When Friends Fail Us

When you begin blogging about something as taboo and uncomfortable as your disordered eating recovery journey, you discover one of three things about your readers.

1) They are people  who read for support, even though they have no food/exercise issues themselves and just maybe like you and/or your style/topics/voice.

2) They are people  who have secretly battled similar (albeit different) demons and find a resource like this blog useful/helpful/encouraging/inspirational.

3) They are people who can’t handle the truth and, upon discovering it, walk away.

While I don’t know most of my readers personally, I’m blessed and happy to say that 99.9 percent of the people I know and love in real life (blogger/WW friends are included here too!) have been in the first two categories. I appreciate them and their support more than they could know … and I’m eternally grateful for them because I couldn’t have done it without them.

But there is one friend who falls into the third category.

A friend who I was so close with that we were in each others’ weddings. A friend with whom I shared my weight loss journey (as she was experiencing her own around the same time). A friend who encouraged me to start blogging about my issues. A friend whom I thought was, indeed, for a lifetime.

I won’t go into details, but let’s just say my blog was, inevitably, the reason we stopped being friends.

Basically, instead of being there to support me during those excruciating times (the way so many friends did, including my two very best friends) this friend stopped calling and emailing (we live in different states) and basically began avoiding me because it was easier for her to let me “work through things” on my own than to face them head-on with me.

UM … OK. Anyone else see how jacked-up this mentality is, or am I nuts!? I mean, I know for a while there I was a tough pill to swallow (and it hurt many of my loved ones to see me so visibly [and secretly] struggling) … but last time I checked, good friends are supposed to be there in good times AND in bad. At least, that’s how I roll … But I digress.

We finally spoke in early March 2009 where she admitted this inability to deal with my struggles during this time (for several reasons). She also expressed that she thought I wasn’t getting enough out of therapy — and in many respects, she was right. I hadn’t stopped many of the disordered behaviors in spite of heightened awareness I gleaned in therapy. Coincidentally, around this time I wound down my therapy sessions and, in a turn of fate, it was a conversation with her that led to the conversation with my brother that led to me quitting chewing and spitting altogether.

There was no big blow-up or screaming match. There were a few intermittent emails … and then we never spoke again.

We have lots of mutual friends in common, and I know she knew I was pregnant; had a baby. Not a word. I don’t ask about her; I’m sure she doesn’t ask about me.

And for as sensitive a person as I tend to be, when it came to this friendship, I’ve harbored more anger than even sadness at the culmination of what had been, for the most part, a decade-long relationship.

Every so often I think of her and, especially given how strong I am feeling these days, I feel pangs of hurtbut then I echo the lyrics from Christina Aguilera’s anthem, “Fighter.”

‘Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter

And I realize I’m perfectly OK even without her in my life. Because I do truly believe people (friends, lovers, etc.) come and go for a reason, and at specific times  … and maybe our time was up. I’m OK with that; I get it.

The reason why I share this is because, regardless of the when or how, it’s sad to me when we lose a friend.

One of my best friends died of cancer nearly five years ago, and his loss was visceral and gut-wrenching and horrifying to the nth degree … but Jason didn’t choose to leave my life (or anyone’s)! (And I miss him enormously!)

This friend of which I’m speaking, however, made a conscious decision to do so. She couldn’t deal with my issues, for whatever reason, and it was easier for her to avoid me than deal with me.

And, well, that hurts.

I don’t dwell on it every day or anything — and even debated putting it to words here at all — but every so often I’ll have a fleeting thought about her and remember, “Hey wait, we’re not friends anymore.”

To be honest, I’m not sure what triggered this post tonight, of all nights … but sometimes it just feels good to lay it out there. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.

And if anything, it’s a reminder to me about how to be a good friend, and that means celebrating his/her joy as much as picking him/her up when he/she is falling.

It doesn’t mean walking away when the going gets tough; it means sticking by, even if it’s painful to do so.

In the end, tough experiences like these teach us who our true friends really are. And I’m amazingly blessed for each and every one of them!

