I thought I was good at making friends. Even as an awkward, overweight child and teenager I always had plenty of friends, and really felt like they were true relationships that would stand the test of time – we had history, we grew up with each other, we created life experiences together.
Then, around the age of 18 I was treated badly by a relatively new friend. In hindsight I was far too trusting of far too soon, but nothing in my life to that point gave me any reason to doubt somebody’s intentions, and I naively thought everyone was a good person as standard. The betrayal was all encompassing, but I don’t think I realised until quite recently the long-lasting impact it has had on me. Some deep-seated trust issues began to be formed, and when I went off to university things were different.
Suddenly making friends, or at least keeping them, seemed difficult. My confidence was knocked, I questioned people’s motives and felt insecure in relationships. At the time though, I didn’t realise any of this – the descent came slowly, insidiously, tangled up with boyfriends, extreme weight loss, and general uncertainty/optimism about the future.
By the end of university, I had gained a future husband but unbeknownst to me was on the cusp of losing all my friends. Merrily oblivious at the time, and loved up, I carried on as I thought I always had, happily assuming all was good with my friends. Then I got engaged and the bump down to earth was swift and hard. Apart from my maid of honour, not one of my old friends attended my wedding. Not a single one.
And though at the time I brushed it off and carried on with my happy day, launching into newly married life and moving across the world, for the last 6 years I have been carrying the hurt and perceived injustice of that experience like a boulder on my back.
I still have no idea what happened, no idea why. I never talk to those people anymore, though they all talk to each other still, and I have been left feeling adrift. Ex-pat life - where making new friends is a requirement, people turn-over is high, and the culture is vastly different – motherhood, and turning 30, has put all of this in even starker relief. I’m now unsure of who I am, what I’m passionate about, even how I feel about things. And the self-loathing that this uncertainty has bred seems never-ending.
I know, I know: if I don’t like me, how can anybody else? I find myself baffled that my husband still seems to love and like me, and want to be with me, and vindicated in my self-hatred every time my toddler doesn’t want me or shouts at me. My interpersonal skills have taken a severe downward dive, whilst crippling anxiety and shyness are a constant battle in any vaguely social situation. All of which I can imagine come together to paint a picture of either a stand-offish, moody ice-queen or a needy, insecure over-sharer – take your pick!
Then add the almost inevitable re-emergence of depression and the outlook is pretty bleak.
So, to therapy I go. Ostensibly for depression and OCD, but to get to the bottom of things really. My baby girl is due at the end of the year and I am determined not to pass these insecurities on to her. There is work to be done, but cheesy as it may sound, I know self-love and self-acceptance are the keys to happiness – and that is a lesson I intend to teach my children through actions, not only words.