I was answering someone else’s thread, and I was talking about how I have difficulty letting people in, and making close connections. I started to realize some of the reasons for it, and was writing them, but it was getting kind of long, off-topic, and me-centred, so I decided to make a separate post.
I would not let people be close to me. It would take a very, very long time, and I was uncomfortable with people caring a lot about me until I’d known them a long time, and even then only a few people. I’m not sure if I felt like I didn’t deserve their compassion and concern, or I was afraid that they would not like me if I was totally open with who I am, or what. But, it was kind of “this close, but no closer.” I didn’t tell people when things were wrong – why would they care? Why should they care about my problems? My life isn’t so bad; why impose that on them? And what’s it to them – why do they even want to know? Do they care for real, or are they faking it?
Actually realizing a few things right now about where those fears came from … I was picked on a lot as a kid – these days we would call it psychological bullying – and sometimes bullied physically. So, openly being friends with me exposed people to ridicule. More than once I made a friend who would make fun of me if other kids were around. There were kids I made friends with that broke off the friendship when they realized the social cost of being associated with me. It’s not like I was perfect, and everyone should have liked me. I was the smartest kid in the class, and I knew it. And I liked everyone to know, which didn’t endear me to anyone, I’m sure. I have ADHD which wasn’t diagnosed until I was 17, and I didn’t start on any medication until I was 19, so I had plenty of weird and obnoxious behaviours that didn’t help.
But, yeah, those really got to me, and really wormed their way in deep. One I remembered but another I’m just remembering now. I don’t know that it was a repressed memory, just one that really doesn’t come up much. It really stung, finding out that some other kids did like me at least enough to hang out and play together, but only when no one was looking. I don’t blame those kids. This was all when I was around 10 or 11. The way kids bullied me was horrible, and I completely get how it wouldn’t be worth it. Like, “Allan’s a good guy and everything, but people are really really mean to him. I don’t want them to be mean to me like that.” A 10 or 11 year old kid not wanting the daily BS I got? Yeah I understand that. I probably would have been scared to be my friend, too!
I moved schools twice right around then. After Grade 4, I switched. In Grade 3, I had started to make friends in my class (same kids since Grade 1) and I was like “okay, I’m good at this now. Fresh start! Now I can do it right!” Well, I didn’t. It was back to square one. After Grade 7, we moved to another city, and it was the same. I was starting to make connections and figure out how to navigate that group, and so I was like “right now I’ve got stuff figured out, I can start fresh and do it better.” I actually did have a group of friends at first in Grade 8, but then one day I just started acting like an asshole… I think a combination of my depression manifesting itself (it’s always been present, when I look back, but that was the year it was diagnosed) and me misunderstanding ways I saw other people, or older kids, or whatever interacting with their friends. The people that seemed to succeed socially and in the sport I was in during the years I lived there, were the ones that acted too cool for everything, and complained all the time, and whatever. So, I started to take on that kind of persona, because I thought it was the way to fit in, or be normal, or get noticed and promoted up through the ranks in my sport. It was contrary to what I thought was the right way to act, and in my sport, well now that I’m a professional coach I know that that’s the exact opposite of how you move ahead! I did learn that in my sport, and started projecting the attitude I knew was right all along, and that I actually FELT toward what I was doing. But I digress! So I started to act like a real little wanker, basically, and I lost that group of friends. A couple of them turned into pretty severe pot heads, so maybe that was okay. Plus, I was actually doing Grade 8 and Grade 9 that year, so I went into Grade 10 the next year, and the group I alienated were Grade 8’s. So maybe I did it on purpose to some extent. And the Grade 8’s overall decided I was a Grade 9 and not one of them. The Grade 9’s decided I was a Grade 8, and not one of them. But the next year I went into the older cohort full time. So, yeah I guess that was a whole other group of people so I thought it didn’t matter what I did with this group of Grade 8 kids I was friends with? I also just felt totally out of place in a group of friends. I didn’t know how to act, or what to do, or say, or anything. I had always had one friend at a time, pretty much. So I was actually pretty uncomfortable.
