Here’s a quick litmus test to check who is really your friend: How do they react when you’re struggling?
Do they treat you with respect and kindness?
Or are they telling you how you should be acting, with added bonus advice like: “You shouldn’t cry so hard, it’s unattractive.”
My response to the latter? Two middle fingers and a shot of tequila. #thisiswhyidonthavefriends
I joke. Mostly.
Human emotion is weird and messy. Sometimes we are able to get through a crisis with poise and dignity; most of the time, we fall into excesses. Excess crying, excess eating, excess exercise, excess dieting, excess yoga. (Yes, there is such a thing as excess yoga.) We can’t always time our outbursts to suit other people’s moods.
And yet, some people expect us to. In fact, they seem offended when we’re anything less than perfectly bland around them.
I’m sorry, does the fact that I’m upset irritate you? Are you bored by having that same story repeated to you for the 15th time? Are you embarrassed to be seen with me? Oh, sorry, my world is a maelstrom of stress right now, but HEAVEN FORBID that you are a little bit inconvenienced.
Even better are the platitudes for you to “just get over it already.” It’s as if you’re talking to a robot, ‘healing’ is a matter of being able to find the right parts and finish repairs. The follies of the human heart, the illogical way emotions play out, and the ways in which illness makes us feel vulnerable and emotionally uncertain don’t factor in at all!
And of course, there are those who hide their intolerance under concerns for your “health”: “You really shouldn’t drink/work so hard/use Tinder, you’re very…fragile right now.” Fragile, as in your new heart-parts haven’t fused properly and might come undone under extra tension.
Here’s the thing, though: we are not robots. We each heal at our own pace, and with our own excesses.
Right now, I throw myself into work. In the past, it was studies, or dieting, or over-exercising, which has left me with a big brain, no social life, orthorexia which flares up around stressful periods, and a seriously dodgy wrist. I’m not proud of how far I went with those things, and I hope that this time, I’m able to pace myself to avoid burnout. But my bigger concern is keeping wolves at bay. They’re here, they’re snapping at my heels, and I haven’t got time to make other people feel good about themselves when I’m too busy trying to keep myself together.
And here’s the other thing: The people who truly love us get that.
They get that not every day is going to be a good one. They don’t assume things have come to pass just because we happen to make it through a sappy movie without crying. They listen to what we need, and give it to us without reservation, without judgment, without expectation of a return.
They don’t look to fix us because they understand that healing is messy and complicated. They can tolerate our pain because they know the place of anger and shame it comes from, and instead of blaming us for it, they love us unconditionally when we are not able to love ourselves.
And yes. Not every relationship has to be that deep.
But the ones that truly last have to be.