The other day during a therapy session, I said suddenly, “Healing is hard.”
“It is,” my therapist, J, replied. “It can be scary to leave what we know.”
J asked me if I could elaborate on the parts of the healing journey I was finding more difficult. I wanted to say, “Everything,” but in that moment I was feeling a particular strain, the one that comes from the loss of relationships that no longer fit you.
I’m lucky to have many friends located all over the country. I’ve spent years feeling confident in the web of my supporters. They have gotten me through many hard times, especially during the years I was struggling the most. But now, having overcome a lot of bad habits and some pretty dark moments, I have started noticing a change in my connection with many of them.
“My relationships feel different,” I finally managed.
He asked me to further elaborate. Had something specific happened? He knew about some of the changes — I recently asked to take a break from a friend because she wasn’t respecting my boundaries. Another friend and I parted because I didn’t want to deal with her drug use.
“I guess I feel a bit worried,” I told him. “I’m afraid of losing everyone.”
He said he understood, but there was no need to be scared.
I’ve spent most of my life trying to get people to like me. In middle school, I was voted everybody’s buddy, a title I desperately wanted (I got sweaty while they were counting the votes). I hung out with everyone from all types of groups. In high school, I joined intramural sports teams and developed a large group of older friends from a neighboring school.
The same went for undergrad. Grad school was a bit harder to get settled, but when I was in, I was in. After graduation, I was fortunate to move around a bit and take part in lots of different writing programs. I always prided myself on being able to make friends. It made me feel good to be “likeable.” I tried not to shake the boat too much, even if that meant sometimes tolerating things I didn’t like.
After coming out, I moved to the Keys. I didn’t have any friends my age, and most of the people I was close with were through work, which created…