I saw my friend Annelise for the first time in a long time on Friday. We had a falling out last year that lasted for a day before we made up with each other, but the argument itself made me start to reevaluate my friendship with her. I perceived that I depended on her too much as support since we both have social anxiety.
This was heightened by a habit that both of us indulged in, in which sometimes we would RVSP for meetup events but not go if either one of us weren’t going to be there. Sometimes I felt like I was failing both herself in addition to myself if she expressed interest in going to something and I would express hesitancy or reservations that leaned towards not wanting to go all because I felt too scared to commit. Other times I saw myself being invested in going to something but feeling super insecure and wishing she could come with me so I could have someone there who I knew. I would never outright ask her to go with me since even the act of asking felt too difficult for me. What I see was the problem then is whether I wanted to admit it or not, I clung to her in an unhealthy way. There was an almost immediate kinship I felt with her; both because we come from similar ethnic and cultural backgrounds and because she was struggling with social anxiety like I was.
There was some good that came out of this friendship. We texted each other all the time. Last year when we first met, I can see now that perhaps our messaging got a bit excessive too. For me, what I got out of it was having someone I could talk to about my problems. For her, my perception is she needed me because I came into her life at a time when she hardly knew anyone in the meetup group and had very few people she could call friends in New York.
Here’s the part where I feel I messed up. When I gained her as a friend, I subconsciously assumed because she has social anxiety that she would understand everything I went through and that her social anxiety was the same as mine. Almost like the whole “misery loves company” thing, in which we could struggle together and be in the same boat together. Wrong. While I get very withdrawn and very non-verbal when I am in a state of anxiety, she does the opposite by talking a lot. I am an introvert who feels very spent and tired after one social interaction that lasts all day and then needs like 2 or 3 days of solitude to recover from it. She is both an introvert and an extrovert that prefers constant company and often plans her days in advance to fill them with activities. I find it hard to reach out to people verbally and even if I am curious about someone, I often lose my nerve before I even ask the person anything. I’ve observed that she, on the other hand, doesn’t find it hard to ask people questions to keep the conversation going.
There are other things, like when I confided in her how much anxiety I get making phone calls and she seemed genuinely surprised and asked me, “what is there to be anxious about?” I don’t think she meant the comment to sound mean at all and that in actuality she hasn’t had the same exact experiences with anxiety just like I haven’t experienced everything she’s gone through.
It’s true that besides her, I don’t really know anyone in the meetup group. I have acquaintances in the group who I friended on Facebook or they friended me, but out of all of them, I have only spoken to maybe one of them on an occasional basis (besides Annelise).
Even with another person from the group I befriended, whom I will call Liam, I’ve only had two real life conversations with him face-to-face and both were at different meetups. Other than that, we’ve mostly communicated via messaging. Particularly during my stressful time last year at the medical office job (which I hated because it had a horrible effect on my anxiety), I texted Liam a lot, like directly after I got off work and I would write to him, unloading to him about the things I went through that day and how much I wanted to not be there. I’m talking about whole paragraphs of text like how my blog entry looks on this post. He seemed pretty supportive and never complained about the length of my texts. There were periods he and I would go without texting. Sometimes I would get the urge to text him but would refrain from it out of the perception that maybe I might come off as weird or annoying if I texted him just to ask how he’s been or what he’s been up to lately. I felt surprised recently when he texted me out of the blue after he saw my Facebook “check-in” post at a yoga studio and asked me how it was. I ended up referring him to the studio after he expressed interest in trying it out.
A few days ago something happened that makes me feel my pseudo-friendship with him has reached its end. And it’s because of something he said to me.
Since I started to become aware that I was depending on Annelise too much for support with social anxiety, I considered that there were also times I treated her like a therapist when I shouldn’t have. Or I would confide in her about something expecting her to react in a way that would give me self-assurance, only for her to react in a way I did not expect. That’s why I feel I am terrible at friendships because I made it all about me without realizing it until now.
An example of this is when I actually texted her about feeling anxious about going to an upcoming meetup, one that she would also be present for. The past times I’ve told her something like this, she would give me advice but this time she simply wrote back, “I can’t help you. I have my own problems.” My initial reaction was to feel hurt since my perception was I opened up to her and was vulnerable because of my own honesty but she threw my words back in my face. I thought about this situation over and over again for a period of several months and it was after the realization I was depending on her too heavily that I also began to think I overshare and/or burden certain select people with my troubles when I should not.
I even texted Liam days ago when I was going through this dilemma and expressed the opinion that I feel like I overshare too much of my problems with people. In response, he told me to talk about whatever I am comfortable with. That was what gave me the courage to tell him about the funeral thing and how conflicted I was about being obligated to go but also how much I was losing my mind over feeling so anxious about even being at the event itself. Maybe I wasn’t specific enough about just how anxious I felt since I wanted to spare him most of the details and just get to the point of my problem so I wouldn’t be writing a whole novel for him to read by text message. He told me that, yes, it would look bad if my parents and my brother went to the funeral and I did not. And that additionally, I should just go if I have nothing else better to do or don’t have a very good reason for not being there. The issue was I did have something of importance to do on the same day as the funeral and this added even more to the stress I felt. It was a volunteer orientation that I scheduled one month in advance. Yeah, I could have just canceled it and gone to the funeral, however, this was an orientation I had skipped out on the last time I scheduled it.
With my history of signing up for events only to cancel at the last minute because of intense anxiety about showing up for the event, I really did not want to cancel it again for another reason when I had my heart set on going in order to get it over with. Rather than give such a convoluted explanation to Liam about *why* I couldn’t cancel the plans I had, I simply said that I did have something planned on the same day as the funeral. His response? He said it was my choice to make but that I shouldn’t be surprised if my family treats me differently after this. I was shocked by the tone in his words. He has never written to me like that before, and honestly, it hurt my feelings. Now looking back, I don’t know if this situation with Liam is the same as the situation as the one I was in with Annelise, in which I told her something personal with my own expectation that she’d say something comforting or helpful and instead I received feedback from her that gave me pain. While I felt dejected and ignored by Annelise that time, Liam’s response to me made me feel stupid and repulsive. I feel like he was judging me for my choice and looking down on me because of it. Now I regret ever disclosing anything to him. I have not gone as far as unfriending him from Facebook but I probably will not text him again.