This week I have been thinking a lot about friendship. I think there have been friends over the years who were probably left confused by my actions or approach to things but if there is one area of my life I find the hardest it is this.
The reason is fairly simple. Every close friend in my life at the time of my accident abandoned me. They are no longer in my life. It started with my childhood friend who I had known since I was 5 years old. We went to the same school, when we went off to University we spent the summers together and I honestly thought she was someone who would be my friend until we were old and grey. About a month after my accident, I had the energy to call her and tell her what was going on. She sounded concerned and shocked, took my hospital address and said she would come and visit me as soon as she could. I never heard from her again. With my two best friends from University I can’t pinpoint exactly where it went wrong but they are no longer in my life.
Now this is not about blame. They had their reasons and I may never know them but I don’t begrudge them. It did however leave a gaping wound that I have found hard to heal, even now. The impending sense of doom that every friendship will end this way challenges me and when friendships, as they inevitably do, go through ups and downs my natural instinct is to expect the worst and shut down to protect myself.
Even as I am writing this and looking back at the friendships that have come and gone or those that have stayed it is a hard analysis. I know I haven’t been the perfect friend and that sometimes it is hard work with me, but I am thankful for the friends who have been patient, called me out when I haven’t been present and understood me. And sometimes I think ironically, given the experience I had during my accident, I actually have higher expectations of friends. I am loyal and want to give myself in friendships but the tiniest blip and something triggers. I tend to swallow things that don’t sit well with me just in case it upsets the apple cart or I simply cut off instead of expressing myself.
Ever since I was a child I was never part of a group of friends. I always did better with one on one friendships and much to my Mother’s dismay (who always encouraged me not to put all my energy into one person) always had one “best friend”. And maybe that was too much. At the end of the day, friends are random people we meet and form a bond with and maybe its too much pressure. Or maybe no matter how hard I convinced myself that I would rather throw myself into something 100% and get hurt than only give some of me and it didn’t matter what the other person gave, ultimately we do want relationships that live up to our expectations.
The funny thing is that our emotional response is far quicker than our thinking response. It’s where the phrase sleep on it comes from. Because in the heat of the moment you are reacting emotionally and not thinking. By allowing that to pass the brain can process the thinking response. And this is heightened when you have experienced trauma. So I know that when I feel fronted I have a heightened emotional response and in the cold light of day I can put things in perspective. But it takes me time and sometimes maybe too much time. And in that expanse of time, some people get fed of waiting for me to come back. And I get it and it’s my cross to bear.
I don’t have the answers and am still learning how to be a better friend, but when I look at the people in my life now there is one constant – they see who I really am, even if sometimes I don’t see it myself.