Just be

I didn’t have many friends in high school or college. Unmedicated and incredibly intense, I had a hard time being close to anyone in high school. I became friends with a girl a grade below me and our friendship was strong at first and then it petered out. We became close very fast and eventually she moved on.

Looking back on my high school years, I know I was a complete asshole most of the time. I didn’t sleep much and my temper did not have a fuse. I could go from happy to murderous in less time than it takes someone to sneeze. I’ve kept in touch with a couple of guys from my class but no one else.

My lack of sleep and mental instability caught up to me in 2011, and I had to take a semester off from college. The next three years, I became even more reclusive as I dealt with my bipolar diagnosis. I played some intramural sports and had a couple of friends. For the most part, I studied, worked out, and did little else. I ate nearly all of my meals alone.

The fall of my psychotic break, I lost most of my friends from high school when I told them about my diagnosis. Still reeling from several rounds of rejection, I didn’t put myself out there much for fear of being hurt. I stayed to myself throughout college. I felt lonely and I simultaneously felt no pull to make a ton of friends. I had people from church with whom I was close; women at least fifteen years older than me.

I graduated from college a little early, so I started looking for a real job in the winter of 2015. At the very end of January, I got a call from a small manufacturing company in Dallas about a production scheduler position they needed to fill. I set up an interview with them on a Friday. I met the HR person and my potential supervisor. I don’t remember much except I made them laugh and I liked talking to them. I talked with the owner as well. Two hours after my interview started, the owner offered me the job. I asked if I could decide over the weekend, and he agreed.

I chose to accept it even though it wasn’t in my desired field. I majored in marketing and wanted to do something within that arena. Maybe I settled. I still lived with my parents, so if I’d waited, maybe I could’ve found a more suitable job.

If I had a chance for a redo, I wouldn’t take it.

I started at the beginning of February. A couple months later, the company started looking for an accountant. I seem to remember them having a hard time finding someone they liked. Eventually, they did find someone.

I’ll call her Rachel.

I’m fairly certain Rachel’s first day was towards the end of April. She had quite the drive. Her and her husband lived in Corsicana at the time. Thankfully, our company looked past it and trusted Rachel to handle the commute. On her first day, she locked her keys and phone in her car. She used my phone to call her husband. One of our coworkers knew how to break into cars, so she didn’t even have to call a locksmith.

I didn’t know anything about her, and I didn’t really think about befriending her. She seemed way out of my league. She’s only a few years older, and she has this air of confidence and professionalism I found intimidating.

In September of that year, I finally ventured into her office to have a personal conversation with her. We talked about where she bought her glasses and her new dog she adopted from the shelter. We exchanged numbers at some point. We quickly became friends after that.

We set up a time to have coffee together one weekend, and we stayed there for six or seven hours. Just sitting and talking. My favorite thing about that coffee hang out was we were both content to sit in silence for long stretches of time. I love silence, and being able to just sit in her presence was comforting and reassuring. I had a feeling then I’d made a friend for life.

We continued to get closer. I trusted her with just about everything about me. She took it all in stride. At one point, she told me over text she trusted me more than people she’d known for a lot longer. This made me happy because I wanted to be a good friend to her; she’d dealt with a lot of crappy people up to that point.

Maybe the closeness scared me. I subconsciously started pushing her away. Nothing drastic, just made some comments I shouldn’t have during our many texting conversations. I also might’ve picked some fights. I broke the trust she talked about pretty early on.

I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently a lot of people deal with the push-pull dichotomy of friendships. I pull people in close and then push them away for whatever reason. It’s probably why I couldn’t keep any close friends. Once I’m comfortable with someone, I let all my colors show and most people do not like it.

I’m also neurotic and get possessive over my friends. I’m prone to envy, so that played a part, too. I probably had no business being so close with someone during that time. I was painfully unaware of my toxic tendencies (and was for several more years).

I truly believed the problems with our friendship originated with her. I told her everything. I opened up to her. I told her how I felt about her—which I’m sure rang hollow to her because of my other behaviors. She rarely opened up to me, and she seemed emotionally unavailable.

I couldn’t stand it. My relationship with her frustrated me. We had some good times and some good conversations, so I wanted to stay friends. We also helped each other deal with all the drama and toxicity of the company we worked for. I wouldn’t have stuck around as long as I did if I didn’t have her. Our friendship wasn’t all bad by any means. I felt like I deserved more from her (uh, nope) and was hurt when she didn’t meet my expectations.

