Think of yourself in an old fashioned sweet shop. Scanning the shelves and the counter, you realise the choice is many and varied. Some sweets suit you better than others. I'm not a lemon sour type of girl, cough candies make me heave but a mint humbug always goes down well. Cola cubes are a bit nice too!
Personality types are varied in the same kind of way. Some people I have a natural affinity with, some I can take or leave and others set my teeth on edge. The world of friendships for me work in a similar way in that after I meet you, a friendship might develop or I might avoid you at all costs! Some people I have met are as a result of being thrown together at work, clubs or on the school run. Some were when I was at school or university. The little islands of experience where you connect with others are hugely diverse. And my friendships have developed past the initial island of identification, by discovering new islands and creating little bridges in between where we relate to each other. You hold hands and hop between islands, getting to know the other person, building trust and a shared history.
The attitude toward friendships can also be a sprawling map of complicated ideas and opinions depending on who you meet. The spectrum of behaviours and belief systems can fall anywhere between never wanting to upset anyone and people pleasing to be approved of, to thinking it's fair to scream at your so called mate in the face, all kinds of abuse when you've copped the hump. Some people are loyal and trustworthy, some are helpful until they reach a limit of which they cannot pass; some lie about you or gossip and sleep with your partner, and some are amazingly selfless, lovingly honest and incredibly funny. There is also this weird system of "by bestie" or BFF stuff that quite frankly I am not quite up to speed with either intellectually or practically.
Navigating this zone of friendship is tricky if, like me, anxiety and being self conscious and lacking in self esteem are on the menu. Trust for me is also an huge issue. I am also hideously sensitive which is a double edged sword. In history, a very long time ago, I had been a shit friend. I put that down to being ill, out of my face and not having a clue about what a good friend actually is. Also, not having a decent sense of self means you think you are something you are not, and are unsure of how and where you fit or relate. Thankfully my head, which was firmly up my backside, has now mercifully been removed. I sorted myself out and adjusted to a new framework of what I wanted to be in a friendship and what kind of people I wanted to spend my time with.
In writing this, I realise that it sounds like I thought about this stuff in an over analytical way, when really it's not rocket science. It's easy to fix a car if you already had the manual and someone telling you where to shove your spanner. I was late to the class. I had to work it out on my own as my manual was written in a language I couldn't read. Also, my car essentially has running issues. It needs more regular servicing and every now and then the solenoid misfires and I cannot get off the drive.
So why is my friendship circle so important in relation to maintaining my mental health. My illness wants to isolate me, take me hostage and tell me nasty lies about myself. Being in fellowship, relating to others, exposing myself to support and kinship mean that the darkness can be held at bay. It's a strong part of my recovery as others can sometimes see things that I can't. I begin to trust, have fun, laugh, share my secrets and my fears and tell people about the real me. It reinforces my sense of self, helps me to feel that I am not journeying alone and that I am heard and understood. More importantly, it means I can ask for help and share my vulnerabilities hopefully without the fear of rejection. Whilst I am defunct on the drive, you don't walk off and get a taxi. You help me call the AA (The irony is not lost on me!) and eat chocolate whilst we wait. Eventually we begin driving again with the windows down blasting out extremely loud music.
Sometimes it goes wrong. In these instances I feel wounded, angry and sometimes confused. I have learned to recognise toxic people, liars and people who seek power and control. I am selective and careful about who I spend my time with. There are lots of people I know, people I am friendly with, people I see occasionally who I get on with, people I really do not like but tolerate and am always polite to, and there are a small handful with whom I trust my life. It is these people who see the inner workings of my life, the struggles and the terror. It is to them I reveal the spiritual reality of my God given essence, the most precious parts of who I am. The quote below tells you why, and this is why I value them so highly. You know who you are xx