My friendship with Annelise has officially come to a close. The weight of my culpability and the guilt I feel over the situation hangs over me heavily. Basically, I fucked up and I know it. Mixed in is a torrid of other emotions. Shame, reluctance, anger, pride, sadness, regret.
Anyone reading this should be advised that this post is very long, so if you wish to continue, you’re in for a long and tedious read.
As described in my last post, Annelise had invited me to a meditation meetup within the social anxiety group on Thursday. I agreed to go, but I also hinted that I felt reluctant to go, out of nervousness about seeing familiar faces from the SA group that I haven’t seen in a while.
Short story is, the day of the event, I got cold feet. Had it only been Annelise who was going to be there, I would’ve perhaps pushed myself to go. Instead I lost my mind thinking about having to juggle with greeting the people I recognized. Plus I was worried about the Central Park meetup because I had seen the name of one of my friends on the RSVP list, and she’s someone I haven’t seen since probably July or August. Back then, I had met up with her to give her back a book I borrowed, and I was so nervous that I hardly spoke for the 40-something minutes we spent walking down the street.
While all this went on in my head, I tried to take a deep breath and tell myself to take one task at a time and stop listing things in my head. This is something I read in a recent self-help book that I found reasonable. But that didn’t work because then I looked at the clock and saw that it it was almost noon, and even if I left the house promptly then to get on the train, I would have almost certainly be late to meditation because it started at 12:45 pm. And so commenced my descent back into anxiety. Then, I got stuck in the haze of inaction. I knew the right thing to do would be to text Annelise and tell her I wouldn’t be there. Instead my mind raced and raced as I contemplated what to do or not to do. First and foremost, I was worried about her reaction if she knew I wasn’t coming. I thought about what it would feel like for me to process her anger and have to respond to it. That, and the fact I am incredibly hard on myself when I say I’m going to do something and then start waffling to the point I decide not to do it. And when that happens, I give myself a mental beat down, almost like an instinctual punishment, for not following through with my own plans. I end up imagining Annelise’s bitter disappointment at learning of my change of plans, which only fuels my own contempt at myself. In the end, I never find out if my imagined fears ring true or not, because I never texted Annelise.
I speculate it was a coping mechanism to combat the influx of panic and indecision I was feeling, so during this time, I persuaded myself that perhaps Annelise would somehow understand why I didn’t show up. I spoke to her in the past, at length, about my avoidance tendencies. Later that day, when it was 4 pm, after the conclusion of both meet ups, I considered texting her. Like a shadow creeping out of nowhere, the thought alone of the possibilities that would arise from such an action put me off from typing anything to her. But I felt curious enough to check the event pages, and was surprised to find that the host has left a comment on both pages stating the meetups were cancelled. However, one thing to note is the meditation class is not exclusive to SA only group members, so even if the host cancels, the event itself still occurs at the location because it is actually the meditation instructor who teaches the actual class.
Friday rolled by. It was in the evening, perhaps around 7:20-ish pm. Annelise messaged me. That’s conversation started out casual enough. She asked how I was. I asked what happened to the meetup host. Eventually she asked why I didn’t text her about not coming. I admitted, with reluctance, that I felt anxious about her reaction to my cancellation. She responded with “ok”, which is such a mild reply via text that I couldn’t decipher if she felt angry or confused or frustrated with my answer. My instinct told me to apologize to her for being such an inconvenience and that I was truly sorry for not letting her know right away about my change in plans. But I stopped myself from it. I don’t know why. All I remember in this moment is the feeling of being out in the open. Vulnerable, even. It was a feeling I did not like and wanted to put away and never look at again. Now looking back, I know it was: Shame. I was caught, with the headlights pointed on me, because I had wronged a friend, and I didn’t want to feel it. Why? It’s hard to truly know. Because it was uncomfortable to accept what I had done? Perhaps. I could also speculate that, given my history of avoiding confrontations because I don’t like conflict, I was being evasive for this reason as well.
Later that evening at close to 11 pm, Annelise texted me saying, “I think you hurt my feelings. But I don’t want to discuss it. Goodbye”. I wrote back with a genuine apology, or at least as genuine I felt I could put into written words. Considering she wrote “goodbye”, I tried to explain why I acted the way I did, without excusing my behavior, but to give clarification about why I chose not to text her. I assured her that I understood if she didn’t want to be friends anymore. She wrote back accusing me of caring only about my “alleged anxiety”, which hurt me when I read those words. She insinuated that I don’t care about her, but with the word “alleged”, I was shocked at her mocking tone as if my anxiety is a complete joke to her.
It’s true that my anxiety is an overwhelming force in my life that has filtered into almost every aspect of my life, and I’m unable to make decisions or choices without some kind of anxiety, mild or intense, sitting on my shoulder to guide me along, as terrible as that sounds. In this way, I admit there is selfishness because the times I avoid situations to put a halt to the anxiety I feel, I can see how I come across as rude and ridiculous to other people in the situations. Which is why I can also see why Annelise got angry at me for trying to explain how my anxiety influenced my decision making. I guess in her eyes I was just hiding behind an excuse instead of acknowledging that I stood her up and didn’t bother to message her before or after the meetup.
She even said that she is “so stupid for being friends” with me, but that she was more disappointed with herself than me. She said other things that seem to indicate she is having some kind of struggle, but I don’t know what. Perhaps my behavior towards her exacerbated whatever inner turmoil she has been going through lately? She admitted leaving the SA group and that she needed a break. I felt a little curious and wanted to ask about what she was dealing with, but seeing as she was angry with me, I doubt she would’ve wanted to open herself up to me.
My final message to her was a test of patience for me. I nearly sent an angry retort back at her for the “alleged anxiety” comment, but decided not to. Instead I owned up to my mistake about not contacting her, and I agreed that I came across as rude, though I stated that I disagreed with her interpretation of me as only caring about my anxiety. I owned up to the faults in my ways with coping with anxiety, and noted that perhaps I am still too immature in my thinking, but that I would learn from my mistakes. Lastly, I said goodbye to her. Did I do the right thing or not? A part of me felt bad for contributing to whatever pain she was feeling, and I thought letting her go would be better.
I do not know if I’ll ever speak to her again after this. Not because I’ll hold a grudge against her, but whatever she is going through, I am not confident I could be much help to her. I ponder whether our friendship was a healthy one. And having lost her as a friend, I think about whether I’m cut out for this friendship business.