So this is normally my school day, but I’m feeling the need to dig into something else this morning. The past events of this weekend, annnnd the past nearly two years. Because, if you hadn’t heard, relationships are hard and I like to embarrass myself by telling you about all my fuck ups.
You know, romantic relationships are a disaster for yours truly, but I always thought I was pretty good at the friendship thing. Since high school I’ve almost always had robust friendly relationships - both in depth and breadth. With the exception of a few difficult points in my life since 16, my phone has never been quiet, my weekends have only been isolating when I’ve been isolating myself, and I’ve always felt like I had humans on my side who were closer to kin than my actual family.
The thing is, there have been periods when this hasn’t been the case. I want to say that it’s generally when I’m in my worst mental health downfalls, but I don’t think that’s universally true. There have been variable reasons for separating myself from other people, or vice versa. Sometimes getting too busy, sometimes naturally growing apart, sometimes getting too obsessed with a romantic partner.
But, taking a more analytical view, underlying my lost friendship events, trauma has often been one of the influences that corrupted my friendships and left me lonely, even if it doesn’t seem like it at face value. The thing is, the trail of breadcrumbs might go back 20 years or so. I might not have been in a full-blown trauma state at the time, but those early life non-learnings about relationships have left their mark. So, yes, I do believe that CPTSD is the prerequisite for interpersonal disruptions and we’re not alone in that.
Anyways, in this Fucker’s life, for the past almost 2 years I’ve been in one of those friendship lulls. I’ve had casual friends, roommates, work-associates, distant relationships, some of those hey-how’s-it-going-every-two-months relations. But I haven’t had those deep, rich, all-encompassing friendships that used to define my existence. The ones that used to make me feel safe enough to have an existence, at all.
It’s all because I lost my core group of friends, I didn’t understand and couldn’t fix the problem, and I had no idea how to move forward.
And this last time when I lost everyone I loved, it was definitely due to trauma. Acute, historical, and recovering trauma, to be specific. It was a horrible period of my life, I was a human wrecking ball, and I had no emotional control… because, partially thanks to said friends, I never had to develop those skills.
Basically, I’ve been on my own since a whole series of mental health related isolation events and relationships dissolutions that have persisted since - I want to say 2019 - but to be more holistic, the ship started sailing earlier than that. Like, when I was born.
This has all come to mind more than usual because, this weekend? I had a strange rush of humans back into my life. For the first time in a long time, I saw my best, closest, most important old friends, who were closer to siblings…. In our natural habitat, with our normal friendship routines, with hundreds of memories from the past decade flying around the room.
And today… or, realistically, since I tried to go to sleep after seeing them each day this weekend… I have the relationship reckoning to deal with. The emotional and cognitive processing of everything that’s happened. The lost years. The sense of abandonment. The feeling of being cast out of a family. The inkling that everyone was talking about me. The realization that I was acting a fool, and maybe they should be talking about me. The sense that all parties were partially responsible, but I was the one to blame. The voice in my head that has called me a crazy, miserable, unlovable mess the entire time I debated this at 6am and 6pm and 3am for the past several years.
And now, in the aftermath, I have to work through the dynamic cocktail of feelings, the sense of waiting for the other shoe, and the big decision - are these relationships that I feel secure pursuing again?
And I don’t think I’m alone in this one.
So, today I thought it would be good to talk about this. The history of losing my favorite people on the planet, how I perceived it at the time, how I see my own trauma-actions fucking shit up in hindsight, how I’ve forgiven myself for being such a wild one, and… well… my hesitancy to have close friendships with humans who hurt me in the past. The ways I realized that being separate was beneficial to my mental health and life progress. The self-sabotaging enablement patterns that I now recognize, ran deep, in our old group of friends. The fear that being around them again will let my trauma brain run away with me.
Woo - it’s a whole personal relationship reckoning over here. Let’s just do this, so I can get to my school work at some point soon.
So let me set up this situation. You need the background details, of which, there are many dramatic twists and turns.
