So, the second thing that happened—the loss of a good friend—is so much harder to tackle. Basically, what happened—from my perspective, which is the only one I have—is this: I met someone with whom there was an instant connection. This—in my life—never happens. I don’t make friends easily, and close friends are difficult to find. My life, my upbringing, my family, my experiences, while not unique if you take them one at a time, but together make it practically impossible to really relate to just about anyone. So to have found someone with whom so many of the boxes could be checked off—this was a big deal. That this person is a really wonderful person was a bonus.
Over the course of about a year, we became very close. Or, I thought we did. I had no reason to believe we hadn’t. This person had issues in their life—many stemming from similar past experiences that I know my issues stem from. Some of them ongoing. The result was that I worried about them almost constantly. And it wasn’t just that we related to each other so well—it was that this person is a stellar human being. Again, not easy to come by, and it was very easy to care deeply about what happened to them, the things they went through and continues to go through, and how they dealt with it all.
Because I cared so much, I spent a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to help. The fact was that there was very little I could do. Nothing substantial, really. At best, I could be supportive and offer anything I could possibly think of as advice on how to change the little things (that we all know add up to big things). Or, I hoped so. And all seemed well as far as our friendship went, as we both had difficulties we were dealing with. I felt a kinship with this person. I honestly felt like, as far as life went, and as much garbage as it can throw at you, at the very least we understood each other, where we came from, where we hoped to go, and that we’d support one another. I really expected to know this person for the rest of my life, as I’ve guessed that with people before, and this is the first time I’ve been wrong.
And then one day, this person was gone. We’d talked that day and everything seemed fine. I expected to talk with them again later, but they were nowhere to be found. I was immediately worried. And I worried for a few days until various clues pointed to the fact that this person had deliberately, and without warning, cut me off entirely. They, apparently, had no intention of ever talking to me again.
I think that any reasonable person in that situation would be upset. I was. I was confused and deeply hurt. This was compounded drastically by the withdrawal symptoms from the Effexor kicking in. I dealt with it badly. “Badly” is an understatement. But considering there had been a point in our friendship where this person had a similar experience—having one’s medication cause your brain to go completely haywire—I (stupidly, I guess) hoped they’d understand. They didn’t and I was on my own. My dealing with it badly was considered proof as to what a terrible person I was. Because, after doing everything I could to communicate with this person (because the only way this sort of thing can possibly be straightened out is through communication), they finally emailed me to let me know what shit person I was. Of course, not in those words. But not far off. That’s what it felt like.
I was controlling. I had apparently made it clear to them that they could do nothing right. I kept a running list of their mistakes that I would use against them. Etc. Now, I had come to understand over the course of knowing this person that maybe other people in their life did these things, but I was not one of them.
It’s true, I was probably overbearing—I was constantly offering tips and suggestions on things they could try to fix this or that. Those “little” things. How to eat healthier. To exercise regularly. To work on getting good sleep at night. To take time for themselves—downtime, leisure time, whatever. I felt okay offering this advice, because it was advice I was trying to take myself—all of these things have been, and are, a struggle for me. But I know that getting a reasonable handle on these things helps up the quality of your life in general, so that maybe handling the big, truly troublesome things might be a little easier. That was the only possible way I could help with the big things. Indirectly. So, while what I just described to you was how I saw it—it’s certainly how I felt and what I thought I was doing—it was certainly what I’d intended—they had experienced it as controlling and critical. I don’t imagine most of this communication taking place online helped much, with so much lost in translation.
The sad thing is that any mistakes they made were mistakes I have made—how can I say they were ever “wrong.” It’s just trial and error—we can’t succeed all the time, all day, every day. It never occurred to me that anything this person did was “wrong.” The food they ate, their exercise regimen, their sleep schedule, all of that. These were all things I thought we were both making efforts to improve in our lives—I kind of thought we were cheerleading each other. No, not kind of. I did think that. But they never expressed any irritation with any of this. They seemed happy with it. They told me it was good—that, in fact, it was motivational and inspiring. And so I thought I was doing the right thing. Until one day it wasn’t, and I wasn’t, and the communication was cut, and there was nothing I could do about any of it. I’d never even had a chance to change, to understand where they were coming from. And it’s hard for me to not think that was terribly unfair.
Life is fucking unfair. Always.
