When Past Trauma Means You Don't Have Many 'True' Friends
Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced domestic violence or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by clicking “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.
I don’t have many true friends. Sure, I have “Facebook friends” and people who might like me, but not a lot of people who really know me or offer to hang out with me. I’m learning to be OK with that.
I spent the majority of my adult life in an abusive relationship. My ex controlled who I could hang out with, isolated me, forced me to cut ties with my family and friends and limited my ability to meet new people – all by using various manipulation tactics commonly found in abusive relationships and intimate partner violence.
After my marriage ended, I also had to cut ties with many people. Many of them were simply not truly my friends and I had too many negative associations with them, recalling memories of when I was in my last relationship. Others decided to stay friends with my abuser, despite knowing and believing what happened to me. To me, that means they weren’t really my friends at all. It was hard to let go of all these people in my life, but it’s been necessary to help me heal and cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Today, I feel free. I am free from reminders of my past and free from worrying about who my allies are. I know the few people who remain constant in my life are really there for me, and that’s all I need. I’m now in an exciting phase of rediscovery in my life. I need space from many of the things I used to enjoy because they trigger intrusive memories and flashbacks. I’m slowly reintroducing some of those things back into my life as an effort to reclaim them, but I’m also making an effort to find new hobbies and interests not associated with my past. This journey of self-discovery has made me feel more empowered, free and alive than ever before. It can also feel overwhelming to not know who I am at times or who I can count on. Instead of counting on others, I’m learning to count on myself. Spending the time and energy to process my past traumas and get treatment for PTSD has enabled me the freedom and confidence to explore the world and learn how to trust again.
It can be hard for any adult to make new friends. We have busy lives and tend to stick to a basic routine. Many of us go to work full-time and then go home to our families, not leaving much time or energy to invest in new relationships. Having social anxiety and other mental illnesses makes it even more challenging. It’s hard to know who I can trust, as well as how to relate to people when I don’t want to talk about my past. As time passes and I’ve learned to manage my conditions, it’s become easier to open up to people. I’ve actually met a lot of new people recently and have been able to re-establish old relationships with family and friends. I am even in a healthy, stable relationship with someone who respects me and treats me right. And I feel healthy and strong enough to learn how to love again. I am still learning how my past trauma affects me and probably always will, but it has gotten much easier over time and with therapy.
I also still have the close friends I can count on. Even if I don’t see them as often as I’d like, I still know they are there for me. I do want to make new friends and have a new life, leaving my past behind, but my past also makes me who I am today – whether I like it or not. There are good days and bad days, but opening up about my past and my health has given me the freedom to feel more confident and also know who I want to have in my life. Making new friends will never be easy for me, but it’s something I’m sure I will do along my journey to mental wellness. And in the meantime, I’m thankful to have the few friends I know I can trust and who support me no matter what.
If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash