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When Social Anxiety Makes Me a Bad Friend


I know I didn’t handle things well.

Even though I apologized and we are fine now, many years later, I still carry the guilt and shame of that day with me.

That day was one of the hardest for me and it was definitely one of the hardest of our relationship.

We’ve never really talked about it face-to-face or in much detail, and I don’t even know if it was ever as big a deal for you as it was for me, but I hope at least by writing to you about it, I can finally get it off my chest.

Do you know the day I’m talking about?

You had recently “come out” and we went to a music festival with all of your new friends, who I’d never met before.

It wasn’t just that I felt shy because I was meeting strangers for the first time, or that I was nervous about going to an event packed with people. Even though this was before I knew social anxiety was a thing, I knew these activities weren’t my favorite things.

The way I reacted had more to do with the fact that I felt like you were a stranger to me as well. I didn’t know who you were when you were with these new friends, but you certainly didn’t sound or act like the girl who had been my friend since we started at a new high school on the same day together. It had been just the two of us against the world for so long, and I didn’t know how I fit into your new world.

That’s why I left without saying a word to you.

I don’t remember what my thought process was. I just knew I had to get out of there and I couldn’t bear to talk about it or try and explain, probably because I didn’t really understand it myself.

I don’t even remember who picked me up, or who drove me to your house to get all my stuff. I don’t remember how I got my stuff out of the house without you there or how I told you I’d left.

All I remember was how hurt and confused and angry you were.

I guess I just want to make sure you know I didn’t leave because I don’t value your friendship, because I didn’t like your friends or because you’re not important to me — because you are my best friend and you always will be.

It’s just that my anxiety kicked in and I couldn’t control the overwhelming urge to run away from the intense feeling I was miserably alone in a sea of happy faces. They talk about the “fight or flight” response to anxiety, and I can say in this situation, I did literally flee.

But I do wish I had stayed and at least tried to tell you I was leaving, rather than disappearing without a word.

I know that hurt you, and I’m sorry.

I do believe I’m doing better now. Even though I still have those anxious feelings that make me deeply uncomfortable and I still often want to run away from certain social situations, I’ve learned to cope in a much more healthy way.

While I can’t promise I’ll always be the perfect friend, I can promise I’ll never do that to you again.

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Unsplash photo via Allef Vinicius.