A few years ago, I lost a friendship that I really valued. It hit me hard. I was pregnant at the time, which didn’t help my emotional reaction to it. The worse part was, I didn’t (and still don’t) know what I did. I wracked my brain to think of what I had done to offend my friend, but nothing seemed serious enough to justify the deterioration of our relationship.
I see a lot of social media posts talking about the loss of friendships as an adult. For the most part, the writers say it’s natural and something we just need to accept. I don’t think those writers have a personality like mine.
My personality type isn’t the kind that can simply accept friendship loss. Every personality test I have ever taken tells me that I don’t make friends easily, but when I do, I’m fiercely loyal. I still remember a discussion with roommates once where we talked about the difference between friends and acquaintances. One roommate considered pretty much anyone she spent time with a friend. I, on the other hand, only apply the “friend” label to relationships that are more than superficial, where there’s a deeper connection and a great deal of time spent developing the relationship.
Losing this friendship, I was thrown into a mental state where I questioned my ability to be a good friend. I questioned everything I thought I knew about myself. For the first time since my anxiety and depression diagnoses, I considered ending my own life. I looked back over every mistake I have ever made in every relationship—every offence, every misstep, every wrong word. In true anxiety fashion, I wondered if my friends were really my friends, or if they were just people who tolerated me.
The problem was, when learning to deal with anxiety, I was taught about false thinking and self-talk to identify it. None of the counseling I have ever had prepared me for what to do when my false thoughts turn out to be true. Losing friends or offending my friends—saying the wrong thing—has always been a fear of mine. I try to be careful with my words because of it, but I’m also human. I offended a friend, I don’t know how, and I don’t know how to prevent it in the future.
Since that time period a few years ago, I have struggled to make new friends. I’m afraid I will assume the friendship is deeper than my new friend sees it. I’m afraid I’ll see friendships in mere acquaintanceships. I’m afraid my presence is annoying and others are only tolerating me, waiting for the minute I leave to let out a sigh of relief. It’s lonely, but it’s safe.
Some friends have slipped through. A handful of people check in on me and ask me how I’m doing. But they don’t know about this situation or this fear. They don’t know why I’m reluctant to share too much.
I guess I could say that, now, this fear is my greatest friend.