A few months ago, I wrote a post about reconnecting with old friends. Christmas time is a time when people make an extra point of meeting up. So I crossed paths with some of the people that I’d tried to reconnect with earlier in the year, and, for whatever reason things hadn’t worked out. But I tend to give people lots of chances and look for the best in people, way more than most people do, so I met up with people thinking maybe I’d been too harsh a few months ago.
Firstly, I’d like to say thanks to all the people who are real friends. I like that we’re friends 🙂
A friend and I had a discussion, after I wrote the first blog, about how he has a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule. He’d had a similar experience to me in that he’d had a spell of poor health and, like me, found that lots of people made the right noises of support and friendship, but only a few actually came through and showed up. For some people, if you don’t ‘fit’ into their lives e.g. because you’re ill, they won’t make an effort. Once you ‘recover’, they think things will go back to how they were. Which it can’t if you’re the one they essentially ditched- that’s not friendship. It’s also quite condescending as it’s kind of saying you’re worth nothing when you’re not well. These people also have an annoying habit of being the ones who expect a lot of support when they need it but not giving any in return. My initial gut reaction when I was told about my friend’s 3 strikes rule was ‘that’s harsh’, but I thought about it and it makes sense. If my car broke down 3 times for the same reason, I’d replace it for being unreliable. Just because I can’t physically see my emotions doesn’t mean I should keep driving them into the ground. I wanted to see for sure if things were repairable or a write off- this year has been pretty full on in terms of hospital tests and admissions and I’ve got massive gaps in my memory where I was too sick to do an awful lot or to remember it if I did. I still tried to be involved in people’s lives though.
I now don’t think I was wrong to have come to those conclusions. In fact, I’m annoyed at myself that I let myself be duped and think that maybe people could change. I won’t go into masses of detail on here, that’s not fair. Some very general, non specific (i.e. have happened a few times with different people) examples include:
- spending time with people and them not asking a single question about me or my husband and talking about them and their lives the entire time. I purposefully didn’t say anything about my life with a few people to see if they cared enough to ask. Nope.
- a few people a few years ago asked us (or at least insinuated) not to speak about babies in front of them because it was a stressful subject for them. Not a problem, especially as we don’t have kids ourselves. But it’s slightly hypocritical of them to then talk about topics which might be stressful for me non stop when we meet up now. I haven’t and wouldn’t ask people to avoid certain subjects, I’m not like that and it’s not fair (although I’m not going to lie, I’m finding diet and ‘I’m so fat’ when they’re not remotely overweight discussions are wearing my patience thin). I’m merely pointing out the hypocrisy of it.
- making excuses for lack of contact or effort, which, frankly, are pathetic. Everyone has busy lives, that really isn’t an excuse. I’d have more respect for people who said ‘sorry I’ve been crap, I’ll be better next year’ than trotting out some excuse. I’ve gone on moonpig from my hospital bed with my healthcare assistant helping me so that I can make sure I don’t miss a friend’s birthday/someone’s kid’s birthday. Why do I make that effort for someone who can’t even apologise properly or send/give a card in return? And if I did drop the ball, I’m more than happy to apologise whereas they’re not.
- people who only make contact when they want advice or help but are never going to be there for me in return. A few people have stopped visiting since I listened to them and their problems and they now feel better- they apparently have no reason to visit me now and can go back to being ‘busy’ in their lives like they were before.
Truth be told, I don’t have enough energy to waste on people who clearly don’t care about me. I don’t need big gestures, it takes 30 seconds to send a text or send a birthday/Christmas card. So my New Year’s resolution is to match the effort made by other people. There’s a danger that others will also do the same thing and so neither of us will get in contact, but I know who I want to keep in touch with and who I dont, and those I don’t want to keep in touch with haven’t really made an effort for a while now. So nothing will really change except for my feelings towards them- I refuse to feel guilty or feel responsible for something which isn’t my fault (something which I’m really bad for doing). Another friend pointed out that friendships evolve over time. True. But I can’t help feel that some friendships have evolved because I’m not of any ‘use’ or ‘interest’ to those people anymore because of my illness or circumstances brought about because of it, and I don’t think I need to call those people my friends anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to be civil and sociable if our paths cross, but I won’t be making efforts to send them or their children birthday/Christmas cards and catch up texts or offering them any kind of support anymore (if I hadn’t stopped doing so already). It’s also really rude to suddenly stop communicating because I don’t have children myself- some people see being a mother as being part of an exclusive club and stop associating themselves with non-mothers in general, not just me. Of course mums are going to have different friends and interests after giving birth, that’s not what I’m talking about. Some people actively exclude childless women purely because they don’t have a baby no matter how much interest you express or how hard you try.
Getting emotionally involved or upset is actually really problematic for me. My body can’t cope with it even if I do a lot of rationalising and mindfulness. Emotional distress is one of the main causes for Adrenal crisis. If someone lets you down or treats you badly, your body instinctively responds with chemicals and hormones and my body can’t respond the way it should do so it literally drains energy I don’t have to start with. I can’t get angry and have a rant about it because it makes me physically sick. So it might seem harsh to wash my hands of people but it’s actually self preservation.
I’m done being nice to people who are self absorbed and only want friendship to work one way. I don’t like being manipulated. Even if I wasn’t sick, I don’t think those would be unreasonable responses anyway, but being ill has shown me some people’s true colours. I’m still all for second chances and making things work if other people want to make the effort, but not if it means making myself ill because of the emotional fallout.
I’m lucky to have some really great friendships, people I know I can count on to always ‘show up’ and who are there for the good times too. I’ve also been touched by people I didn’t think I knew very well who have been really supportive and have turned into good friends over this year. Every cloud has a silver lining, so as painful as it has been to acknowledge that some ‘friends’ have let me down badly, maybe it needed to happen so I could make room for new ones or spend more time with my good friends 🙂
Photo: Time Stops Photography