When Depression Makes You Feel Like the Least Liked Person in Your Friend Group
During my teen angsty phase, my mother used to threaten me with the golden rule. “Your friends will treat you exactly the way you treat your family” — she meant meanly, sarcastically and badly. And as I grew up, every time I felt ostracized in a friend circle, I took it to be due to karma. Yet, as I have become more socially active in college, I realized I always feel like the least liked friend in a friend group. I am never in spinoff group chats off of a main group chat. Rarely have I heard people ever call me their best friend. I’m always “that friend” who exists in the shadows.
For a while, I thought this was because I, myself, do not possess an attractive personality. I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink much, I don’t sleep around. People do not text me for fun, trying to make plans. Usually, I am the one reaching out with a plan and I am often faced with rejection because more important friends have made more important plans and it would be rude to cancel so late. When you go through 21 years of life feeling as though you are always the “backup friend,” what’s the point of attempting to socialize? And even before that, in seventh grade, I recognized even though I put effort into my friendships, nobody cared enough or liked me enough to put the same effort back in. I felt betrayed by the world at the ripe age of 13, when my self-worth was based on if I made a goal at my club soccer game, if I was on the honor roll and if I could count my friends on more than one hand.
When I decided to start counseling in high school, I thought I would finally learn how to be a better friend. I thought, the reason I was unable to connect to people in a meaningful way was because I was depressed and needed to be someone I liked first. I’ve been in therapy and have to say, that is not always the case.
From going from a single diagnosis of depression to a two-part label of severe depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), I only felt myself socially deteriorating even more. I saw friends take trips together on Instagram, friends study together on Snapchat and friends wish each other “happy birthday” on Facebook. Social media only made it more difficult to tell myself I had enough friends. I only told a few people how I felt as I worried that the few friends I do have would abandon me once they saw me only for my mental illness. However, I know anxiety and depression do make it harder for me to be a better friend, a reliable family member and a predictable significant other.
When my friends have problems of their own, as much as I try to be there for them, I sometimes have to “tap out” in order to make sure I am able to take care of myself, too. I am sensitive about being understood and in a family of basically four “type A” people. My voice does not always get heard and it’s hard for me to not take it personally. Also, I know when I’m with someone I care about, it is hard for me to open up to them of how I cannot be a consistently loving, caring, selfless person. These are all issues that not only I have to deal with as a patient of anxiety and depression, but also the people around me must face as they integrate me in their lives. I realize it is not other people’s job to validate my existence and make me feel more integrated in a friend group. I believe this is the responsibility I must bear and make a change if I see it to be a problem. With a mental illness though, when I constantly see myself as the problem, I also need to be aware when others are trying to intentionally make me feel this way.
Maybe it is really karma that I do feel like the least liked friend in a group. However, I know until I regain confidence in myself, I will never be able to be a charismatic person other people can enjoy being around. In the past year, I have tried my best to stay active, live a healthier lifestyle and keep as much of my anxiety and depression under control. I am human, so some days are harder than others.
Yet, I am blessed to have the few people who have stuck by me through thick and thin. And here is my token of appreciation to you. Thank you for all of the physical and mental support you have given me. Your presence and help is always felt. In a time when it is hard for me to be selfless, I sincerely thank you for being selfless in helping me make progress every day. I hope one day, I can be at a place where I can finally repay even half of what you all have given me. Thank you.
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Thinkstock photo via Goldeal.