As someone that spent most of my teens and well into adulthood with undiagnosed schizophrenia (a very long story in it of itself), I often struggled with forming and maintaining relationships. My friendships and romantic partnerships were like shooting stars, burning bright for a moment and then burning out in a flash. So when I met Jane* in 2009, I fully expected the brightly lit friendship to burn out by the time we graduated college.
The last 12 years of my friendship with Jane feels like a blur and yet, on the other side of recovery, feels perfectly clear. I chased the high I got from her responses to my texts, because no else cared to text me back. She responded to every invite for a Skype or dinner date. When I told her I was visiting the valley, she gladly accepted my request to hangout. We laughed, bickered over little things. I ignored the times she put me down or reminded me of my faults. The times she corrected “the way I talked” because it caused her anxiety or the time she told me to stop sharing my successes because “they were annoying to hear about.” Even as the emptiness grew inside me, I ignored it. I wanted to be the friend I had always wanted to have in my own life. The kind that would randomly stop by with bagels and coffee to cheer up a friend’s day. Or drop everything to get groceries for a friend too ill to get them herself. The kind that would clean a friend’s home after a loss, like a miscarriage. I wanted to be sacrificial. I wanted Jane to love me like family, like her best friend, because for 12 years, she was the only one who had stuck around. And God forbid if I struggled myself, if I failed in some way to be perfect because she would run me through the coals. Where she would bad mouth me to other people, I forever sung her praises. I just never wanted to lose her. She never knew that I knew the things she said about me. I swallowed the hurt and didn’t repay the favor.
Ultimately, I didn’t want to fail. I heard in a sermon once that if someone wants to be with another person, they should look at that person’s track record. All I felt was shame. Look at the wreckage behind me. The broken relationships. My track record was a mess. But Jane was my success story. She was the friendship that lasted. It didn’t matter that she never called or texted me first. It didn’t matter that I planned all our hangouts. She responded. She showed up. That was enough. I wanted to know I could make one friendship last.
My dream has always been to be a bridesmaid. I rarely, if ever, dreamed of my wedding, but I dreamed of the day I had a best friend that would love me enough to ask me to stand by her side at her wedding. I knew, just knew that Jane would ask me when that day came. But she didn’t ask me. I sobbed at home after hours of running her wedding errands and driving across town to do things for her special day. I did these things for her because I loved her, but I didn’t understand. Why not me? Two bridesmaids consoled me while I cried over not being chosen. The night before the wedding, I was excluded from the festivities in the city and spent the night sobbing in bed. I left the wedding after the ceremony and decided that this was not a healthy relationship. I would end my friendship with her.
She said no and at the time, I truly believed it was because she loved me and didn’t want to lose me. Six years later, worse offences came. Some things I won’t share. On the other side of things, finally having ended the friendship, I think she said no to my request to end the friendship because she benefited from my generosity and understanding. She never had to worry about reaching out because I would always check up on her. She never had to apologize because she knew I would always forgive her. There were never any consequences for the ways she treated me because at the end of the day, I never believed I deserved better and I think she knew that. For years, I watched how generous and kind and inviting she was with other people and I wondered why she couldn’t be that way with me. I would feel the hurt and then swallow it, saying to myself that I was special. I was different. I was like a sister to her. I mattered.
For about a year now, I have been seeing a spiritual director to work through things. Community is a big issue for me. All of my relationships, aside from Jane, have had a three year timeline. I’ve never stayed at a church or a job for more than three years. Because three years is when it starts to get hard. That’s when the masks come off and intimacy starts to happen. And I would get that familiar itch to leave before they leave me. Jane was this marker for me, that I could point to and say, “I am capable of meaningful relationships.” Surprisingly though, the decision to finally walk away wasn’t hard. When you find true, deep spiritual healing, it becomes easier to assert your worth and set boundaries.
I have no close friends right now and before I started this healing process, I would be grasping to force deeper relationships. But these things take time. As my heart continues to grieve the loss of this particular relationship, my heart is getting lighter daily. My hope is that one day, I have a best friend that I get to stand beside and be the bridesmaid I’ve always wanted to be, whether it’s a wedding or vow renewal. I believe that real, deep community is in my future. I just need to be faithful where I’m planted.