Tag: friendship

Three Girls/My Girls

Today I watched the BBC drama Three Girls, which is the story of the Rochdale Child Sex Abuse Ring. It was extremely harrowing, and may me extraordinarily angry.

And it got me thinking.

It made me think about how all my female friends have suffered at the hands of males. Of course, they’ve suffered at the hands of other girls, but a lot of us have been fucked up on some level by things men and boys have done to us.

Until I started really thinking about it today, I didn’t realise how much shit we’ve collectively experienced from men. Most of us have been catcalled at some point, most of us have been sent nudes we really didn’t want to see. I know it isn’t all men that do this, and I know that many men are completely against these kinds of actions. It just frustrates me that , since I was about 12, I’ve observed this pattern of… Well I don’t know what to call it, but we’ll go with bad stuff, from guys.

My best friend and I were both manipulated by two guys on separate occasions, between the ages of 13 and 17. One was part of our close friend circle for many years, and we didn’t realise the extent of his manipulation until we were discussing it the other day. He didn’t force us to do any sexual stuff, but he pulled the strings in our friend group (us 2 girls, and 2 guys including him) excessively, and somehow found ways to control the both of us. The other guy was more sinister. He tried to elicit all sorts of stuff from me online, whilst he was dating her. He once told me he’d “spent a week masturbating over [me] constantly”. This was in response to me messaging him “Hi, how’s it going?”. This was also happening during one of my extremely bad periods of mental health, so things were sort of hazy. I was more pliable I guess. He used to tell me how I should dress for school. Basically dress “sexier” for him. He used the fact I’d confided in him about the very serious mental health issues I was having to manipulate and pressure me into following his demands. To clarify, nothing physical occurred between me and him, it was purely him controlling my life and taking advantage of the fact that I was very ill. My friend, he was, to put it plainly, bullying. It was borderline emotional abuse how he treated her. A lot of the time it was things like him telling her she wasn’t allowed to spend any time with me, and would switch between being sweet and loving to being very cold and cruel with little warning. When he was out of our lives we were both pretty thrilled.

Those 2 boys aren’t the only ones who have caused me to suffer. When I was 12 years old, a boy in my class asked me if I would give him a “BJ”. I hadn’t even heard of the term, and when it was explained to me I was disgusted. There were more over the years, doing things big and small, but I’d rather not go into all of that.

Another friend had a boy repeatedly show her pictures of his genitals, another was pressured into sleeping with boys even though she didn’t feel ready. One was in a “relationship” aged 13 with a boy the same age, and she told me that she didn’t want to have sex with him anymore, but she didn’t know how to say no to him. One of our teachers in school, though he did not make any advances, had a slightly disturbing interest in one of the pupils. He didn’t declare his love for her or anything like that, but the way he was always watching her, and the way he was always trying to talk to her on a friend to friend basis set us both on edge.

Not all males are evil. In fact, I don’t believe any person is truly good or evil. We all commit good and bad acts. But that does not change the fact that so many of my female friends were messed about in some way by guys.

There are the really good ones though. As I said, they have done bad stuff in the past, but they definitely, to me at least, shine out.

My boyfriend, though he can be a bit of a turd at times (though the loveliest turd possible), is always there for me. No matter what I’m going through, he tries to understand and support me the best he can. He is willing to watch Bridesmaids over and over with me, even though he hates it, because he knows I love it.

L, a guy who I’ve been friends with since school. He is probably the most forgiving person I know. He is always ready to give people a second chance, and approaches everything with such positivity. I envy him a little for that. He doesn’t let other people’s opinions cloud his judgement- he makes up his own mind, rather than blindly accepting rumours.

M, a friend from uni. Although our friendship recently has had struggles, he has always been there to support me. Even when we were in a huge fight, when I broke down in tears in the middle of the night, he came to me and he hugged me, and made me feel a little bit more okay.

K, another friend from uni. We don’t talk so much now, but he is legit one of the best people I know. He keeps his cool, and he always tries to be kind. He doesn’t take sides, and listens to what everyone has to say. He’s just a really good human.

My brother. Okay so he’s a bit of a wanker and mostly talks in grunts and swears (he’s 17, so it’s no surprise), but at heart he is such a good kid. He is so respectful of people’s rights and feelings, and I cannot imagine him ever harming anyone (outside of his karate lessons).