Be me, Spring of 2019. My romantic relationship with my ex in Atlanta - the musical narcissist that I followed to the city - is going terribly. Since we moved things have been rocky, but now our relationship has been pumped full of disappointment, unfair expectations, emotional codependency, resentment, horrific fighting, and abuse of all colors. Every day is a battle. We’re rarely ever “happy” together. We’re closer to enemies than friends. And we live under the same roof - the one his parents bought for him, outright in cash - to make matters even more fun.
Other than him, I’m alone in this city. I work at the brewery, where no one really likes me. I have one friend from work, but little time to interact thanks to the demanding schedule of my ex with his gigs and out-of-state child visitation.
Financially, my savings have been depleted by floating my significant other’s horrible decisions for the past 2 years. We can never get ahead. He never pays me back for anything. I’m basically in his pocket, as far as needing resources to survive.
As you can imagine, and as I’ve described previously, my mental health is in THE SHITTER. Maybe worse than it’s ever been, although this is hard to judge against some of my earlier years in my 20’s. I’m definitely ramped up in an aggressive and defensive trauma state more than ever before, thanks to living with my aggressor every day. I feel like I’m surviving against the will of my partner, who seems to legitimately be doing his best to drive me into an early grave every single time the sun rises. He’s moved into the territory of intentionally triggering me for hours on end, upsetting me to the point of mental breakdowns, and then gaslighting me for “acting so crazy.” Things have become dangerous, I have no one to turn to, and no cash to get myself into a better situation… not that I know what a better situation even looks like.
But one day, I left. Packed my two bags, went to work, wound up at that single sort-of-friend’s house, never went back home.
And that’s when the real nightmare started. I mean, my ex was a terror over time as we lived together, but a narcissist scorned is a narcissist determined to ruin your fucking life. He harassed me daily via text, phone call, FB messenger, email, stalkings… whatever you can think of. When I blocked him on everything, he started trying to leverage our therapists against me until they refused to interact anymore. He wouldn’t let me into his house to get my stuff. He tried to have me arrested for attempting to do so, after he made arrangements with me to move that weekend. He suddenly refused to even acknowledge that he owed me a dime, and found a way to tally up venmo transactions to show that I actually owed him. He took my only support - our dog, who was really my dog - away and wouldn’t let me see him. Later, he reported my car stolen, so I had to purchase a new one without warning.
The list goes on and on. Just, assume every pathetic, cruel, desperate attempt at getting under someone’s skin and reminding them that they had the audacity to leave you. That’s what was going on in my world.
Meanwhile, with those financial and social pressures I mentioned earlier. No close friends in the area, no spare cash, an unstable job where I was on the chopping block for the reason of “the CEO didn’t like my personality,” nowhere to live, no idea where to go next or how to start a whole new life.
Annnnnd this is right about when my closely knit friend group back in Illinois sort of, well, dipped.
My bestest, best, most treasured friend in my lifetime had always been there for me. But now, she wasn’t. We had exchanged a handful of phone calls over the past month in the aftermath of this relationship ending, but she had been pretty detached from it. I wasn’t offended, because she had certainly heard enough of the drama in real time… of course she was tired of hearing about it... but I was feeling especially alone and incapable of handling everything on my own, so the distance was difficult, nevertheless. Then, one day she told me that I was being too much for her. I had too high of expectations. It had been bothering her for a while. She needed me to understand and give her some space.
And this was the completely avoidable beginning of the end of my friendships. Let’s talk about why.
How I perceived it
So, I’m pretty sure you can guess how I took this challenging message from my best friend. Uh, poorly. I was so shocked that in my darkest hour, my comrade would feel like my problems were out of her paygrade. It felt like a stab to the heart and straight down through the gut. Here I was, completely alone and isolated, reaching back to my most trusted companions for a lifeline to keep my head above water, and… nothing. She didn’t want to reel me back into the boat.
I responded with some shitty messages about how I really wasn’t asking that much from her and I didn’t appreciate being blindsided by her sudden decision to get rid of me. I had only taken up a few phone calls to talk things through based on her schedule. I had visited her one weekend as I went to a job interview nearby. I had asked her to come visit me soon, so I could feel less alone for a few days. I didn’t think it was fair that she was responding this way. I couldn’t believe she would turn her back on me at this particular moment.
