Another friend bites the dust

In recent weeks my  best friend and I have fallen out.  It’s taken me some time to write about it because, to be honest, I simply can’t get my head around the situation.  This is a very long post and includes some whining and self-pity, so if that’s not your thing feel free to skip it.  And if you do read, please no judgemental comments telling me everything I did wrong – I’m so not in the head space for that right now.

N and I have been best mates for 22 years, despite the fact we live at opposite ends of the country.  I knew her before she was married or became a Mum, and she knew me before I got sick.  I’ve mentioned her in glowing terms many times throughout my blog and I’ve always told her what her friendship means to me.

When we were younger we spoke all the time and I visited her down in London as much as I could.  Things changed when she had her first child, as it was around the same time I became bedridden with ME.  Yet despite the changes in both our lives we worked at keeping our friendship alive.  Well, it wasn’t work…………I loved her and thought of her as my sister.

She became a Mum to 3 boys, and things changed again when they all started school and her husband took a job 100 miles away and was only home on weekends.  It was decided we would only speak between 9am-3pm Monday –Friday when the boys were at school as her evenings were so busy, and I wasn’t to ring on weekends as that was her time to spend with her husband.  Fair enough, although for me weekends were always my loneliest time.  I used to really hate Sundays, when everyone was with their families and I was alone in my bed.

Eventually my friend got a part-time job, which made the time we could contact each other even more limited and we got down to talking once a week for about an hour.

Further down the line they moved to a huge house which took a lot of looking after.  My friend couldn’t cope with the kids, her job and the house, so she gave up work and was a stay at home Mum.  I thought it meant we’d be able to chat more, but for some reason I can’t fathom trying to find time to speak to her got even worse.

By this time my health had improved and I was no longer bedridden.  I started to have my own commitments  and I remember my friend saying jokingly it was annoying to have to think of my schedule as well as her own, as when I was bedridden she could ring any time and always knew I’d be home!

For me, speaking to my friend even for an hour a week was a priority.  No matter what I was doing (commitments to my Mum and walking the dog aside) I’d just drop it and chat to her – let’s face it, it was more important than dusting or doing the bloody ironing.  Yet her time for me seemed to get less and less – there was always something she was busy with.  To try and quell my occasional resentment I’d rationalize the situation in my head, the gist of which was I should be thankful she was still my friend, as she was the only person who’d stuck by me during my entire illness.  And I am grateful.   She has been a really good friend to whom I told everything.

During the last couple of years, as my Mum became more ill, my Dad’s mental health declined and I adopted Bertie, my own life has become extremely hectic.  You have to remember that while healthy people are on the go from 7.30am to 10pm each day, I have to cram everything in before 3pm, because after that my energy is spent and I’m in bed.  It got so bad I was feeling overwhelmed, and made up a schedule for my week to make sure I got everything done which, btw, included time set aside to speak to my best mate.  N was really quite sarcastic about this, implying I didn’t know what busy was.  My resentment grew, because although she has three kids the eldest is 20 and a grown man, the middle one is 17 and the youngest is 13, so they’re not exactly babies.  I’m not entirely sure what she thought she was doing in her day that was vastly different to mine and I was doing it all as sick as a dog.

Last year they moved area, her husband changed jobs and they bought a much smaller home.  Her children are all but grown up and her husband was now home at 6pm every night.  I thought finally we would have more time for each other.  But it got even worse and I still can’t work out why, bearing in mind she still wasn’t working.

She did, however, move 6 feet away from her aunt to whom she’s very close.  She seems to speak to her several times a day and they rarely go a day without seeing each other.  I tried not to be hurt by the fact she had plenty of time for her aunt and her cousin, neither of whom were subjected to the 9am-3pm or weekend rules, yet less and less time for me – but I’m only human and I didn’t always succeed.

When I had my first Mast Cell appointment last November in London I stayed down for 3 days, the first night in a hotel and the second two with my friend.  She invited her aunt round to meet me at 4pm, which was lovely.  Then the aunt was invited to stay for dinner, and we all sat round the dinner table with my friend and her aunt chatting about people I didn’t know and her aunt not even looking in my direction.  After dinner at 8pm I retired to lie on my bed as I was exhausted, but did my friend come and up lie quietly with me for a chat?  Nope.  She stayed downstairs with her aunt who finally went home at 10pm.  I hadn’t seen my friend for 18 months, and she could have seen her aunt the other 363 days of the year.  Got to admit, I was seriously hurt.

