The loss of my former best friend, that is. I’ve written about it before in previous posts. But I woke up today and realized that I no longer missed her at all, hoped for an apology for how badly she treated me, or harbored a secret wish to have her back in my life. I was just happy that she was gone.
For a long time, I was lost in this spiral of wondering how someone who supposedly loved me could have been so cruel and intentionally used my secrets and insecurities to hurt me. It seemed so deliberately mean.
Over time, I cared about her less and less because of how she treated me (or tried to, as not caring about people goes against my nature.) She was essentially a middle school bully at her core, leading me to believe she had always been an actual bully herself, which I had suspected for some time. After all, you don’t suddenly learn those traits in adulthood.
I also knew I was not the only person she’d treated that way. In fact, most of her friendships end after a short time, and so did her first marriage. Most people can’t tolerate her for long. Her ex-husband said he needed therapy because of how much she fucked with his head, which she said was “hilarious” and “ridiculous.”
She said I was still too hung up on middle school, but for me it was a traumatic time (like it is for most people) and for her it was awesome. I told her about that as an explanation of what had happened to me and how it affected me. Not having had similar experiences, I guess she couldn’t offer empathy. Instead, for some reason I’ll never understand, it made her vicious.
I was not “hung up” about those years but there was something about our relationship that continually reminded me of them. I shouldn’t have told her about that traumatic experience because she threw it back at me to diminish my feelings. She wasn’t a safe person to share secrets with and it took me far too long to realize that.
Meanwhile, she still seemed stuck in her childhood and teenage years as the best time of her life, which actually makes me really sad because that’s 30 years of growth and personal development she missed out on. While the rest of us were growing up, she was still trying to recapture the magic of her adolescence. She’s like a 45-year-old teenager, which she’d probably take as a compliment.
I never realized how contagious her unhappiness with herself was and how deeply it affected me. I always needed to make some improvements to my self-esteem, but after almost two decades of friendship with her, I felt much worse than ever. She influenced my lack of self-esteem and reinforced it. It was only with some time and distance that I realized how negatively she had influenced me.
When I see her name and comments pop up in my FB memories, I see that most of the time she was just displaying how little we really had in common. I do have other friends with whom I don’t have much in common, but those friendships have something mine with her never had: respect for me and others, a humble spirit, being multi-faceted and interesting. She was physically beautiful, sure, but there was nothing deeper to her.
It actually took many years for me to finally end a friendship that had far outlived its usefulness in my life. In all honesty, I hadn’t liked the person she’d become over the years…or rather, hadn’t become. Instead of maturing, she actually seemed like she was regressing, quite intentionally so. She resisted signs of maturity as getting boring and seemed terrified of getting older. She always acted like she had something to prove by being such a nontraditional adult, but really she just seemed immature. For many years, I was immature, too; maybe it was what initially drew us together. But once I started to grow up, she didn’t have a place in my life anymore.
But then something interesting happened during the time I was trying to get over the friendship. As I cared less and less about her, I realized that I actually really liked who I was. Now, I feel like I’m flourishing, not in spite of but because of her absence.
It turns out that I’m a generous, strong, talented individual. I actually like the way I look. I’m a pretty decent parent who has worked hard to develop compassionate, interesting, independent children (though of course I still know my failures as a parent, too.) I try to be really kind and helpful and the people who know me see that. I’m getting through the hardest time of my life without her, and my other friends are commenting on my positivity and strength.
I think she found my positivity threatening because she always called it fake. Just being in contact with her brought out my negative side, which I’ve worked hard to master. Even if she didn’t find my growth threatening, I still realized I couldn’t continue to grow and be her friend anymore. Even before I got over her, I knew I deserved to be treated better, which was the first major step. She lost me in large part because of her refusal to grow up and treat me with respect.
The good news is that I’m proof that you can get out of friendships with people who fuck with your head and make you feel like your entire existence is worthless. You can come out of it stronger, even learning to love yourself in the process. Now I finally feel free.