I wrote about how frustrated I was in my journals or on loose-leaf paper. More than once, I started letters with the intent of ending our friendship. I could never do it.

She was a good friend to me despite all my neurosis. I am prone to pity parties, and Rachel would have none of it. She showed compassion to a point, but if I started playing the victim, she’d either stop responding or she’d figuratively kick my butt by telling me to stop whining and do something about the problem. Sometimes during these conversations I play games, twisting what she says to make myself feel better (or to hurt her). I used to be really bad about it—I still do it, though it’s usually only when I’m under extreme duress (not using it as an excuse, I just don’t default to playing games with her anymore).

Through tough love, she basically trained me to stop being such a baby (something I’m still working on). She doesn’t take anything lying down, and she expects the same from others. Okay, something bothers me, so what am I going to do about it? Or, more likely, my “problems” stemmed from general discontent about my life. Discontent with my relationship status. Discontent with my job. Discontent with existing. She would have none of it. I hated her in the moment for calling me out, and I still knew she spoke truth. She was never mean. It all came from a place of love, even though she rarely used that word.

I continued to create angst within our friendship because I felt like she wasn’t putting enough in. I poured myself into it, and she just gave me scraps (that’s how I erroneously perceived it).

In 2017, her dad was diagnosed with ALS. We still worked together, and I don’t know how she came to work every day. She possesses strength I can barely fathom. She is one of the most incredible people I know.

Several months later, I left our company for another job. In late 2018, I started seeing a therapist (something I should’ve done YEARS before). I started realizing I’m not a safe person. I can’t say no to anyone, and I hate hearing no from others. Rachel said no a lot because she is good at setting boundaries, and as she says, she does what she wants.

Once I left, my friendship with Rachel grew significantly. We started hanging out at her house and we became even closer. I still had some bouts of doubt. Would this friendship last? Does she care about me at all?

One night, after I’d been at her house for something, I cried on my drive home. This was after a serious bout of thinking I should end our friendship. She’s always been steadfast and loyal, I’m just too stupid, blind, and shortsighted to see it. I felt how much she cared that night and I knew I didn’t deserve her. I’m still not sure why she keeps putting up with me. That night, after I was home, I told her some of what I was feeling, and she said something like I won’t be able to get rid of her that easily.

Therapy helped me, and I finally started to realize Rachel just needed space. I’m smothering sometimes. I have to let things breathe, and Rachel is one of those things. I have to force myself to sit on my hands a lot.

Earlier this year, some major things went down and I lost nearly all of my friends. In one day. Whoosh! Gone. It was my fault, although some things were misconstrued and blown out of proportion.

Rachel didn’t know any of those people, and she stood by my side. She affirmed me during a time when I thought my life was ending (a bit dramatic—things were really bad, though). She didn’t care about anyone else. She only cared about me and she knows I’m a good person. I’m fairly certain my suicidal ideations would’ve gotten out of control if Rachel hadn’t been there to support me.

I got through it and I believe I’m better for it. My friendship with Rachel grew stronger. I’m still quite neurotic sometimes. I lost some very close friends I considered family; people I thought I’d be friends with forever. I’m afraid I’m going to lose Rachel, too. I have no evidence to support this. I overthink everything, and I have such a low opinion of myself, I just assume others don’t care for me, either. This is something my new therapist says we are going to work on.

Her dad passed away earlier this month after a long battle with ALS. Back in 2017 when he was diagnosed, I knew I’d go to the funeral. Not the simplest thing since her family lives out past Lubbock, Texas (and I live in the Dallas area). I drove out and was able to stay with her and her family for a few days. My love for her and her family grew, and I realized once again how blessed I am to have her as a dear friend.

When I stop overthinking about everything that could go wrong or how something I said could be taken the wrong way or how my facial expressions might’ve conveyed something I didn’t mean, I know she doesn’t give a rat’s behind about the things I constantly fret over.

I’m a good friend and a good person. She’s the same and also infinitely patient to put up with my near-constant anxiety.

The other day, she texted me and said I was overthinking (after a horribly painful hour where I sent several long texts trying to explain what I meant by every other long text I’d sent). Then she sent a text that said, “Just be.”

Good grief. How hard that is for me! Why just be when I can overthink and word vomit everywhere?

I know she’s right. She always is.

Just be.

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