Over the past few years I finally reached a point where I seem to have a good grasp on how to control the depression that has plagued me since I was a teenager. I have to work on it every single day, but it is under control. As the black cloud retreats, I have started to see myself a lot more clearly, and am discovering new things about myself. I’ve always been confused about the whole introvert / extrovert thing, and have finally realised that I am closer to the introvert end of the scale. It was confusing because I have always needed people, yet they often exhaust me. I now realise that after a childhood of being criticised, of been punished for exhibiting feelings (sadness, anger, even happiness), of having those feeling disputed, of never being enough in any way, I was left with so much self-doubt that I needed other people to tell me what I was doing right or wrong. There has been a constant war inside me between what I thought and felt inside, and what others told me I should feel and think. As my depression has stayed at bay for longer and longer, the self-doubt has receded, and my self-esteem has improved – and I have started to recognise that some of my friends are not healthy for me. I suspect that I have not been healthy for them either!
A few weeks ago on Facebook, I asked for hints on buying a bike. I explained:
“I've been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes so am desperately trying to get my food intake back to what it should have been, and then some. I'm exercising more (walking and treadmill), and trying to pluck up the courage to buy a bike and do some riding.”
I got lots of advice, but one person told me I should get an electric bike, because her mother had gotten one, and it was great how she could get around now. I explained, even though I thought it was clear from my original post, that I didn’t want a bike to get around on, I wanted it for exercise purposes. She persisted. Basically, she was saying that I needed an electric bike because I am too old for an ordinary bike. She’s spent the whole of our many years we have known each other making critical remarks about me, my husband and my kids, in a way that on the surface was complimentary or helpful. “You look nice today, you must have made an effort.” I’ve had enough. I unfriended her, and have no interest in any future contact. I’ll be polite if our paths cross, but I’ve had enough.
About a year ago I realised that although another friend sometimes asked about my husband and my sons, she never asked about me. So I stopped saying anything about myself. After another six months, I decided not to be the one to make contact next, as it seemed to be me five times out of six, although she always seemed happy when I did. When she had moved to a smaller house, she had given me some craft things that she no longer had room for. I have been cleaning out my craft room, and realised I was never going to use them and so contacted her to ask if she wanted them back, or whether I should pass them on to someone else who would use them. Turns out she now had room and would like them back, so yesterday I visited. When arranging to call around, I mentioned that I would let her know for sure if I was coming, as, because I hadn’t been well, I never knew for sure until the morning, whether I would be well enough to drive.
When I got there she commented that I had lost a little weight and asked if I had been dieting or if it was as a result of being sick, so I told her it was both, and explained about my diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. Soooo….. she didn’t ask what I was how I was going nor what I was doing about it, she just told me…….
- · That diabetes is her worst nightmare: that it means you are likely to have liver failure, kidney failure, go blind, get gangrene – “you must never again go barefoot”. That it was simply the worst thing to get because you will die in a horrible manner. This went on for several minutes.
- · That it is totally due to obesity, and that I always had ‘carried too much weight and eaten too much sweet stuff’, and that’s what leads to obesity and then diabetes, so basically it is self-inflicted.
- · She told me that if I ate the right diet I could alleviate it a bit, but that it would inevitably get worse until it, well, you know….
- · She told me the right diet was a paleo type diet, but that as I am a vegetarian, well, *shrugs*…..
- · She told me there is absolutely no genetic component to Type 2 diabetes, only Type 1.
She knows everything about diabetes, apparently. Except she doesn’t. Except that damn low self-esteem – I doubted myself, I thought maybe I’d read everything wrong. I came home and spent hours on the internet checking as many sources as I could before my eyes got too tired to read. So some of what she said is true – bits I already knew were true and didn’t need ramming down my throat. Some of what she said is not true, but I had to double check because, you know, self-doubt. And some of it was really fucking unnecessary and unkind and well, just plain nasty! And again I found myself angry. Again I realised that a long-time ‘friendship’ had always been based on my neediness for affirmation, but that instead this was yet another person who had spent years telling me, in a nice way, what was wrong and bad about me, and telling me what and how I should have done better. I don’t really want to talk to her again.
Just as was the case with my mother, these people are not deliberately being nasty. They, I am sure, genuinely think they are being nice, being helpful. So although my first instinct was to write vitriolic letters to them, telling them how horrible they are and how I never want to speak to them again, I won’t. I talked to another, newer friend this morning, and she asked me what I hoped would come from writing such a letter? How would it make me feel? And, of course, I knew instantly that while writing about it would make me feel better, actually sending a letter would not. My mother is long dead, and neither of the friends will read this, so here it is. And to everyone who does read it, including myself, I say, think about what you say to friends. Make sure your words are friendly and kind.
I realise that I no longer have a desperate need for friends at any cost. Nor do I need to make an issue of ending a friendship. I can just let go and drift away, and be pretty comfortable spending time alone.