How about you? As kids, it’s easy to just move on to a new friend. The older we get, the harder it gets to just move on. How do you deal with friendships that fade?

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20 thoughts on “When Friends Fail Us

  1. I’m sorry things didnt’ work out with your friend. I can understand how that would hurt you. While I was reading I did think about one thing… I think you mention that she was having a hard time dealing with it. Maybe she has her own issues going on possibly around something similar. Maybe she is jealous of your recovery because she can’t admit to her own struggles. I really don’t know her obviously but it just came to mind that perhaps it was hard on her for some reason or another to watch this part of your journey. Perhaps it was just jealousy which at face value is frustrating like: why can’t she just be happy for you. But perhaps it made her feel badly about not being able to be as brave. Perhaps she was worried about you and found herself unable to cope with knowing all the details of your difficult recovery. I don’t know. I agree that people come in an out of our lives for reasons. She did support you at one time. I guess now things have changed, but maybe it’s for reasons that are deeper.. I guess I like to think like this because it takes the anger out of these situations. That’s just me.

    I have many friendships that have faded. I find it’s a little harder when there are big life events like weddings, babies, etc. But just because you are no longer close with someone doesn’t negate the relationship you had. You may never speak again, but there were great things about that relationship and that’s what I like to remember. I think the hardest situation is where one person wants to grow apart and the other doesn’t. Those are so tricky. I’ve tried being honest, that ended up with me feeling worse. I’ve tried just drifting away but that ended up with the other person confused.. I relaly don’t know the answer. It’s definitely difficult.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Suzy (nice to see you here! I miss your comments!) Yea, I don’t know what’s at the root of it,and if that’s the case, maybe it explains some of it, but still … it hurt a lot when things happened. Now I’m kind of past that, but sometimes I still feel it.

      And that is true. She’ll always be in my wedding pictures for posterity, and she was a wonderful friend to me (and I hope vice versa) those 10 years. It’s just sad that it had to end.

  2. I had a friend who recently confronted me and said it looked like to her that I was going through some stuff so she decided to give me some space. Um? What? If you’re a real friend, if you see a friend is hurting, you REACH OUT TO THEM. Plus, I wasn’t in dire straits or anything, I just wasn’t performing up to this idyllic vision she had of me being perfect. She proceeded to DEMAND TO KNOW what was wrong with me. I stammered a response. But I walked away from that conversation knowing with certainty that’s one friend I don’t need in my life anymore.

    1. Great attitude, Heather!! I admire your ability to see that. At the time, I gave this friend the benefit of the doubt and tried to move on but it didn’t last; she continued to back off. And well, in time, so did I.

  3. I definitely agree that friends come and go into our lives. And I’ve had a few friendships fade. One was when I was in my mid twenties…I was her maid of honor. I think, in looking back, I was jealous of her and where she was in her life. I felt excluded from her life too when she got married. I felt that once she got married (and I was single), she no longer wanted to hang out with me, but her married/couple friends. It hurt. I said some things, and she also said some things. I even remember sending her a card detailing it all and how much I appreciate the friendship, but she didn’t respond. So at that time, I decided to no longer put any effort.

    With another friend, we basically went our separate ways after an incident (long story short, I had a little too much to drink, and hit it off pretty well with this guy that she was apparently interested in. She proceeded to call me a name and left me at the bar). I think we could have mended things, and she had gone through a lot of issues herself where I was there for her. But ultimately, i decided not to — not because I didn’t want to deal with her but because, at that time, she was toxic and negative. I would be there for her, but I was also starting to go through my own issues and I couldn’t take hers on as well or let her toxic/negative attitude affect me. I had to move on and be with people who would be healthier for me. I miss her though, but I had to do what was best for me.

    1. One more thing to add…
      It’s so much harder now with kids to keep up friendships. But I definitely try. That was one of my goals for 2011 — to go out more with my friends, call more, etc. It’s so easy to get in the routine of work, go home play with baby/toddler, spend time with hubby, then go to sleep. But it’s incredibly important for us, as women, to keep up our friendships.