As for the running list of their faults—I had no such list. I didn’t really have anything with which I could make a list. I never considered their “faults” faults. I truly appreciated who they were, entirely, and whatever “faults” there were weren’t any less palatable than anyone else’s, and, actually, because this person was such a smart, ethically sound, naturally multi-talented, all-around amazing person, their “faults” could hardly be seen as faults. And the rare moment when I was angry or frustrated with them (which, by my experience, is exactly twice), they were both misunderstandings, and to me, when a conflict arose from a misunderstanding, you dismissed it. It didn’t happen. Only one of them was relevant to bring up at a later date, and that was the issue with medication (for the obvious reasons). But, I didn’t bring it up because I wanted to remind them what a terrible person they were—they are the furthest thing from a terrible person. I only wanted to remind them that they should know what I was dealing with, and hey, I had compassion for them then, why was it not coming back to me? It wasn’t an attack; it was a relevant and reasonable question given the circumstances. It wasn’t their past action that was the issue–I didn’t care about that–it was their present reaction to my going through what they had, only, I promise you, much, much worse than they’d experienced.
They told me at one point—in the very few messages they sent, but didn’t allow me to respond to—that they felt stressed and when they thought of their life without me in it, they felt calm. They also said that having me in their life was only a distraction from more important things (which was everything, I guess). If you’ve never had anyone you care about say something like this to you, you can’t imagine how hurtful it is. You can’t imagine how worthless it makes you feel. Your absence brings calm, and that was worth throwing you away.
I’ve been stressed. I have a fair amount of stress in general. And although some of that stress did come from them (I realize that now that they are gone), it never occurred to me to imagine them out of my life, because I can’t imagine pushing someone I care about away just because their issues caused me worry and stress. And now, almost two months on, I can definitely see where their absence has made my life less stressful in the sense of what I was dealing with directly. But I still would rather have their friendship. I wouldn’t have changed anything. I’d have dealt with the stress until we could have found solutions. I doubly know that because I know how horrible it is to be told your presence causes too much stress to be dealt with (though it’s not like I’ve never heard that before). I couldn’t do that to someone I cared for.
In terms of their conclusions, all I know—and I know this because I’m not outside myself making assumptions and judging myself; I am me, I am the one having the experience, the feelings, taking the actions, having the intentions—all I know is that everything that had so upset them about me, I had zero intention of doing. In fact, my feelings, my intentions, what I thought I was doing, was the complete opposite. The exact opposite end of the spectrum. That is absolutely what I know to be true.
I can guess why they came to the conclusions about me that they did, though I wish I didn’t have to. Those two times I was angry/frustrated with them. Of course it’s upsetting when someone’s upset with you. But it’s not exactly unusual or unnatural for people to get upset. It’s just being human. And while it might be rocky for a little bit there, you figure it out. You accept that the other person is human, with their own issues and baggage, and if you care about them, you work it out. I thought we had, both occasions. To me, those things were in the past. But I feel like the fact that they had occurred at all was enough to give them “suspicions” that I was, actually, a terrible person posing as a decent person who cared about them. As opposed to just being proof that I was human. To me, this person is just human. I imagine, also, that because they’d interpreted my desperately wanting to help as stressful and putting pressure on them, that whatever they thought my intentions were would have to be negative. Stress/pressure = negative. It didn’t occur to them that I wasn’t trying to put pressure on them (to be honest, it’s really hard for me to wrap my head around how they concluded that, considering every other aspect of our friendship and the fact that I thought they’d known me pretty well), and so it was easy for them to assume the worst. I really have no idea what I could have done—on my own, without any input from them (and, in fact, against all the positive reaction they actually gave)—to have behaved any differently. I am no Zen master, and I don’t know anyone who is. Though, I would have tried had I been given the chance—if I’d known that that’s what it would have taken. I suppose I can also assume they assumed the worst because, like me, they’ve been dumped on a lot. When you get dumped on a lot, you grow eyes in the back of your head and you expect the shit to come from every possible direction–particularly from people you should be able to trust. Those people are most suspect. You can’t trust anyone. I’ve always known that, but I’m stupid.
Another possible cause? This person was taking Wellbutrin. I was taking Wellbutrin. Let me refresh your memory of the possible side effects: confusion, trouble concentrating, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior, delusions, hostility. I have obviously had bad reactions to other medications. So has this person. I don’t know that it’s entirely out of line to suggest that it might have pushed them to think they way they did. Not entirely.
