Your Friends Can Abuse You, Too

The mere sound of my cellphone ringing used to send me spiraling into ‘80s Wes Craven-type fear. My palms would grow wet, my heartbeat racing like I’d taken those Stacker 2 pills I was all about in high school, just because a semi-muted MIDI of “Bittersweet Symphony” had begun to play through the fabric of my jeans. Without reaching into my pocket, I already knew who was calling; I already knew that answering the phone — or worse, not answering the phone — would destroy my night, possibly my week. I’d typically let the fear paralyze me, let the call go to voicemail, then dread checking the voicemail because I knew what was waiting for me when I did. I knew who was waiting.

People have very clear ideas on what abuse is. Abuse is physical, or abuse is between man and woman, or abuse is between parent and child; abuse is verbal, mental; abuse happens in romantic relationships and marriages and in between the walls of a house where no one can see in. But abuse is not just that. And the one abuse people get away with, right out in the open, the abuse people don’t call abuse or recognize as such is that which takes place between two peers. Two friends.

Now, obviously the first reaction someone will have to what I’ve just written is that someone who abuses you is not your friend. This is what common sense, television, and our parents tell us. But anyone who’s ever been under the spell of another, more manipulative person is not a slave to their common sense. They’re a slave to fear, a slave to schedules they need to keep and phone calls they need to answer and extravagant lies they need to tell just to avoid a verbal (or physical) lashing, just to avoid the repercussions of autonomy.

Besides, that person? That person who will drive by to make sure you are where you say you are, that person who will tell your entire school how and where and why you lost your virginity, that person who urges you to kill yourself because you spent the day with someone who wasn’t her? She wasn’t always this way. Just think of all of the memories you’ve created together. Of course she’s your friend. She’s always there for you — even when you don’t want her to be. That guy who blew you off? She’ll tear him six new assholes and make him regret the day he discovered what his dick was for. She’ll loan you money so that being broke isn’t excuse enough to not hang out, she’ll pick you up and drop you off, she’ll come up with cutesy pet names for your parents.

Sometimes she’s a blast, the only person who Gets It, the only person who knows how you got those cuts on your arm because she has ones to match. She’s the one who taught you how to shoplift from the mall, who knows the best places to secure illegal pleasantries; the one who can stay up all night playing wingman while you explore your young body with guys who are much too old for you. She has all the best hair products and all the best snacks in her pantry and she is your very, very best friend. Because she says so.

But this person, this friend only builds you up so that she knows which bricks are loose, which fuses to light, what the quickest way to demolish you is. She holds your deed, your title, she owns you now. She is an expert in your mental faculties; she knows exactly which buttons to push and what insults to sling and which cheek to slap when she perceives you as being an entire string of obscenities that would make George Carlin blush, words she’ll leave on your voicemail without hesitation, maybe twice or three times in a row, insults she’ll pretend have no significance when she calls three days later wondering where you’ve been. She will scream at you — publicly, privately, so privately that you can hear the chill in her voice when she’s miles away, a looping mental recording of her disapproval. She will destroy you: threaten to turn the world against you and ask you to go see a movie with her in the same breath.

In time, you will become afraid. Not afraid of her, not anymore, because you know how to placate her now. You know the acceptable excuses for not hanging out: feeling sick, movies with boyfriend, shopping with mom. You know to answer on the first ring. You know — you learn — to lie like your goddamn life depended on it should you cease to invite her to whatever it is you’re doing, you know to sit alone in someone’s car with the windows shut and the doors locked so that she can’t hear anything but your quaking voice, “I think I’m staying in tonight.” You have become an expert in white lies; soon even you will have trouble distinguishing fact from fiction.

What you’re really afraid of though, is escaping. Or rather, not escaping. When is it ever the right time? How much longer can this go on? Not forever, right? The truth is, it can. The truth is, it will. Your friend will never change. She will not see the light, she will not recognize the insanity of her actions, she will not apologize for reducing you to tears in front of everyone you know for no reason other than that she could, ‘cause she felt like it. She is broken and she’s not yours to fix. So when is the right time to escape? The moment you realize that someone else is maliciously dictating your every move. The moment you realize you’ve lost control. Listen to common sense, to the television, to your parents. Fix what’s salvageable, what’s worth fixing — abandon your fear and just fix you. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

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  • Sjsj

    Phenomenomal.

  • THINFAMOUS

    uhhh…

  • http://twitter.com/iamsubmerged Jordana Bevan

    damn this is beautiful

  • Kvane223

    terrible.

  • liz

    Wow.

  • woo

    Err what a psycho

  • Basant

    I think a less dramatic version of this once happened to me… o lawd.

