I’m poking a bit of fun with the title, but it’s an attempt to keep me from too much trouble. I am having some issues with a friend, have been for some time now, and things have taken a turn for the worse.
I don’t do friendship well, never have. Along with neglect and abuse, i had poor modelling at home, so i didn’t know how to be a decent friend. I didn’t know what it meant, what it entailed. The treatment i received from my mother, my “Daddy,” and later, my stepfather, all contributed to me setting the bar pretty freaking low. I thought as long as someone was consenting to be around me, that we were friends. I was created to be a receptacle for other people’s unwanted emotions, so i accepted anyone who treated me any kind of way. All i ever wanted was the company of someone, and i’d put up with all sorts of crap to get it.
There was the girl who had me clean her room while she was playing outside with her (real) friends. There was the girl i hung out with after school who always seemed to want to talk to me while she was pooping. There was the girl who would rub herself to climax on a part of my body if we were all alone. There were many girls who wouldn’t be seen with me at school, but would happily chirp about their lives to me when no one else was around.
During these elementary school years, if i shared anything about my life it was probably a lie. I knew not to talk about what my home life was like; first, keeping my mouth shut was beaten into me, and second, i quickly saw that other kids didn’t have a home life like mine. My parents told me that it was because we were better (more intellectually and spiritually evolved) than other people. I sort of believed them, but there was an underlying feeling of embarrassment, too. I listened to other kids chatter about their parents and siblings, boyfriends, other girlfriends, their problems, people they hated… All of it. I might have talked a lot (might have, heh), but i was cracking wise, trying to entertain, trying so hard to be liked. I wasn’t going to tell that girl that my mother masturbated on me, too.
I think my peers intuitively knew i was a secret-keeper. If they needed to unburden themselves of something, they told me. I never told anyone anything.
In my junior and high school years, i graduated to full-on lying about everything. I told ridiculous fish stories, and between that and my abominable hygiene, it’s a wonder i had any friends at all. (I did though, and i remember them all fondly. They were good kids, and i was fortunate to have them.) I felt how “other” i was, and it caused me great distress. I tried to provide reasons for all my strange behaviours, i had excuses for all my shortcomings, and i blew my personality up-up–up into this massive caricature. I was trying so hard, but my lies must have been so obvious and my false bravado so transparent.
Once i got into therapy as a young adult, i didn’t hide so much, and i stopped lying. I started talking, and i talked a LOT. I was just beginning to see how abused i’d been; how used and neglected. Like the kids who used me as a throwaway confidant, i needed to unburden myself. I wanted everyone around me to know there were legitimate reasons that i was such a fuckup. And so i shared about many of my experiences growing up; many, but not all. There were places i still refused to go, memories i refused to accept as real. My mother’s voice was yet a powerful voice in my head, telling me:
“You just had a bad dream,”
“You have such a vivid imagination!”
“What did I do to deserve a compulsive liar for a daughter?”
In my 30s there came the internet. Suddenly, i was afforded a safety and anonymity that i’d never had before. I wandered around the aether, looking for someplace to belong. After a shitload (a shitload, i tell you) of bad experiences, i found a place. I set down roots there and it quickly became my friendship proving ground. At first i flashed my hundred-watt smile in internet, and threw all my best lines and shiniest charms at them. I was a lot, as i usually am at first, but they seemed to like me enough to tolerate all of my extras. Eventually they became my safe place, and then some of them became my family.
I’d learned about who i was and why i acted the way i did. I saw all the falseness and fakery, and when i peeled away the veneer, i finally saw that i hadn’t been dreaming or making things up. So i disclosed what i thought i knew to some of my little group that i was closest to.
And they stuck around. Crazily, funnily, unbelievably, they stayed in contact and kept being my friends.
Thanks to my relationship with them, i was able to see how unbalanced, unfair, unhealthy, and undesireable my friendships with most everyone in my “real life” circle, really were. A couple of them slammed the door on their way out of my life, but mostly they faded away as i stopped feeding them. That came to include the family i grew up with.
