I met a friend for coffee this morning.
I have known Lesley for 4 years. We met in a professional capacity, she was my son’s respite carer. She loves Sonny as much as any member of my family. When he went to live with his dad in July, she was pretty heartbroken. I wasn’t sure if I’d see her again. I felt such guilt and shame at the suddenness of his departure that I thought she might feel badly towards me. I was so wrong.
I’m not very good at friendships. I used to be. I had a big circle of friends right up until my addictions made me a secretive, manipulative loner. Over the last 10 years I managed to lose regular contact with all of lifelong girl friends from school. Depression, anxiety, grief and addiction led me down a different path. Some jumped ship as soon as my behaviour became erratic. Those who persevered were thanked with unanswered calls and texts. I eventually left my hometown and moved 120 miles away to be near my dad after becoming homeless and almost losing custody of my children for the first time.
I have lived where I do now for nearly 7 years. I have had a few friendships but nothing concrete. I lost that sociability cog. I feel unlikable. I needed privacy to indulge my addictions.
I made friends with a mother of one of my daughter’s friends in the first year. We went out and I nearly got us arrested for trying to buy drugs from a security guard in the local nightclub. Then I got refused service for being too drunk in the next bar. Honestly? I think she thought I was kind of fun but I was SO mortified I never contacted her again.
I vowed to keep that side of me hidden from any future potential friends.
Being a single parent meant I didn’t have the opportunity to socialize and anyway, I’d come to prefer drinking and drugging in the privacy of my own home. When I had a child-free weekend and went out alone I’d end up with black eyes, lost wallets and worse.
I have a handful of good friends who know what I’m about. None of them live near me. We keep in touch by text or Facebook but I am still really bad at keeping them at arm’s length. I don’t know why, I just feel my problems aren’t worthy of someone else’s time. I have always hated to be a downer. I love to make people laugh. I can trace it back to my mother’s inability to be there for me. She was unapproachable and to my young self it appeared she was completely uninterested in me. I know that everyone is worthy of a friend’s time but the voice in my head tells me that people only tolerate me and if I end up crying on their shoulder’s all the time they will tire of me and judge me harshly. The logical part of my brain knows this is rubbish but that voice is loud. It drowns out all reason.
This morning I told Lesley about my problems. She knew some of it. She knew I’d tried to kill myself after I lost custody of Sonny. She knew a bit about my struggle with depression and anxiety but I’ve always kept any conversations about it as brief as possible. Surface chatter. Today, when she asked me how I’ve been I didn’t just say;
Yeh, I’m fine. Everything’s good.
Because it isn’t.
She listened and offered some insights. She didn’t swerve off the road and demand I get out of the car. Or yawn. I felt vulnerable and awkward and indulgent but.. lighter.