Never take friendship personal

friend·ship

[frend-ship]

noun
1. the state of being a friend;  association as friends: to value a person’s friendship.
2. a friendly relation or intimacy.
3. friendly feeling or disposition.
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I haven’t spoken to my best friend, face-to-face, in weeks. Our last contact was through Facebook, where I said I may pop round (I didn’t), about two weeks ago. She’s called me once, and left me a few messages online, but I’ve ignored her.
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I care about Z, I really do. Her mental health problems (she’s bipolar) helped me learn about BPD and, as a result, finally get a diagnosis for all the barmy behaviour I’ve been participating in. I worry about her a lot; she’s incapable of budgeting or giving priority to bills and things she has to pay for. She argues a lot with her fiancé, and rarely takes her medication. She never got over her cousin’s suicide a couple of years ago; he hung himself in his garage, and she still can’t cope with anything to do with suicide (not that I blame her).
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Despite the fact that I love Z, I have problems with our friendship. Or rather, friendship in general. I have no real long-term friendships, because I tend to back away after a couple of years. Am I afraid of getting too close to somebody? Maybe, but I suspect it’s not quite that simple.
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Firstly, I have no idea at which something becomes a friendship, and I worry that perhaps I’m assuming too much by calling somebody ‘my friend’. The whole process seems to come naturally to others, yet I find it almost impossible to understand the whole socialising thing. I want to socialise and have friends, but something stops me actually doing it. It’s not that I’m particularly unpopular; making friends doesn’t seem to be a problem, it’s keeping them which troubles me. It’s like I get scared, but I don’t know what by.
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Looking back, I didn’t always have this problem. I was a shy child, but was in the ‘popular’ group in primary school, best friends with Emma, Bridget and Tom*, and often hung around in the cul de sac around the corner with the kids from the area, riding bikes and scooters, or going next door to play on the Master System. It’s only when secondary school started and some of my friends went to other schools or got put in other sets, that issues started to develop. Once I started getting bullied, I became more introverted than usual and found it difficult to speak out anymore.
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I never had much confidence, but my experiences in school destroyed the little I had, and friendships began to fall by the wayside as I drew myself further in. For no reason, I was lying to my friends, stealing from them, insulting them… I began acting in a cold way, almost like I was trying to get them to hate me. Looking back, I think this point is where BPD really started showing; I was becoming incredibly irrational and convinced that everyone was talking about me, even when they clearly weren’t. I started hearing voices, but that’s another story.
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At the age of fourteen, I lost all my friends. I disappeared; left school and, after a stay in hospital for self-harm and anorexia, cut off all contact. I just didn’t feel like anyone understood and, after going entirely batshit crazy in front of a number of friends on regular occasions, I couldn’t face the world anymore. That’s the path my life has taken ever since.
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Keeping friendships can be difficult enough when you have a mental illness, but when you add chronic illness and pain into the mix, it can get impossible. I worry that I’m a burden on others – it’s hard not to, when you’re constantly having to cry off plans because of tiredness – and I still don’t feel comfortable admitting that I’m, well, sick. So I go along with things, suffering, and after a while I can’t take it anymore and back away. Or someone upsets me once, and I become convinced they hate me, so I save them the trouble of trying to get rid of me and I  just stop speaking to them.
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I have become adept at burning bridges; it’s almost a talent now.
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* poorly-invented names

30 Comments

  1. Hey, you’ve been through a lot. And you’re right, most of them probably don’t understand. I don’t have a slew of friends (I believe I may have 4-that’s it). I’ve become untrusting. Lack of self esteem doesn’t help. I always feel I’m not bright enough or funny enough. And even within those 4 I just mentioned, there are two that I’ve known since my childhood and I’m on the fence with even those friendships. People change, lives evolve. They say people come in and out of lives for a reason. Try not to look into it too deeply. I’ve also had my share of “cancelled plans” at the last minute because I just didn’t feel I could enjoy the company or deal with the person I was going to be with.

  2. nice share. sad to hear what you went through.
    i wonder, is it still the same, or have you grown out of it?
    learned how to overcome it?

    socialising is a bit hard for me too.
    I find it a waste of time most of the time
    there are only a few people who I can stand small talk with :)

  3. I also have difficulty forming long-term friendships. I have a lot of difficulty opening up to people and I think that is one of the primary reasons. When I do open up, I think I tell too much and scare people off. If not, I disappear after telling my tales because I’m afraid of judgment. Either way, things don’t work out.

    I hope you can work things out with Z, if you want to.

    • When it comes to Z, I think I worry that I’m only holding onto the friendship because of BPD; and I don’t want to be alone. I do like her, but spending time with her seems to be a major issue. Then again, that goes for most people I call friends, I suppose.

      I have difficulty opening up too, and you’re right, it’s one of the main reasons. I don’t tend to tell people too much, I just don’t tell them anything. I get so private and closed-off.

