I went for coffee with my friend S this morning. We went for a walk along the river, watching the swans, mooched round an antique and bric-a-brac store and a couple of charity shops*, and had coffee in a sweet cafe with dressers displaying vintage china teasets.
S was my boss in a previous job and we have kept in touch. I have always respected and liked her very much and actually we get on even better now than we did at work. With the exception of my friend L (my goddaughters’ mum) and her immediate family with whom I lived when I needed support years ago, and those work colleagues I get on with but would not yet consider close friends, S is possibly the only friendship I’ve managed to sustain for several years – and I mean a meaningful relationship, sharing honestly how and who you are. It’s a friendship very precious to me. First because I care about S and think she’s a lovely, interesting, empathic, fun, genuine and… I can’t think of the word. ….she has strong beliefs about what’s right and important and is very dedicated to doing the best by everyone, if that makes sense. When we talk she often brings perspectives I’d never thought of. We share a similar sense of humour. Secondly, it’s precious because she doesn’t judge me. She cares about keeping in touch and continues to share her life and thoughts with me, whether I’m in a good or a bad state with my mental health. She doesn’t judge and doesn’t dismiss me as unable to cope or engage, and doesn’t push me away if there are certain things I’m finding hard or not always able to be “normal”. Thirdly, she doesn’t require me to be in a particular state or way in order for us to be in touch. That is a really rare gift. There are few people I can say that about and that I’d trust as I do her.
I do have the same fears about losing her, being too much for her, harming or hurting her without knowing it, as I do with other people I care about. S and I don’t get to meet that often, maybe every couple of months or so, and it is often in my mind that if we saw more of each other I’d be too much for her just as I have been for everyone else. However my relationship with S seems more stable than most of my other relationships. I’m not sure why. I’ve wondered if it’s because she’s particularly empathic and she has previously worked in mental health, as have I, so she’s very reflective and has also got more understanding than many of us (me included) may be in a position to have about how PD and mental health conditions in general affect us. She’s also older than me. Or I wonder if it’s to do with having come to know her gradually as a boss first. Perhaps all these things help. I think it’s also an important fact that when I’m more ill, she doesn’t treat me as if that makes me useless or not able to participate in anything and she doesn’t require me (implicitly or explicitly) to be in a different state than I am.
I would think some of the difference must be down to me as well, though I do not know what I do differently with her from in relationships I’ve lost and/or discovered they were not at all for the other person what I thought they were – usually because I’ve hurt them or they resented me without knowing. I probably should try to figure out what I do differently!
Anyhow, this was a nice morning after a very sad, low, shaky week. Tomorrow I am going to meet with L and my goddaughters and the family, as it was my eldest goddaughter’s birthday this week. I’m very anxious about the travel there as unfamiliar or unpredictable places, routes, timings and so on are hard for me; I’m also feeling overwhelmed because there will be 8 of us in total. I don’t want to dissociate, get anxious or get upset which could harm the children and spoil it for other people. Whenever I go to something like this, the thought repeats in my head that I must not let my problems take over everything for other people and they need me to be more together. I was once told by someone I care about that this is what I do, when actually I was doing everything I could to hide what I was going through and self harming repeatedly to deaden my feelings. Now it’s a big fear that I ruin everything.
However, the only way forward is to do it. I really care about L and the girls and their family and it’s worth all the anxieties to get to see them and celebrate with them.
It’s a blessed weekend.