Again, there’s nothing surreal here except my state of mind. I’ve been mulling the past few hours how my friends never fail to amaze me.
My family was too dysfunctional to be examples of healthy relationships. They were too consumed by their own issues to consider any effects on me. I grew up with a sense that love was conditional; if I put a foot wrong, it would be withheld. Dissenting opinion wasn’t acceptable. I felt mostly inconsequential, when I wasn’t literally and figuratively preventing them from going off the deep end. When I left that environment, I didn’t leave these examples behind, so I attracted more of the same people because that’s all I knew. You can imagine how those relationships turned out. You can also imagine it all left me chronically depressed.
Naturally I assumed there it was all my fault to be treated to poorly. I recall sobbing to my first therapist for the umpteenth time, “what’s wrong with me?” Finally her professional mask dropped and she leaned forward, clearly angry. “There’s nothing wrong with you. You need better friends!” Of course, needing to pay out $75 a hour then for therapy didn’t convince me that I was poster girl for mental health. It took a long a time to separate me as a person from the disorder. Then I worried how people accept me and my depression. How do keep friends with this?
Some of the therapy must have sunk in because I did find a different kind of friend. My worries are not an issue for two best friends I’ve known since 1996. Over the years, they’ve seen me sad, reclusive, grumpy, and simply not functioning. They’ve listened to my silences. For the last eight months, they’ve been quietly supportive through this latest struggle. They descended on my place this past weekend from out of state. For my birthday they expensively stocked my refrigerator with home cooked meals, sorted through my piles of clutter, ran errands, got me out of the house, talked to me, and listened. I see evidence of what real love and caring means every time I open the fridge, eat the candy, walk down the neat hall, look into the clean closet, open my checkbook, and I’m in awe. Once I asked why they bothered all these years. “We like the not-depressed Judi much, it’s worth it, ” they said. I was so stunned, I didn’t know what to say. They chattered about what we will do during the summer when I’m hopefully okay, as if I were back after a hiatus.
I just finished a call with another friend. He and his wife called to take my pulse, as it were. He’d already phoned earlier in the week to wish me a happy birthday, but wanted to double check I would be able to attend Easter dinner with them. He’d bought my favorite wine; they wanted me to come. He chatted as if there has been only short pause in socializing, instead of months. I didn’t have to search for my place in their lives again; our friendship was still there, waiting for me to return.
I’m amazed by online friends who have sent me supportive private emails and humored me on blog, in chat, on Twitter and Facebook, gently nudging, letting know they care. I laughed when Sally Field gushed “you like me, you really like me!” but I understand the shock and surprise at feeling validated.
After all these years, I still haven’t gotten used to this yet. Part of me is still that child fearing rejection while wanted to be accepted. Maybe it’s good I’m amazed by my friends every single time. Then I won’t fail to be appreciative or take any of them for granted.
The following songs have been floating through my head. I think they say it all.