  4. I loved reading this, especially at a time of when I’ve forged a glorious friendship with ‘Lady Georgiania’ of ‘another land’, someone who has posted her inaugural post at my blog on this evening (please check it out, it’s amazing!) . Your description of childhood friendships, of cul-de-sac bicycle parties, of middle school separation and weirdness SO MUCH resonate with me. In my 11th year of schooling, I re-made myself, pretending to be ‘stupid’ just because the girl who won ‘biggest airhead’ of the graudating class notoriously took the cake at the end of the year – because she was always the prettiest and thinnest. THE DUMBEST. I won because I pretended. I weighed 89 pounds. I pretended to be stupid and flighty. Now I’m the Real Me. I earn my friends with my real character. It’s damn empowering. Is Z truly your best friend because she likes the real you? Or is she your bestie because of who you pretend to be? Friendships should not be stressful. Even when my Sir Edmund gets on my nerves, I’m well within my right to step back, and I DO. I tell him that I need space. Friendships should have that comfort level. Keep living and breathing your true existence, and one day, you won’t feel bad about the bitches who knock you for being different. xxx

    • I don’t know about Z. I think she does see the real me, but I still lie to her about who I am. I’ve never had a friendship which wasn’t stressful; it’s hard to see them being otherwise, I suppose. I find it difficult to be honest with friends when I want to be alone.

      I remember pretending to be stupid, so kids in school would like me more. Luckily, I left before any sort of graduation. Thanks, Nicole!

  5. Pingback: People, Let Me tell You About My Best Friend | A Little Local Color

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  7. Hi there, From my ripe old age of 60, I’ve come to believe that every one of us suffers with some form of mental imbalance–it’s just that some experiences are more intense than others and harder to heal. I just wanted to say it’s very good to write–writing in itself is healing and blogging may open some doors for you that you can’t see right now. I suffer with a chonic illness, also, and have had teachers say that everything can be healed by shifting our consciousness. I now believe this is true and wish you much success on your journey of healing.
    Pam B

  8. Hi! You found my blog today so I thought I’d skip over to take a peek at yours. Friendships are peculiar post diagnosis. It’s difficult for me to understand why the friends I had prior to my breakdown seemed to slowly disappear like nightly dreams. My partner of 27 years has weathered this storm; he’s my hero. 4 years now living the “new normal” and recently begun writing again. Thanks for your inspiration.

  9. If you gain any wisdom on this I would love to hear it. My plot summary rings very similar to yours, although it seems that I was a late bloomer in the garden of mental conditions. I was always akward but managed ok for myself. Found a group that was as weird as I was and then it all kind of fell apart. I blame myself for just about everything, but this was the one time that I couldn’t figure out what I had done… It was all downhill from there.

    • One thing I found is that hanging around with people as crazy as me is a bad idea. Speaking to them online is great; I love it, I love learning about other people like me – but in real life? It goes very, very wrong. With having BPD, I just can’t cope with more extreme behaviour. I’m one of those people who likes peace and quiet, yet the constant accompaning friends to hospital and dealing with their meltdowns ending up giving me my own breakdown.

  10. This is so sad, but I think I can relate to it a lot. My closest friends tend to be people who are also going through some sort of mental distress because I feel like they understand me better, and I feel more comfortable being myself around them.

    • See, I have the opposite reaction to friends with mental health problems… I try to help, I really do, but their behaviour then sets something off in me, and I have to back away. Luckily they tend to understand. For example, if a friend is really depressed… I’ll start getting depressed too; it triggers me. Still, I love them and know they can’t help it.

  11. I don’t think It’s your problem. I think it’s others.
    I mean, I don’t have any pathology(well, it seems so, but who knows) but I have problems with friendship too. I’m always helpful if a person i care seems to have a problem or simply the need to speak, just speak, not even a conversation..but i’ve fallen into pieces last summer and i have lots of family problems and..well, my “friends” seems not to care. They think that chatting on fb is the way. They’ve never asked me to go out etc..So i’ve been completely alone(and i am still) in this.
    I’ve never had a REAL friendship…like in the movies..i call you and you immediately come at my house to talk, to go out during the afternoon or in the morning and stuff. My “friends” just care of going out on saturday night etc.
    So, well i prefer to stay with myself and my dog (: don’t seek real friends. If they’re real, they will come close to you automatically.
    Thanks for visiting my blog, i’m following you. Worth doing (:

    • I used to think friendship was just like the movies. Nights in with pizza and days out drinking coffee and taking photos and generally having a jolly good time. I’ve now realised that Hollywood lies; a lot. I do know people who have friendships like that, but not many.

      Honestly? I find it difficult to know if my friendships have been real or not. I think some have, but I don’t understand the whole friendship thing anyway. I’m glad someone else is sick of the Saturday nights… I don’t like clubs, especially not ones around here, and I don’t like the whole drinking and snorting coke culture which we have in my town. I’d rather just stay home with a computer game, or go to a quiet pub.

      Thanks for the follow!

  12. Can I just say how brave I think you are for writing this and sharing. It was a great insight! You’re right, the term ‘friend’ is used loosely, like the word ‘love’ too. It changes.. People change.. Sometimes I have that desire to stay inside and protect myself from all the evil that can be out there sometimes but I know I can’t. I hope you find your middle… Maybe I’m naive when I say that someone who is a true friend to you will understand you like no one else and even if time goes on, they’ll be there when you think they aren’t there anymore. Thx again for sharing!

  13. Well, this is an amazing post, filled with honesty and courage. I admire you for writing it. On friendship (I am 65) … a person must accept me as I am if they wish to be my friend. I can be a bit difficult … but I like myself and do not care what others think of me. I disconnected from my best friend of 35 years … in 2010. She is bipolar and alcoholic. When she is manic she becomes abusive, I had had enough. So be it. I knew it was coming as I looked back over the years of the friendship. Interesting, she was the last person in my life who was abusive whom I needed to get rid of. Thank you for visiting my blog.

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