Friends

When one is going through a difficult time, even though that is probably a time when we won’t be at our best or most pleasant to be around, it is a time when we need our friends the most.  We need support.  We need encouragement.  As much as we would like to be able to carry ourselves and do everything on our own, our humanness definitely shows itself during times of adversity and we find we have limits.
 
Yesterday, I went to the memorial service of a 45 year old friend who lost his battle with cancer.  He was an exceptional individual; one of those who never met a stranger.  He reached out to the world and the world reached back.  He had thousands of friends and hundreds of those thousands supported him in one way or another during his 18 month long battle with cancer.  Hundreds continue to support his widow and their three sons.  Everyone is rallying around, setting up a bank account where donations can be made, sending flowers, preparing meals, texting, e-mailing, visiting, calling, getting groceries, helping with errands, praying, getting together.  People are THERE.  Everywhere.  The funeral was held in a very large church here in town and nearly every seat was filled.  To say goodbye to a friend, yes.  But also to let his wife and their boys know that people felt their pain and would walk through this lonely nightmare with them.
 
You learn who your friends are in those dark times.  If you’re lucky, you have some.
 
Of course, part of that support depends on the reason you need it.  If the reason you are in need of support has something to do with divorce, depression, eating disorders, trying to recover from childhood trauma caused by sexual, physical and emotional abuse, well, people aren’t quite as excited to rally around you.  Those are not popular issues.  They’re still taboo.  They aren’t considered to be in the category of “you couldn’t help it that this happened to you.”  If you’re depressed, then you are supposed to pull yourself up by your bootstraps (whatever that means) and get on with it!  Think right and your world will BE right!  If you have an eating disorder, you are supposed to stop having it.  Now.  Because it’s your choice, you stupid idiot.  Just eat normally!   Childhood trauma…get over it, for crying out-loud, it happened AGES ago!  PTSD is a figment of your imagination.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Divorce?  Hey, if you’d been a better wife and hadn’t had all these problems YOU CAUSED YOURSELF, he wouldn’t have left you.  So really, when it comes to dark and difficult times in life, the reaction you get truly depends on what caused the darkness to descend.
 
Even losing a job is a reason for shame and not a cause for friends to rally.  If you’d been a better employee (without all of the issues in the preceding paragraph) you would still have your job, now wouldn’t you?
 
So perhaps if I had cancer, my friends would be here for me.  But because I have an eating disorder, am now unemployed, am depressed, am trying to recover from childhood trauma caused by sexual, physical and emotional abuse and am divorced and nearly totally isolated, lets just say it’s pretty quiet around here.  The sound of my typing is loud in my silent world.  Only my dogs occasionally break the deafening silence when a bird or squirrel or another dog dares to invade their territory.
 
Some of this is undoubtedly my fault.  Trust me when I say I’m not an easy person to connect with.  I don’t know how.  I’ve lost the ability.  I feel so worthless, I often struggle to believe I have anything to offer in any relationship.  I am concerned about getting my yucky “goo” on others, so I keep pretty much everything to myself.  I talk in vague generalities, masking the depth of my terror and depression.  I try with all that is within me to keep functioning.  At least on the surface level that others observe.  I don’t want to be a burden.  I don’t want anyone to have to be put out on my account.  But God, I need some help.  I need some friends who will stand with me even though I’m a disgusting piece of garbage.  Being alone when the world is totally crumbling apart is beyond terrifying.  Yet, there’s really no one to blame but…me. 
 
I’m a quiet person who slips soundlessly through the day.  I don’t make friends everywhere I go like my friend who died did.  I am not an optimistic person who is bubbling over with joy. He was.  He made everyone feel good.  He made everyone feel like anything was possible.  And he loved everyone. He could connect with anyone in a matter of minutes.  I am lucky to connect with anyone over the course of years.  I am very nearly his opposite.  Is it any wonder I’m alone? 
 
But I need people just as much as he did.  I need them to love me even though I’m not very loveable right now.  That’s asking a lot when you’re a person like me.  Maybe it’s asking too much.  Evidence would indicate it’s asking the impossible.  Because when it comes to friends, there’s no reason for the dogs to bark because no one is invading my territory.  So my world remains silent.  And empty.
 
I’m sitting alone in the darkness and I am petrified.  I reach for a friend.  My hand comes back empty.  Only isolation keeps me company.  And fear rocks me in her cold, bony arms.
 
 

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