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An Apology to the Friends My Anxiety Made Me Abandon

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To all of my friends who were better friends than I.

(A note of awareness, a message of hope.)

If you received this from me personally, it’s because I am now aware of moments when I was not a good friend to you. I may have pushed you away, become distant and seemed like I ran away from our friendship. I may have vanished without notice and left you wondering what you had done to deserve behavior from me as such.

You didn’t do anything.

I’ve had a couple glasses of wine by now, so excuse me if my writing is poor; it is really important for me to get these thoughts off my chest while they are rampant in this stream of consciousness.

There are a lot of areas in my brain, of which the average human is not aware. I am about to shed light on these dark corners in order to give you the honest reason behind my behavior, and an official apology for the way I had been towards you in the past. This is mainly brought on by a conversation with someone who I thought was my best friend. Said person had claimed to be giving me tough love, by saying the reasons for my actions were just an excuse. This piece will serve three specific purposes:

1. I need to get these thoughts out of my head, on my chest and out into the open, for my own health and my own benefit.

2. I need others with this similar, debilitating issue to understand they are not alone, and there is a way to make yourself, and situations in the past better.

3. Most importantly, I need my friends — past and present — to understand what this is, how it has affected me and how I am going to change it for the better.

I remember writing a lot in high school. One specific piece I wrote was called “A Game of Flashlight Tag.” It was about the abandonment I faced when my father left our family and vanished without a word, never to be heard from again for at least 16 years. I was six years old at the time, a daddy’s girl and unknowingly very fragile.

Let’s fast-forward through high school and my college years. I abandoned many friends, left without a word. I ran away from relationships, lost contact and scared myself alone. My brain was constantly spinning at 500 mph, always negative thoughts:

“I am not good enough.”

“I do not deserve love.”

“I do not deserve friends.”

“I am not pretty.”

“I will never make it.”

“I am not smart enough.”

“Why am I doing this to the people I love the most?”

“Am I ‘crazy?’”

“I will fail.”

“I will fail.” — that was the end result of my thoughts, because they transferred quickly into my behavior, creating a shadow that followed me everywhere I went. I lived in my shadow for quite some time.

There were moments I was happy, surrounded by friends and love and family, and then all of a sudden, it was gone. Sometimes I couldn’t even grasp the concept of how it happened in the first place, except for the first, second, third and ninth above thoughts that stuck with me until now.

I am currently 29 years old. I am a tank mechanic in the U.S. Army and I have served for just about four years. I will be separating from the military on honorable terms but that is all besides the point, except for this: I finally found out what has been causing my self-destructive behavior, and it was all thanks to a blow to the head.

The tanks I work on are dangerous; we work with very heavy pieces of metal, one of which I had a very close intimate encounter with in November of 2016. When I say close, I mean the 50-pound piece of tank metal fell on my head with enough force to split me open, exposing me to the world in more ways than one.

I was glued shut, which was a miracle because stitches would have meant a shaved head and I had a nice haircut going on, so why risk ruining that?

Fast-forward a month later.

My hands can’t stop shaking.

My head is constantly hurting.

I finally reached an exciting new position in the Army — hospital patient.

I had my first panic attack in December. I was making pizzelle cookies for a mandatory Christmas party with my company, just a regular day. Nothing different that I ate. Nothing different that I drank. Nothing different except the forcible meeting, accompanied by snacks and unwanted company from people you just want to get away from at the end of the day. I started to feel a burning sensation in the back of my neck, then the burning transferred to the rest of my body like someone put me in the oven without my consent.

Who would consent to that?

Random thoughts. Onward we go. My body was burning to the point I had to jump in a very unpleasantly cold shower, hoping to relieve my skin irritation, only to land in the hospital with results of anaphylactic shock. That’s not what it was, in the slightest.

Fast-forward another month later.

I finally had my post-deployment physical. Good timing, I suppose. I told my provider about my tremors, my heart racing, my supposed allergic reaction to something I know I’m not allergic to. A referral to behavioral health in return.

“Am I ‘crazy?’”

Fast-forward to the actual reason for this article.

I was recently diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder. It took 29 years and a blow to the head to surface what had been destroying my life since as long as I can remember. The way this affects me is more confusing than not for anyone who doesn’t fully understand, and I am not asking you to understand right now. I am not asking you to listen to me if you don’t feel you want to.

But if you want to know who I am and who you were to me, keep reading.

You were once considered my best friend. I loved you then; I love you still, even though I have not shown it in a very long time. I ran from you because I was running from myself and my thoughts. I never thought I was good enough to be with you, your friend. Picture, if you will, anxiety as a character. A scribbled out character who sits in your brain and waits until the moment you feel comfortable to show his chaos and tells you “what if” scenarios until you start to wonder them out loud. When you tell yourself they won’t hurt you, but anxiety shows up in his chaos to remind you what would happen if they did. If they did. “What ifs” are a bitch. They’re even worse when anxiety is there in all of his glorified chaos, reminding you over and over and over and over until you have nothing left to do but hide. From everyone.

At the time, you think you’re doing them a favor. In your mind, you are a saving them from the unworthiness of you, because you are just a “crazy” unstable human who doesn’t deserve anything from anyone.

I’m now in therapy. I am now on a regimen for my mental illnesses. I am now becoming the person I have always been and was unable to be because of anxiety and all of his chaos.

This is not an excuse. It is not a plea for sympathy. This is an explanation of my behaviors I was not aware of until now.

I still love you. It breaks my heart every day, understanding what I have done, and all I can do is ask for your understanding and a chance to regain that friendship we had. I am sorry for everything I have done. I am sorry for running.

This is a memo from a friend who was less of a friend than you.

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Originally published: October 14, 2017
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