I saw my fault in things, i saw my flaws and my failures. But i came to realise that, without the other half of the relationship doing the same, i was unwilling to continue our association. Friends fell away, one by one. Family i quietly closed the door on, with no fanfare, no grand announcement. No one’s ever come knocking. It hurts, but it’s also, strangely, a relief.
No more friends from my old days.
No more family.
No more party buddies.
I plucked out a few from my manic drinking and drugging days, though. These were people who’d grown up some too, people i enjoyed spending time with when i was sober.
Anyway, back to the issue at hand. I built a strong friendship with one in particular. Unfortunately, these last couple of years have proven difficult. I could live with our differences with little issue, until the pandemic came along. They saw things differently and it troubled me. They understood that we differed in this area, so the lack of contact could be explained away. It was a good lesson in letting people be who they are. It disavowed me of the societal tribalism to which we are called, today. I could love them and be friends, despite some fundamental deviations between us.
And then they were diagnosed bipolar. I thought that, while it’s a hard disorder to live with, i could be very helpful to them.
When they became manic, i realised how wrong i was.
I tried my hardest to be around them after they were fully vaccinated and willing to observe all protocols when around me…
But i just couldn’t do it.
I was in a mania myself, and managing fairly well, as i’ve learned to do. But any time i spent with them i was triggered so hard. SO FUCKING HARD. They’re just learning how to deal with it all, and their meds weren’t straight yet, and manic people… Holy shit, manic people are a lot. If you don’t know, let me tell you:
- we are completely self-focused;
- everything is the biggest, most, best;
- we are 10ft tall and bulletproof, unless;
- we are sad or hurt and then that’s over 9000;
- we think we know everything but cannot see past our own noses.
To sum up, people experiencing a mania are a lot, often too much.
I was being triggered every time i shared space with them. Even phone calls or texts became difficult. I was in a mania myself for most of that time, and i wasn’t just losing control of my emotions, i was losing control of my system – my Bits N’ Pieces. I was dissociating, to the point of experiencing hard switches and finding myself somewhere else, doing something else, hours after interacting with them.
Before this started, i’d been talking to a therapist about some issues i was having. It was during this time my friend became fully manic and i started having serious trouble being around them.
And then this therapist told me that in their opinion i was autistic, and gently but firmly urged me to get tested.
And i was utterly gobsmacked.
I’d started talking to them to try and figure out some stuff, and i sought their help because they have expertise in the particular areas in which i was struggling.
Being on the spectrum would fit everything, but it is the last thing i would have ever expected. You could have knocked me over with a feather.
I tried to tell me friend a number of times about the struggles i was having. I wanted to share about my mania and my social problems and the new sensory issues i was having and how some old behaviours had resurfaced and i was incredibly distressed…
But it wasn’t going to happen. There was no room for me in what they were going through.
I didn’t begrudge them that at all. I thought, this is one of the things that i can bring to the table; an understanding of what it’s like when you’re in it. I can accept this and be there for them. I have other places i can go for help. I didn’t see a problem because they were completely wrapped up in their own life. I figured we could have a good talk and make our way back to each other when things calmed down.
That’s not what has happened. I’ve instead been blindsided after responding to a seemingly kind and good-natured text full of holiday wishes for the best. I’ve been told i’d better have a good reason for being such a lousy friend. And i…
I don’t know how to respond to that.
What i want to do first is lambaste them from here until Sunday.
Ugh, but that’s not me. That’s hurt feelings talking, and i know i’d feel shitty about it as soon as the words were coming out of my mouth. And they are new to this bipolar business and still sick with it.
But this triggers all the hurt in me that came about over being used and discarded, over and over, as a child. Half of me wants to make them sorry, and the other half wants to shut down and avoidavoidavoid.
When this bullshit ramped up yesterday, first thing i did was eat a buttload of chocolate.
Now, i’m writing.
Not sure what i’ll do next, but i’ll try to make it healthy and fruitful.
Peopling is hard, man.
I’ll check in very soon.
Love and Peace,
IMAGE: Jennifer Pallian (food photographer)