The Golden Girls have been my favorite show for as long as I can remember. The friendship between all of the ladies is something that I have always wanted for myself and yet I don’t feel like I’ve ever been able to find it. I don’t know how to be someone’s friend and at the age of 25 it feels a bit late in the game to learn. Still, I yearn for the friendships that are seen on tv. Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Cheers – who wouldn’t want a group of lovable weirdos to go through life with? I’ve never had that and a part of me doesn’t think I ever will. Remember when I talked about accepting my weird? This is a day when it’s getting to me.
You see, I am trying to work on my friendship anxiety.
Friendships make me really anxious. I just don’t know how to do it. I missed reading the guidebook in Elementary school that said “This is how you make friends, and this is how you keep them.”. As a child, I had friends but as I grew to be a teenager I found myself alone. I buried myself in books and found my friends in their pages. Prom, graduation, parties – I didn’t do any of it. Anxiety, depression, shyness – it’s not a greate recipe for popularity.
Something that I don’t talk about very much is my brother’s autism. It is something that has greatly shaped the person that I turned out to be and has heavily affected how I relate to other people, both in positive and negative ways. I couldn’t love him more and growing up his sister was a blessing to me in many ways. I loved playing games with him as a kid, I loved looking out for him, and he’s a great, funny, guy.
My brother is five years younger than me and for a large part of my childhood, as the good big sister I am, I took care of him. I remember when my mother was a single mom working two jobs and at the age of 11 it was my responsibility to bathe him, get him ready for school, wait for his bus to come and then get to school myself.
This turned me into a caregiver and shaped my empathy.
I spent a lot of my summers with my brother in a daycare for special needs children, my mother worked there so it was free for us. Not being special needs myself, this again put me into the role of caregiver. My friends were children with down syndrome or severe physical or mental disabilities. I grew up feeling like a mini-adult and I didn’t mind. I felt useful on field trips when I helped feed and look after the others and that was a good feeling. As an adult, I often look for that same sense of purpose. It’s hard for me to have those easy-going friendships because I’m so used to taking control in that way. I often overcompensate and become too giving in my relationships while also being distant because I’m not used to letting people be there for me.
I’m working on it.
But I am not normal.
I didn’t have my first real friendship until I was nearly twenty and I had no idea how to be a good friend. I still don’t and it’s a struggle that a lot of people don’t understand. If someone needs to be taken care of I can do that. If someone needs cheering up I’m happy to oblige. I don’t really know my role outside of that.
I can take care of you but I don’t know how to do anything else.
It’s hard for me to open up and ask for help or advice. It’s hard for me to be comfortable going to the movies or hanging out because I feel so out of place. I don’t know what to talk about it. I don’t know how to talk about myself because I’m really quite boring.
On the opposite side, when I do let that guard down to become close with someone, I become very clingy and selfish. It opens this flood-gate of FINALLY SOMEONE WHO CAN BE THERE FOR ME. And I overwhelm them because when the dam breaks, boy does it break. This has led to the deterioration of a lot of my close friendships. So, I end up feeling even more uncomfortable about friendship in general.
It’s been a lesson in boundaries.
Right now I’m trying to be gentle with myself and gentle with my progress. I’ve been working on my friendships, trying to be supportive, trying to give others their space, and not making everything about me and my feelings but also not closing down altogether. It’s always been a balancing act for me in that regard. I don’t know how to moderate myself.
I am not a lost cause! I’m determined to be someone that anyone would be proud to be friends with. Patience, dedication, and heart, I believe almost anything can be accomplished with those three things.
Thank you for taking the time to read this rambling post. Any advice or wise words would, of course, be appreciated!