But I’m grasping at straws here.
What’s the big deal, you ask? So what? Fuck this person. There are plenty of friendly fish in the sea.
Well, it’s a big deal because…there’s not. There aren’t many people with whom I can really connect, so the loss is huge.
Fuck them because what they did was unforgivably shitty.
Well, sure, I guess. I would have thought so. What they did was most certainly shitty. I can’t deny that. It was a decision they’d come to without much thought about how much it would hurt me. But that’s not actually true. They had apparently thought about it, because one of the last things they said to me was that I was strong and I’d be fine. I’d get over it. I, apparently, didn’t need them.
Christ. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that, starting with my own mother before I’d even hit my teens. It’s come out of the mouths of so many people who should have cared, or said they’d cared, about me, but when things got too hard for them—either with me, or with their own problems—they jumped shipped into whatever lifeboat they’d found and let me sink.
You’re a better swimmer than me, you’ll be fine. Except that there’s no land in sight. Thanks.
That hurt, yes. Deeply. One more colossal let down. One more deep, painful wound that I’m left to heal myself. Oh, poor pity me, right? If that’s what you’re thinking, fuck yourself. Seriously, fuck yourself. Facts are facts. This is my fucking life. That whole “I’m not strong because I’m somehow inherently strong, I am because I have to be” bullshit. It’s true. I’ve always been swimming on my own. I was born swimming, badly. Just because I haven’t drowned quite yet in no way means I never get tired. It doesn’t even mean I’ve ever learned to swim properly. It doesn’t mean I’ve never just wanted to give up and sink. But, apparently, I am disposable, as long as they can save themselves.
So, fuck this person, too, right?
Well, again, no. Because here’s the kicker. I can bring myself to be angry with the situation. I can be angry that this is an apparently unstoppable pattern in my life. But, as much as I’ve tried (because I mistakenly thought it’d make me feel better), I can’t bring myself to be angry with this person. It’s just not in me. I’ve searched and searched for it. It’s not there.
In the past, I’ve dealt with some deeply shitty stuff to the very best of my ability. It was hard in my early 20s, because I was such a confused, hot mess. That’s true. But I’ve never wanted to hurt anyone. I didn’t want to hurt my mother, so I put up with her emotional garbage until I was 39. That’s a long time. Too long. I finally had to go No Contact, which wasn’t even a little bit easy. It’s still not easy. She’s my mother.
I was beaten and blamed for it for almost three years by a live-in boyfriend. What did I do when I was finally able to leave and get out of it? I spent the next nine months, literally, trying to help him understand what had happened and make him feel better about it. I was emotionally and physically dead, but it seemed important to try, because I’d loved him once. I got nothing out of it except more stress and pain and exhaustion, and he still couldn’t to take responsibility. In the end, even when he thought he understood, hey, had I not had such shit self esteem in the first place, it never would have happened. See, it happened because I let it happen. My letting it happen somehow caused it.
The mutual friend who murdered his girlfriend that I mentioned in the previous post? I was surrounded by grieving and stunned late-teens-early-20-somethings. And him—to not have compassion for him was unthinkable to me. Yes, he’d murdered an innocent young woman. But it wasn’t premeditated. It was a sudden, drastic, likely pharmaceutically-induced loss of control. He was only 23. And stupid me, I got it together to make sure he had what he needed in jail (like his glasses, which he’d need to read whatever they were putting in front of him), I contacted his parents to let them know that they had support, I made sure all of his friends—the ones who didn’t immediately kneejerk their compassion away from him—knew how to contact him and his parents, what days and times the hearings were so they could show support, or whatever it was they needed to do. You know what I got for that? I was called a self-serving emotional vampire, and the people who considered me that way actually went too far out of their way, for way too long afterward, to wreck my life (I can’t even get into it, it’s so ridiculous). All because I wanted to help when no one else was going to.
I had a good friend since high school that I had a tremendously difficult relationship with. He had very serious issues that neither of us could handle, but since I was about 15, I’d been trying to help him overcome them. I was no match for it. We hurt each other a lot, despite that we cared for each other immensely. At some point, we’d done enough damage to each other—after about ten years—that we’d stopped talking. I’d always regretted it and hoped that we’d be able to know each other again. But he died of a massive heart attack at age 38. I found out three months later, and I wasn’t just angry with myself for having failed him so badly, I was furious that I had not somehow, magically known that he’d died. Like, I should have. That was how close we’d been, once upon a time.
