Thank You For Being a Friend

Hello my dears,

I’ve wanted to write this post for months and months but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Technically this should be a series of phone calls/messages/emails to about 200 people, but if you read on, you’ll see why this might be the best way to tackle things.

*deep breath*

I’m a really shitty friend. Like, a shitty, shitty friend.

It’s weird. If someone messages or contacts me, I will damn near drop everything to be there and talk with them. If someone has a need, I am the shirt off my back kind of gal. I would do anything for a friend.

So for a long time it really confused me when so many friends would get upset with me because they wondered why I never reached out to them to talk about things or check in.

And it’s true. I don’t call anyone. I will very rarely message someone just to say hi. I don’t check in often.

It took me a really long time to figure it all out, but last year, after losing two friends who were angry I never made them feel like a priority, I put a lot of thought into what was going on.

I knew why I was doing what I was doing, but I wouldn’t explain why. I tried to say things were busy, that I was sorry, that I loved them. All true, of course.

But it wasn’t the real reason.

I talk about dealing with OCD a lot. I’m not shy about accepting that part of me.

But I am routinely mortified by the way I act or the things I do because of it. So I don’t broadcast those bits a lot.

Let’s just lay it out that this blog is very, very hard for me. Months I’ve debated writing it. I can’t even count how many nights I’ve not slept, instead lying there, head spinning thinking about what I’ve needed to say.

It’s very important to me to never let my disorder excuse bad behavior. I hate having people make concessions for the weird things I have to do, and it’s very embarrassing to me when I don’t have a choice.

So, I thought just not ever telling people what was making me behave the way I was behaving would be simpler. They might be confused, but they wouldn’t be staring at me going OH MY GAWD WHAT A WEIRDO WHAT IS SHE DOING.

Alas, this particular issue has become very noticeable and it’s hurt feelings of people that I care about a lot. Therefore, I’m going to explain it as best I can.

Okay.

No, I don’t message people first. I don’t contact anyone first.

Here’s why.

I literally cannot. This isn’t hyperbole, or exaggeration. I just can’t.

I’ll try to explain.

When friends have babies, I want to call them or text them and say OH HOW CUTE CONGRATULATIONS HOW CAN I HELP!?

But I don’t. In my mind, I picture sending a text or calling. And I will call at the exact moment the baby has fallen asleep after hours of crying and parental desperation. And the sound will wake the baby. And the parents will cry from exhaustion and hate me forever. There will be yelling. Anger. Hating.

Yes, that sounds ridiculous. I know that. And people have assured me why that won’t happen.

But in my head, in my OCD place, that is what’s happening.

So I don’t take the risk. I will congratulate them on a Facebook post where dozens of others are doing the same. That way I know it’s a place I can safely say something to them without causing an inconvenience and ruining lives.

I also don’t message people to just say HI. It terrifies me. Actual panic attacks even thinking about it.

Why?

Because what if they don’t want to hear from me? What if I thought we were friends and we really aren’t? What if I send them a hello and it makes them angry? What if it interrupts something important they are doing?

Or, what if I just have a minute to say hi and they want to talk for a while? I’d love to talk for a while but I have something I have to do in five minutes I can’t do while chatting. Then I am the dick who messages someone and then runs off for an hour leaving no response.

OR. I will pull on my big gal underoos and send a hi. And the person won’t respond right away because hey, people are busy. But in my head, that reasoning only stands for a few hours. Then it goes into oh god, they really hate me. They are annoyed I bothered them. They are never going to speak to me again or they are going to come back and yell at me. I’ll lose someone important to me.

Yes, YES, I always know how crazy these fears sound. But I will say again, as it’s happening, it is very, very real.

Here is the worst part. Say I send a message, and the person doesn’t respond right away? Sometimes, instead of thinking they hate me, I think about why they can’t write back.

An example: The other day, a friend of mine was having a crappy morning. I waited for her to check in, but she didn’t. So I messaged her. And she didn’t write back. She was normally very quick to reply when we’d chat, so after a little bit, the “busy” reasoning didn’t stick.

I spent the next two hours stuck inside my head imagining all the horrible things that had happened to her. Maybe she’d been in a car accident. Maybe she’d had such a bad morning she’d hurt herself. (That’s not a reflection on her at all, that is just what pops into my head.) For hours I had myself convinced she was dead or dying.

Then I couldn’t stop thinking about what if something really did happen to her? I don’t know any of her friends or family personally so would I ever know? How could I find out if she’d died? How could I help if I didn’t know how to ever get a hold of anyone?

