Haven’t heard from me in awhile, huh? You’re probably not surprised and you’re possibly pissed at me for the disappearing acts I’ve pulled over the years. I wouldn’t blame you if you were. I’m pretty pissed at me. I owe you some explanations. I’m going to put my usual carefree, jokey, “everything is fine” persona aside and be open with you, because you deserve that.
May is Arthritis Awareness month and Mental Health Awareness month (plus about a million others). You know I have both autoimmune arthritis and anxiety disorders. I don’t think I’ve ever told you how those both affect my ability to form and nurture close relationships. My absence in your lives has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with me.
I have no energy. I’ve spent most of my life cracking jokes about how I’m lazy and just like to nap. These statements may still be true, but they don’t tell the whole truth. I am so tired all the goddamn time. How I manage to get up in the morning, go to work all day, go to school two nights a week, and do homework is beyond me. It’s a testament to my body’s willingness to still “have my back” (so to speak) despite constantly being at war with itself. By Friday night, all I want to do is put my feet up on the couch and stay in that position until Monday morning. Even Netflix can be a struggle – and I do so love naps.
I know you understand that. But why don’t I call? Why don’t I text?
These are the ones I talk about the least. Panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder. Around 17, I started having panic attacks, but even as a kid I knew there was something wrong with me. As young as 10 I can remember thinking how easy it must be to slip over the line between sane and not. Now I know that was anxiety talking. I worried almost constantly. I avoided calling people on the phone, though I’m honestly not sure what I thought would happen. I worried I wasn’t breathing right. I worried I had brain tumors. I worried I had ALS. I worried about my family – hell, I still worry about my family. I probably voiced some of these concerns to some of you disguised as jokes, because that’s my M.O. I worried so much that when doctors asked me if I worried a lot I said no because it felt normal to me. I have no memories of what it is like to live with a anxiety-free brain. Since getting some diagnoses, I’ve had an agoraphobic week when I didn’t leave the house because I was afraid I would have a panic attack, and periods of time when my anxiety is riding high and taking over my life, building during the time my dad was in the hospital, and culminating in the trip to hell (Montreal) two summers ago, where I was popping klonopin like my life depended on it, which, if you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know it feels like it does.
Since that point, I’ve been doing better, with medication and a short stint in therapy (until my health insurance decided to stop covering it because I was “doing well” – cured, I guess!). But there is a limited amount of human interaction, or plain old outside stimuli, that I can take in a day. Work, school, home. That’s my daily routine. Sometimes even the noise of the TV is too much.
I know that you’re there for me, but that I haven’t let you be. I don’t want to be “the sick friend”, but I don’t feel like I have any other defining characteristics. I feel so vulnerable all the time that it’s hard to open up and let myself be even more vulnerable. So I keep these things to myself, and let our relationships suffer while I try to pull myself up out of hole after hole. I basically go full turtle mode and hide.
I’ve been so focused on my own day-to-day survival that I haven’t been there for you sometimes when you might have needed me. I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry for all the fun we’ve missed, all the silliness, all the seriousness, big moments, little moments. I’m sorry that I might have made you feel like I don’t care or I don’t want to put in the time. At this point, it’s just embarrassing. What kind of adult person – I turn 29 this week, when did we become adults??? – can’t handle regular life and friends at the same time? My problems have taken a lot from me. They took dance, they took my drive and determination, they took my belief in myself, my ability to support myself (which I’m thankfully gaining ever so slowly). But I’m sorry they took me from you.
Each and every one of you is important to me. I think of you a lot, but I don’t know what to say anymore, especially not in person or over the phone. I admire each of you for the things you’ve accomplished and the people you’ve become since we were kids. I want to promise I’ll be better, but I can’t. I want to try. I’m not sure how to wrap this up. Conclusions have never been my strong suit. I guess I just hope to someday be worthy of friends like you.