  • http://twitter.com/SoosSahar Sahar Soos

    This is terrifyingly accurate… :/

  • Anna

    Wow. I felt compelled to comment because I am very familiar with these feelings. It’s scary how you become so willing to please them that you feel awful when you don’t… And they make sure to let you know in the most hurtful way possible.

    • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

      The “friends” I had like this, I was, at first, trying to please out of pity, trying to be a kind person. Then I realized said friends were most likely sociopaths and I maintained the friendships out of fear of what would happen if I didn’t. Fortunately, most of the sociopaths I know tend to live in places for short amounts of time, then move and find new victims.

  • http://twitter.com/veebloom vee bloom

    This has happened to me 4 occasions in my life. I am aware now and will not let friends like that into my life anymore. The first in grade school, a girl who epitomizes this article, and landed me in the hospital where I almost lost 2 fingers due to her rage and in ability to accept that I was no longer someone she could abuse. To this day the scars on my fingers and the lack of feeling in both of them are a constant reminder. Later it would be a girl who was bipolar and actually punch me. But oh she was so much fun when she was alright and treating me well. Next a friend and business partner, someone who would spread personal information to make me look and feel small, someone who took me for large sums of cash. Finally a girl who would sublimate her issues on to me and tell people that it was me who had the eating disorder and was trying to kill myself. That was the last straw. I have learned to walk away when I see the signs. And have gained supportive, wonderful friends – who are appalled at the actions of my past so-called “best friends”. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    Some of them want to abuse you

    Some of them want to be abused

  • guest

    Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimized by Regina George.

    • Ellysa

      Love this reference.

  • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

    I attract “friends” like this. It got so bad that my real friends feel the need to screen any potential new friend to make sure they’re not completely psycho.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

    like a weight on your shoulders every day when this happens.
    terrifying, now that I think about it, how easily I let myself be manipulated.
    they know just what to do to put you down in public but you forgive them for how they are when it’s just you two.

  • Tori

    God….this rang entirely too true. Never again.

  • Brandon

    everybody has a few sociopaths as friends.

  • http://www.facebook.com/discobiscuits93 Kayla Ann Stockman

    This has definitely happened to me. My ‘best friend’ from second grade was constantly getting worked up and angry at me over the littlest things. Such simple things would set her off, and suddenly everything in her life was my fault. She would call me awful names, talk about me behind my back, never apologize, and act like nothing happened the next day. Sometimes within the hour. She blamed me for ruining her sixteenth birthday party because she and I were supposed to share a bed at her sleepover, but her ex-boyfriend decided that he wanted to sleep in the bed with her, and even though she ‘absolutely cannot stand sharing her bed’, it was ok for him to be there. However, I refused to move because I was basically already asleep, and she never forgave me for it. Luckily, I am no longer part of that friendship, and even though she likes to think she ended it and that she doesn’t need me, we have a mutual friend who informs me that she looks at my Facebook and keeps tabs on me, so I finally blocked her. Not sure why I never thought of that before. In any case, this is a very relatable piece for almost anybody. Even those who haven’t had a friend like this yet will have one eventually. It just seems inevitable.

  • Guest

    Yes to all of this.

  • Rachel Cope

    Maybe people like this need your help. Give them the number of a good therapist and get out.

  • http://twitter.com/ItsJennifers Jennifer Vega

    This, exactly this. I broke it off, after stealing her boyfriend out of revenge…

  • Nat

    SPOT ON.

  • GUEST

    Holy fuck, nothing and I mean NOTHING has ever hit home on TC like this piece. Wowowowowowowow

  • Didnt_read

    abuse is just another flavor of the decade bullshit buzzword that psycho cunts use to get other people on their side when retelling a heavily one sided version of an event that upset their childish ideas of how life should be

    • Melissa

      omg so mean.

    • trobs

      you’re obviously the crazy b*tch in the scenario. abuse as a buzzword? What a joke. Let meet beat your ass in the corner and threaten your safety, and then talk to me about buzzwords.

  • 39greenj

    I don’t think I’ve ever read anything more true.  I just ended a friendship with someone like this, and couldn’t be more relieved.  I still have to deal with the aftermath of it, but it is not as bad as being in the friendship. I stood up for myself, and life is much less stressful.

  • happyme

    Wow. I didn’t think this was something that other people experienced. I have had a friend since age 5 who was always my “very, very best friend.” It used  to be mild- just the really snide remarks that cut deep but as we got older and especially as I grew more confident and expanded my world, she went totally crazy on me. I go through cycles with her now of being friends on and off but I finally gained my distance and control a couple years ago. Thanks for recognizing this as a legitimate issue and confirming that I’m not the crazy one- that it’s not all in my head/I’m not overreacting.

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