This isn’t a rare event. If I reach out to anyone, I am immediately overcome by thoughts of absolute terror. If you are someone I care about and I’ve sent you a message? Chances are strong I’ve spent at least some time in an actual panic thinking that you’ve been hurt or killed or something equally horrifying.

That’s what I associate when I send a cold call message. Graphic images of people that I love cursing my existence or in pain or dead.

I wish I could explain how this feels running around in my head. I mean, I deal with it and understand why it’s happening, but I will be the first to say how ridiculous it is. How irrational.

But guys, it feels so real. So fucking real.

OCD isn’t all hand-washing and door locking. The ‘O’ part is a big fucking deal. Our brains are constantly in motion thinking about god awful things we don’t ever want to think about, let alone on a violent, graphic, visceral loop.

I want everyone to know it’s not really me doing it. Real Me knows what reality is. Real Me can think happy, sane thoughts and is chipper and social and a great friend.

It’s unfortunate, but OCD Me wins out on things a lot more than Real Me does.

I don’t want people to think I don’t care about them. Because I do. I love you guys. A lot. I want to talk to you, I want to reach out and talk. I just can’t. It’s selfish, but it’s self preservation. If I don’t even toy with the idea of reaching out to someone, I don’t have to deal with all the thoughts that come with it.

So I usually wait for people to say hi to me. Then I am an excited puppy chatting away because I have permission to and it’s all okay, and I love you and LET’S TALK BECAUSE HI!

I don’t know why it didn’t occurred to me sooner that this made other people feel like I didn’t care, or that maybe I was looking like I was too cool to message them first.

I assure you, I am too cool for nothing.

As I said, this should be a collection of 200 private messages to people who I have seen distance themselves because they think they aren’t important to me. And I wish I could do that. I would LOVE to do that.

I don’t want you to excuse my poor friendship behavior. I won’t ask for that, nor will I ask you to make special effort to reach out to me first because that isn’t fair.

I do sort of hope this blog helps you understand why I’m not the friend you deserve, and know that even though I’m not doing what I should be doing, it doesn’t mean I love you any less than you deserve.

This blog is my bizarre apology. If I’ve ever made you feel like you weren’t important to me, or if you thought for one second I didn’t care, this blog is for you, and I am so genuinely sorry. This goes for everyone. Super close pals, internet acquaintances, everyone in between. I am sorry.

And now, because I feel really awkward and exposed, I’m going to leave this random GIF of bunnies in cups for you.

I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend!

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and Bunny Cups

28 Comments

  1. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And I don’t even have OCD. But this level of social anxiety is something I’m shockingly familiar with. The panic associated with initiating contact, the cluelessness and distance that results. *hugs* I know it doesn’t change anything, but sometimes I guess it does help, knowing you’re not the only one.

  2. On behalf of all of us suffering from similar obsessive thoughts and anxiety, thank you for speaking out. Many of the things you wrote about happen in my head too – I often tell my hubby that he only hears about 1/10th of the crazy. I am really glad Dee introduced me to you and your blog – you do such a great job of showing humans being well, human.

    • oh, and I am going to totally obsess over the comma placement in that last sentence. Humans being, well, humans.

      Yep, that looks better.

      Sigh.

  3. This is probably the most amazing thing I’ve seen on the internet all week. I applaud your bravery, and THANK YOU for saying something that resonates so deeply. I think OCD is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses, and this is one of the best descriptions I’ve ever seen put to paper. Thank you.

  4. Aw 🙂 I can relate. It’s hard to get away from OCD. It isn’t black and white, and everyone suffers differently. I am not one of your “closer” friends, but I am a friend and always like to keep updated on your work and life.

  5. *hugs* Miss you, love you, I’m always here. And if people get all pressured up because you haven’t chatted them up first, FUCK THOSE HIGH MAINTENANCE ASSHOLES!

  6. You’ve made my week! I was diagnosed with OCD as a very young child, and I always struggle to explain to people that washing my hands several times an hour is the MOST PLEASANT part of OCD. Very misunderstood disorder, and your descriptions brought me some “been there” tears.

  7. God, I’m not even OCD and I hate being the one to initiate conversations. And for the exact same reasons you’ve outlined. The invention of email has completely changed my life because I don’t have to pick up the phone and talk to strangers/people I know anymore. And I feel like I’m far more articulate in writing, anyway…

    So, you are not alone!