To make matters worse, the next day I was leaving at 2.30pm but my friend bogged off for an hour to take her aunt to the Dentist, despite the fact her aunt can drive, has a daughter of her own, and in any event I’m sure there are taxis and buses where they live. I know I spent a lot of time in bed while I was there, but in the previous 20 years I’d barely been further than my nearest town, yet here I was 300 miles, 2 trains and a tube ride away, and the effort and travel had really made me feel poorly.  I hated myself that I couldn’t be a perkier, more chatty, more fun friend.

In the following 2 months I had to make the 700 mile round trip to London twice more, once for my blood tests and the second time for my follow up Mast Cell appointment.  Neither time did my friend even offer to come and meet me at the station for a coffee, let alone go to the appointments to keep me company.  She does live some way out of London, but visits the city regularly as her parents live there.  Thinking about it, if the roles were reversed and she was single, sick and travelling alone from London to Carlisle for a really important medical appointment wild horses wouldn’t stop me from meeting her off the train, making sure she go to the appointment OK and going in with her for moral support.  It was the beginning of the end for me.

Last month we went 3 whole weeks without speaking as my friend was so busy.  The first week I got a text apologising.  The second week I got a text apologising. The third week I didn’t even get a text.  Around the same time I wrote this blog post about how lonely I’d be after my Mum passes away and how my current friendships won’t fill the gap.  My friend doesn’t subscribe to my blog so I knew she wouldn’t read it.  Which again is weird – nearly 300 total strangers follow my every word, yet my best mate can’t be arsed.  However, despite the fact she hadn’t even had time to text me all week,  and she only dips into my blog now and again, she did read it and her reaction kind’ve stunned me.

Did she ring me, upset, angry, hurt?  Nope, though she did send me a very lengthy text message saying she was “gutted”.  About what?  Well, the fact I’d expressed my feelings about our friendship on a public blog for one (though I’d mentioned her a dozen times previously and she’d never had a problem with it before).  She was also hurt that “our entire friendship is based on me feeling grateful she had stuck by me”.  I bloody hate when people catastrophize events to suit their own ends.  I didn’t say this at ALL.  I did say I couldn’t base my continuing friendship on gratitude, but I did not say that my entire 22 year friendship was based on this.  If she’d bothered to ring me and ask me about it I would have explained it more fully to her.  The thing that upset me the most, though, was that not ONCE did she say she was upset I felt so alone, or that she was worried our friendship was slipping away.  Not once did she apologise for not having any time for me.  Not once did she acknowledge my feelings at all.

I have to own my part in this.  Naturally if I’d known she would be reading this particular blog post I would have worded it differently.  I hold my hands up to being completely tactless, but I’m not sure anything I said was so vile it was enough to end a 22 year friendship over.  Or maybe I’m wrong and am just totally deluded?

The very next day her husband unfriended me on Facebook.  After 20 years.  I hated him for that.  I have never in 22 years deliberately hurt my friend.  We have never before had a single cross word.  Yet he has hurt her in ways I find inexcusable, including having an affair when the children were all really tiny which absolutely shattered her.  I could cheerfully have stopped speaking to him after that, but I didn’t.  I respect the fact he’s my friend’s husband and if she could forgive him it meant I had to.  I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s always been extremely jealous of my relationship with his wife, as he has never had a single friend let alone a best friend, and I’m sure he’s delighted I’m out of the picture.  And I’m not being churlish in saying that, I actually mean it.

I didn’t reply to my friend’s text, as I was too hurt and angry and needed a chance to calm down.  After about a week I emailed her explaining from my point of view what had happened, including the incident when I went to say with her last November.  The email included an apology that my blog post had hurt her, but I did explain that I didn’t think she’d be reading it.  I didn’t get a reply, and a few days later her son (to whom I’ve always been close) also unfriended me on Facebook.  I have no clue what they’ve said to him, and if I’m honest I’m more upset about that even than losing my friend.

The following week it was my birthday and I didn’t receive so much as a card.  It was then I realized that, for her, the friendship was obviously over.

I still don’t really know what I did that was so unforgivable that a 22 year friendship has been lost.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve done anything at all.  I had no clue my friend would read my blog post, and in any event it didn’t say anything that was so horrendous it should cause them all to stop speaking to me.  All I did was say I felt lonely, was worried sick about the effect losing my mum was going to have on my emotional and mental health, and I felt like my friend didn’t care enough to find time for me.  If the shoe had been on the other foot, and I’d inadvertently heard my friend say that, I’d have been devastated that she felt I didn’t care about her and I would have asked her what I could do to make the friendship better!

