I seem to live in this never-ending, constant, perpetual fear that my friends will one day reject me because of some ultimately flawed and intimate aspect of my personality, or my exterior, that I cannot change. To be critiqued on these things, means, and always has done, that I am being rejected – wholeheartedly and completely. So, when a person who I have come to build a solid foundation with critiques me in any way, I cannot see how this could be entirely innocent or harmless. Instead I see the whole world come crashing down on me, closing in, and I am desperate for air. A spotlight shines in my face which burns and glares, and when these walls finally collapse I am in a darkness which is so hard to get out from.
I read their minds, I convince myself that they hate me, that they are laughing at me, and have compiled a list on a whiteboard of all of the things that they hate and do this every morning together with my other friends. I convince myself of this to the point where I could return home, pack everything up, and leave, because I think that is what they want. I get a burning sensation almost every time someone sends a message verbalising their upset with me. I instantly think they want no more to do with me, that I am flawed, irredeemably, and they are casting me off like the rubbish in a skip out the back of a pub.
I have been wrapped up, in my secondary school years, in a spiral of online arguments, hatred, and abuse – all of it from my friends. I am always conscious what people think of me, always. This probably started in my primary school years when I would stand on the open playground feeling that claustrophobia that used to taunt me when my group of friends didn’t want to hang out with me that week, sniggering, pointing, and backing me into my familiar corner – the corner from which I was continually retrieved by the popular group, who only did so to extend this exclusion and mockery.
Alas, there I would stand, either in my corner or on the outside of some circle of people who seemed entirely foreign, rubbing my hands, biting my skin, gasping for air, and feeling as though a torrent of spiders were crawling all over me. I was so alone but at a time aloneness was so crucial to your image and how people perceived you. Of course, I now realise I was having a really prolonged anxiety attack for the whole of break time almost every day from year 2 to year 6, and I’ve grown to feel quite sorry for 6 year old me.
Here’s something ironic – I was the class clown, but always the one being laughed at because no one saw my suffering. I never liked to think this affected me because it always sounded too cliché to let something so jovial as primary school bullies affect me so much later on in life. To admit that this is where the root of many of my insecurities lie would be admitting too much, and it seemed silly. So, it was all the way back then that I had apparently decided (all too prematurely) what my profession was going to be – a mind-reader – except a terribly shit one, because nothing I think that people are thinking is actually true.
I’m so terrified of friendships now. I’m terrified of getting that close to someone because I can already see what they will hate. I put up a wall, an impenetrable wall, and I have made my brain rewire itself for protection. And now, the same feeling arises whenever I am with a group; I am trapped in a room of daggers all pointing towards me and if I were to move I would get impaled a million times over. I become on edge, unable to talk to people, seeing eyes all around even when I’m on my own. I convince myself nobody likes me again and again. I have given myself a disorder so I’m not hurt in the same ways.
But, this has achieved nothing. I’m as lonely now as I was on the familiar wall in 2005, gazing at the faint chalk markings of an old game of hopscotch and feeling the sharp granite stones dig into me as the bell rings.
People do like me, as hard as it is to see sometimes. No one is excluding me when I think that they are. And, at 20 years old, I am starting to accept that these school experiences have shaped me, and things are already looking like they could be different. Yes, I need a hell of a lot of reassurance, and yes, this is at the detriment of my housemates who have basically become my full time carers, but in small ways can I see how simply talking and letting my feelings out, either in counselling or in therapy, can make a dramatic impact.
Through the art of acknowledging, I have been able to accept the help of medication and CBT in these difficult situations that I thought would always be difficult, but the most important thing is this acceptance; acceptance that it has changed you, acceptance that it has shaped you, and acceptance that this isn’t how your life needs to be forever.
All I know is that I sure as hell wasn’t ready to accept help a few months ago when I was told I had a mental health problem. All I wanted to do was wallow in a downward spiral of self-pity and let the world swallow me up. If this disturbing image tells you anything, let it be that, whether you are dealing with something painful from your past or you know someone that is, be patient and be kind, because when the walls are closing in, sometimes it is very hard to want to be saved from the rubble.