Monday, 19 June 2017

Blog 5.3: Toxic Friendships


Here is the 3rd and final installment of this piece that I wrote on toxic friendships. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment and I will try my best to at least say a "hello"! Same as before; I have added the note from the first piece of this blog about a term that may be used in this section.

Note: Just a little note before I start to say that the term “bitchy” and possible variations of it appear in these next few posts. I’m aware that it is a derogatory term but it is not intended as such. Where I am from it’s a term for “nagging” others or being mean (any gender). I’m a woman and I’m not offended by this use of it but if you are then I’ll see you in a blog or two. There is no need to make me feel bad about using it and any negative comments shall be removed.

Blog 5.3: Toxic Friendships

During my toxic friendships I was already going through depression and one thing that I wasn’t even aware that I had; severe anxiety. With depression it was easy to work out that that is what I had as I had memories of being happy (no matter how long ago that was) but I had no memories of not feeling so wound up and anxious at the slightest thing so therefore it was normal for me to feel that way. I now know at 25 that it’s not normal to constantly feel this way but for all my life I just thought it was something that everyone felt and couldn’t understand why other people weren’t as fazed by things as I was. In the last couple of years I’ve also discovered that I am an introvert which means that I like keeping to myself. I like being alone and will often be found in my room or somewhere by myself where I can write, read and listen to music in a safe environment where no one will bother me. I need time to recharge when I (do occasionally) put myself in social situations and I stay away from people who seem angry in case it is my fault. I’m not sure, however, if this is how I’ve always been or if a mix of anxiety, depression, toxic friendships and bullying has made me so. Maybe I’ve always been this way (I mentioned above that I’ve always had anxiety – especially social anxiety) and the aforementioned reasons have made me worse.

I’ve mentioned the emotion con-artist before so let’s focus on her, shall we? A lot of her toxicity was revolved around making me feel guilty or like I was a bad friend yet she had no qualms with being a hypocrite to this notion. Let’s say I wanted to go out but she didn’t feel like it. I’d stay in because she would make me feel guilty for wanting to do something or she wouldn’t want to go because she had something “better” planned. If I didn’t want to go out, and quite frankly most of the time couldn’t because I would end up having a breakdown (but only once she had left mind you), because I was too anxious, depressed or even physically ill she would make me feel guilty for not wanting to make her happy. I was, and still am, too nice of a person to  not put others first and because she was my only friend at the time I felt like I had to please her all of the time to get her to want to hang out of me. I guess it’s kind of like trying to get in with the popular crowd in school except it was out of sheer loneliness and not to be a social climber or to feel like I fit in. She would say things to other people that she would sometimes force me to hang out with to make them dislike me (one went as far as to send me virus on my computer because she was pissed off that said friend because she dared to prefer to hang out with me instead of her. She was more my friend out of convenience a lot of the time. My home provided a safe place for her and my parents let us drink (it’s legal here for minors to drink at home when accompanied by an adult) and make as much noise as we wanted (within reason – loud music cut off time was 10pm) purely because I had gone so long without having a friend that even they were trying to keep her happy so that she wouldn’t leave me friendless.

When I grew out of the volunteer post we both did she would guilt me into going so that she wouldn’t be left without a friend even though it was making me miserable. I didn’t enjoy it anymore and I didn’t know if it was 1 of 3 things; a) the pressure to go every week from her, b) I felt like I was being left out of leading a lot of activities or c) the depression. I needed time to work out whether I had purely just grown out of it and had felt like I had “done my time” or if it was to do with certain people that I was interacting with. However; if she didn’t want to go then I’d have to stay behind with her because she would decide at the last minute not to go even though she had made the 20 minute drive (or one of her family members had) to get to my house. She invited herself over a lot and whilst I was glad for the company because as an introvert I needed time to myself, I was getting irritated from not having my own space anymore. My safe place kept getting invaded and I felt like I always had to keep on top of things (OCD alert) so that she had no reason to tell other people that my room was messy. I was so consumed by keeping things neat and tidy in order to please her that when she was over I was getting even more frustrated when things were out of place or if she took up an entire counter top for her makeup, got foundation marks on my walls or if she dared to get into bed without taking her makeup off because I didn’t want it staining my covers. I was trying so hard to be perfect to keep my only friend that I was too exhausted and mentally drained to put up with her.
If we made plans to meet somewhere (town, for example, as it was the mid-point between our homes as we lived in different villages) I would arrive at our arranged meeting point only to be told that she wasn’t going to be there because she “couldn’t be bothered” (this was code for “I’ve made other plans” – Facebook is great for some light detective work as was Bebo back in the day). This is was all despite her reassuring me not even five minutes before that she was on her way and already on the bus.
If we were to be having a girls’ day for just the two of us (and she actually turned up) I would find us being ambushed by her boyfriend who she had conveniently forgotten to mention was meeting up with us and therefore making me the third-wheel no matter how much he tried to make me feel included when she didn’t. It was extremely awkward and honestly made me feel like even more of an outsider and even more depressed. There had been no point in me being there at all except to chaperone her from one place to another so she wouldn’t have to do it herself. I didn’t begrudge her having a boyfriend and there wasn’t anything to be jealous of; I was just mad because I got pushed aside for someone “better” all the time (she did this with inviting her friends as well and not telling me) and I always felt like I was never good enough for her unless she needed something. A lot of the time it felt like she was rubbing it in my face that she had friends when she was the reason why I didn’t have any bar her. It’s like she enjoyed having that much control over my life and looking back that’s probably because she didn’t have much control over her own. Still; there is no excuse for that kind of psychological torture.