The entire friendship I’ve put my needs second to those of my friend.  I understood when she had small children and was busy.   I understood when she had a job and was busy.  I understood when she had a big house to take care of and was busy.  But I’m not sure the understanding went both ways.  Did my friend understand that for 10 years I wasn’t busy?  That I lay in bed day in and day out  totally alone?  Did she understand that for 6 years I renovated my house, single handedly, while being extremely ill yet still found time to talk to her?  Is there any comprehension of the time and effort involved in cooking every single thing from scratch, looking after my parents, taking care of the dog, the house, shopping, ironing, cleaning, washing…….all totally alone in only 7 hours a day and with not one, not two, but three exhausting and painful diseases yet STILL making speaking to her a priority?  Did she, just occasionally, chat to me in the evenings and at weekends because it was the best time for me?  No.

In her text, my friend accused me of “just cutting people off” if I had a problem with them.  I was really upset about that too.  Number 1, my best mate isn’t “people” – she’s been like a sister to me for over 20 years.  And Number 2, I spend years and years making excuses for people (like my Dad) and trying to see the world from their point of view before getting to the stage where I feel so hurt and upset I have to say something.  And every time I’ve ever said anything the other person has stopped speaking to me.  I’m not sure how that’s my fault?

She’s right in one respect though, and that’s after someone has deeply hurt me I have the ability to simply cut off my feelings and ties without a second’s thought.  It hadn’t gotten anywhere near that stage with my friend, but after a month of her not even bothering to contact me or make any attempt to patch things up, I’m there now.  I’m not about to beg someone to make time for me or to be my friend – it’s something they should want for themselves and if they don’t then I can’t force them.  I have enough self esteem to know that, sick or not, I make a good friend.  And I also know she’s going to regret chucking that away.

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16 thoughts on “Another friend bites the dust

  1. Guenevere

    I’m sorry that your friendship has ended this way. It seems that she has grown away from you, but needed a “fight” to end it rather than saying that she had changed and no longer wanted to be as close. That’s a much harder conversation to have than getting all fluffed up and self-righteous and stabbing at the “unfriend” button on FB. My shrink often reminds me that feeling resentful means we have not kept our boundaries well enough, and that we can fix that rather than waiting on the other person to notice. I’m sorry if she never seemed to notice that you were caving to her demands and feeling like your needs were neglected, and I suppose that at this stage, reading about your needs being unmet made her feel really guilty, and then probably really defensive, and then there you go, there’s a big kerfuffle to screen the truer feelings of guilt, or to hide behind rather than saying, “I don’t feel I can accommodate you if you are going to need X from me.” I’m also sorry for your increasing loneliness, and your sense of isolation growing–those are heartbreaking positions to be in. I hope that this break is also the beginning of something else that you may not even know about yet, but that will be more fulfilling and more respecting of your needs, too.

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    1. bertieandme Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Genevere. You are absolutely right in all you say. Her Aunt has taken my place as her best friend, and she just didn’t need me any more. I am more hurt she seems to’ve turned her son against me though – there was no need for that when I don’t feel I’ve done anything wrong 😦 x

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  2. kneillbc

    I’m so sorry that you are going through this. I can imagine that it has been one if the hardest of your life. ‘Breaking up’ with a long-time friend, even if you have grown increasingly distant, is very tough. It sounds like this latest incident was merely the finishing nail, as it were. It sounds like the friendship has been over for a while, it’s just that nobody really made it explicit. Just like any loss, it will be very difficult. I am fortunate that although my best childhood friend is far away, she has been supportive of me. We had a ‘break up’ early in our friendship- and I know how hard that was. We managed to re-connect some years later, and found our friendship that much stronger. Sometimes it works that way, sometimes it doesn’t. My illness has clearly ended one of my other closest, most cherished friendships. You don’t need the details, but it is awful. It’s something we don’t talk about much in our society- but our friends are our extended families, and it hurts just as much when a friendship ends as it does when you fall out with family. If the interaction with the son is bad, you may want to write him a letter explaining that you still love his mum, and him, but you can’t pour effort into something indefinitely. He will, of course, have to stay ‘loyal’ to his mum, but at least then you will know that at least intellectually (if not emotionally), that you would never intentionally hurt him or his mum.