      1. Thanks for sharing your story .. I totally agree it is imperative to keep those friendships up — there’s nothing like our girlfriends and often we get caught up in the rat-race and say we have no time … we need to MAKE time.

  4. This post resonates with me on so many levels. While my blog is new and isn’t dealing with necessarily the same things yours was, I have definitely felt like I have lost friends due to a conscience choice and I lost my best friend in a freak drowning accident almost 4 years ago. Now I am very sure to make sure I catch up with friends on a regular basis. While some friends reciprocate I have some friends who just blow off lunches and dinners and group plans because it’s “not a big deal” and it drives me crazy. I know that my social life will change once I have out first baby so I’m hoping these friends step up and reciprocrate or else I’m going to feel like I lost friends for no good reason other than laziness. Thanks for sharing this post. I love reading your blog. 🙂

    1. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your best friend, Cupcake Kelly …that is so sad.

      Thank you! I am so glad to hear this–I love discovering new readers 🙂

  5. I tried to write something insightful, but I think I’ve ultimately dealt with one particular relationship very similarly to how you’ve dealt with this one. And I firmly believe that some people are in our lives for a specific period of time and provide us opportunities to learn specific lessons. Some are more painful than others. You never know what wisdom you might be able to pass to Maya because of this experience, but I am sure you appreciate your truest friends that much more because of it.

    Thank God for friends who grow with us, stand next to us (and hold us up when necessary), challenge us, celebrate with us, and mourn with us. And thank God, too, for friends who made such an impact on us during our cut-too-short time as friends that we will miss them for the rest of our lives.

    1. Beautifully said, Janelle. You’re right–I’m sure there is a nugget of wisdom in there and hopefully it will always serve as a reminder to be a good friend through thick and thin.

      Amen–amen!! 🙂

  6. This really resonates with me for a different reason. Pregnancy and motherhood destroyed my relationship with a very close friend of mine. We were so, so close — even maids-of-honor in each other’s weddings — and used to hang out at least every week. We did everything on the same timeline: graduated college, got our first jobs, got engaged, bought houses, got married. But she doesn’t want kids, and in fact, doesn’t like kids. When I told her I was pregnant she juist stopped calling, emailing, etc. Stopped making time for me. We’re friends on FB but haven’t spoken or seen each other in months and months. I don’t blame her for drifting away, but it still really hurts. 😦 My friendships with others have changed, too, but in less dramatic ways.

    1. That is something that I think happens to a lot of women, for sure, Alison–when we move to a different stage of life than a friend, it can be hard. I’m sorry to hear about your situation … it’s good to know, though, that we’re not alone.

  7. Hi Melissa,
    I wrote you a few weeks ago. I’m writing again to update you on my appointment at the eating disorder clinic. I was diagnosed with eating disorder (NOS). I have an appointment with nutrition next week and will be booking with a therapist once one calls me. So far I feel relieved to be getting help.

    I also wanted to write about this post in particular. I have had a friend for the last eight years who I spent a lot of time with and considered one of my dearest friends. I have bipolar disorder as well and have noticed a decline in my mental health recently (wedding stressors plus work seem to be doing a job on me). The friend started backing away from me over the last four months. When I called or saw her (she is my fiancé’s sister so we see each other whether she chooses to or not), she was rather cold and even mean to me. I confronted her and she told me it was because my bipolar disorder has been worsening and she didn’t want to make our relationship worse so she backed away from me (so self preservation). I’m hurt and angry and frustrated that I cannot walk away to give myself time to heal. It’s difficult because I will have to keep seeing her for the rest of my life and she may very well continue to say hurtful and judgmental things to me.

    Anyway, I just wanted to write and say that I am with you… my other friends haven’t denied me support over the years through much tougher times than this. Friends are supposed to be there through good times and bad. It sucks. I am trying to think of it as a break up and know that the hurt and anger will go away in time. You and I may even each come to a place where looking back on this will actually feel okay.

    Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa and I’m so glad to hear you’re making progress and getting help. I hope I wrote you back–I can’t keep things straight these days so I apologize if I didn’t!! Anyway, I am so sorry to hear this happened to you… I don’t blame you for feeling how you do. YES, a break-up is EXACTLY how I feel about it … only this one had no closure. All my break-ups in real life did.

      I hope so! Thinking of you.

      1. Hi Melissa!

        Thanks for the response. You did write me back and you encouraged me to write again 🙂 so here I am again, again! I saw my nutritionist today for the first time and it went really well. I was told not to eat diet versions of stuff and my goal for the week (between today’s appointment and next week’s) is to eat dessert every day. It’s a little weird for me to think I should have regular soda if I want soda rather than diet and make sure I have dessert :-). But I see where the nutritionist is going with it. Here is how I understand it: diet food often compensates for lack of fat and whatnot with more sugar or sugar substitute plus eating diet foods may cause me to not feel satisfied and eating dessert is important because I have a tendency of categorizing foods as good or bad when I should think of all food is equal (so says my nutritionist).

        So that’s that so far. I LOVE the look of your site! I’m looking forward to reading your new posts and checking out the changes!

        Lisa

      2. Oh awesome!! I blame mommy brain for that lapse of memory 😉 That’s WONDERFUL! Please keep me posted on your progress. Small steps truly yield big results!! I have learned to think like your nutritionist…that labeling foods is not the way to go. All food is food. Some is better for us than others, but in the end, it’s all just food.

        Thank you, that means a lot!! 🙂 Glad you like my new look 🙂

  8. This really resonated with me, as I have both been deserted and have deserted. Friendships go through growth spurts and growing pains and I’ve come to fully believe that sometimes we’re not meant to be lifelong friends with people who fit our lives at a certain time.

    That said, for me, it turned out that we all just needed some time. My friends had to come to terms with the “new” me after my weight loss and so did I. At the time I felt like, “Wow, now I’m finally being ME, authentically ME” but to them, I was someone different because they couldn’t have known the person I felt I was inside but believed I couldn’t be because of my outside. I did lose friends, including my best friend, for some years, but I’m happy to say we’ve all come around and mended fences.

    And as someone who thought someone needed space (and ended up being very wrong), what I can say is that I now realize their issues were just too intense and exhausting for me. It definitely was a bit selfish but I also just wasn’t in a place where I was capable of supporting them anymore because I felt exhausted, exasperated and at the end of my rope with them. So while it feels like a slight when they walk away, it truly may be for the best because they may not be able to give you what you need. And I don’t think it means you weren’t true friends. Sometimes we just have limits with people or within ourselves.

    These things hurt. I spent many night crying over losing my best friend, but I see now we both needed to grow a bit on our own – we were holding each other back in some ways. I actually needed to learn that I was okay without her (I didn’t believe that at first). Our friendship still (4 years after reconciling) isn’t what it was, but it’s good.

    You may become friends again one day… or you may not. And, either way, you’ll be okay.

    1. Candice, thanks for sharing your story and raising both sides of the issue. I’m also glad you have mended your fences.

      Sometimes it’s true–someone’s issues might be so far outside our realm of understanding that we just can’t do them justice; I understand that can happen — someone with a drinking or drugs or gambling addiction, for example … I would have a hard time in those cases.

      But I think with some explanation, walking away might not have hurt me as much … like she never said anything and then in our last convo told me why she’d been avoiding me … had my friend just said, “I can’t deal with you.” I might have understood. But instead, she agreed to try to be there for me…and then didn’t follow through. That’s what hurts (and maybe I didn’t explain that part of how things went down; that she agreed to try, knowing how hurt I felt).

      Then again, maybe it was selfish of me to think a friend should be there … I dunno, I’m definitely open to thinking about it.

      I think there’s too much hurt/anger still on my part to ever consider being friends, and we live in two different states (far far away) so I don’t think our paths will cross again unless we made them cross.

      Thanks for making me think a little more 🙂

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