At first, it will be easy to pretend that nothing has happened. You will think that you are over it. Everybody will believe that you are over it. They will see you laughing, smiling, being your usual self. They will see you being friends with that person. You will convince yourself that it was insignificant, that you were making a big deal out of nothing, that you deserved it, that you don’t have a right to be upset. You will carry on.
Eventually cracks will start to appear - someone will make a joke which reminds you of something, and you will feel like vomiting. But you will smile, you will laugh. No one will notice anything. They will touch your shoulder in a harmless gesture, and you will want to recoil, but you will not. You will smile, you will only tense up slightly. No one will notice anything.
These cracks at some point will become too hard to bear, so you will begin to distance yourself, to save your smiles for people who are completely unaffiliated with them. You will not even notice that you are doing this. You will think that you are just ‘branching out’, ‘making new friends’. You will stop spending any time in college at all. You will ‘explore other libraries’, ‘start new hobbies’. You will think that you are just busy. You will not notice that these are avoidance tactics.
You will miss your best friend’s birthday pub trip to go and do sport. You will think that it is because you want to stay fit. You will not recognise that the real reason you are not going is because you do not want to be exposed as a fraud. You will not realise that you are not passing up spending time with those people because you are busy, but because you are scared of doing or saying something that lets on how you are really feeling. You will leave your friend looking sad because you’re missing her birthday. You will carry on.
Eventually you will be unable to keep smiling. A joke which goes wrong will bring your entire facade crashing around you. You will laugh. You will smile. But something will short circuit, and before you know it you will be in floods of tears. You will see people looking confused. You will feel ashamed. but you will not be able to stop. You will feel angry. You will feel scared. You will try to bring the facade back together. You will try to tell people that you are fine. You will try to accept responsibility for your own actions, but will find it difficult to figure out what exactly you did wrong. You will still beat yourself up.
You will report what happened. You will think that this will make you feel better. It will not. Even when the person you tell says ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘This is not your fault’, you will still think that it is your fault. You will lie on your friend’s bedroom floor and cry. You will feel like a selfish mess. You will be terrified that you will be told that you are wrong, that you will be told that you have made it up. You will beat yourself up again for being so pathetic. You will go home to your family for a while because even your best friend’s room doesn’t feel safe anymore.
You will come back. Everything will be resolved by people higher up than you. You will think that this will make you feel better. It will not. You will feel like it is your fault. You will alternate between terrifying, burning rage and overwhelming sadness. You will stop eating for a few days. Someone will tell you that your feelings are similar to grief. You will feel like you do not deserve this analogy because you have not lost anything, except maybe your sense of self. You will feel like you are drowning. You will find out what people are saying behind your back and want to scream ‘YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. YOU DON’T KNOW HOW I FEEL. YOU DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH YOU ARE DAMAGING ME’. You will not. You will stay silent. You will do your work. You will avoid college. You will carry on.
Eventually, after a while, you will feel like you are healed. People will have stopped talking about it. They will have moved on. You will feel like you have moved on. Everybody will think that you are fine. But you will see that person and have a panic attack. You will feel pathetic again. You will feel like it is your fault. You will spend increasing amounts of time in your room. You will realise that this is an avoidance tactic. You will come out of your room. You will spend time with friends. You will start to feel happy and safe again.
Sometimes you will have bad weeks. Sometimes you will feel like you are about to lose it completely. You will beat yourself up for not being over it. You will feel weak. You will try to get it together. You will get it together. You will remind yourself of your own strength. You will carry on.