So, again, I cannot deny that myself and my friends have been fucked up by guys on various levels. Three Girls set me thinking about that today, and I’ll continue to have it on my mind for a while yet. It’s also made me appreciate the really good guys in my life, though.

Erin

An Intense Fear of Abandonment

All relationships are conditional to some degree. It’s undeniable.

Relationships (and I don’t just mean love/sex ones, I mean friendships, family etc.) all hinge on something that can switch it from good to bad.

Perhaps the thing it hinges on is whether your best mate shags your ex, or if you forget to do something for someone, or if you become a sex worker.

What makes me uncomfortable and kind of pissed, is when someone I considered a close friend let our friendship hinge on my mental ill health.

I know that sometimes mental health problems can end friendships, and they can certainly strain them.

I have an anxiety disorder (it was more specifically social but I’ve recovered from that a bit, only for it to become more of a general anxiety disorder). I’ve also suffered from depression in the past.

My social anxiety disorder (SAD) was essentially centred around social rejection. I am/was so intensely afraid of abandonment and rejection that it made it very difficult for me to form friendships because I lack an ability to trust people. I mean, to an extent I can, but trusting people is extremely hard for me. I don’t really know why. Things happened in the past that intensified it, but did not cause it- I cannot pinpoint a time when this inability to trust began.

Anyways, because I have such difficulty forming friendships, and I mean proper ones, not the kind where you just say hi in the street. At present, I would say I have maybe 3 close friends. That sounds pretty normal, but then apart from that I don’t really have a huge number of friends. I have people I am nice to and who are nice back, though really it doesn’t matter to me whether they’re in my life or not. I can cope.

So you can probably imagine what a massive effect it has on me when one of the very small group of people I actually feel comfortable with decides that being friends with me is too much effort.

To be fair, last autumn/winter (from about October-December, so maybe 10 weeks total), I had an extraordinarily hard time with my mental health. I’d become convinced I was evil and dangerous, and I was in a constant state of fear of the world and myself. I was terrified that I was going to harm someone or myself. Reality and the world in my head blurred a little, and things I would not normally believe, things that remained strictly in my daydreams, became darker and had more power over me. It was a very scary time. This friend, who at the time I considered my best friend (although I don’t know if that’s really something you have at 19 but whatever) at first tried to look out for me, but, as they’d recently gotten into a new relationship, became increasingly unavailable.

And then my friend committed suicide, and everything exploded. I wasn’t able to really eat or sleep for a good 2 weeks, I was having anxiety attacks a few times daily and a few panic attacks a week. I dissociated almost constantly- I knew I wasn’t real, that I was part of some mighty creature’s game, or part of a book. I wasn’t able to see my boyfriend much either, who’d normally be there for me, as the dead boy’s closest friends at home were even worse than I was.

I felt completely alone. I’d been convinced my friend would abandon me, and when I needed him most, they did. When I asked them if they would mind hanging out and watching a happy film with me or something, two nights after the boy died, they told me that they’d rather leave me to it and hang out with their partner.

This was the first time in my life that I’d actually been able to be open about my grief. In the past, I have put up a steely facade, and tried to be a crutch for the people I’d decided deserved to grieve more than me (which was everyone), and this time, because I was learning to accept my emotions more, I actually let myself feel it. I didn’t really know how to deal with it, but I knew I needed the friends I trusted and cared for the most to help support me. And although the others did as best they could, my closest friend was just so… Distant. They seemed to find it so easy to leave me on my own to cope with a huge trauma, so they could go and watch a film in bed with their partner.

When I came back to myself a bit, as in being able to sleep a bit more and eat a bit better, I was furious. This person had always said to me we’d always be friends, they’d always be there for me, and they hadn’t been. I’d fallen off the cliff completely, and there were no footholds or handholds to climb back up. It felt like I had no support system.

And then the fighting began. Rather than actually talking to them, I’d crush it down inside, primarily because I thought if I told them how I was actually feeling they’d move further from me, abandon me more. It felt like if I was anymore alone I was going to die. That’s not an exaggeration, my mental health was in such a state that I thought I was going to die from it. Not kill myself- just shut down completely.

But that amount of anger can’t be crushed for long. Soon it began to explode out, at the smallest things. Eventually, it became directed towards their partner, who, in reality, had done nothing wrong, and had actively encouraged my friend to spend time with me and be with me through that really horrible period.

