When I was in the 6th grade, entering into middle school for the first time – completely separated from literally EVERYONE I knew – I found myself making my first new friend; a friend who I would learn to adapt myself for in an effort to please (or at least keep from punishing me with the silent treatment, or threats of redacting her friendship).
It was a very stressful time in my life and it went on from the time I was 11 years old until I was 19 (dang, that’s a long time – what am I a masochist?). My friend (we’ll call her Cheyenne) was funny, she was cool, and she made me feel good about myself (except for when she was making me feel bad about myself). We ate together at lunch, we sat next to eachother in class, and we met up with each other in the halls between classes we did not share.
I really loved Cheyenne, but there was something about her that made me feel like I had to alter myself somewhat. Like I had to be careful what I did and said around her – even before she started showing her true colors.
Later I learned to be extra careful around her, because if I wasn’t, at any moment, I could say something so simple and meaningless, that had absolutely nothing to do with her, and it would create a spiral of unfortunate events for me.
I don’t recall exactly the first time this happened (there were so many occasions), but this is basically how it went…
Cheyenne and I are hanging out, talking, practicing on our clarinets, eating lunch, or whatever. I say something I think is funny, or about my weekend, or about some of my friends from elementary school or whatever, I don’t really know, and suddenly her entire demeanor changes. I ask her what’s wrong and she says “nothing”.
The rest of the day she’s a little stand offish, and when the day is over, she doesn’t say goodbye to me, she just disappears into the crowd of middle-schoolers and I don’t see her again until the next day.
The next day, she completely ignores me. Pretends I don’t exist. When I try to talk to her, she puts on a knowing smile and says to the person next to her, “did you here something? There must be a breeze in here.”
It was like a game to her. She enjoyed seeing my heart sink, seeing the disappointment on my face, seeing me cry when I thought no one was looking. She enjoyed toying with me like that.
It would always go on for as long as she wanted it to. Sometimes days… Sometimes weeks. Then, when she’d decided she’d had enough, she’d start talking to me again as if nothing had ever happened, and she would watch as a sigh of relief slipped over me. She reveled in this sick kind of control she had over my feelings.
Instead of realizing what she was doing to me (manipulating me and asserting control over me), I continued to think that something was wrong with me – that I was inconsiderate or maybe just a bad friend. I thought that there was something wrong with me as a person, so I changed. I adapted. I learned to be exactly the kind of person she wanted me to be, and if I ever slipped up, she made sure I knew it.
It was abuse, and it took me a long time to realize it. Once I did, and finally freed myself of her control (by ending the friendship), it took me a long time to recover – to learn who I was and how to be me again. I’d lost several important years of finding myself, building myself, becoming who I wanted to be. This relationship dramatically affected my life in so many unhealthy and negative ways, and even to this day, I still suffer from a few of the after effects.
These days, I have to work really hard to live my truth. I know who I am and I’m comfortable in my skin – but add other people to the equation and I start getting confused. I start feeling like I have to alter myself to please them (even though I know this is not the case). I have to work really hard to let the real me shine though.
People deserve to see the real me, and I deserve the chance to let that beautiful person shine through.