I Can't Keep Prioritizing You This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

July 1, 2017
By , Wellesley, MA

I remember I met you on a Thursday. It was the second day of school, the first day of the second-period writing class we had together and the first day you sat down next to me in class. I still remember the way your eyes lit up when you saw me, despite the fact that we had only talked twice the year beforehand. The scrape of the blue chair as you pulled it out, the clatter of the pencil as you dropped it on the desk, the thump of your heavy binders as they were dropped unceremoniously onto the table - everything told me that today was an unremarkable day.
If I could go back to change history, to change a day, an hour, thirty seconds, I would chose today.

I regret getting to know you.

The day is October eighth and you've invited me to your birthday party. It's a month late and I am surprised. I am not close to you, not yet. I didn't know why you'd invited me. I didn't know why your sights had locked onto me, out of all the kids your class. I still do not know why it's me, it's always me.

It's about a week later I find the first google document. Remember that? You used to share things on google drive, dropping little hints about what was happening in your life. First comes your school troubles. Next comes your excitement about being in stage crew for the school play with me. And finally comes the bi bomb about your sexuality. None of that really bothered me, especially not the last one. It tugged at my heartstrings in a way that make my brain go flip-floppy whenever I talked to you in the halls. You’ve started dropping hints in your documents about a girl in stage crew that you had a crush on, who happened to match my description.
That should've been the first red flag. The hints, the hints, the hints. Never in person. Never outright. Always laying the land mines for people to step on instead of detonating them yourself. You always waited for the other person to make the first move, whether that was by waiting for them to suck it up and do it themselves or by outright manipulating them into saying it.

You never told me it was me.
Never, not once.
Your x-marks-the-spot mind map pushed me until I stumbled over the fact that you wanted me to do something about us bombarding me with clues just vague enough to confuse.

It is a week later and we’re heading to the GSA and I'm pushing you into into a corner and me face is on yours and my lips are on your lips and you're crying and you’re hugging me and-
You're happy.
No, really. You are. You promise.
It’s just-

It's early December and I find it, the gem in the shared doc. It’s no longer stories of loneliness and family troubles. They’re now chronicles of blades, slashing the upper skin of your arms where nobody will see them, rivers of blood running down your bathroom tiles and all the way down to me and my life. The doc is cryptic, as always, and of course never actually says the words self harm. But you want me to know, no, need me to know so at school the next day I can give you a crushing embrace that things are going to be okay and No, I won't tell anybody unless you want me to.

Life goes on.
Life keeps giving me more and more as the docs keep flooding into my shared, coming and coming until I'm not sure I can leave you alone anymore because you'll use anything to hurt yourself with. I stay up for hours, talking you down, waking you up from the terrible nightmare cocoon you've trapped us both in. It's 1AM and I'm crying because all of your weight, all of your problems and self hatred and doubt and unresolved mental illness is dropped onto my shoulders like Atlas giving up holding the sky. You start to corral me off from other friends, telling me not to talk to them, to not invite them over, keeping me so busy I can't even have a conversation with my own mother anymore. I am your therapist except I'm not because I can't be because I am a fourteen year old with my own problems and-


This is shouted in early June. This is shouted at you after months of never listening to me. After months of you using my own accomplishments and family to put yourself down because you say you'll never be good enough. This is after months of begging you to get help, of you refusing, of you lashing out over text and trying to get me to hang out with you and you alone. This is after months using me like a well, drawing out everything I hold dear to use it for yourself. This is shouted at you the day I make other plans with a friend I haven't been able to properly talk to in months because of you always needing me and me alone and punching me with words because you refuse to treat your thoughts properly and giving nothing, nothing in return of ages of worry and a warm hand to hold.

You look at me. “We never get to hang out anymore!” You shout back. “you're always with other people!”
You run off, sniffling into your hand.
And as you're running away from me, I can't help but think about how every conversation with you always leads back to you. I think about the messages you send, but never directly to me; no, they're always through some sly system that I need to decode.

The night before this incident happened, I searched the term “toxic friend” on google, as some Freudian way of seeing what might turn up. I remember this as you run from me, and I almost believe I can see the toxic waste in your wake.

I think about how I've barely been able to think about myself the whole year and my own battle with mental illness. I think about the nights you've kept me awake worrying about what you're going to do next, and the further damage control I will have to do to make sure The Friend Group doesn't see this battle happening behind the curtain. I think of the things you've said, and what you've done, and your constant need your attention and validation and how no matter how much I tell you, no matter how many hours I devote to you, how many times I've chased after you when you ran off in the middle of class, and I think about how you never take steps to recovery.

I can't keep prioritizing you. You've kick-started the slow destruction of my very being, and now I need to pick up the pieces. You're the cause of so many untold stories, stories that could not even begin to be elaborated upon in this piece, stories of breakdowns and tears on my end because of how much you're relying on me.

I can't keep prioritizing you.
I can't.
I need to learn how to prioritize myself. I need to...

I need a friend. An honest-to-god shoulder to cry on and person to have a real conversation with. Maybe we’ll meet again sometime, in a future time where I've reassembled the ruins of who I used to be. Until that day comes, take care of yourself. I mean it. Learn to accept help from the ones who love you. More importantly, learn to ask for help. You're not as alone in the ocean as you think you are.

All my best,

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