late to say it’s too late. It was eating me alive.

I started feeling so dead in my own skin and it was a problem. Looking into the mirror, I saw someone I didn’t recognise. Drowning in the worst sadness I ever felt and any hope I had left was officially gone. I still have nightmares of his death. What didn’t kill me, left me spending too many late nights, lying awake wishing it did. I began feeling so tired, having no motivation for anything. Like my only options left in life were to slowly move or slowly die, suffocated under all this grief and regret. I felt myself becoming everything I never wanted to be. Things I would rather be thoughts in the back of my head but I had become so addicted to hurting. I wanted to be strong but something inside me screamed that I didn’t deserve it.

Memories of happier times were tampered with memories of watching my friend’s soaring progress crash and burn. I didn’t just lose him. I lost his smile, his laughter, his support, his favourite music, his jokes, his affection. His suicide killed everything that surrounded him to keep him alive. He was gone. I never knew what happened suddenly that night. Where’d I go wrong? I lost my friend, somewhere along in the bitterness and it’ll haunt me forever.

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This was the case for long, torturous months. Now, almost a year on from then, I’ve had enough. I want my old self back. Sometimes I still think about it. Sometimes I look at the stars as if he’s looking down from them, but it seems like they’re are all gone. Sometimes my strength is nothing more than how well I hide the pain, but I swear, I’m trying my hardest to change. My mouth smiles more often, my eyes cry less and my mind accepts what happened a whole lot more. Even if my heart feels broken, it’s healing. Even if I’ll never truly be the same again, I’m surviving. I’m understanding that I was just in a bad mindset and that I did my best for him during his life. I’m trying to be mentally stable. Learning to live anyway and make him proud.

Some days are better than others, maybe it’s still shock from what happened or ache for what never will, but he is alive and cherished in my memory. That’s my hope to carry on. I’ll never truly get over his loss, but he’s in a better place now, free from the pain and I’ll be strong for him for that reason. I choose to live forward and not dwell over the past. Maybe one day, I can even find him again, tell him how much I’ve missed him each day he wasn’t here.

In the meantime, I’m picking up the pieces and starting again.

The world isn’t completely over. My day isn’t ruined yet.

Just taking a deep breath.

Starting again.

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