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.