Trigger warning: Trauma, anxiety, and suicidal ideation
Last March, just before my city was forced to go on lockdown due to COVID-19, I had a major falling out with a close childhood friend.
We had known each other since we were in middle school. But the two of us had grown especially close in our college years because we were experiencing similar hardships that allowed us to form a bond on a more personal level.
As a result of our new, budding companionship, we had spent the past three years building a more mature friendship, talking almost daily, hanging out often, and leaning on each other for advice or guidance through the difficult transitions of young adulthood.
Then, suddenly, at the beginning of the pandemic, our friendship just about abruptly ended, leaving me confused and hurt.
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In hindsight, our falling out was over something rather petty and could have been avoided or solved with better communication. Even so, losing a friend during an unprecedented pandemic as well as simultaneously losing my sense of normalcy caused underlying and undiagnosed mental health issues to arise, which left me feeling alone in ways I had never felt before.
In the initial stages of our falling out, coupled with the stress from the pandemic as well as uprisings and racial reckonings across the United States, I found myself crying frequently, battling suicidal ideation, going to sleep, and waking up feeling anxious.
However, despite the emotional burdens I was feeling at the time, losing my friend also forced me to address unhealthy patterns of my own behavior.
With time, I began to slowly realize some important revelations about myself.
Patterns that had long prevented me from confronting the trauma I buried under the guise of happiness.
And the isolation of the pandemic forced me to reflect on why the end of this friendship was affecting me so intensely and what could be done to improve the state of my mental health, in a substantial way, going forward.
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In turn, my process towards letting go of a friendship, of normalcy, of control, and the illusion of good mental health, required months of self-reflection. With time, I began to slowly realize some important revelations about myself.
Things like how I never truly learned how to forgive people close to me when they caused me harm, which explained why I could be quick to anger or defensiveness over a minor conflict, as I anticipated receiving the worst treatment from people.
I also realized I never learned how to move on from things that hurt me, and I never made my mental health a priority. Perhaps, even, I have never been truly mentally or emotionally healthy; rather, I was just surrounded by people who distracted me from myself.
Perhaps my former friend and I distracted each other from our own problems.
After all, part of our bond was built on our commonality of having a history of toxic, draining, or one-sided friendships with other people.
Ultimately, my healing process through coping with this loss is requiring me to acknowledge my own shortcomings and aspects of my health I should have taken care of sooner; trauma I should have allotted time to heal from a long time ago. However, I also came to realize, it’s okay to find you’re not really okay because it’s never too late to prioritize whatever you need in order to heal.
Upon realizing there is work to be done towards getting better, it’s imperative to be patient with yourself and extend yourself some grace on days that seem difficult to get through. Personally, months into the pandemic, I started journaling, I wrote a ton, and I cried when I needed to (without shame or guilt).
Part of our bond was built on our commonality of having a history of toxic, draining, or one-sided friendships with other people.
And I confided in a loved one about the things I was and had been struggling with for a long time, relieving myself of the burden or illusion of having to be strong all by myself.
That also meant admitting to myself that surface-level forms of self-care, that I’ve always performed myself, weren’t enough to manage my mental health forever. I decided, at some point, I’d like to get some potential diagnoses regarding whatever mental illnesses I may have from my doctor. I also wanted to try finding a suitable therapist who can offer more effective coping mechanisms from a professional standpoint that I can utilize.
Additionally, it’s important to note: sometimes relationships end, and sometimes things happen in the world around you outside of your control. All of which you’re allowed to grieve within a healthy space. Fallouts with friends, especially close friends, don’t have to be catty or messy, but they are admittedly hard to endure.
It’s normal for uncomfortable life changes to make you feel bad, confused, or both.
We can and should end relationships with people that no longer serve a positive purpose in our lives (even if the person on the other end of someone else’s decision to do so is you). To cope with such losses, we must give ourselves the space to let that person go, check-in regularly with our mental health, and then eventually move on.
So, ultimately, what I’m learning about healing is I don’t have to be invincible to pain or the downsides of losing someone important to me. It’s normal for uncomfortable life changes to make you feel bad, confused, or both.
As morbid as it is, if you asked me whether the pandemic contributed anything positive in my life, it would be how the weird and strenuous circumstances of the last year helped me learn how to be consistently healthy enough to withstand the inevitable ebb and flow of life.
If you’re having trouble coping with your mental and emotional health, please reach out and make use of the resources below.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.
In case of escalation, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. The Trevor Project provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQIA+ youth, and can be reached at 1-866-488-7386.
You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US and UK from the Crisis Text Line. 7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and find more resources here.
And finally, the National Eating Disorders Association helpline is 1-800-931-2237; for 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.