Tuesday, April 10, 2018

On Growing Up and Its Consequences

So I cut ties with a couple of friends this week. Sadly, it seems that the more of my own issues I resolve and the more growing up I do, the more I start to see some of my so-called friends for the losers, eternal victims, and rotting garbage people that they are. As far as how I feel about that? On the one hand, I'm really pleased to realize I've grown enough as a person to finally assess such situations accurately. But for someone that really hasn't had many close friendships to begin with, growing up can also be a really lonely process. I definitely feel like I lose friends these days at a much faster rate than I make new ones.

This time, the people in question were a middle-aged male friend I'd known online for years and his female partner of about a year whom I was only just getting to know. (We can call them David and Terri for the sake of this post.) David is of the age where people that haven't really taken very good care of themselves over the course of their lives start having serious health scares and something to that exact tune finally happened to him maybe a month or two ago. He's also been struggling with some pretty serious depression and anxiety lately, some of it probably related to the health scare and some of it not.

Now David has always been a little bit stunted as a person. Like many people I've known online, he sees and presents himself as one thing when actually he's another. (No real judgment on that front. We've all been there, including me. Hell, especially me.) Like many people in that boat though, he claims to tell it like it is and to be all about brutal honesty, but only when he's the one dishing it out. When someone else is serving it up -- even if it's someone he claims to respect -- he handles it with all the grace and dignity of a toddler. That's not actually the reason I cut ties with him though. That happened because I decided I could no longer tolerate the way he treats people, particularly his partners. 

The night before last, David initiated what would eventually evolve into a 24-hour meltdown on Facebook -- one of many he's had, but much worse than usual. I won't get too much into the gory details, but suffice it to say he flippantly decided to dump Terri without even telling her first for reasons that are still unknown and was using Facebook to be what I can only describe as cruel, abusive, and sadistic about it. He also kept baiting his friends the entire time, apparently as a test to see who cared enough about him to put up with his behavior. As if that's not enough, it came out at some point that this was not an isolated occurrence, but something David has made a habit of doing to Terri ever since they've been together. We apparently just hadn't had the sublime treat of seeing it play out on Facebook before.

David's toxic mood eventually exhausted itself and he (of course) decided he wanted to get back together with Terri at that point, so a half-assed apology was posted to all their friends. David blamed his depression and his meds for the outburst, expecting that to somehow make everything OK. Terri's obvious hurt and confusion at the situation though, as well as David's apparent enjoyment of it at the time, was... really triggering for both Seth and me. We've both had experiences in our younger years with people that treated us exactly that way -- like we were toys to be played with instead of people with actual feelings. Saying those experiences were traumatizing is putting it really mildly, David's behavior (and Terri's later decision to defend her abuser) was just the last straw for both of us.

I'm a pretty low-maintenance friend and I can overlook a lot of things, because honestly, my friends have had to overlook a lot of bullshit on my end over the years as well. You can be a victim. You can be an adult baby. You can be someone that sadly lacks any sort of self-awareness. You can be a complete drama queen that sucks at life. (Although don't expect me to be all that close if you are those things. I'll probably just hang out in the corner praying for you and hoping you eventually get your shit together until you eventually do.) You don't even have to be a particularly good or attentive friend to me. 

You can't be an abuser or give me any reason to think you enjoy being intentionally cruel to people though. Under any circumstances. That's where my hard limit is and it's a hanging offense. I have no interest in knowing someone who's like this. And if you use your mental illness as an excuse for whatever unspeakable thing you did? Expect me to be doubly bothered. Seth and I both struggle with similar issues, but we don't take our issues out on others like that or use them as excuses not to take responsibility for any poor choices we do make. Ever. 

Now neither of us told David or Terri off before disappearing from their lives. We just quietly unfriended and blocked, the better to avoid drama, because David at the very least is the type of person that can't not make a big fuss about such things. But the fallout as far as mutual friends go was still pretty much what you'd expect it to be. David has built himself a pretty cozy echo chamber full of nothing but fellow victims and card-carrying yes men, so it didn't take long for people to start telling him and Terri everything they wanted to hear -- that we weren't "real" friends, that we clearly didn't "understand" depression so our exodus really didn't matter, and all sorts of similar soothing lies.

But the thing is... we were real friends. We do understand mental illness, probably better than anyone. We are loyal, compassionate, and forthright as well. We might not be the friends you want 100% of the time, but we are the type of people that will always be the friends you need. And David lost us. He fucked up and pushed good people to their absolute limits the way he always does sooner or later. It's just a matter of time before Terri gets tired of being treated this way the way David's numerous other exes also have and walks away as a result.

For Terri's sake (and for the sake of her child that's completely stuck in the middle of all this), I hope that either David gets his shit together or she sees the light and walks away before too much real damage is done. I can't worry about that though. It's sad that I had to walk away from yet more friends when I already feel like I barely have any, but it is what it is. That's life and all that. Thank God I have the wisdom to do so instead of clinging to damaged people that have no interest in self-improvement and outmoded situations that no longer serve me.

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