And so, the rift developed. We stopped speaking. I started sobbing. I was absolutely beside myself, as if I hadn’t already been. This wasn’t what I wanted, at all, but I also felt like I had no control in it.
A few weeks later, she reached out and told me it seemed like I misunderstood her messages. I, more or less, told her to get fucked. I hadn’t misunderstood, I just wasn’t cool with the fact that she chose this point in time to drudge up complaints that she apparently had for several years. Really, you were too afraid to say anything before, but this seems like the best time for it? Literally, this was the worst point possible for me to have another personal failure launched in my direction. And I didn’t react well.
From my perspective, it seemed that my best friend had suddenly surpassed her threshold for interacting with me and all my whacky life drama developments - clearly I was too broken for anything to work. My romantic relationships, my work associations, or my deepest friendships. I was intolerable. Or, even worse, maybe she was choosing the side of my ex. Maybe she didn’t believe me. Maybe it really was just me, being a broken and unacceptable specimen. I sure already felt that way from my work situation and the shit my ex put in my head - why wouldn’t it be true?
You can imagine how beside myself I became as I realized that, actually, ALL of my core friend group was not standing by for support during this catastrophic shitshow in my life. My best friend and I were the cornerstones of our semi-professional, semi-miscreants skwad - but, uh, clearly they were more attached to her than I.
Suddenly, the group messages went silent. When I privately contacted anyone, it felt distant and obligatory. No one was reaching out to talk to me. Nobody even checked up to see how I was doing with the whole homelessness, can’t afford to eat, and my job is threatening to fire me - for literally, self-admittedly, no reason other than being disliked - situation.
It was devastating. Saying the rug was pulled out from under me is the understatement of a lifetime. I thought these people were with me til the end, no matter what… and now I started doubting if we were ever real friends at all. Was this all a friendship of convenience and opportunity? Now that I’m not a fun time gal to drink and smoke with - I’m a floundering one who desperately needs care and support - am I not good enough to be among the group ranks?
So progressed the next year and a half to two years.
Me, deeply wounded and full of complicated emotions. Able to acknowledge my love for them as easily as I could feel resentment and hate. Unable to get over the way they turned their backs on me at the worst time in my life when I would have been scrambling to be there for them. Able to feel sadness for the loss and damning indignance at once. Unable to let go of all the memories we had together - literally, my entire 20’s - and all the ways that I felt like a real, live person based on our undying appreciation for each other. Able to regard our experiences together with positive emotions and many laughs. Unable to shake the feeling that it was all fake and now these humans used me as their personal source for group entertainment from afar.
It was a difficult development to come to terms with, to say the least.
Occasionally I would get brave enough to try to strike up a conversation with any member of the once-inseparable group. Inevitably, this effort would show me that I was not wanted in the same capacity as before - more like I was thrown a bone by sometimes receiving dry, obligatory responses in return. Like I was a neighbor that they ran into on the street or someone they knew in high school. That actually felt worse than if they never answered, at all.
Around Christmas of 2019, I reached out to my friend and attempted to make amends… but it really never went anywhere. My apology was accepted, but the relationship didn’t roar back to life. The other members of the group were more distant than ever - clearly not ready to bury the hatchet, either. Eventually, I wound up deciding that it was less painful just to let them go.
I closed that chapter of my life story, considered their friendships a blip in the past, and really tried to focus on the ways that I was better off alone… plus, you know, all the practical things I had to sort out in my destroyed life. Can’t force people to like you. Can’t make them see that you’re working on being better. Can’t convince them to care about you again after you fucked things up, or they fucked things up, or everyone got all fucked up.
And this is where I settled. For about two years, I’ve had a constant back and forth conversation in my head. I miss them - but it doesn’t matter. They were a huge influence in my life - but maybe that’s a bad thing. I thought they were my most loyal and trustworthy connections on this planet - but apparently I’m a terrible judge of character. I felt like they loved me and wanted me around - but people change and you were never that great in the first place. Now you’re just a mess.