  8. You are so not alone in this feeling. Hell, the only reason I’m commenting here is because it’s online. Say you stood up and did this as a speech, I’d be in the back, quietly nodding, but too afraid of bothering you to come up and tell you how I can relate. It makes me quick to give up talking to people because if they don’t respond instantly, I figure I’m just annoying them. Very nerve wracking to wonder if Im bugging someone when all I want to do is talk.

  9. This is like being autistic. The obsessive doom riddled thoughts on an obsessive doom riddled loop with no ability to stop or control them. It’s okay. Really!

  10. *hugs!*

    I totally get this! I just spent the entire day at a meeting for the local chapter of RWA (my first time attending), and people were great and friendly, but because they were talking most directly to the friend sitting next to me, and not to me specifically, I was afraid to join in the conversation!

    I’m not OCD (although I have enough quirks that I’ve actually had people ask me if I was), but I still feel EXACTLY LIKE THIS every time I have to contact someone. It’s bad enough that when I go places where there will be lots of people, I always try to be there FIRST. If I can position myself in the center of the room and look approachable enough, usually someone will sit by me and say hi. And then I can respond.

    I can’t even count the times that I’ve seen someone I know (even my best friends) in public somewhere, and they didn’t say hi first, so I’ve put my head down and walked by, pretending not to see them. Because what if they didn’t want me to bother them? (Meanwhile, they’re probably thinking I’m snubbing them… and even though I know this logically, I just CAN’T say hi first!) And the fear extends to email, texting, Facebook, etc.

    Ironically, the only place I don’t get this paralyzing fear is on twitter. Because I always expect that the structure of twitter will mean most people won’t see or respond to my tweets. So I can speak into the void and just be pleasantly surprised if someone answers me. 🙂

  11. Summer,

    I’m probably the farthest thing from OCD, but I too have that whole, “Why didn’t they say “hey” back… what did I do to make them mad?” Which then escalates to “What’s her problem. Dang, it’s not like she’s all that.” Which then turns into my crying into a mommy capri sun, mourning the loss of the dearest friend I didn’t know I cared so much about. So yeah… I get that. Hang in there and remember, the ones who stick around to know the real you are the ones who have your back at any cost. I’m sure there are a lot of people who can relate to your post. I admire your bravery to put it all out there. YOU ARE A ROCK STAR!

  12. You’re brave.
    You’re beautiful.
    You’re not alone.
    Just because your brain works a bit differently than some, doesn’t mean you’re not fabulous.
    There’s nothing wrong with you. Find your moments to smile and shine, and we will be happy.

  13. There are major differences between what you should do, what you can do, and what it costs you to do either of them. I try to aim for the “should do” stuff, but only when I can balance the cost. Because if we don’t take care of ourselves, eventually we won’t be able to do anything for others.

  14. What a very brave post!! My OCD is manifested in a different way but I’ve barely got up the nerve to tell the people closest to me. Some of my irrational fears make me wonder if I’m crazy and so far away from anyone else that no one could possibly understand what I am going through but your post made me feel unalone (is that a word?) Thank you.

  15. Darling,

    I can relate a lot to this. I don’t have OCD, but my mins often goes into hyperdrive wjhen I want to contact someone…or when I do, and they don’t immediately respond. My first thought is that it is me. That I’ve done or said something wrong — or, worse, that I’ve somehow overestimated our relationship and the other person isntcreally invested and/or doesn’t like me. Then I kind of devolve into a whirlwind of suck. So, I really can relate to things that you express, feeling-wise. I do tend to reach out a lot anyway, but there are times where I just kind of shut down, because I’m stuck in my own head and worrying.

    I guess I also want to say that I get it. And no matter how often you and I talk, I will always adore the hell out of you. I’m glad that you shared this. And I’m lucky to know you. Xoxo

  16. I appreciate your honesty. I don’t know that I understood how varied OCD can be. While I’ve had moments and shades of feeling how you describe, it is definitely not to a level that impairs my life. I’m sorry you struggle, and I’m sure the people in your life will appreciate hearing this to place any of your insecurities in a new light.

  17. Oh, Summer. First of all, you have always been a friend to ME, and maybe it’s just that I work similarly to the way you operate that I never would have noticed if I hadn’t read this blog post. But you’re someone I greatly value, and I really, really hope to meet you in person some day. *TACKLE HUG*

    I have been there soooooo much. I have so much anxiety about putting myself out there as well. Hell, if I email a company for information I get this terrible fear that they’re going to hate me for emailing them even if I’m emailing customer service and it’s completely their JOB to answer stuff like that.

