Managing friendships has always been pretty difficult for me. I never really understood why until this year. For as long as I can remember, I've had friendships that suddenly ended, others that ended over things that I thought were a huge deal but really weren't, and then there were the friendships that ended because I was just too difficult to hang out with.
This year, I realized there are five key behaviors that might make being my friend a deal-breaker, but thankfully not for my friends.
I bail on plans.
When it comes to plans they always sound like such a great idea when I'm making them. However, when it comes time to execute the plan anxiety can take a huge toll, and I will convince myself that somehow I will not be okay in that situation. My friends are extremely patient with me, and they continue to invite me to things even when I have previously bailed on plans. This means so much to me because it's like they haven't given up and they never will. I've made great progress this year and successfully done so many new things because they did not give up on me.
I can take things to extremes.
I put my all into friendships. I try my hardest to let my friends know that when they need me I will be there. Likewise, I hope they will be there for me. Sometimes I'll take this reciprocity to the extreme. For instance, when I am going through something I would expect people to stop whatever they are doing and be there for me, but this is not what friendship is. Everyone is going to go through things, and good friends will want to be there for you and will be there for you when they can. Expecting people to put you before themselves isn't right. Over the last year, I have worked really hard on dealing with the anxiety/panic attacks on my own, and I no longer feel the need to have someone with me at those times. I appreciate my friends that have seen me at my worst and know all I am at my best. Thanks for choosing to remember the best.
I have random anxiety/panic attacks.
I could be hanging out with friends, out to dinner, watching a movie, and I can go from extremely talkative to not saying a word. I have become pretty good at hiding my anxiety, but every once in a while it will act up, and I'll have to leave the room or I will need to focus really hard on something until it passes. In these moments I'm not fully present in the conversation at hand. I'm often misread as being not interested, only concerned with myself or rude. I'm getting better at explaining why I might take my phone out at the table to play a distracting game or go to the bathroom for an extremely long time. I'm thankful that my friends are quick learners, and I don't have to keep explaining myself. It is so helpful that when I return and am back to myself they just let the conversation continue and don't call any attention to how disruptive anxiety can be.
I need a lot of reassurance.
My friends have seen me have minor and major anxiety/panic attacks. I'm a little self-conscious that they may think I'm crazy, really. I look for signs or nonverbal communications that might indicate that a friend can no longer tolerate all the behaviors that come with having a friend with anxiety. I worry about when it will be too much of a bother. I find myself asking my friends if they are mad at me over and over again, even if I know I have done nothing wrong. I know this can become extremely annoying, someone constantly needing validation for your friendship. As time has gone on I've learned to overcome this and trust my friends to tell me when I have upset them. I can remind myself that they keep inviting me and spend time with me because they are my friends, and I'm a pretty fun person the majority of the time.
I overthink. A lot.
I can't say this enough, I overthink everything I do and everything other people do. This goes along with the reassurance bit, but I am so lucky to have people that can tell me when I am overthinking things and when I need to just take a step back and look at the overall picture.
The other night I had lost something, something that in the midst of everything wasn't that important. I began to hyper-focus on this lost thing and unconsciously begin doing my ritualistic routine in preparations for an anxiety/panic attack. My friend observing my behavior told me to take a breath and really think about this. She refocused me asking: Was this going to end the world? No. Was this going to change who I am as a person? No. I was quickly able to get grounded again. I was able to relax and continue having a fun night, something that a couple of years ago, I would not have been able to do.
To the people that have stuck around, thank you. I know it is confusing, I know it is hard to understand but somehow I have found people that still put in the effort to try when I know many will not bother. Being my friend can be difficult at times. I'm aware, and I'm learning. My friends love me for who I am and I love them more than they will ever know. Thank you so much for being here with me every step of the way.