I’ve been going through a rough couple weeks, both because of issues with work and things going on with friends. Times like this really make me appreciate the friends who are there for me, who are willing to listen when I’ve had a rough day, or invite me out for a last-minute karaoke outing at 11pm followed by the kind of crazy late night at Denny’s that have been fewer and farther between the last few years. (By the way, I know that one of the individuals involved in the things going on with friends used to read Highway Pi, and in case she still does, I should point out that nothing in this post is intended to be passive-aggressive. At this point, I feel that everything that needs to be said has. And the nature of these issues is not where I’m going with the rest of this post anyway.)
Even though I greatly appreciate everyone who has been willing to listen and offer comfort the last few weeks, sometimes I feel guilty for having friends who care.
As I’ve said before, I had issues with outbursts as a child, to the point that it sometimes affected my ability to function in a classroom. I’ve definitely outgrown this to some extent, but not entirely. In elementary school, no one cared about how I was feeling. I didn’t really have friends. When I was upset, the other students would just laugh at me and provoke me to get a reaction, and adults such as teachers and my parents would generally make me feel ashamed for overreacting. I know they were trying to help, trying to make me realize that my actions had consequences, and that better ways existed to deal with the issues underneath, but this had the unintended side effect of making me feel like I didn’t deserve to have people care about me when I was upset. I remember about halfway through my first year of college, when I had my first such outburst in front of my new friends, I eventually left the dorm building and sat in my car for a while trying to calm down and decide what to do next, whether to run away and leave it all behind, or sneak back in the building, try to get some sleep, and apologize to everyone in the morning for my behavior. I chose the second option, but I didn’t even make it to my room, because all my friends who saw me get upset had been in the lobby the whole time praying for me. When they saw me come back, they didn’t seem upset at all; they were mostly relieved that I was safe. I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting them not to want to talk to me anymore, or at least to be scolded for having that kind of reaction and reminded how inappropriately I was behaving, because that was the way I had been treated most of my life.
There weren’t exactly any outbursts involved recently… well, not quite. But even when I’m feeling quietly upset, I’ve often been told that no one wants to hear about my problems, and no one really wants an honest answer when they ask me how I’m doing, it’s just an empty greeting. (I’ve written about this before.) So when I am upset, and I turn to a friend for a comforting ear, I always feel like I shouldn’t have to do this, and I feel like I need to apologize afterward. I really don’t want to be seen as the kind of person who whines about everything to the point that no one wants to be around me. I’ve been accused of that before. But in my efforts not to be perceived that way, sometimes I am so cautious that I tend to think that the other extreme is preferable, where I feel like the ideal is to put on a fake happy face all the time. Of course, I don’t put on a fake happy face, but the point is that I feel guilty because I’m not.
It really shouldn’t be this way. That’s not what friendship is about. Friends should be able to share everything with each other, the good days and the bad, both giving and receiving that comforting ear that is so often needed. I don’t want to feel guilty for that. But I don’t want to take advantage of people either. There has to be a balance.