    And when it comes to people…well. I have a small circle of people with whom I feel confident initiating contact with and STILL there are some of them that I’ll message or text and spend the rest of the day fretting and freaking out that they’re sick of me and don’t ever want to talk to me again.

    For most of my life, I felt like what I had to say wasn’t worth hearing. As a kid, eeeeveryone talked over me, so I stopped talking. I never even noticed how extreme it was until a friend of our family literally called out my moms in public and berated them for never letting me speak. She pointed out how I’d literally snap my mouth shut mid-word if someone cut me off. I had to (and still have to) actively work to assert myself. Now I talk peoples’ ears off, but that’s almost an overcompensation thing now, because I’m still terrified of not getting to say what I want to say and fear that no one cares what I say.

  18. You have friends. You are cared about. Even though we’ve never met, I enjoy interacting with you on Twitter/FB. You are a brave person to be so honest with us. I know it’s not for everyone but CBT can work so can meds, but it has to be the right meds and sometimes that takes time and the right therapist to find the solution that works. I hope that you realize how wonderful you are to the writing community. Keep on being your brave, awesome self!

  19. Thank you for being brave, Fizzy. You illuminate an important subject and make so many of us feel less alone! I struggle with guilt that I don’t make contact with ‘friends’ (acquaintances?) enough. But often, I need my alone time more than forced interaction. Life is hard enough — I hope you find compassion for yourself. It’s not selfish to give ourselves what we need.

  20. You ARE awesomeness. Friends don’t leave for things like that if they are REAL friends. That’s a fact. You’re a great wife, mother, mentor, and friend. People who don’t get that, don’t deserve to have you. Their loss is our gain. 🙂

  21. I read this the day you posted it but didn’t know how to respond. Because this is me. Every bit of it. But I got all paralyzed thinking it would be lame to reply to the emotional rawness of this by waving my arms in the air and shouting, “HEY! ME TOO! I HURT LIKE THIS TOO!” But it also felt wrong to say nothing because . . . wow. It means so much, you know? To have someone come out and say something that doesn’t hit close to home so much as RIGHT to home. Thing is, when a friend reaches out to me I am AMAZING (and you are too). I drop everything and I show them how much I love them by being kind and supportive and compassionate and all kinds of other awesome (and you do too). When my anxiety allows me, I am THE BEST KIND OF FRIEND EVER (and so are you). But even though I know this about myself, and even let myself believe it sometimes, I still feel like crap a lot of the time because I don’t reach out. I don’t make spontaneous phone calls or write emails or message out of the blue (almost never anyway, and only with a very few people, and even them, only rarely). And I let that make me feel like I’m the worst. But I’m not (because you’re not). And I needed this post so badly. Because knowing you’re a good friend despite the things that are hard for you, helped me know that about myself too. THANK YOU. ((hugs))

  22. I’ve read this numerous times and gone over so very many ways to respond to it and nothing seemed right. Truthfully this makes the entire situation that much worse to me, it cheapens the more than five year friendship that we shared, having your new friends and strangers to me jump on the “What clearly awful people they are” band wagon. The biggest reason this hurts is that when you needed shares and likes and proofing you never once hesitated to contact those friends. It was only when it came down to actually stepping up and asking those friends how THEY were. THAT is what hurt the most in the end.

    You see, we never actually left. And it is in no way high maintenance to ask your friend who for many years asked for your help building awareness of their writing by sharing their chapter a week links and reading their work to once in awhile contact you to see how you were doing, not just to ask a favor.

    You know where to find me. You always have. And that, my old friend, is the problem.

  23. I’m subscribed to the comments on this post and so the last one popped up in my inbox tonight. I’m not going to get indignant and call the commenter names, or rage at them in any way. But I’m going to frown a little, and worry about you. Because I know how it feels to hurt someone, and I know how much worse it feels when they hurt you back.

    This post wasn’t about making sense of things, because that’s not possible. And it wasn’t about making excuses, because that is SO MUCH NOT what you were trying to do. It was an apology and I am SO sorry that it wasn’t accepted as such. You are loved. I can’t say I know you well or deep, but I admire the hell out of you for so many reasons. You are humble and genuine and kind. Not perfect. Not without fault. But awesome nonetheless. I hope you read the other comments on this post again and know that nearly all the people who read this post feel the same way I do. ((hugs))

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