    I’m so sorry that the season of this friendship is over. Perhaps there will be a silver lining that will present itself.

    I’m thinking of you, and I wish I could ease your pain.

    Karen

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    1. bertieandme Post author

      Thanks so much Karen. I’m sorry you’ve experienced a similar loss of friendship. You’re right, for me she was family and the loss is devastating really. However, after I’d drafted the blog post and was reading it back it hit home just how much *she* had been letting go and I simply hadn’t realized. Guenevere, in her comment above, hit the nail on the head when she said my friend just needed an excuse to end it.

      I did wonder myself whether I should write to my friend’s son and am still undecided. He’s 17 so is adult enough that I can speak to him as a grown up. However, as you say, he is fiercely loyal to his parents and will always side with them. So I’m not sure it wouldn’t just be best to say nothing. It’s a difficult decision.

      Thanks again for the comment, much appreciated. Jak x

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  3. Louise

    I haven’t read the comments so I hope I’m not just repeating what others have said, but what a moving post. It made the pain of losing my best friend all come flooding back, as I felt it in your words.

    It sounds to me that writing this post was your way of letting your feelings out/go (?) and trying to either make sense of it or move on from it. So on that front, I think you’ve done the best thing possible. Writing is so cathartic.

    What I did notice though was that it sounds like your friend had already moved away from the friendship emotionally way before your blog post. It sounds like the blog post was just the justification she needed to end it more ‘neatly’.

    I genuinely believe that even the strongest of relationships don’t fair well when there’s a lot of change. And your friendship has been through an incredible amount of change, and quite frankly, I’d have been suspicious if you had told me that after all that you were stronger than ever with her.

    It sounds like you needed ? wanted ? her more than she did you, and maybe it properly coming to an end is the best thing for both of you. I think any kind of major disparity between people causes tension, jealousy, resentment, all out of a total misunderstanding of the other person’s reality. She was probably jealous of all the time you had to yourself, you were probably jealous of her health and how much she could get do with her life.

    Not many of my friendships survived me getting sick, and I have to say, a couple of years on, I’m actually kinda glad of that. (I wasn’t at the time though, especially not when very good long term friends completely betrayed me and made me homeless when I got sick) but now… now I feel glad for it because it’s given me the opportunity to see the really good friendships for what they really are. I value them so much more and I think I actually put a lot more effort into them now, because I really respect them.

    It’s hard though when it’s your best friend. I get that. You don’t just ‘make another best friend’. But when the time is right you will. You never what, or who, is around the corner, and by cleaning out the crap, you’re making space for a new, better friendship in your life.

    Sorry for the waffle!

    PS, I went to Carlisle once. My mum got hitched in Gretna Green and while I was up there I looked around Carlisle town, got a whole bunch of pictures of the cathedral, it’s got fantastic gargoyles if I remember rightly. 😀

    Louise 🙂

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    1. bertieandme Post author

      Thanks for the comment Louise 🙂 You are right that my friend had begun to let me go years earlier. It was only when I drafted the blog post and looked at the timeline of events that this became obvious to me. Until then I just believed the “I’m busy” excuse because she was family and you don’t let family go do you? Never thought this would happen to us in a million years. But looking over the post I’m staggered I didn’t see the obvious until now!

      The only thing I disagree with is your part about jealousy. I’ve never been jealous of her or her healthy llife for a second. If you love someone you want them to be happy and despite her good health she’s not happy. She’s probably been as unsupported in her life as I have in mine, which is why I’m confident in my statement that she will really miss my friendship. I think it’s very easy to take something for granted, and then when it’s not there you realize just what a rock it’s been.

      Jak x

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  4. Sherry

    Hello :). My comments come from my own experiences in the demise of special friendships… and from the complete loss of important family relationships since becoming ill…endings that have confounded me, profoundly hurt me, caused me to think and rethink my part in them… as if there could be a single answer – or a story full of answers – that would satisfy me – that would take away the pain… that would make it a neat and tidy, sensible life experience.

    I am so sorry to hear how hurt you are. I understand these feelings and how they burrow to the core.

    I think your friend is also hurt. You probably know and understand that despite the confusion and pain you find yourself in.

