Frenemy

I have an enemy. Well, okay, she is really more of a “frenemy”. We have been friends for a very long time. Although I have tried to release myself from her, especially when I feel the pain and rejection of her words and negative thoughts, she is my oldest friend, she is a part of who I am, and being with her is as comfortable and natural as breathing, unfortunately letting her hurt me comes just as naturally.

Her verbal abuse started sometime when we were in elementary school. It may have been earlier than that, but it did not leave a memory (or a scar) until probably about fourth grade. While I was desperately trying to fit in she was quick to point out all the ways I did not. I would leave my house in the morning feeling cool in my outfit, or new hairdo, only to have her chip away at that confidence with negative remarks and criticism throughout the school day; inevitably leaving me to feel like crap by the time I was riding the bus home. I would try to suppress my tears while acknowledging to myself that I was not cool, or pretty, or smart and I was never going to be. To be fair, she was just as good at bringing me up as she was at bringing me down. There were lots of days that her pep talks were what pulled me out of the despair. She would remind me of all the friends that I did have that loved me, or how pretty my long hair was, or how well I did in English. It was the kindness and love that always drew me in, even though I knew the negativity was always likely to resurface.

In high school she was often the only person that I felt safe enough to share my feelings with. Things were often strained with my family, especially my mother, and I frequently lashed out at her or made poor choices in my school and social life. I hung around in some pretty rough crowds at times, but her influence was always the worst. She was great at convincing me to sneak out, get drunk, or skip school. I would inevitably get caught and the punishment never seemed worth the crime, yet she could always convince me to do it “just one more time”. I met my son’s father in the last year of high school and for a while I was so consumed with young love I didn’t have a lot of time for her and we seemed to grow apart, however my “bliss” was to be short lived.

After nine months together I received two surprises…The first- I was expecting my first child. The second- “The love of my Life” had been cheating on me for pretty much the duration of our relationship. Unfortunately the first surprise did little to change the second and we separated… This was a low point in my life, and although my friend and I had barely talked, she was ready with love and reassurances. She reminded me that him cheating was something broken in him, not me. And when I could only seem to focus on all the ways I fell short compared to other women, agonizing over what they had that I did not… It was her gentle voice that assured me that someday he would regret the loss. Dealing with this brought us closer than ever and over the next few years we were inseparable.

I would like to say that our friendship remained full of love and encouragement, but it did not take long for her to start in with the criticism and judgements. Always quick to point out my failings as a mother, daughter, and friend. Gentle as she was in my first real break up, she became ruthless in sabotaging my attempts at any new relationships. She would tear each man apart until all I could see were their flaws. If that didn’t work she would convince me that I was not good enough to deserve them and I would inevitably walk away. As I grew older I began to see her as a poison and again distanced myself from her, but like many old friends, I have never been able to truly let her go and I know I never will.

We spoke today. It was the first time in a while that I have heard from her. I had some other friends make me feel left out and I started to feel pretty down about it. I acknowledged that not every snub is intentional and sometimes we are hurt by friends who never even realize it. She argued that this was likely intentional and that either they were crappy friends or more likely, they just didn’t like me very much…And although I have not let her pull me in to that insecurity for such a long time, for one moment today it was if I was right back in middle school with her feeling alone, awkward, and unloved. Never quite right, never “one of the girls”. But only for a moment.

You see, as I have grown older I have become comfortable in my skin and in who I am. I no longer feel as though I don’t fit…Through the love of God, my husband, and family and friends I have gained a love for myself that she cannot diminish.

But oh does she still try…and sometimes she wins…but when she starts up I look right back at her in the mirror and I just say “Honey if you don’t have anything nice to say to me, then don’t say anything at all…”

 

3 Responses to “Frenemy”

  • Jackie:

    I have been at this same place….as so many of us have. Thanks for sharing and reminding me of what’s truly important.

  • Sara, I appreciate you sharing. I remember the distress I felt when I was watching my body change seemingly out of my control. I hope that you are able to find grace for yourself as you grow and change, but also grace for yourself to feel the way that you feel. Please don’t beat yourself up for dwelling on your weight. Although the voice in our head can be nasty at times, it can also be insistent. I have learned to acknowledge the bad but to deal with what I can today and not stress about the rest. I would say the same applies to your relationships. Own the part that is you, change what you have control over, and let the rest go. My mother has always told me “In life you are not the director, only an actor, you do not get to control anyone else’s script”.

  • sara:

    A lot of people feel the same way as you. I know when walk in front of my mirror I beat myself up about the changes my body is going through… I making a baby and even though I know that the voice inside me still beats me up by dwelling over every pound wondering how long it will take to loose it after I give birth. I am also guilty of breaking myself down about my failing relationships… with my father and some close friends. My mother once told me that those are gremlins and we need to kill them before they grow…

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