During all of these ruminatory rumblings which have been woven through more days than not, I started to see things differently, though. With trauma recovery, relationship studying, and functional life learning… uh, some new information rose to the surface. Complete with narratives that, yes, could be extremely harsh and unfair towards myself… but also, included more realistic reflections on exactly what happened on that fateful June day in 2019.
Maybe these folks hadn’t randomly turned their backs on me as a concerted group effort following one unjust explosion of emotions from the other queen bitch in the skwad. Mayyybe there was something to what she was saying all along. Maybe I needed to settle up with myself before it was possible to settle up with others.
A funny thing always happens to me when I have a personal relationship breakdown. Yeah, at first I’m full of anger and contempt. Raging on the piss and vinegar that’s powering my system into a manic overdrive. Flabbergasted by how indecent and unacceptable the human race can be.
And then? The entire narrative flips. Suddenly, I start seeing everything I’ve ever done that could have possibly contributed to the mishaps. I start dreaming up the thoughts and feelings that other folks have had in response. I start demonizing myself and pitying others. Literally, creating plausible experiences for them based on how I’ve been hurt in the past and projecting it onto them.
This behavior is catastrophic in romantic relationships, where I end up assuming all the blame for our issues or endlessly torturing myself for the made up ways that I may have accidentally wounded someone based on a lot of assumptions about how they were interpreting events or how damn sensitive they are. Again, truly, a projection from within about how destroyed I’ve been in the past - applied to non consenting parties in the absence of real information - because I love to hate myself. Or, more specifically, because my brain likes to have reasonable answers to the “why’s” in life, even if it’s at my own expense.
This is to say, with time and more life experience, along with my penchant for villainizing myself… I’ve realized a lot of new information about the dissolution of my best friendship.
Was some of it over the top and more directed at punishing myself than taking a realistic view? Yeah. But I think I’ve balanced that out to find the most true-to-life and comprehensively fair account of events for everyone over time and with some more inner work.
Basically, I’ve realized… my friend was fucking right. The entire time. And the ways my other friends reacted, in turn? It wasn’t the most considerate approach, exactly, but it also wasn’t unjustified.
So, there. There’s that. A huge fucking piece of humble pie with a realistic rectification of how my ego and my mental health were to blame for the mess that tortured me all of this time. How’s that for personal development and emotional work?
Yeah. Let’s talk about it.
My best friend told me I had too many expectations for her during my emotional hour and she was feeling overwhelmed. She had been for a while, but she didn’t want to say anything. She wanted to be there for me, but I had too many ideas about what that meant. I needed to hear some new boundaries and respect them, even if that was a big change from how our relationship had always been.
And I responded… Kind of like a spoiled child who wasn’t used to being told “no.”
Here’s the thing. Her statements weren’t unfair. They weren’t inaccurate. They weren’t impossible to comprehend and agree to. Most importantly, they weren’t statements about my unworthiness as a human or the depths of my burden on her.
That’s just what I heard when the conversation was filtered through my trauma lenses. And how I reacted when I let my trauma impulses react to the situation without any critical thinking.
Historically, I had problems with relationships growing up. In my household, my brother ruthlessly terrorized me as being “other” from them and everyone else. In my elementary and middle school days, I was not popular in any way. I was lucky if I had one friend at a time, and that friend always wound up ditching me without any warning for a new friend who ranked higher on the social totem pole when the option presented itself.
Furthermore, I always had problems with my emotions growing up. As in, my family was always telling me how over-sensitive I was. They made me feel very needy and ridiculous with the things I thought and felt. There were even instances were I was told that I needed to learn to turn off my feelings if I ever expected to have a romantic partner.
Put those long-lasting influences together... and you wind up with a human who believes they aren’t qualified or worthy enough for relationships, and everyone will eventually leave when they figure it out or have a better option presented to themselves. Someone who thinks every association is fickle, everyone is ready to give up on you, and you’re just a burden who people occasionally try to help before they realize you’re intolerable.
Right. So, after a lifetime of those social rejections and personal losses amounting to self-appraisals of being a relationship leper who drives everyone away with obnoxious feelings and personality traits… that’s exactly what my brain wanted me to believe this time, too. Lines up.
