Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dear Friend, thank you for your friendship & honesty

Dear Friend:

Today is national *best friend day* and although we were never ‘best friends’, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all that you represented in my life from my Freshman year in college (1989) to 2006. The first day I met you on campus I knew that you were a woman of stature and confidence. You were to be admired! You carried yourself with such grace and you radiated buoyancy that I admired. I remember that semester my freshman year when I was so depressed I could barely make it to class and you were there, cheering me on, encouraging me to get help and reminding me of my value to others. Thank you for your encouragement, I won’t forget it.

As it happens in life, you moved away, I moved away…and yet thanks to modern technology we could still keep in touch ~ praise to the internet! You were always there for me with a kind word and an available ‘e-ear’. So many times your words made me smile, and I felt cared for by your friendship. And although you were encouraging and kind, you were also sincere. I appreciate that so much, your honesty, and my feelings were never upset by your words because you were always gentle in your communication. I was never angry or hurt by anything you said ~ I took it in the spirit you intended, and although sometimes it wasn’t easy to hear, it was always an opportunity to look within myself for an opportunity to grow. Thank you for your sincerity throughout the years of our friendship.

In 2006, when I had lost not only my way, but also my compass, in this world, you encouraged me to go back into therapy. When I was bombarded with thoughts I was unable to face for fear of a psychotic break, you said to me, “Grace, I think you need therapy. I know that probably makes you want to flip me off, but so what. You’re a dear person, but your well-established defenses (like a tendency toward sarcasm and keeping yourself too occupied to look deeply within) won’t serve you very well in the long run. The truth is knocking hard on your door. Take it from someone else who’s ignored the knocking herself.” Do you remember that? Well, dear friend, you were right. I did need therapy. I had kept myself so busy for so long that I had never dealt with anything from my past.

You sure did know me well, friend. You know that I made a ‘to-do’ list when I was 5 years old and I stayed busy until I had accomplished everything on that list. Everything! I set out to prove to my mother that I was *worthy* of her love (although we both know that has not, nor will it ever, happen). But I sure tried! And you also knew that for most of my life, love, acceptance and self worth were all based on my ‘performance’. “If I do this…my mother will love me, my friends will love me”…and on and on and on. And it was a daunting task, keeping everything together for everyone, trying so hard to keep that mask on so no one would know what I came from, how tainted my past was…and the façade of who I pretended to be consumed me by the time I hit the age of 35. Any negative swerves in the road, anything that happened that I couldn’t control, was quickly swept under the rug so the outward appearance of *super-Grace* remained perfect. Not many people could see beneath that mask, not many were allowed to see. I did, however, trust you to see beneath the shroud I presented to most people. I allowed you to see the ‘real’ Grace because you were compassionate and honorable.

The last time we spoke was in June 2006, when you told me (very politely) that you no longer had room in your life for ‘high maintenance friendships’ and you wished me *the best* and bid me adieu. Ciao, Gracie! Thanks for the 17 years! And I never heard from you again. Periodically, I did try to reach you, to get some sort of clarification of why you so suddenly disappeared from my life. But I never received a return response to any of the inquiries I made. Perhaps things might have played out differently had I meant enough to you to say, “Grace, I realize you’re experiencing some difficulty in your life right now, but save it for the shrink because I don’t want to hear about it anymore.” But, alas, ‘our’ friendship obviously meant more to me than it did to you.

Realizing I can’t control how you feel, or react, to what I say or do, I still believe in my heart that you are a caring person. You still enter my mind at times and I hope you’re doing well. And if high maintenance relationships were really a problem for you, my friend, then you picked a really good time to bow out of our friendship I treasured because I can tell you the past 3 years have been hell for me! Definitely not something you would have wanted to stick around for. I have hit the bottom time and time again, and each time I have to fight like hell to claw my way back out of the blackness. I had begun working with dear therapist when we were friends, and we are still working together, but during the course of the past couple of years I have also added a few other mental health clinicians to my payroll, as well as a significant monthly pharmacy bill to pay for the daily cocktail of medications I have to take to ensure I stay alive, even though there are many days I already feel dead.

Now, instead of being too busy to ‘look deep within’ ~ that’s all I do! Well, when I can actually stay *present* in my body for the nightly horror picture shows and not disassociate and become a multitude of irrational little girls on a path of self-destruction longer than the yellow brick road. As amazing as it sounds, here I am a college educated, middle aged woman, with the emotional capacity of a 3 year old child!

But I keep trudging through the mud and the muck, even though many days I feel as though I am stuck in quick-sand. It isn’t easy, and I still revert back to my most treasured tools of self-destruction….old habits are hard to break (I’m sure you can relate to that, since you’re a long time member of AA). In fact, I would compare my eating disorder and self-injury to an alcohol addiction. Once I ‘fall off the wagon’ it’s difficult to climb back on again. And much like an alcohol addiction, the key for me is to proactively identify the *triggers* that precede the behavior so I can head them off at the pass. Meaning – have a plan in place (although I have no sponsor to call – which I think is a shame) and implement that plan BEFORE I find myself on the bathroom floor with a half-empty bottle of ativan, vomit in my hair, and blood pooling on the tile from the wounds I inflict on myself in an effort to feel the internal pain in a physical way. Some days are better than others…as you know, it’s “one day at a time”.

There are days when I’m okay, and on those days, I feel a renewed sense of hope, but there are days when I’m not okay, and I struggle to find the will and the strength to continue. Although the internal wounds are still raw and bleeding, the external ones, the wounds I’ve inflicted upon myself, are fading, and I’m happy to report that I’m not that scarred when I’m covered up. I’m glad you weren’t here the past two years to witness my virtual self-destruction, and the active role I played to end my own life. It hasn’t been pretty, and I realize now that you wouldn’t have been strong enough to bear witness to the grief and suffering that has played out.

I have friends where are here for me, friends that have been here for me before, during, and after my descent into hell. I have friends who weren’t afraid to bandage my wounds before they were stitched up, friends who will take my medication when I can’t be trusted not to overdose. I have friends who text me every night to tell me to take my medication and go to bed, and friends who text me to tell me they love me. But they are them, and you are you. I recognize that now, and I accept it.

I am mentally ill, my parents FUBAR’d big time when they *raised* me. And I will always struggle with that. I will always be mentally ill. It isn’t something that will just go away. It isn’t a broken arm that will heal in 6 weeks, there’s no organ transplant for what I have. There’s medication that makes life bearable some days, but there will always be days when I struggle. I admit that I was devastated back in 2006, when we last spoke, and there are days when I still grieve the loss of our friendship, but I understand now, why you’re no longer a part of my life. It isn’t easy to stand by and watch someone self-destruct. I recognize that difficulty and I remember you once told me that you bowed out of another relationship for that very reason.
And that’s okay ~ we all have different strengths and I’m thankful to have had you in my life.

I’m also thankful for the friends who have stuck by me during this tumultuous time, those who are here to help hold my head above water when I lack the strength, and those who encourage me to keep running to a better life, to a life worth living, to a place of peace. It takes endurance and an unwavering faith, and I am lucky to have them. I know that someday I will be *okay*.

I wish you joy & peace and a life worth living.
All the best ~ Grace

No comments:

Post a Comment