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  • Writer's pictureMatt Gray

Where are you? and I'm so sorry

Today was a day of harrowing consequence. I've had many of those in my life, and I have many more to come. It wasn't exactly perfect timing, but it's not like we plan these things out. So let's talk about it.

I ran into someone that I haven't seen in a very long time today. Someone that was once very important to me. She was my best friend once. It was never romantic, or intimate in that sort of a way, but I still loved and cherished her with the deepest parts of me. I suppose somewhere I probably still do. I know that she loved me in the same way. It was one of my few beautiful, and true friendships that I've been lucky enough to have. We knew each other inside and out. There were nights she called me crying after having her heart broken. She's who I would share my dating woes with. We fell asleep on her couch more than once after talking for hours late into the night. She's an incredibly beautiful woman, and during that period I looked the absolute best I've ever looked in my life, so everybody always thought "those two are banging for sure", but that's something that never happened. We never even had a moment of sexual tension between us. Not one single uncomfortable or awkward moment, not even a single flirtatious comment was ever made. It was a gentle and loving friendship.

So it may surprise you to hear that I couldn't even bring myself to approach her today. I couldn't even say hello. I saw her leaving the store that we were in while I was still paying, I tried to muster up the courage, and I rushed to catch up with her. When I got outside, and onto the sidewalk I just froze. I don't think she even lives in this city, but I just stood there, and watched her get into her car and drive away. I waved goodbye, but I know she didn't see it. Deep down, I didn't want her to.

See, there's this talent I have. All those feelings of love she had for me, everything she cherished in me... I managed to replace all of those things with disgust. At this point in my life, I was undiagnosed, untreated, and had not begun any sort of therapy work, or self-development. This was probably the absolute worst period of my life, mental health wise, and hypomania was an immutable and constant aspect of my life. When I'd cross the line into mania my decisions and actions were out of control. They were disgusting. So while I never hurt anyone, and I never took any disgusting actions towards my friend, she still judged me harshly. This part of mental illness is quite a conundrum. At our worst is when we need a safe space the most. This is also the time where we destroy our safe space, for ourselves, and others.

This is a cycle we repeat, and until you can be accountable to yourself, it feels a lot like abandonment. This has led to abandonment issues in myself, I always assume it's just a matter of time before somebody won't want me anymore, and become hyper-vigilant about the dumbest things. The second something feels a little weird, or we don't understand it, we push away. This is self-defeating, and in retrospect is always so stupid. Here's why it's stupid. Nobody is abandoning you. It doesn't matter what you feel inside, it doesn't matter what your intentions are. While it's reasonable to ask someone to be a little bit understanding, it's not somebody else's fault that we are different. It's not their responsibility. Your motivations, your intentions... These things rarely change the actual impact of your actions. The actual feelings behind your words don't matter if they are hurtful, or abusive. Your impulsive and reckless actions don't change in impact because you were unwell. No, its not fair to be born this way. No, it's not easy to look at your actions when what they felt like inside was completely different. We still have to.

I don't imagine my old friend thinks about me very much. Maybe not even at all. I know that if I had approached her it wouldn't be the memories of talking into the night. It wouldn't be the memories of the times we were there for each other. It wouldn't be any feelings of love from her, it would be those feelings of disgust, at best. See, I would rather she never thought about me again than be disgusted by me. I'm sure I've made you curious, and I'm going to talk about my out of control actions very soon, but that's well beyond the scope of this post.

So how do we stop this cycle?? Accountability. Honest, blunt accountability. This is hard when we look at ourselves and know that we meant no harm. It's difficult when we are angry, or when our own heart hurts. We can't worry about those things. We can't worry about other people's actions or accountability, because we cannot change those things. We look at our own behavior, identify the problematic behaviors, and figure out how to change them. One behavior at a time. This seems scary, but there is no secret here. The "secret" is finding the problem, and doing the work to solve it.

Once you've identified the problem you've taken a big step, and the work begins. Doctors, Therapists, support groups, self-help books, spiritual leaders (please take caution with this one, read my post about God if you haven't yet), mental health life coaches... All of these resources are available to help you. I use most of those resources myself, and while I still have a long way to go, I know that every time I knock down a problematic behavior, I'm closer to the good parts of me outweighing the bad. I do still struggle. I do still ruin friendships on a regular basis. I know that, so if you're reading this and thinking me a hypocrite, you're wrong. The thing is I believe in myself. I look at myself and think that my actions were inappropriate, and need to change. I look at myself and think yes, those words were unkind. They were hurtful. They were abusive. You won't have anybody in your life until you change these parts of you.

You can change those parts of you, I promise you that you can. As long as you can remain accountable, I believe in you. Even when you don't believe in yourself, I believe in you. I believe in myself. I believe in people. I believe in us, and we are all going to make it.

Thank you for reading.

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