As I had done in the past during times of such extreme anger, I cut the partner off completely. I removed them from all my social media, and, as best as I could, avoided them. I behaved standoffishly when they were about, keeping my sentences to monosyllables, keeping my door locked so they knew I didn’t want them near me.

As I was falling apart inside, my shields, which I had so recently learned to let down, went right back up. I still talked to most of my friends, but emotionally I was back to where I was from about 2010-2015. I was cold and numb.

My severing of ties caused more tension in the friendship, but things calmed down because I felt that by doing that I had removed anger.

The Christmas holidays came, and we were all apart for 4 weeks. I went home and recuperated (and also a wisdom tooth came in which was not pleasant, didn’t enjoy Christmas dinner as much because my whole face hurt) and when I came back my mental state, though it wasn’t perfect, had greatly improved. I decided to keep my distance a bit, because, although most of what I did was reaction and response, rather than attacking, I had, at times, been unfair.

I apologised to my friend, and their partner, and did my best to make amends.

And was met with a wall. I tried to talk to them about stuff, accepting that we’d both been dicks, and instead I was ripped to shreds. They didn’t understand how much they had hurt me, and instead tore into me. I apologised over and over, and meant it each and every time, for the stuff I’d done and said, but not once could they bring themselves to say sorry, or accept that anyone but me had done anything wrong.

In the end, I got so tired of feeling like I was the only one who had to make amends, I started distancing myself from them. They had become so prone to lashing out at me that I felt as though I couldn’t say or do anything, literally anything, around them without it being wrong. The steps I’d made in improving my mental state were quickly reversing. I once again was starting to feel as though I was a great evil.

I had my other close friend, but because she is so extraverted, and so sociable, I am used to her not being as available. I couldn’t see my boyfriend as much as I’d have liked either.

It was at this point I did something I thought I never would: I reconnected with my best friend from high school, who I’d battled with over something petty (that’d gotten blown out of proportion by other people sticking their oars in) and hadn’t spoken to in 2 years.

I once again had support, and it was beginning to feel more like I had people I could turn to. I was sad because this person had faded out of my life mostly, like Homer in the hedge (google it), but I was mostly just glad that I felt like I had true friends again.

The only issue was that I was supposed to be living with that person next uni year. We hadn’t said much beyond “hi” for weeks. I didn’t want them in my life at all anymore, because it had become so detrimental to my mental health. I had grown stronger again, and though I was terrified of fighting again, I knew I couldn’t sign the lease for the new flat with the way things were. Because the way they’d been making me feel… I didn’t want to have to deal with that for another year. I’d rather they just got out and stayed out.

My other flatmate, my extraverted friend, had become more of a confidante in this time, and she encouraged me to talk to them. And then eventually half forced me into it, because I was beating about the bush.

I told them that we needed to talk asap. I told them that if they didn’t talk to me then I would not be living with them next year. So they agreed.

I was so distressed about it that at times in the conversation I had to tell them to stop talking because I physically felt like I was about to throw up. When they came into my room to talk, I was shaking like a leaf, felt feverish and dizzy. It was like the beginnings of a panic attack. It took all my strength of will to stop it becoming a full blown panic attack.

I kept calm though. When they started to raise their voice I very carefully asked them to keep it a bit more relaxed. I sat and took it as they unreservedly lay into me (although it was mostly at very calm tones, but it was still aggressive). I tried my best to respond in the calmest manner I could.

I did cry.

I cried because I was distressed. I cried because it felt like this was the final chance to make things better. I cried because I felt like if I said anything at all then they’d walk out of my life forever. I cried because of the things they were saying.

By the end of it though… Things weren’t good, but they were a little better. They hugged me. Which was nice.

Now though, I don’t feel as though I can ever truly trust them again. My extravert flatmate had a nice way of putting it- “there are a few people in our lives that we know, if we were taken in by the police, and phoned them, that they would do anything to help. We both thought he was one of those people, but maybe that’s not so” (she also felt as though he could not be relied on as much anymore). Maybe, superficial friends is all we can ever be. I don’t think I can ever let them know what’s really going on my head, or trust them to be there for me when I need them, because I know it will happen again. They are talking to me and acting as though everything is fine, but it’s not. And I just don’t know how we can ever get close to returning to how we used to be.

