TRIALS OF FRIENDSHIPS

Friendships come in many forms. Some are temporary, some are work friends, some are good friends, and some friendships are special. Special friendships don’t come easily. You are two different people and sometimes you have differences of opinions and sometimes you hurt each other, even though you don’t mean to. When you have mental illness, friendships become harder to maintain. With mental illness sometimes boundaries get over stepped, small misunderstandings become huge tragedies, fear of abandonment strikes, and so on.

I have many very good friends in my life. I have two I’m real close to. Cheryl is like a sister to me. She’s seen me at my worst and at my best. She’s always there for me. She was even at my side when I couldn’t support her. We call each other sis.

My other friend, I’ll call Sandy, is very dear to me also. We both write memoirs. She has several books published and knows a lot about the publishing industry. She gives me advice, she inspires me, and she is a mentor to me, but she also is much more. She has been reading my blog and has also become a part of my support team. She too is like family to me. We have developed a special bond and each night we message each other and talk about writing, our lives, and so on.

Sandy got a new job. She’s working in the same chain of grocery store as I am, but in a different location. I work in Harborcreek, a suburb of Erie Pennsylvania, and she works in a small community forty-five minutes from Erie. Sandy is vision impaired. She can see, but it’s like tunnel vision. Working as a cashier has been a challenge and a culture shock. Working with the public is hard and she has dealt with mean customers. She has been doing well but has been confiding in me about her workdays.

I admire Sandy for taking on the challenge of being a cashier with her vision loss. One night while on messenger she was telling me about her day. I typed something about my day, but she missed it. I made a comment about it. I thought I was being as nice as possible. Her reply was, “I’m taking a break from people.” I apologized several times with no answer.

Then the next day I heard nothing from her. We went from messaging each other practically every day to nothing. My mind went wild. Negative thoughts, self-punishment, cognitive distortions, and fear I was being abandoned took over.

Sandy is one of my best friends and mentor and I was such an idiot. I hurt her. I ruined our friendship. She’ll never talk to me again. I tried to say it nicely, but I screwed up big time.

I texted my fears to Cheryl, and she replied, “You didn’t mess up. She just needs space. Let her be and maybe in a couple days message her without expecting a reply.”

Another day went by. Anguish and fear filled me. I agonized over the message I sent her. I read it several times trying to figure out how I could have worded it differently. I began to punish myself.

You’re such a jerk. Look what you have done you idiot, you ruined a really good friendship. You don’t deserve friends. You just hurt people. She’ll never forgive you and it’s all your fault. You always hurt people. You’re a mess. You don’t deserve friends.

I messaged her if she needed anything I was there and no reply.

I texted Cheryl, “I said the wrong thing to Sandy. I was trying to be nice. I guess I shouldn’t have said anything. Everyone abandons me. She left me. Our friendship is over.”

Cheryl used my blog posts to help me. She typed, “No she didn’t. Stop. You are magnifying and using distorted thinking. Just give her space and she’ll come around.”

The next day I still heard nothing from Sandy. Lou insisted I call her and talk it out. I did, but no answer. I went back to the self-defeating thinking.

It’s no use. Our friendship is over. What will I do without her? She helps me so much with my memoir and now she’s gone. How could I mess up such a special friendship? How could I hurt her? I am worthless.

I told Lou how I felt, and he decide to message her. He told her that I missed her and I needed her. He asked her to please contact me. She didn’t answer and Lou went to bed. Later that night he came down to tell me she messaged him that she would call me the next day. I got out of work early the next night and messaged her I was home. I waited in agony for her to call and she did.

I told her I didn’t mean to hurt her. She said that is in the past and asked if Lou and I would like to go out to dinner with her brother and her next week. We talked for a bit and when we hung up, I felt all the pain I put myself through float away. Cheryl told me she knew it would work out. I agreed she was right, and I should have listened to her. She understood once the thoughts get started, I have a hard time stopping them.

When you can’t control your thoughts, it’s good to have a support team who can help you. Cheryl and Lou helped me reason with my thinking. They helped me calm down even for a moment. It helps to have people to support you and to tell you when your thinking is distorted. Without Lou’s and Cheryl’s help I may have been totally engulfed in my distorted thinking and could have slipped back down that hole.

Even in recovery mental illness plays its games. It took control of me for a bit, but with help I rose above it. My support team helped me stay in the light of recovery.

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