In an acute sense, let’s acknowledge again that I was in one of the most traumatized states of my entire life. Triggered from all ends; recently leaving a physically and emotionally abusive relationship that was ending in the same manner, having no money or place to live as my job was threatened, feeling utterly alone and unable to be understood within about a 500 mile radius. Everyday was a living nightmare. My anxiety was off the charts. I was more or less a walking panic attack waiting to happen.
And yep, when your entire system is pre-emptively ramped up into a survival state… you are not in control of your reactions. I’m sure you’ve experienced this, when you’ve been stressed out and accidentally snapped at a loved one for no good fucking reason, received slightly inconvenient news and panicked like it was a death sentence, or started screaming bloody murder when you got home over a minor mistep at work.
Amp up your body, fill your head with overwhelming negative thoughts, and reduce your ability to filter information or access your logical human brain. What happens? You go straight from stimulation to losing your shit without ever having a second thought - or maybe even a first thought - about what’s really happening.
So, when my buddy alluded to her negative feelings in response to my actions and some personal shortcomings that I needed to work on… not to justify my actions AT ALL… but, oh, that was just the cherry on top of my trauma sundae at that point. I was little more than a ball of nerves and emotions, largely devoid of logical thinking power, and I reacted in kind.
I really wasn’t in a state when I could take on another ounce of self-doubt or internal criticism. I definitely couldn’t handle another personal disappointment or sense of relational ambiguity. At that time, I don’t think I could have gracefully responded to any negative event in my life, no matter how minor. Having a deeply emotional and interpersonal negative event unfold via text - which, in and of itself, was triggering after being berated by my ex on the phone all the time - was just more than I could handle. My trauma brain wasn’t having it… or, WAS having it, and decided to throw a fucking party.
Over months and years of thinking about these events… I really was wrong. I really never knew what a healthy relationship of any sort looked like - romantic or otherwise. I really was codependent with everyone. I really did have high expectations for my friends after years of being each others’ rocks in every way. I really didn’t ever understand boundaries, because I really had never encountered them before. I really was so caught up in my own dumpster fire of a life that I really wasn’t fully considering how other people have their own shit to worry about, and hearing about my worst-case-scenario outcomes really was a negative influence on their own problems. I really was overly dramatic and aggressively avoidant when my friend tried to talk about it. I really hadn’t been accountable for myself - my actions, or my emotions - for as long as I could remember.
I really was the problem.
And you know, I’ve spent the past year or so reaaaaaally trying to come to terms with that.
How does someone who already hates themself deal with the eventual epiphany that they’ve been wrong this whole time and negatively impacted several other humans with their trauma flailings? And that, you know, said several humans have all been watching as you make an ass of yourself… and so have all of their friends and loved ones, who’ve inevitably been pulled into the one-man circus by innocently asking, “so, how’s Jess doing?”
Eh, you know, it’s been a learning venture.
There have been many days and weeks of shame spirals. Judging myself in the ways that I’m sure other people are judging me… and beyond, probably. Deep, gnawing feelings in my guts and hot, sharp feelings in that come from my head and chest. Nights of lying awake with my inner critic. Afternoons of daydreamed, but unworthy-feeling, rectifications. Holidays of self-determined gaping voids. Months of feeling hopeless and helpless to fix any of it, while accurately pointing the finger in the mirror. Almost two years of feeling like I’m missing my left arm, but knowing it’s my own damn fault.
But, throughout this long battle of my head versus my life, I’ve also had to work on being realistic about where personal accountability stops and delusion starts. Like I said, I have a tendency to pile all the blame on myself when shit goes wrong - like, an unreasonable amount of blame that releases the other party, entirely.
It’s very easy for me to sink my own mental health based on the self-brutalization I opt into by default. In fact, in the past, this has been the major cause of several severe trauma upticks, including my physical health degradation. Knowing that, and with the help of some folks who saw this friendship degradation unfold, I have been more fairly critically-analyzing the events and downstream effects of my friend exodus than I would have in my past.
Here are some of the comprehensively realistic realizations I’ve come down to.