I get that when people get into horrendous mental states it can be hard at times to support them. But it’s not okay to just walk away from them at the first sign of trouble, which is exactly what happened. I know that I did become pretty awful. The primary reason for that, though, was because I felt alone, and by avoiding me and abandoning me further, I ended up feeling completely terrified and isolated.

When people say that your mental health is your responsibility, it really pisses me off. It’s simply not true. It is your responsibility to seek help, but then it also becomes the responsibility of the healthcare professionals looking after you. Friends and family are responsible for, essentially, loving and supporting you. Not being there to fix you and pick up all your pieces, but to stand by you and help you to be strong, till you can be strong on your own again.

It is extremely difficult to make it through serious mental issues alone. Trust me, I’ve tried. You need a support system there for you, so when things are at their hardest, you have someone there give you a helping hand. Not do it all for you, but just help.

This is honestly all how I feel and how I view the events that occurred. Obviously more stuff happened inside my head, that I would prefer not to discuss at the moment, because I still struggle to think about it. Maybe at some point, I’ll feel better about talking about it, but right now the wounds are still raw.

Erin

No Chance

In one of my earliest posts, I talked about how I was healing an old friendship.

Well that is all good.

However, when that friendship broke down, a lot of shit happened and there was a lot of nastiness, and now it seems that the floodgates have opened and everyone is trying to get back into my life.

Well that’s not happening.

The friendship I healed was one that broke down because we both treated each other like shit. We both did bad stuff, and we were both at fault.

Now another person is trying to get back in. She got involved in the war apparently for sheer enjoyment (she once told me she fed off bitching. Sounds lovely, right?), and was really very cruel to me. Myself and the girl who I was actually in a fight with were both cruel to each other, but this other girl decided to jump in and attack me.

I don’t want someone like that in my life. I don’t want people in my life who “feed on bitching” and who join in on arguments for the sheer fun. What should have been something small between me and the other girl, that could’ve been resolved, exploded into something huge because this girl (and a couple of others) stuck their oar in. I’ve not interest in accepting her friend requests or having any contact with her.

I am really glad that me and the first girl are friends again. We met up a few weeks back and I haven’t laughed that much in 2 years. But my friendship with the other girl was already deteriorating. She’d moved away a little while before, and we’d drifted apart. So not just because of the fighting, but generally I’m don’t really care if she’s in my life.

Curiosity is at risk of taking over and making me add her back, but I’m being firm with myself. Re-establishing contact with her would have huge negative effects on my mental health, even thinking about her makes me feel sick, my breathing shallow and my heart race. I don’t need that.

Erin

Labelling Things

I know it’s 2am and I know I should be finishing my 500-word reflection (sorry Tommy!), but this feels more pressing right now (I’m good at prioritising!).

Today, kids, we’re going to talk about labelling things!

I’m actually going to talk about 2 forms of labelling that are pretty important in my life in one way or another. No I’m not talking about labelling jars and Tupperware tubs of food.

The first is one I’ve noticed recently, and it’s starting to piss me off. I am 20. My world is centred around categorisation it seems. I’m 2 years out of high school and I still have that mindset a little bit. Everyone had their groups. People could be defined, and to an extent put into boxes. Sometimes they were in multiple boxes, but everyone shared boxes. My Dad lately has taken issue with this. It’s not like we have major fights, it’s just subtle picking, “Oh you just love to put people in boxes Erin”- that sort of sarky nonsense.

Categorising people helps me to understand the world better, and it makes me feel safer and more secure. If I everyone is in boxes, it means there is some sort of order/sense/control to it all, and that makes me feel calmer. The world is chaotic, and stresses me out, and if I can separate people into boxes, it makes me feel a little more relaxed. It’s not even by ethnicity or religion, but things like whether a group of girls all wear floral prints (we had that in school, I called them the Florals), whether people are sci-fi nerds or fantasy nerds or both or neither, whether they are obnoxious and demand attention, or whether they are quiet and perhaps more interesting and require further investigation.

I need to put things in order in my brain to feel okay. Sometimes it leaks into the outside world, like my need to put things in alphabetical order (not just books and CDs, but sometimes the cleaning products at work) or how the other day I needed to move a chair slightly so that it was in line with a picture on the wall (my Dad got a bit annoyed with that as well, but he left me to it). Small things to make things a bit more sensible. This is probably related to my anxiety, which leads me to the second point!

