Written by Fiona Leloup.
Art by Anna Shaw.
Have you noticed that making friends as an adult is really difficult? If you’re like me, busy schedules, responsibilities, and demands on your time have made it difficult to build genuine relationships once you hit your late 20s. Also, if you’re like me, you have anxiety.
If making and maintaining adult friendships wasn’t hard enough, my anxiety makes it almost impossible — and sometimes even traumatizing. Worst of all, people who don’t have anxious brains like mine tend to have a difficult time understanding why they aren’t able to bond with me. They don’t understand my weird behavior, my isolating, or my inability to ask for help or open up. The impact my anxiety has on my relationships is constant. Sometimes it causes me to feel left out, when that was no one’s intention. Sometimes it causes me to make demands on my friends they can’t possibly fulfill, and feel like no one loves me when they fall short. I am constantly building a cache of evidence in my head supporting my belief that everyone in my life would be better without me.
The impact my anxiety has on my relationships is constant.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you’re in luck! If you’re reflecting on your relationships and feeling like they’ve just been too stable for too long, this article is for you. Let’s light them on fire! If you’re not like me, but want to be, (why not?) below you will find 8 easy-to-follow steps to allowing anxiety to ruin your relationships – Great! V helpful.
1. Find the confidence to introduce yourself to someone new.
Maybe you’re feeling yourself today. You make eye contact with that beautiful human across the room, and you know it’s your moment. Maybe it’s someone who you have been admiring from afar, and you are finally brave enough to ask them out for happy hour or coffee. Either way, take the leap. Put yourself out there. You got this.
2. Realize you and target individual are really into each other.
Become friends with them. Maybe even start to love them. Let that feeling fill you up. Feel loved. Feel confident. Feel the excitement of a reciprocated connection. Reach out to them when you think about them. Create inside jokes. Spend time with them whenever possible. Introduce them to your friends; maybe even your family.
3. Start over-analyzing everything they do and say.
Personalize it. All of it. Every space of time you don’t talk is your fault. You obviously have done something wrong. People don’t like clingers. You’re obsessed with them, and it’s chasing them away.
4. Prepare yourself for the inevitable rejection by pulling away.
Talk yourself out of messaging them every single time you want to. Be aloof. Mysterious. Put the genie back into the bottle. Tell yourself you imagined the connection in the first place. You’re stupid. You’re naive. I can’t believe you thought they cared about you anyway. You are obviously unworthy of their love. It’s better to just pull away now so you don’t get your hopes up. So you don’t get hurt.
5. But you don’t want to pull away do you?
You still love this person, even if they don’t love you (and you’re definitely assuming they don’t). And why don’t they love you? Why does this always happen? Why is rejection such a regular part of your life? Ruminate over every interaction you’ve ever had with them. Where did you go wrong? Obviously, you went wrong somewhere. I mean, you are pretty bitchy before your coffee in the morning. You are super argumentative and difficult sometimes. You talk about yourself a lot. You’re loud when you drink, or are happy, or are excited. You have to remember to be quieter. Take up less space. Keep your opinions to yourself. How else could you expect anyone to put up with you?
But you don’t want to pull away do you? You still love this person, even if they don’t love you (and you’re definitely assuming they don’t).
6. Run into them again.
Maybe socially; you did introduce them to your friends, after all. Maybe it’s at work, or your shared dry cleaner, or regular bar. Definitely avoid eye contact and direct interaction. Remember what you decided. Remember to be quiet, be less. They may notice a change in your personality. That’s okay. Tell them everything is fine if they ask you what’s wrong. Give them confident, cheerful responses that effectively assuage their concern for the moment.
7. Finally talk to them directly again.
Maybe you broke down and messaged them, maybe they finally hit you up. They’re trying to figure out what’s wrong. Now you have to lie so they don’t realize you’re crazy. Crazy is not attractive. O,h you’ve just been busy? Stressed at work? Sick? Oh okay, they thought they may have done something wrong. Let’s hang out. I miss you too.
8. Go back to step 2 and repeat.
About the Author
Fiona Leloup is a teacher, poet, blogger, and artist. She is also (newly out as) bisexual, a trauma survivor, and a suicide survivor. She is here because it is time to take up space with her story. Suicide survivors in mainstream society are hidden behind a shroud of shame and guilt. They are made to think attempting suicide makes them weak, when surviving suicide actually makes them strong as hell. If you struggle with mental health or suicide, Fiona sees you, she loves you, she is you. Her voice is dedicated to you, and all trauma survivors.
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