Yes, I was always a codependent friend. I was very reliant on my closest companions to help me process and overcome emotions, in particular. No doubt about it. But, to be realistic, so were my friends. It takes two to be a co-anything, it’s not like I forced this onto them. We were all an intertwined ball of ranting about our life challenges and holding each other up. My needs surpassed the tolerable load for adults with their own shit to deal with… and honestly, it didn’t help that their shit was different in nature than my shit. Mine was, yeah, over the top, but also highly reminiscent of earlier trauma that they hadn’t experienced and couldn’t relate to. This wasn’t “I had a shitty day with my boss at work,” this was, “I’m fleeing an abusive relationship, I have no family or financial support, and I’m being terrorized by my ex.” Abuse is poorly judged by outsiders and having no reliable kin isn’t a common experience. Codependency is a group decision, but it has limits.
And yes, secondly, that codependency means I had high expectations for support and understanding. It’s true, I didn’t understand the ways that people have to protect themselves to keep functioning and I didn’t understand boundaries. I reacted very poorly to those ideas when they were presented. But, to be realistic, I’ve never known what boundaries were, and there’s no doubt that these relationships were built on a lack of them, considering my inability. It was the pattern that had been demonstrated and validated for the past 6-8 years of our friendship at that point. It was what I learned to anticipate. It was mutual. So, when it changed very rapidly and interjected that harsh “expected versus actual” curveball, it led to a sense of betrayal, furious rumination, and my head couldn’t keep up. It felt personal. Also, frankly, baffling, since I didn’t know what the B word even meant.
And, thirdly, yes, it’s true that I reacted way too strongly and emotionally. I was an ass. I’m not proud. But, like I discussed earlier, it’s unfairly reductive to write off the highly reactive traumatized state I was in. Already being at a 10/10 on the agitation and terror scale, it didn’t take more than the wind blowing the wrong way for my head to start acting unreasonably. There was a direct line between my sensory system and my survival system, increasingly primed and saturated for the past year or two with emotional outbursts via my ex. I was operating on hormones and defense mechanisms, not intention and big picture thinking. In short, my trauma brain guided my behaviors, not my human brain.
Now. This is not to say that having an active trauma response is an excuse for your actions - it is not. You don’t get to cut yourself that much slack. I think as trauma survivors there’s an insidious idea that being understood - letting other people know about your difficult brain behaviors - is the pathway to being unquestionable. As in, “if they understand why I behave this way, then they should allow me to behave this way. I’ve already been through so much, they should realize that my head just doesn’t work right, and they should be willing to let it happen.” And that is a fucking bullshit trap.
With these folks knowing so much about me and my past challenges, I think I fell into this sinkhole. With my best friend being a therapist, I definitely did. She understands trauma, she knows about anxiety, she’s seen how I’ve been affected by this relationship - I should be able to be “my real self” around her without fear. Too bad, your trauma self is not your real self. Being a bowling ball of emotional reactivity and self-centered obsession is not something anyone else should be tasked to “allow” even if they do “understand.”
So, again, I want to acknowledge that I can understand where my head was at in the moments that I viciously started typing a reply message to her. It was in a trauma state. BUT, I could have been in control of that. I am accountable for answering when my impulsive emotional center had the wheel, when my best bet would have been to slow down and try to switch back to the higher thinking compartment of my head.
It removes some of the “self” judgement when you recognize that it was your shitty survival brain acting in that moment, not the personality that you love to hate. But your trauma is not a free pass to treat anyone in any particular way. No matter how much they “get it.” This has been one of my biggest trauma learnings, only after I’ve fucked up a few dozen relationships without this comprehension.
All of this is also not to say that being codependent or boundless in relationships is an acceptable excuse for putting people in losing situations. It is not. The idea of friendship that I used to adhere to is incorrect. Separate humans have separate emotions and separate coping skills that need to be developed, so they can come together to interact as the separate beings that they are.
But, I will acknowledge whole heartedly that you need to understand this part of yourself - the codependent and individually-uncertain aspect, which requires you to have any basic modelling or relationship education - to even be able to see things clearly. And by clearly, I largely mean “for the unhealthy, trauma-patterned, mutually enabling associations they secretly are.”