The second is, as usual with me, to do with mental health. I have an anxiety disorder. I have done since I was about 13, but I’ve been pretty high anxiety since I moved to Scotland. Which I will discuss more in depth in another post, it’s too much for one thing.

I have a bit of an obsession with the NHS website. I love it. It has so much information about all the illnesses I might have. I know, I know- looking up symptoms is a very stupid thing to do. I don’t do it so much now, but a few years back it became a huge focus in my life.

When my issue with anxiety first started rearing it’s ugly head, I didn’t really understand what was going on. All I really understood was that I was unable to eat when other people were around, I couldn’t talk to people except my closest 5(ish) friends and I couldn’t phone people. Those were the main problems.

As these problems began to develop, my Grandad got cancer for the second time, and it was terminal. It was an extremely traumatic time. Not only was there the upset of him being ill, but I felt this intense need to be the strong one in my family. I wanted to protect everyone else from the pain they were going through, so I forced a lot of my emotions down. I cut myself off from them. I became numb, and this ebbed like the tide over the years, sometimes I am completely numb, and sometimes I feel all too much. I suppose I had some form of depression, I don’t know.

I knew that something was wrong, I just didn’t know what. I started trawling the NHS site for answers- was I schizophrenic? Probably not. Bipolar? Nope. I eventually came across the page on “Generalised Anxiety Disorder”. A lot of the symptoms fit, physical and mental, but I didn’t feel I had anxiety over tons of things, just things in a social context.

And you’ll never guess what!

The NHS had a page on “Social Anxiety Disorder” as well, and that fit me to a T. I needed someone to tell me for sure though. I knew it was stupid to diagnose myself. But as I was only about 14/15 at the time, I didn’t really know who to talk to about it.

I tried to gently discuss it with my Mum, a few times. Mainly the stuff about food. She was completely rational, and told me that nobody was concerned about what I was eating. I completely understand why she didn’t see that I was having problems as bad as I did, because, with my Grandad being sick, I had learned to hide things pretty well.

So things, as they tend to, got worse. I trust my Mum absolutely, so I guess because she didn’t see I had a problem, I thought I was making it up. Eventually it became clear I was not, and I got help with it. I am so glad I did as well, because I have come on leaps and bounds. Once someone told me that what I was experiencing was a social anxiety disorder, and that I didn’t need to feel this way all the time, I was able to start to get better. I learned techniques on how to deal with it. How to stop the feelings of anxiety before they got out of hand.

When it comes to mental health, I think sticking labels on illnesses is extremely important, because it means people know how they need to heal. It made it a whole lot easier for me. I suffered for years, and now I can do things I never though I would. The other day I did a presentation in front of about 100 people. 2 years ago I would’ve struggled to do it in front of 4. I can phone people now (I still can’t phone hairdressers though). Most importantly, I am able to eat around people. That was my biggest problem. I still sometimes get a tad nervous with it, but I’ve learnt to ignore it better.

Sometimes labels aren’t okay, like when you label a whole group of people as evil because of a small group who do evil things, or like earlier when my Dad labelled all scousers as being “unable to stop talking,” and a wee bit arrogant (mm yeah Dad, flipped the coin there didn’t I!), or how everyone labels vegans as the scum of the Earth who can’t stop preaching, when in fact I’m yet to meet anyone that fits that stereotype. The scouser thing isn’t a major issue really, but when you categorise literally thousands of people in such a critical way it’s not fair.

But as I said, labels can be important. They can tell us whether the white granules are sugar or salt (perhaps the most important label), what kind of help we need when we’re ill, in school who we’re more likely to get on with and who we’re not, and whether or not a bottle contains poison.

Erin

P.S Here are some links, the NHS ones are to the pages I looked at about anxiety, it’s a great site, just use it cautiously. One time I decided I had throat cancer. I did not. There’s also one for ChildLine, I’m afraid I don’t know what the adult equivalent is, but they’re great. They don’t just do phone counselling stuff, you can also send them private messages on the website, which was obviously a lot easier for me!

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-anxiety/pages/social-anxiety.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Anxiety/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

https://www.childline.org.uk