One of the things I have struggled with during my peak of my anxiety and depression was the idea of friends. I grew up on a military base so I was used to people coming in and out of my life pretty frequently. However, when I got to college, I thought it was like a time to have a solid group of friends for a good chunk of my life. Oh was I mistaken.
Here’s the first problem. I don’t know how to make friends. It sounds absolutely ridiculous but its so true. When you are in a small space like a college res hall, it’s super easy to meet people and find friends. I mean you live less than a foot away from them. You’re constantly surrounded by people. You really wan’t get away. Now, I live on my own and I don’t know how and where I’m supposed to make friends. I’m much younger than most of the people I work with and I don’t go out too much. I still have a lot anxiety around leaving my house and doing social activities, especially if I’m by myself. Plus, I’m an introvert. Even if I had the courage and strength to go out, I’m not going to talk to strangers. I just don’t know how to meet people and I don’t think it’s just me. Social media and phones have taken over our social lives. I forget how to carry on a real conversation sometimes. I don’t know how to talk to someone who I met via Instagram or a dating app in real life.
Here’s the big thing I struggle with. People come into your life when you are young and then leave. It’s not because something went down or you pushed them away when you couldn’t leave your bed. College is a time of so much growth and people change. I had a different group of friends pretty much every year of my undergrad. It’s not because I lost touch with those others but I changed and found people who I wanted to be around at that moment in my life. People who I saw more often or worked with. Sometimes I felt like a terrible friend because I wasn’t able to keep up with everyone. I weighed heavily on me because I felt like I lost people. I thought people were leaving me because of me. It took me a long time to understand that just because you stop seeing them as much doesn’t mean that I necessarily did something wrong. I have changed. They have changed. Maybe, it’s not the time for us to be close anymore. That’s okay. However, when you struggle with depression, you feel like you pushed them away or they left you. I still feel that every day. It’s not easy but it’s a realization I had to come to so I could begin to figure out what “friends” are to me.
So now, we are here. I’m trying to redefine what I think a friend is. For a long time, I considered a friend someone who I spent time with and talked to fairly regularly. Someone who would be there for me in good times and bad. Someone who I trusted and respected and was honest with me. If I went off of that thought, I have maybe one friend. I spend a lot of time by myself at home for a number of reasons. I don’t trust easily. I don’t want to have to hide my struggles with mental health with my friends. I want to spend time with my friends and know that I can call them if I want to and it wouldn’t be weird. If I measured up every person I know according to this, no one would pass. So I’m changing what I consider a friend. Maybe a good or close or best friend would be what I described before. I’m still working on this. I don’t think it’s easy to rewire something you’ve thought for your whole life. Maybe a friend is someone who I used to be close with and talk on occasion. Maybe it’s someone who I’ve spent time with in the past and wouldn’t mind spending more time with them. Maybe it’s someone who I shared a significant life event with. I don’t know.
If there is one thing I do know for sure, I need to stop saying I don’t have friends. Because I do. Just not in the standard definition I had.