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The Fight Between Friendship and Anxiety

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When you are unable to look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the darkness.

Alone, afraid, empty, exhausted.

That is how the constant struggle of bipolar disorder and unrelenting anxiety can feel to me. And, as if these feelings are not enough, they also combine to create another feeling, one which makes them all so much worse. The feeling of being a burden. The feeling that those people around you who you thought and hoped were your friends actually wish you would disappear. The feeling that you are worthless and you do not deserve their support, love or care.

As much as I yearn to just drop a friend a text or give them a call and say, “Hey, really struggling right now and need a chat and a hug, are you free?”

There is always something that prevents me doing that. Well several somethings…




The fear is what hits first. The fear of being judge or criticized. But this quickly passes as I remember true friends would not behave this way. But then it returns: are my friends true friends? Do they actually see me as a friend? Or am I just some “crazy woman” who is only ever stressed and depressed? This fear builds again, but this time it is the fear of rejection. And this fear is much, much worse. At least if I don’t know what they think, how they really feel, it can’t hurt me. I can continue to pretend. But as soon as I ask them directly for help and support, they could refuse or make excuses and then I might see things how they really are, how I am really am. Alone, unloved and worthless.

So what do I do instead? I try to reach out in other ways: text messages about more general things, questions about their day, suggestions to catch up as we have not done so for a while. Sometimes excuses are made about why they cannot catch up or the conversation is quickly killed as they are busy or uninterested. Sometimes they will ask how my day was or what I have been up to. Often this feels like my only chance to reach out, so I panic, fear takes over. I blurt. I blurt without thinking, say things I don’t intend to, muddle it all up. Avoid the real issue.

Cue more feelings of worthlessness and self-hatred.

I begin to feel as if I am saying too much, I begin to feel that they are starting to resent me, to wish they had never met me, that I am more trouble than I am worth. And still I do not feel any better. I have still not reached out. Not in the way I needed. I needed a chat, to have someone to listen and not judge, to cry and have someone hug me and tell me my feelings are valid and it will get better. Instead I am left feeling like a burden, like I am weak.

This is not what I want. I want real friendship. I want to be there for my friends and have friends who are there for me.

And despite this feeling hard and impossible, I cannot give up. I cannot give up because if I do I truly will be alone. And you cannot give up either because friendship is important and worth the fight.

Keep reaching out until you find someone who will say…

“When you are unable to look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the darkness.”

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Thinkstock photo by Ingram Publishing

Originally published: February 7, 2017
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