Next up, let’s talk about the ways that being without these relationships actually helped me.
The benefits of being alone/Hesitancy
So here’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout all of this. Besides, you know, everything I already mentioned about letting go of my circumstances as an excuse for shitty behavior and taking accountability for things that seem out of my control, but ultimately, are not.
Fuckers, I know that stable relationships are the most important part of true complex trauma recovery for a lot of us... but after these years of reflection, I have to admit that although they’ve historically been everything to me, they can also seem more complicated and psychonoxious than they’re worth sometimes. Especially in hindsight and with more life experience.
And that’s when I painfully have to also acknowledge that I’ve adaptively become an avoidant attacher as life has progressed. I’ve always been more on the anxious side, but with every passing association, I think a small piece of me is transferred from the “I need you pile” to the sturdy wall that keeps us apart.
At this point, they make me nervous enough that I’m not sure whether or not I’m capable of healthy relationships to the extent of letting them back into my life. I’m not sure that my mental health won’t take a downturn when I have close social influences. I’m not sure that I can uphold my same routines and behaviors when other folks are involved. And I’m not sure whether or not I can fully trust people again… or myself. Let’s talk about that head-spinning experience.
The truth is, when I lost my friends I definitely lost another chunk of mental health. Of course, that sensation of being abandoned, the fears of what others are saying about you, and the rumination that follows along with the negative self-talk are all enough to provoke another mental illness strike. But then? Uh, I had to figure my fucking brain out, once and for all.
I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll mention it again - codependent relationships are a trauma recovery failure, waiting to happen.
When we don’t have to learn how to handle our shit, we won’t. If someone is always normalizing the reactions you have to life, you won’t see the error of your ways. If someone is always happy to help you dull the unpleasantness of life with consumable distractions, you’ll adapt that as a coping behavior. If someone is always around to nurse your emotional wounds and bring you back down to earth, you’ll rely on them instead of learning to do it yourself. Hell, you might not even care that much about being re-grounded, because the pain isn’t so bad when you can head over to so-and-so’s house and split a box of wine to bitch it out.
When you’re on your own all of a sudden? Oh, man, everything is different. This experience is unbearable and these emotions suck. Feeling anxious, scared, frustrated, and incapable of basic tasks seems like a very big deal now. I still need to function, but my favorite crutches have other things to do. Now, I’m dying to spew all my experiences at someone to feel better, but my contact list seems empty. Drinking my emotions away is only depressing when I’m doing it alone. I’m quickly losing my grip and there’s no one to grab onto for support.
And holy shit, how that sense of being alone at sea quickly motivates you to take your trauma therapy, CBT, and lifestyle revolution seriously.
I’m not saying I wasn’t committed to my trauma recovery and mental health before, but having no option outside of “better finally figure out how to work with myself, since I don’t have anyone else to hold me up,” was a massive push towards finally getting a full grip on my brain. Oh, and also living without someone constantly drumming up those trauma responses helps, too. I can’t leave that out.
Suddenly, in order to act like a person every day, I needed to know what my triggers were, why, how I usually responded, how to circumvent those responses, or how to find the gumption to repair the consequences. I had to learn my grounding techniques rather than phoning a friend. I needed to figure out how to change my energy when I woke up in a high or low place instead of mutually imbibing in numbing behaviors. I had to start rectifying the doomsdaying narratives in my head and fucked up core beliefs that other people normally unraveled for me.
I had to start finding better ways to deal with bad days. I couldn’t turn to drinking and smoking with a crowd to dull the unmanaged issues. Not only is it a lot less fun alone, but it’s a lot more expensive and a lot less effective as a distraction. Now I’m just a sad addict, not a good-time gal cutting loose with my pals. And that’s a whole other mental illness issue, waiting to spring up.
I also had to start paying attention to my own life - where it was headed, where I actually wanted to wind up, and how I wanted to get there. When you aren’t placating your dissatisfied personal life and professional career by talking to friends who say similar things while offering fun opportunities for reality avoidance, you know, it turns out that you suddenly become a lot more involved in planning for your future and making big moves.