I was constantly stood up, owed money to (as were my parents so she would go places with me/us) and made to feel bad for being ill.
If she needed me I was there. When she got ill I stayed with her until she got better (this could be days or weeks) so that she wouldn’t be alone and so she had someone with her if she needed to go to hospital or to the emergency clinic. I should mention that anything medical makes me feel physically ill to the point where I pass out just at the thought of going to the doctor’s for a regular check-up.
She practically lived at my house – I couldn’t move for all her things and she even had her own wardrobe space, drawers and toothbrush. I constantly lived in her shadow. If I joined a group she would too. It’s nice in theory to have someone you know with you in a new situation but I didn’t have anything that was solely my own and if I wanted to join something she did, she would say no to the idea. I couldn’t speak up about it either as I would get the “why don’t you want to hang out with me” guilt trip. If I didn’t reply to her texts or instant messages within seconds of them being sent I was questioned about  why I “wasn’t speaking” to her when it was just a case of me simply being out of the room or the message hadn’t come through to my phone.
She could be quite possessive and hated sharing me with any friends I made without her to the point where I lost out of hanging out with new people because she made me feel bad for wanting to go five minutes without her. She would always try to “one-up” me even though I was never competing and I always felt other people only wanted to be my friend to get to her. She hated me making new friends without her to the point where she was my only friend as I couldn’t stand being made to choose between her and a group of people who only wanted to be around me when there was no one else to solve their life’s worries. It was easier to have a consistent disappointing friend who always let me down than those who were inconsistent and constantly faked needing my help just to keep me around for when they were desperate. Having someone who was consistently a let-down was easier as I knew where I stood with her. In all it just made me incredibly lonely.

I didn’t realise how much she contributed to my depression and social anxiety or how toxic she was until we fell out 10 years into our friendship. Yep; it lasted that long and I let it because as I mentioned before she was an emotional con artist which led to some sick, twisted Stockholm Syndrome type problem that I still suffer from nearly 3 years later. I won’t go into the whys of how we fell out. Not just because that issue is far too private to share and only relates solely to us but because I’m actually afraid that she will find this blog – even if it is anonymous) and make my life hell again for sharing experiences that I know a lot of people will relate to; being stood up, left out and even abandoned.
I did see sense eventually and blocked her on everything; my phone, social media and email addresses. She no longer has control over who I see, what I do and where I go, and I honestly very rarely even think about her anymore. Sometimes things will remind me of the good times we did have and I will want to text her about it but then I remember how toxic she was and the feeling goes away. If anything I miss the memories and being close to someone; not her. I only speak about her in counselling (and at some point in the future in therapy) and in the exception of writing this blog as she’s a major part of why I don’t trust anyone anymore and why I feel the way that I do when I get depressed or anxious. Some memories featuring her are great – maybe 5-10 % of them but the ones that stick out are the ones listed above that contribute to me having panic attacks in crowded places and having no confidence to do anything - even going out on my own. I don’t miss her and I don’t miss the person that I was with her.
In conclusion; I have a long way to go with recovery and breaking the feelings that these so-called “friends” left me with (not being good enough, being a “let-down” if I couldn’t go out because I was ill etc) but I’m so much better off without them. I don’t have someone making me feel guilty all the time and I don’t have someone controlling my every move. Sure; I may not be able to go out even into my back garden for longer than 10 minutes at a time or be around other people because of social anxiety and just general sever anxiety but as I try to recover it’s my decision whether I’ve had enough of a situation or if don’t want to go somewhere because it is my choice and should never have been theirs in the first place. In all honesty I am still bitter because they took so much away from me when I wasn’t in a position to tell them not to but at least now I have the opportunity to move on from it instead of being in a vicious, toxic cycle of someone else’s doing.
What I don’t want you taking away from this is the notion that it was because I was “weak” that I allowed myself to be an easy target. I was already extremely mentally ill before them anxiety-wise and they made my issues with depression (due to bullying – name-calling, physically having things thrown at me, rumours, being told to kill myself) a whole lot worse because they made me feel like it was deserved when did not stick up for me and were constant let-downs themselves. These people should never have taken advantage of me in the first place in order to feel better and whilst it may not be fair to say it is solely their fault, it is also not entirely mine and I have spent far too long believing that it was – that it was me doing always doing something wrong.

If you take anything away from this blog then please let it be that you should ditch toxic friends before it’s too late. Your mental wellbeing is not worth it; trust me, and neither are they.


