I’ve been learning a lot about friendships and how I conduct myself in friendships. I had a conversation with my therapist recently that shed some light on this: I told my therapist I have a hard time maintaining most friendships. She asked why, and I said, “I’m just too intense, so people bail”. She asked what was so scary about me that people would have to bail, and I explained that I am a very supportive, actively caring friend in a very big way. I will always sacrifice myself and my well-being for other people. For my most part, the friend typically encourages me to allow them to support and actively care for me as well, at which point I spill my guts and make myself vulnerable. My guts happen to be comprised of some pretty intense extremes, which is difficult for other people to deal with because I’m often REALLY violently depressed, but my baseline (if I even have one…) is very…high. High energy/racing thoughts/impulses/obsession/compulsion/passionate/disorganized. This gives me the appearance of being extremely high functioning while simultaneously feeling as though I’m being tortured . Not surprisingly, any glimpse at this authentic reality is terrifying for anyone, whether they, themselves, lives with mental illness or not. These friends then interpret my intensity as dependency and set boundaries in their own way (generally by bailing). I genuinely care way too much about literally everything. I have absolutely no chill.
That’s the way I am. The way I want to be would look more like me caring for myself and designating appropriate amounts of time to care for other people. Not only would this probably be more comfortable for my friends, but this would obviously also benefit me and give me more energy to control the times I choose to make myself vulnerable. Figuring this stuff out has been painful and has required taking a good, hard look at myself and who I want to be. It’s forced me to straddle the line between my rational and emotional minds and also between radically accepting who I am and the things I struggle with and fighting for who I want to be.
I’ve always considered myself someone who is not an addict. Sure, I’m addicted to cigarettes and caffeine, but who isn’t? I smoke a lot of pot, but I live with a lot of physical pain and don’t like taking pain pills. I very rarely drink at all, and when I do, I have one or two gluten-free beers and cry for the next week straight. None of the usual culprits are a huge issue, but in a way, I do consider myself an addict. I am addicted my my extreme moods. Because I experience extremes, I’ve experienced the BEST things. The BEST sex. The BEST love. The BEST highs. The BEST, most intimate friendships. I’ve also experienced some really violent, intense low feelings and have done some things that no one should ever do because I wanted the lows to stop. Believe it or not, these extremes are equally addictive. I am THE MOST either way. And that feels….intense. Intense is my default.
I had developed one of those BEST, most intimate friendships in the not-very-distant-at-all past. She made herself so vulnerable to me, and she was intense too. I loved her, and she loved me. And then I got too intense. And then she got too intense. And she bailed, in the name of self-preservation. I still don’t fully understand the situation, but I’m trying to let go of the feeling that I need to understand.
I was stuck in more ways than one. For one thing, do you respect the wishes of the person when they were stable, even if it means ignoring their wishes now? How do you respect someone’s autonomy in that situation? Do I get to be hurt that she bailed on me when I needed support? Is she sicker than me, and does it matter? Do I get to be angry that she bailed on me when I needed support? Does she have any means of control over her behaviour? Any more control over her behaviour than I have over mine? Does it matter? Can I admit that I am not a good friend sometimes because I’m too obsessed with being SO MUCH without feeling worthless? How accountable do I hold her for her actions when she was unstable? How accountable should I hold myself while I was unstable? Is it different for each of us? Does it matter?
It’s been hard, and it’s required me to take a good, hard look at myself. I want to feel more balanced, to be okay with “good” instead of AMAZING. I want to be able to allot time to give to other people, and time to explore myself.I want to be able to give someone space without it being a huge battle because I’m worried about them. I want to be able to not feel absolutely devastated when I find out people don’t like me (for any reason).
Now, I feel like I try so hard and put in so much effort to everything that I am owed a small percentage of that effort back into the friendship. I feel like it’s taken me time to get to a place where I don’t feel as though I don’t deserve any effort. But I want to feel as though I don’t need validation to feel okay with myself. That’s the other thing I’m addicted to: validation. But I don’t want to feel reliant on that, because it’s unrealistic. It is unrealistic to have expectations, because it’s unreasonable to project those expectations on to someone else. I want to be okay with accepting people for who they are, even if that means that the context of our relationship is either one where I do not get much (or anything) back, or simply a relationship that didn’t turn out to be permanent.
I am grateful to my best bitch for bailing on me. It was so intense that it forced me to face my addictions and to address them. It also forced me to turn (back) to writing to help me process my thoughts, since I didn’t have someone to bounce my thoughts off of in the same way anymore. I’m finding that this is a lot more productive since it allows me to more fully form my thoughts, rather than having outside input before I’ve had a chance to finish processing myself (because, obviously, i’m so hyperactive?/hypomanic?/high? that there’s a lot to process).
It’s amazing that I can separate these kinds of thought patterns in my personal and professional lives. Call me the queen of low-key, functional dissociation. Maybe it’s okay if I still think a lot, as long as I learn to be more radically okay with it.