In 2007, my little town voted to start a high school. Up to then, the school district only went up to eighth grade, and everyone funneled into a neighboring town’s high schools. I was in that first graduating class, which meant I was always an upperclassman.
I played all the sports, and my junior and senior year, I often gave my younger teammates rides home from practices or school. I became quite close to a girl a couple grades below me. She was a star athlete as well, and we got along. She worked hard, and I respected her.
My senior year, we talked about where I was going to college and that I needed to stay in touch. I promised to do so. That spring, I had some shit hit the fan, and I told her about it. It’s been a sore spot of shame for years, but she seemed to handle it well. She was sympathetic and we remained close.
Fast-forward to that fall and my manic episode. I had to come home from college and felt stuck. I cannot remember why or how I went over to my friend’s house, but I do remember being there for a short time. Oddly, I don’t even remember seeing her.
For some reason, she’s never spoken to me since. I tried texting her every so often and never got any response. I eventually deleted her number. Then a few years later, I found a letter she wrote to me while she was away at church camp the summer after I graduated. She wrote about staying friends forever and things of that ilk.
I messaged her on Facebook and told her about the letter I’d forgotten about.
To me, our friendship went beyond merely teammates. I saw her as a little sister. We made each other laugh. When she had her tonsils out, I bought us milkshakes and watched movies with her. I tried not to make her laugh because she was in a lot of pain. We hung out a lot the summer before I left for college.
It hurt a lot at first. It still stings when I think about it. After nearly ten years, I still have dreams where I’m hanging out with her. Usually, they go something like this:
I’m talking to her and we are having a great time. I wonder to myself, what changed? Why is she talking to me now? I must be dreaming again. But it always feels incredibly real, and I don’t really care about why she’s talking to me because I’m so happy we are friends again.
I always want to cry when I wake up from these dreams.
The other night I had one, and it played out much differently:
She was talking to me, being friendly and engaging. I said, “What is wrong with you? You dropped me for years, completely ignoring me and treating me like dirt. You had your chance. I’m not playing this game.” And I walked away.
When I woke up, I felt empowered and confident. I’ve thought a lot about the relationship since. My subconscious seems to be getting over it at any rate.
My biggest thing isn’t that she dropped me. Not really, although that sucks.
Now, I’m more curious about why. I mean, what happened that day I went over to her house? Did she decide to drop me before I went over? Was I going over out of desperation?
Or did she drop me because of my diagnosis? I went back to my high school while I was still a little out of my mind, and I know I had some interactions with her. I played volleyball and helped the team prepare for their playoff game.
Is that when she decided to distance herself? Maybe she didn’t want to be associated with my crazy.
I could go on in this vein indefinitely. It still makes me sad, but at the same time, it’s her freaking loss. I’m a much better person now than I was back then.
It’s night and day.
I’m not friends with many people from my high school anymore. We were all young when I got diagnosed. Lots of people don’t speak to me when I reach out, or only do the bare minimum to interact with me.
I don’t need them. People my age now are much more understanding. They accept me for who I am. They don’t label me one way or the other because of my illness. They see me as a person with real human feelings and struggles.
I’m sure a lot of people have similar stories. We have to remind ourselves to not fixate on relationships that don’t work because of someone’s ignorance or prejudices.
If someone doesn’t see you in all your humanness and beauty, they aren’t worth knowing. I have to remind myself of this on the regular.
People who don’t care about me aren’t worth chasing after. Much better to pursue my own goals and aspirations and growth. I need people, but I don’t need people who don’t try to understand I’m doing the best I can with the cards dealt to me.
This post is mostly a pep talk to myself. Writing to remember why I shouldn’t focus on the past. Especially past hurts and slights.
Nobody with a mental illness needs people whose love is conditional based on if you are sane or not.
This entire experience could’ve made me withdraw and not tell anyone about my struggles ever again. It’s done the opposite. Now, most of my friends know, and they all accept me, bipolar and all. They are encouraging and simultaneously hold me accountable.
These are the relationships I need and desire.