This is, as usual, to say… I wouldn’t have pursued Traumatized Motherfuckers in the current methods or with the current level of dedication if I hadn’t been alone, destitute, and desperate to work on something that had any meaning in the absence of my favorite distractions. I also probably wouldn’t have quit my old full-time brewery job, because it was a lot easier to justify the payment in free beer when I had a family to share it with. I probably wouldn’t have gone back to school, because I would want that free time outside of my two positions to go spend with my friends.
So, we might owe my old friends for bringing us together on this platform. I don’t believe I would have had the perfect set of circumstances that led to writing an unknown blog for a year before trying podcasting if we were all in touch back in the day.
But I know that I definitely wouldn’t have gotten a handle on my mental and physical health, my life direction, or my understanding of other human beings without that sense of independence that I suddenly had to foster and thrive within. Those desperate times called for dedicated measures. I cannot explain how different my life would be - down to every detail - if the trajectory hadn’t been altered so radically with my social banishment.
And for all of these things… I’m grateful? I honestly feel like I came out on the other side of this as a much more independent, more understanding, more motivated, and overall healthier person. I sure learned a lot about relationships and interacting with human beings. I also learned a lot about myself - even if it fucking hurt sometimes.
All of these positives are so tangible to me that I actually… struggle to know if restarting these friendships is a good idea or not. I’m having a tough time because part of me is actually very worried about having the temptation of close relationships ever again.
They’re distracting in big and small ways - from the texts you have to answer all day, down to the life choices you make based on other peoples’ influences. They’re potentially psychonoxious - when people are putting negative emotions on you or pulling you into their own fucked up core beliefs. They’re routine upsetting - when you consider making time for other beings or changing your normal living routine to incorporate traveling to hang out. They’re enabling - when you suffer from an addictive personality and fall right back into substance celebrations as soon as you’re back in the same room.
Essentially, relationships introduce new, uncontrollable variables into your life. Or, at the very least, variables that you have to be steadfastly present and intentional to handle them without breaking stride. And that worries me.
Maybe I’m suffering from a lack of confidence. Maybe I’ve romanticized my roughly 2 years of being a human island. Maybe I’m catastrophizing all the worst case outcomes. Orrrr maybe I’m trying to take a realistic view of the potential downfalls that could impact my fairly mentally-healthy life and newfound ambitions.
It’s hard to say. All I know for sure is, I’ve seen the value in being a highly independent human. I don’t believe that relationship avoidance is a viable or healthy living strategy and I’m not recommending it. It goes against all of our human instincts and I believe it’s debilitating over time.
But, at the same time, I now understand, after years of being baffled, why anyone would see a potential relationship and turn on their heels running in the other direction.
Do I trust these people? Do I trust myself? Has too much happened to damage the relationship potential already? Has too much happened inside of me to negate the positive aspects of the association that used to feel as necessary to my life as breathing? Am I capable of healthy relationships - for real - at this point? If I break my stringent, healthy living routines, am I capable of remaining a healthy human - for real - at this point? And, this is a shitty question, but… were these relationships aspects of my life that actually held me back from self-realization and recovery the whole time? Will I fall back into that lazy lifestyle of slipping through life with the expectation that several pairs of hands will emotionally catch me?
I don’t know yet! And that’s why I decided to write it out this morning. My drive home from seeing my friends yesterday was roughly 3 hours of feeling dichotomously excited, fulfilled, loved… and nervous, obsessive, reluctant. Thinking about the future, I’m still not sure where the cumulative charge lies - in the positives or negatives.
But I’m glad that I got this opportunity to wipe a slate clean, in a way. I’ve proven that I’m able to interact, despite some mixed emotions, with feelings of appreciation and caring. I can manage to be in a situation where I really want to dig into all the dirty details of what happened, without letting that anxiety bubble burst into spewing out emotional garbage. These people don’t seem so “other” anymore. I don’t feel so dangerously damaged that I had to be exiled. There’s some hope, even if it comes with some hesitancy.
Now I probably just have to wait another two years or so to see what happens.