The aftermath of self-isolation

The aftermath of self-isolation

What happens when low-maintenance friendships begin to feel more like no-maintenance friendships?

Art by Relly Coquia

Fine then, I thought.

It’s what I told myself when I scrolled through Instagram and saw that my supposed best friends were hanging out without me. It’s what rang in my head as I sat alone in a movie theater, certain that even if I’d asked, neither of them would’ve been able to come. It’s what I said, out loud, when I did the math and had to face the facts.

We haven’t spoken in four months.

I could say it was one of those things that just happened, but I would be wrong for two reasons. It’s still happening. And I don’t really know whose fault it is.

Another correction: The fault is — initially, at the very least — entirely my own. I had been the one to end our last conversation, closing the Messenger tab without bothering to read the latest message. I had come to them for advice, and to open up about my increasingly unstable mental health. But I must not have explained it well enough, because they didn’t seem to understand what I was trying to say.

I felt silly, I felt like a burden, and I felt even more alone. So, naturally, I did what any functioning human being would do: I distanced myself further, closed myself off from everyone, and stopped responding to messages. I resolved not to open up to anyone else about how I was feeling.

This unhealthy coping system, of course, only made things worse. By trying to convince myself that I needed no one, I only proved that I was, in fact, hoping that someone would reach out and mean it when they ask, “How are you?”

 

By trying to convince myself that I needed no one, I only proved that I was, in fact, hoping that someone would reach out and mean it when they ask, “How are you?”

 

I tried to rationalize it. Maybe my best friends didn’t see the updates on my private Twitter about trying to curb self-harm and getting professional help. They were busy, after all, working demanding jobs and having to commute to far-off places. Maybe they were keeping their own distance and trying to give me space, because they thought I needed it. But still the stubborn idealist in me would wish they would check in.

The thing is, I still couldn’t bring myself to address them directly and tell them I was sorry, that I missed them, that I was afraid of losing them. That they’d hurt me, but that I’d forgiven them.

Something had changed between us, unspoken but irreversible.

I dealt with it the only way I knew how, passive-aggressively, and publicly on the internet. It was a stupid late-night tweet, a stock photo of a blank sheet cake and a crudely handwritten message procured on Microsoft Paint: I’m sorry I resent you for not checking up on me when I needed it most. I’m also to blame for isolating myself, but now I don’t know how to approach you.

I fell asleep as soon as it was posted — and woke up, much to my bemusement, to hundreds of notifications for it, which was certainly not my intention. The irony of it all was, neither of my best friends took note of or reacted to it at all.

I think I was afraid of having to come to terms with the knowledge that everything is not like the way it was. And I’m not going to lie — somewhere, there’s a bit of wounded pride in there, too: You never checked on me, so why should I talk to you?

Why couldn’t I just talk to them? I think I was afraid of having to come to terms with the knowledge that everything is not like the way it was. And I’m not going to lie — somewhere, there’s a bit of wounded pride in there, too: You never checked on me, so why should I talk to you? I haven’t even told my mom, because I know what she would say. “It’s just growing up. You lose people sometimes, even the ones you never thought you would.”

But even through all I’ve experienced, I remain more hopeful than that. These are the kind of people that you just can’t bear to lose.

The last message in our group chat remains unopened, unseen, still marked in bold as if it had just been sent.

What I’m saying is: I’m done with pride, or passive-aggression, or uncertainty. When I kept repeating, “Fine then,” I did it out of denial, to pretend I didn’t care when the truth was the exact opposite. It’s not fine. And it’s time to take everything I want to say, sprinkle in a little bravery, open the message I’ve pointedly ignored for four months, and say it.

I’m still not sure how to approach you. But I can start here.

Tags:
#friendship #health #self

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