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Blog 5.2: Toxic Friendships

Hi all. Didn't realise I hadn't posted this one yet (I was thinking I was further ahead) so here is the 2nd installement of my blog on toxic friendships. I've included the little note from the previous blog as well as a "heads up" on a term that may be used in it. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments - I always try to reply.

Note: Just a little note before I start to say that the term “bitchy” and possible variations of it appear in these next few posts. I’m aware that it is a derogatory term but it is not intended as such. Where I am from it’s a term for “nagging” others or being mean (any gender). I’m a woman and I’m not offended by this use of it but if you are then I’ll see you in a blog or two. There is no need to make me feel bad about using it and any negative comments shall be removed.

Blog 5.2: Toxic Friendships

As I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember, making friends has never been my forte. I’m as open and friendly as anyone can possibly be but all it seems to do is get me hurt. People mistake my kindness for weakness. They take me for granted and only need me when no one else is around or, in some cases, will put up with them and then when I need them they’re never there. I remember when my grandmother passed away and I really needed a friend. I called my best friend at the time (spoiler alert; she’s featured later on in this post too) and she told me that she thought she had fractured her wrist and was on her way to hospital (looking back there was no sense of urgency or anything to indicate that she was in pain or shock). This was fine. I’m not heartless and a possible break is something serious. What wasn’t fine was that when she was back home, (turns out it was just a sprain) even though she knew my Nana was deteriorating over the last 4/5 days she still didn’t ask if I was alright or even why I was calling. She had been there at my Nana’s over the time she was dying. She had held my nana’s hand during one of the times when she had been responsive. That was devastating. We were like sisters and I realised about ten years too late that it had solely been for her benefit. 

As soon as I got home that night I got online to message (these were the days of MSN messenger) a couple of people that I thought were my friends to see if they would come over and just keep me company but they wouldn’t. They told me they had “better things to do” and were “too far away”. This was coming from people who I had seen walk over to one of their houses across the road from me. It made me realise that whilst; yes they would hang out with me at school, they didn’t really want to outside of it. Maybe it was because I was already showing signs of depression. Maybe it was because, deep down, they didn’t really want to be my friend and only tolerated me at school. Who knows?
Other friends from our group didn’t answer the phone or reply to text messages (I branched away from this group maybe about two weeks later. We just weren’t compatible with our tastes in music and films, and that made it easier for me to walk away) which is another reason why I very rarely ever have the courage to call people.
The one person who did answer just wasn’t who I wanted to talk to about what was going on. Before you comment with “you actually had a real friend there” – trust me; I didn’t. Whilst she was really nice in that particular moment, something felt extremely wrong about showing her my vulnerable side and I would find out why the following school year. Turns out I’m a really good judge of character even if I was blindsided by someone who I can only describe as an “emotional con-artist” for 10 years by my previously-mentioned best friend. As I was saying; something didn’t feel right. The previous six months of “friendship” with her had been confusing. She wanted to be included in everything I did and would more often than not force her way into whatever activity I was doing whether it was with a different group of people that I used to hang out with, during my small window of time with my best friend (we went to different school in different districts and lived about 20 mins away from each other) or even when I was alone. She always seemed to know when I really wanted (and needed) to be alone and would go out of her (and her parents’) way to make sure she could be wherever I was. You could say that she might’ve been lonely but I do not buy that for one second because if she were the one making plans she would never invite me and make sure that I knew that I wasn’t. If I wanted to meet up with her and she had “OK’d” it she would never turn up or I would get there to find that she had left despite assuring me that she was there. She would get mad if I hung out with anyone that wasn’t her yet she could hang out with whoever she wanted and, even if I had been bothered by that (I was glad to get a break from her), I was made to feel like I couldn’t and most definitely shouldn’t speak up about it. These are the same issues I had with the emotional con-artist except I knew that after high school ended I could move on without her (my school friend not best friend) as we were both heading to different places for further education and wouldn’t be in the same place until the holidays. Being an introvert as well makes it really hard to confront people because when I would find the courage to do so, these people would protest that it was MY fault that they treated me the way that they did – like I deserved to have the crappiest of friends because I preferred to hang out by myself only in very small groups with people who didn’t cause drama. That, because I enjoyed being at home more than going outside (still do), when I did make it out I was unworthy of making a decision about where we went or what we should do. If I wanted to do something they wouldn’t be interested or “feel like it” but when they wanted to do something, especially when I was extremely ill with anxiety and depression, I was dragged along and made to feel guilty until I did what they wanted. If I pointed out that they were being unfair then it was guaranteed that at school I would be made an outcast from our small group of friends and, in the case of my best friend, would  get guilt tripped about “never wanting to go out” when that wasn’t the case. What was the case was that my ideas weren’t good enough for her. If it wasn’t what she wanted then we didn’t do it.

Stay tuned for the third and final installment sometime soon!



Get To Know Me Part 2

Hi everyone! Here is part 2 of the "Get To Know Me" post that I did last Friday to celebrate one year of being with Blogger. If ...

Anxiously, Me