I have had too much experience in trying to help and do what I think is right (and failing miserably), and a long history of getting shit on for it. I’m not saying that I’m perfect and everything I do is wonderful. I’m not and it’s not. I fuck up quite regularly, thank you. But I fucking try. And if I ever questioned whether or not I was a decent person or a piece of shit—because if people conclude terrible things about you consistently and tell you repeatedly what a POS you are, you will question yourself—I have my answer. I’m not a piece of shit.
In the scenarios above, in every case, it was a real struggle to do the right thing. It was hard to keep getting the shit my mother gave me and still have a relationship with her. It was hard to look my abuser in the eye almost every day and try to make him feel better about himself. It was hard to understand that there were some people who thought I’d help a murderer for any other reason other than out of human compassion, let alone actively trying to emotionally benefit from such a tragic and hopeless situation. It was hard to have to walk away from a person I loved whom I wasn’t equipped to help. It was hard to do what was right at the time. It always is. But I try, and I think that should automatically qualify me as “not a piece of shit.” So many other people seem to qualify for much less.
My friend hurt me deeply. I don’t think I’ll ever really understand what happened. They will never speak to me again—this is so hard for me to accept because, as I’ve said, their experience of our friendship and mine were entirely opposite things, and while it might have been easy for them to walk away, I never had the chance to make the transition. I’ve been left with no way to rationally process it–and in light of, well, the rest of my life, it feel impossible. And still, I can’t hate them. I can’t be mad at them. Why? Because of what I said at the start of this—they are a stellar human being.
How could a stellar human being do something like this?
How could anyone? Because anyone could. I feel like I know enough about this person to know that, outside of the context of our friendship, I can absolutely understand why they’d conclude the worst, about me or anyone else. I can understand why they felt they had to cut me off so abruptly and without any interaction. I can understand pretty much everything they did and said, even if it doesn’t rationally make sense in terms of the facts that I know about myself. It doesn’t matter how much it hurt and still hurts. It doesn’t matter if it affected me in such a way as to fundamentally change who I am, irreversibly. It doesn’t matter if I can never truly trust anyone again, because this was the final emotional straw and my back is broken. It doesn’t matter how good a swimmer I am, or not, or if I’ll drown. None of that makes their actions and feelings less understandable. Their wrongness (and yes, in this case—as opposed to every other case they thought—they were and are wrong) doesn’t make it less right to them, and they think they’re right for a lot of reasons that they can’t be blamed for. These are just facts.
I wish I could go back into our pasts and change all the things that saddled us with this bullshit baggage. I wish I could change the way they were wired like I’ve spent decades trying to change my own wiring. The only good thing that’s come from this is that I can point to the moment I realized I couldn’t be mad at this person as the moment I knew I’d succeeded. I had changed my wiring. The anger wasn’t just something I naturally felt—I tried to force it. But no matter what I do (because the hurt from all of this? I wish I could burn it out of me. I wish I could cut it out. It’s consuming, because it touches so many things in me that are so painful), like a cork that can’t be sunk, I inadvertently revert back to my natural and effortless response, which is that I’m still very worried about them. I still care what happens to them. And the sad fact is that I would forgive them instantly and never bring it up again, because they are that good a person. Have you ever met one of these people? They really are amazing. This person is one of those rare, golden people, and like a lot of those rare people, they have no idea they’re made of gold. They seem to refuse to believe it if you tell them. And I get that. I just wish it weren’t the case.
Why all this effort? Why care this much?
Because that’s just the way it is. It’s the way I am and it’s the effect this person has had on me. People might come and go for others, but for me, it’s much harder and much more complicated. Particularly if that person if made of gold. In a world full of people who have no fucking excuse for their behavior and the shitty things they think and say and do, when someone comes along and their value is so obvious, even if not to them and even if they’re hard to handle, you want to hold onto that person. In any capacity. I’ve had loss, but maybe I’ve just had too much, or too much disappointment from people who should have been holding my safety net. Whatever the case, this loss feels insurmountable, and that’s not just the bullshit anti-depressants talking. Once I got that out of my system, I was very easily able to tell the difference between my normal, rational sadness and what was plunging me far too deep. The pharmaceutically-induced grief is gone, but the deep sadness of real loss is still there (unfortunately, I’ll probably always associate this loss with that medicated false grief, like Pavlov’s dogs). It’s attached to this one person, but I understand that it’s a lot of things, because God knows, so much of what’s gone on in my life has been running through my mind, seemingly out of my control (try as I might, I haven’t been able to stop it yet). Sure, they’re the catalyst, but that doesn’t mean they’re just the token lightning rod. This person is a tremendously amazing person who deserves more than they get, and more than they’ve gotten. And I truly hope that someday they can see that, sure, agreed, most people can be complete rubbish, but some people aren’t. I wasn’t. Not everyone is out to tear this person down, least of all me. It was the last thing I wanted to do.
