I never ascribed to the idea of carefully choosing who your friends are early in life. I always believed that anyone decent had a fair chance of becoming my friend, and therefore welcomed a lot of friendly advances from people who may or may not even have had similar interests with me.
However, after years of experiencing first-hand how my choice of companions drastically affects my mood, feelings, thinking patterns, and behavior, I realized that choosing your friends doesn’t mean not giving people a chance to be one, but realizing when it’s time to stop extending your gift of companionship to them.
I’ve been friends with people who needed it the most – people who were broken, needing emotional support, people who were going through difficult times and needed a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. I’ve been that friend a lot. I enjoy listening to people rant about their problems, acknowledge their struggles, and try to help them solve these. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on the other side too many times to count. Bipolar disorder tends to make one fairly fragile emotionally and mentally; having a strong support system is vital to surviving each episode and getting through life without killing oneself. So I strove to be that support for people.
It’s tricky but I can tell the difference between the people who are willing to change, and those who aren’t ready yet. I have listened to endless hours of complaining and whining and crying and moping. I’ve also done my share of going through the same emotions. It’s draining. I know I bring my friends down when I do this. But it’s a healthy way to release toxic feelings, and a good friend will know how to shoulder more than her share of toxicity to help you power through bad ruts in the road. But after all that, I know it’s up to me to learn from events and figure out what to do to avoid the same triggers for my own good.
The other reason I talk to friends during these moments is to get outside feedback. Aware that my mental disorder causes my view of the world to be distorted, having stable third parties tell me if I’m looking at things wrong or not considering a viewpoint is a good thing to have.
After the shit storm that was 2017, I realized that I can’t really afford to overextend myself in terms of emotional commitments. As much as I’d want to continue supporting my toxic friends and try to make them see reason, the toll it takes on me is too much. I can’t do it all the time. I can only do it in short bursts, and then sometimes not at all. Also, as much as people always mistake me for an extrovert, I’m afraid I only have enough energy to keep constantly in touch with a small group of friends. Right now, that’s around 3 people. Even just talking with one person tires me out now. I admit I’m in a pretty fragile state and I can’t handle too much with all the feelings I have to fend off as well.
I also suffered betrayal from people I thought were my friends. Who self-professed friendship with me and told me they wanted to keep me in their lives. Like a naive fool, I believed them. But soon enough, they showed their real colors and caused me more damage than I deserved. It would be stupid of me to let this happen again, so lesson learned. (I’m having heart tremors just thinking about the pain.)
Choosing who I let in carefully from now on.