On Friendship

I have a pretty awesome best friend.  Or at least, I think she’s pretty awesome.  She’s also still single despite wanting a relationship, and she sometimes finds it difficult to make other friends.  So why is it that I think she’s great and wonderful and others don’t?

Sometimes people look at prospective friends based on quantity of positive and negative qualities, and that is a good way to look at it, but that in and of itself is defined by what strengths you seek and what weaknesses you can live with. For example, one of the weaknesses that tends to rule out close friends for me is “excessive liveliness”. For many, that’s a positive quality, and I do respect that, but I know my own limits and I realise that my capacity for dealing with people is drained significantly faster when I’m with high-energy people doing high-energy activities or holding conversations where exclamation points reign supreme. So when you consider a person’s positive and negative qualities, you’re looking at it from the perspective of what you seek and what you can accept, as well. Further, for some, Buddhism would be a weakness (if someone were Christian and only sought a Christian mate, for example), but to an agnostic, a religious preference would be neither a strength nor a weakness, merely a random fact about the other person, much like their preference for a certain colour (which is also a weakness for some… I don’t know if I could live with someone who wanted to paint the wall of every room in the house bright red or green…) or their appearance (which matters not at all to me, but is highly important to some).

The thing is, everyone has faults, and friendship (or any kind of relationship) is merely a matter of finding someone whose faults are things you’re willing to tolerate and whose strengths are things you value. There are people I know whom I would never be friends with, not because they’re bad people, but simply because they’re all wrong for me. And likewise, many, many people are unwilling to be friends with me because it’s not a good match. There’s no absolute. The only thing is that one hopes the people you consider a good match feel the same way about you… Because that’s not always the case.

Unfortunately, I’ve fallen in love with people who don’t seek people with my strengths and who cannot tolerate my weaknesses.  I’ve deeply desired friendships with people who just don’t like me.  And that happens.  I used to think that if I liked someone, it would be because we were similar and that the other person would automatically like me back.  It doesn’t work that way, and it hurts when someone you like doesn’t like you back, but when all is said and done, there isn’t anything you can do except to pick up what’s left of your heart and walk away, because holding on to something that you never had only leads to more heartbreak.

Painful Epiphany

I’ve been having a pretty good time (well, relatively, anyways) recently.  I had a work attachment experience this week with some equine vets, and it’s just wonderful to be around them.

Yesterday, I had a panic attack on my way home.  I didn’t think too much of it, as I do periodically have sudden and unexpected panic attacks, although I did wonder what had triggered it.  But today, near the end of my shift, my mood went from okay-and-maybe-even-almost-happy to my-life-is-no-longer-worth-living in the space of 45 seconds.  I’ve never had my mood crash quite so quickly before, and it was scary that it could happen like that without any particular inciting incident.

Initially, I thought that this was an unfortunate coincidence (ups and downs are pretty normal for me), but I’m starting to realise that it probably isn’t the case.  I thought about the panic attack, and realised that it was neither sudden nor unexpected.  The anxiety I felt had actually been building up over the course of my work attachment.  The same for the depression: although during work hours, I was doing quite okay and managing, every day after work, my mood had been steadily dropping.  I also realised that something similar had happened before with other enjoyable activities.

So this is the thing: What if the things I really, really enjoy are causing me more pain overall?  I think it’s happening.  I think I even know why it’s happening.  When I’m around people I admire/respect, I hold myself to impossibly high standards out of a belief that they will think less of me if I am somehow less than perfect.  I know that I am less than perfect, after all, who isn’t?  But this leads to incredible fear and anxiety that something I say or do will show that imperfection to the other person.   And when it happens, as is inevitable, as I really don’t know everything there is to know (if I did, I wouldn’t need the work experience) nor am I capable of doing everything perfectly, then I feel like everyone is disappointed in me and that they all hate me and would be better off without me and I feel disappointed in myself and that just makes my depression that much worse.  But this need to be perfect is so much greater when I am in a position I want to be in.  When I’m with people I greatly respect or admire (people I desire to spend more time with), I feel a greater need to please them or to appear as good as I think they are (which, incidentally, isn’t always the same as how good other people think they are).  I want to impress them so I can have more of their time and attention, and that just doesn’t normally work well for me.

I think it’s incredibly sad that the things which should bring me the greatest joy also bring me the greatest pain.  I wish I could get past this so I could truly enjoy the experience of doing these things or being around these people.

Depression

My father has struggled with depression for as long as I can remember.  Several members of my extended family do as well.  This year, a classmate confessed to me she has depression.  It’s not really so uncommon as most people think.

I’d been starting to feel low a few years ago, but at the start of last year, it got to the point where doing even small things took an incredible amount of effort, doing the things I loved didn’t make me happy anymore and life just didn’t seem wort living.  My grades started falling, I started to avoid my friends, and I dreaded going anywhere.  All I wanted to do was to sit around and think of ways to kill myself.

Because my grades were dropping, my parents started to put more pressure on me to pull myself together, and my friends started to wonder why I was pulling away from everyone, and finally, finally they got me to realise that something was wrong.  I went to see the school counsellor and she said she thought I might have depression.  I suppose I should have realised sooner, especially since my father had been going through pretty much the same thing, but it was still hard to accept this.  To realise that there was really something wrong.  That was kind of scary.  But it was also a relief to realise that I was not alone, that what I faced had a name.  And to realise that there was hope.

One of the hardest things to do was to decide who to tell and who not to tell.  I did tell a couple of close friends, and eventually got up the nerve to tell my parents.  That didn’t go so well.  “Just snap out of it, you’re doing this to yourself” from my mother.  “I know what depression is like, and you clearly don’t have it” from my father.  It was hard, not having their support and it hurt even more that they didn’t believe that my problems were real.  I even doubted myself.

When my third term grades came out, even worse than before, and when my grades in my favourite subject began to drop, my mother finally was willing to acknowledge that something was wrong and got me professional help outside of school.

I spent a really long time thinking of how to conclude this post.  But I honestly don’t know how.  The thing is, there isn’t really a conclusion.  I’m getting a bit better.  Every now and again, I’ll have an easier day, where it feels like the metaphorical sun is still shining and I believe that there’s genuinely something to look forward to in this world.  And that’s good.  I live for days like that.  But on the other days, it’s still hard.  And I wonder if I’m ever going to really recover.

Hello

I don’t really know how to introduce myself, but here goes.

I’m a high school senior, seventeen and trying (not always so successfully) to navigate that awkward stage of life called adolescence where I’m not really an adult, but I’m supposed to start acting like one.  I’m a little chemistry-obsessed (in case my blog title didn’t give that away), and I also love animals (dogs and horses especially).

This blog is my attempt to catalogue my journey to self-understanding.  In writing about my experiences, I hope to help others going through the same things to understand that they are not alone.

I don’t bite.  Comments are nice.  Rudeness isn’t.  I’m writing about my opinions and my perspective; if you disagree with me, feel free to say so, but do it nicely.