If my article has brought up any challenges for you, I want you to always feel welcome to reach out to me for help. Whilst I always welcome contact I must stress, however, that I am not a psychologist and I cannot offer you professional help. Please reach out to your GP for access to a clinical psychologist should you need that help, or else you can of course reach out to Lifeline for immediate contact. Treat your mental health as you would your physical health.
To a Fading Friend
I am writing this letter to say I miss you.
I am writing this letter because I am stuck and sometimes writing things down helps me navigate those emotions and find clarity.
I am writing this letter publicly 1) in the hope that you will read it, and 2) in the hope that I can start a conversation (or keep it going) around friendships: how they begin, how they flourish, and how horribly painful it can be when they end.
You sprung into my life like all good friends do. One minute I was nervous and feeling out of my depths in a new environment, the next I had made eye contact with you and I felt immediately welcomed and invited and I was instantly drawn into your aura. In hindsight, I see now that instantly looked up to and idolised you. This, over the coming years, perhaps led me to think you didn’t see me as a “friend”, but more as a mentoree. So I tempered the way I reached out to you, scared that I would “over step” the boundaries.
I often felt “less” than you. I often felt like I was searching for the right words around you. I often felt like I was one word away from shutting you down and forcing you away from me emotionally. It was like I didn’t have the words, the life experience or the intuition/skill to engage with you in the ways that you needed. Yet when you showed me love, you showered it on me and made me feel strong, smart, in-tune and like I was getting it right. So I persisted and I continued working through my own discomfort even when I felt like I wasn’t a good “friendship fit” for you.
From you, I felt like I had a friend who “had my back”. You told me when I needed to stand up for myself in another friendship. You comforted me when I was overwhelmed and you told me your own stories of anxiety, stress, and distress throughout life. I spent a lot of time talking, and found myself “out of balance” sometimes when I walked away from a conversation. “What is going on with her?!” I would realise, it dawning on me that I had been so selfish as to never ask you, or even worse, to allow you to “brush it off” and flip the conversation back to me. I acknowledge that tactic to be your own, but I was not perceptive enough to realise it was happening and it lead to a build up of potential miscommunication and misunderstanding, of potential threat and danger to the threads of our relationship.
Sometimes I would speak to you daily. Sometimes you would be the person that I would think of straight away whether it be something happy, sad, exciting, funny, it didn’t seem to matter, I wanted to share that with you. In this respect our relationship really did feel like a “courtship”, something that has definitely been written and spoken about before around the early days of relationships. But the thing that doesn’t happen (often) in friendships as the relationship buds is the “blow ups”. Those little niggles of irritation, those little frustration that would eventually snap out of one partner or another in a sexual or romantic relationship through necessity of closeness and breaking down barriers.
When I felt that tension I often felt you might “need space” from me. If it looked like your life was going downhill, sometimes I would also be experiencing my own stress. Sometimes I would realise that I wasn’t giving you the right “stuff” and it would lead to me not checking in with you, you not checking in with me, and then all of a sudden 6 weeks flying past and me realising I had no idea what was happening in your life. This is my own anxiety, fear of rejection, fear of failure and inability to confront challenging or uncomfortable “vibes” in a friendship.
So I let it sit. I let it sit, and rot, and simmer and eventually boil over. The hugs felt wrong, the responses over text felt clipped. But I didn’t have the words. “I feel there is some tension here. Is there something wrong that I have contributed to or caused?”
I became selfish. I started projecting and thinking things like “I am having a hard time, too. I need your support too.” I got angry. I became justified and I began managing the energy that I could invest. But the feeling of fatigue, the feeling of distress, the diminishing self-faith and the constant pangs of at times physical stomach drops and pains led to me continuing to do nothing. Stupid, I know.
I am so sad to say that you are not just one friend. There are multiple beautiful, strong, kind, ferocious and wonderful women who, for one reason or another, have faded from or combusted out of my life. Sometimes it is a series of events, sometimes it is a change of events or purely time and distance. But it those ones that I knew were flickering, spluttering and struggling. And yet I did nothing. It felt uncomfortable, it felt awkward and it felt wrong. And yet I let happen, and I am sorry for that.
So, my friend, please know that if this letter resonates with you, either in your relationship with me or with another, please just know that you are loved and missed and your time and energy and money and skill and effort was valued. It still is. And whilst I will continue to reach out to those friends who have shown a willingness to reconnect or rebuild, I will not be so presumptuous as to think that you are willing or wanting to continue a relationship with me. Therefore, I will not force that continued communication on you.
Know this, though. Should you ever feel the desire to reach out, you will be welcomed with warm arms and a gentle understanding that whilst we may never have the same relationship we shared in the past, reconnecting with you would fill my heart with extreme warmth.
I love you, my friend.