In Grade 10 I met my still best friend. We were best man at each other’s weddings, both of us having to fly across the country for the other. All that good stuff. That continued the one-friend thing. In university I was kind of the extra guy in a group, but didn’t really make any lasting relationships in undergrad. In grad school, I did make a group of friends, and there are two that I’m still close with. We hung out all together; actually I was in two groups now that I think of it. OH YEAH! I remember the day, as a grad student, I was invited to two parties on the same night. I can’t even remember what the parties were. I think they were both birthdays. I was 24, or 25. I had never had two conflicting invitations in my life. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. I didn’t, because I knew that would be really mean to the person whose party I didn’t go to. Yeah that was really cool.
So yeah I am just kind of processing how those things affected the fact that I have a really hard time making next-level connections with people. But the other day, I went to someone’s house to drop off some DVD’s I’d borrowed. I’ve been going through a rough time – my wife says she wants a divorce, and we’ve been separated 10 months, and it’s my fault (no, really, it is; I treated her like crap) – and I said I was doing okay. Not great, but okay, and the general trend is upward. She just leaned over and hugged me. Like, a real hug, full of real affection, and she just held on for a good 30 seconds or a minute… I’m crying right now I don’t think I’ve ever had a hug like that from someone outside my family. I’ve got friends that I hug now, which is reasonably new, but you know quick friend hugs. Not that that’s a bad thing at all, just a different thing. I totally wasn’t expecting it, or looking for it. I really was okay, but boy did I need it. I’m seriously crying now; I don’t even know if I’m happy it happened, or sad that I’m 34 and it never happened before last week. This is the stuff… this kind of progress like I’ve never made before… that I wish my wife would see. She doesn’t want to hear the same old promises that I’ve broken over and over, and hear about how I’ll just try harder. So much of this is new, and that’s why I’m so pleased with everything that’s happening in my life. Everything but my marital situation. But even that forced me to do all the things I hadn’t before, for whatever reason. I hope it’s not permanent, but it was probably necessary for these months. It has made me a better person, and a healthier person. There’s zero doubt about that.
Anyway yeah this having friends thing… it’s new, and uncomfortable, but it’s awesome. And, trust me, if I can get here, anybody can. If you’d asked me when I was 23 and had just moved to my grad school, and knew no one, and it was the middle of winter, and … DAMN that was a bad couple of months… if you’d told THAT guy he was going to have a night, in the next two years, where he’d be invited to two parties and actually have to decline one because two people wanted him to hang out … that he’d have two groups of friends … he would have told you to take your mean-spirited lies and shove them where the sun don’t shine, and leave him alone because maybe he was going to just walk out to the highway and jump in front of a truck. He’d 100% have thought you were mocking him. He might have spat at you. But that’s what happened. It got better. Then worse. Then better. Then worse. But each time it got better, it was better than last time it was better. And when it got worse, most of those were not nearly as low. I won’t lie, some of the lows were still really bad. But The highs keep improving, and MOST of the lows are not as low, and don’t last as long. Normal is approaching (I think) regular people normal, not depressed people normal.
However horribly you feel … I’ve felt that badly. I’ve been to those dark places. I got out. More than once. And now I’m really turning things around in a way that, for a lot of reasons, I know is going to be sustainable. In my bad times, I never would have believed this remotely possible. Turns out it is. I’m not a special case; I’m a run of the mill fucked up pervert with a genius IQ so I’m able to analyse just how much of a fuck up I am at any given time, and an intensely good and vivid memory that would let me relive every painful moment of my life like it was new and fresh over and over again. I still found a way up. I needed help. I needed a serious smack in the face – like with a sledgehammer because regular hammers weren’t doing the job – but it happened. I’m making it. I’m not better than you. I was a disgusting pervert. I was a selfish, cold, bastard. And now I’m not. Now I’m okay, and I really AM the good guy that was in there all along.
I’m not magical. You can make it. If I have, anybody can. ANYBODY. Even you, guy that thinks there’s no way I was ever hurting as much as you. Even you, guy that thinks I was/am nowhere near as worthless as you know you are (you’re not btw). Even you, guy that has no friends, and is thinking “yeah but he always had like one friend, not none like me.” Even you. Yes, you. Shut up, yes you can. Yes you can. Yes you can. Yes you can. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Come on, you’re not going to laugh at the fact that you actually just argued with a text post? You stay classy, San Diego. 🙂