And yeah, it will probably always hurt that they’re out there thinking these terrible things about me—that these are the conclusions they’ve come to and will stick to. I shouldn’t care, but I do. That doesn’t make me weak—it just makes me human, which, regrettably, I still am.
I’m not in any way saying I’m easy to be friends with. I am probably not easy to know. I tend to be a little too honest, and I know that sounds like bragging, but it’s not. It feels like a curse. I am too open. I am too forward and matter-of-fact. And God forbid I believe in you, because I will push you. The only way I know how to succeed at anything is to bust through the fucking wall, because it takes that much effort to get there in the first place. I think—if I care about you—I will try to be your one-woman support structure, because I know going anything alone is a difficult, sometimes, impossible, prospect without one. I am probably too much to deal with. I am not a bad person—I’ve never gone out of my way to hurt anyone. If anything, I jump through fiery hoops to avoid it. I have gone out of my way to help people who’ve hurt me terribly. But this frankness, this drive to help if I see someone who needs help, this stupid, painful, occasionally crippling empathy I have for people I get close to (and for people I don’t, really)…it all sounds lovely, I’m sure, but it’s not. It’s not for me, and it’s not for anyone around me. It wasn’t, apparently, for my friend. I cause stress. I hurt more than I help, whether I mean to or not. If you’re smart, you’ll stay the hell away from me.
If I’m smart, I’ll stay the hell away from everyone.
Conclusion: These things that have happened recently—yes, some good has come out of them. I realize that I’m not clinically depressed. It only took 30 years, but hey, better late than never. I’m also not crazy. But if I’m in a bad environment, I’m going to react badly. I think most people are like this—I don’t actually think I’m better or worse than anyone in this way. I’ve just had much less in terms of the means by which to deal with it—nothing anyone cared enough to hand me. I’ve had to figure it all out by trial and error, and let me tell you, that’s just not what you want to be doing with your life. You want to be out enjoying it, being productive, being happy, or reasonably so. Figuring out who you are and what your deal is is par for the course, but it never should have been this difficult when there are so many resources out there. I just didn’t have access to any that were worth a damn. But, I’ve gotten this far.
The other good thing is that I now know what it is to care about someone so much that forgiveness and understanding is effortless. To do otherwise is actually impossible. That comes partially from that person, but it comes just as much from me. I’ve worked hard and have been through a lot to get here. If only it hadn’t meant losing the person to achieve it. If only it didn’t hurt so much. It’s hard to celebrate a victory in which you’ve lost so much. This one, actually, probably cancels itself out.
I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. I’m currently going through a real existential crisis period. I think I thought I’d been through this in my 20s, but ha…what a joke. I questioned the point of everything then because I had yet to experience enough to form anything that looked like a point. By now, I’ve had too much experience, and the point is far more elusive than it ever was. I try to keep busy. I write, I do this and that. I’m learning new things. Or, trying. But I’m having a really hard time experiencing the joy I thought I would by doing these things. They’re really just exercises in killing time between waking and sleeping. And even if I feel reasonably okay any given day, I still can’t answer the question as to what the point of it is. What is the point of doing anything when, no matter what you do, no matter how far you’ve come, no matter how much you care, no matter how decent a person you try to be…people will hate you? Everything will fall apart. Everything inside you that you’ve strengthened over time will be torn down. You will always have to start over. That’s what I don’t understand. Why the constant starting over? Why can’t I learn some, get hurt a little, grow, and build on it, over and over, like I’ve heard it’s supposed to be? Why is it that whatever must apparently happen is something so destructive that it destroys everything, like a tsunami, and I’m always starting from scratch? Because that’s what it feels like, every single time. And I truly do not see the point.