    The actions and inactions, comments or lack there of… all of that “stuff” we need and expect and want in our relationships… can be tremendously rewarding when present and fitting or extraordinarily painful when absent or inappropriate – relationships that were glorious can suddenly become baffling and their failure mind consuming…

    …and can lead to obsessive thinking of why, Why, WHY did this relationship fail? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why could they not see me for me…understand me for me? Why did they not hear me as I intended? Why, Why, Why? And we can find ourselves on an emotional roller coaster ride that never seems to end.

    At the end of the day, I suspect that you and your friend want the same things from each other…love, acceptance, respect, kindness, caring, understanding – and that some of these things, within your friendship and while life evolved differently for the two of you, have been overwhelmingly challenged and possibly lacking for each of you for some time.

    Your blog post was not likely the cause of the possible end of this friendship…but it may have provided your friend the opportunity to allow herself to feel “gutted”, to choose to feel less responsible for the demise of the friendship – because, based on your description of the friendship over the years, she may have already been on her way to that place and what she read, in the frame of mind in which she read it, was all that was needed to make her choice. It could just as easily have been you choosing to feel “gutted” – having felt hurt, misunderstood, and let down for a very long time already. Don’t get me wrong… as having said that, sometimes there is a fairly clear cut “wrong doer” but in a relationship such as you have described – one that is long term, deep, filled at one time with such personal sharing and caring – is often one with a much muddier complexion – yet one with more common ground that we can sense in the heat of our pain.

    I don’t think there is any real right way of being when it comes to this kind of thing – I do know that, as a chronically ill, primarily homebound human being myself, that I can feel as if it is I who has the bigger challenge when it comes to maintaining and growing existing friendships – or cultivating new ones (which feels almost impossible)…and maybe this is true – depends upon my spirit on any given day – but, I have learned that my friends and family struggle with this themselves – for their own reasons. This understanding has not yet mended my family relationships but it has helped me to lighten the burden of their current circumstances.

    The crappy and crazy bit, in my humble opinion, is that if we could come together and support one another… if we could truly let go of fear… if we could face our personal truths nonjudgmentally (not something that happens overnight)…and realise that we have much more in common that we think – that we can be there for one another in amazing ways – simple but extraordinary ways. Yet, fear puts blinders on people, puts them in a cage of sorts, closes their minds, makes them small…and shuts down their ability to accept any given moment of truth.

    Lots of love to you,

    Sherry

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    1. bertieandme Post author

      Thanks as ever for your insightful comments Sherry. Nearly all of the comments have pointed out that my friend had been letting me go for some years – it wasn’t until I drafted the blog post that it became blindingly obvious to me though! I feel a bit of a clutz not realizing, but I honestly was so safe in the relationship it never dawned on me to question anything, including my own resentment which I definitely should have looked at more deeply much earlier. It’s so easy to look back with hindsight though and be wise! And easy for onlookers who aren’t emotionally involved, and much harder to see the situation clearly when it’s your life.

      Writing the post has been cathartic and helped me make more sense of the situation. I feel I was as good a friend as I could be, and my friend simply became closer to someone else and didn’t need me in the same way anymore – it happens. Didn’t think it would happen to us, but there you go!
      Jak x

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  5. d

    Jak

    I am very sorry to hear about this friendship ending. I was listening to music this weekend and when this song came up I thought of you and the circumstances with your former friend.

    Jason Mraz – Details in the Fabric

    My you tube isn’t working for me at the moment but there are various versions on the site.

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    1. bertieandme Post author

      What a gorgeous song, thanks so much for thinking of me d 🙂 James Morrison is actually one of my fav ever singer/songwriters so you couldn’t have chosen better! Jak x

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      1. d

        I am happy you enjoyed it. I have found music to be a powerful tool on the days when I am not dealing as well with my circumstances. There is another song you might also appreciate:

        Peter Katz – Still Mind Still
        the video he created with Southern Souls is simple and lovely

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  6. Lindsay

    i’m very sorry to hear about losing your best friend. it’s very frustrating when we become an inconvenience for people we thought we could always count on.

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    1. bertieandme Post author

      Thanks so much Linds. Always thought this person would be someone I would have with me forever, but it’s a stark reminder that you’re never in control of someone else’s actions. Jak x

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  7. Elizabeth Milo

    I read this trying to put myself in your position with my best friend of 29 years who lives in Dublin… I would be absolutely devastated and would mourn the loss of her as if it were a death. You don’t let your writing be mired in emotion, but I don’t think one can ever get hardened to losses like this. I am so very sorry that you have this heartache on top of so many others. I know you must be cut to the core. I consider you a very good friend. Her loss. X

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