Left Behind

* Names have been changed for privacy*

I always wanted to know what it felt like to be loved. To have someone look at me like they do in the movies. To have someone look at me like I matter, like I’m the most beautiful thing they have ever seen. I’m still waiting.

Intimate relationships aren’t quite intimate for me. I fall in love quick, one day hating the person and the next they are my world. When I fall, I fall hard. The partners never fall for me though, that’s the piece that’s always missing. I give my all, same with friends. Once you are my friend, there is no turning back until you turn me away. Most do.

Since I was a kid, making friends was a chore. When in elementary school, my “mother” made my friends for me. On the first day of school she would walk me up to the most anti-social, most awkward and weird kid she could find and that was my friend for the year because I couldn’t do it myself. Or maybe she just convinced me I couldn’t. It was a new friend every year because I would either switch schools, or we would move houses or to a different city. This does not make for lasting friendships.

I would get super attached to this person, as there was nothing for me at home. I was a leader even back then, hiding my attachment and feelings towards the people I had bonded with. I’m sure that didn’t help either. I was never popular, and always had my head in a book. Every report card and teach-parent meeting came with the complaint: she’s really intelligent and does great work, but please tell her to stop ignoring me and get her head out of her books. As if they would make me smarter than my books would. Every year was the same though. I would lose the friend and have to start over. This didn’t make for meaningful connections, and made me superficial. I craved meaning and never got it.

As I got older, I made my own friends. They were still anti-social and weird, but I loved it. I finally got out of private Christian school and went to a public school, and I thrived in the social scene…. or so I thought. Turns out everyone was just afraid of me. I met my best friend there, still friends 15 years later. Everyone else faded to black one month after I moved states. They were cute in sending emails and calling the first month, then suddenly everyone disappeared.

Cut to adulthood. My biggest fear before entering treatment and the thing that almost stopped me from going is that I would lose my friends. I finally found people I could be myself around. People that hung out with me, talked to me, loved me, and cared for me. People that didn’t judge, and that didn’t mind that I was a little off. And I was terrified of losing them. If I changed the way I lived, would they still want me? But everyone assured me that if they loved me, they would stay no matter what. My gut screamed in protest, but I ignored it. I shouldn’t have ignored it.

During treatment, my biggest fear remained. I can’t lose them. I have lost everyone in the past, everyone leaves me. I can’t watch them go on without me and leave me behind. I can’t do this every time I meet people. But I shoved the fear down, and I pressed on. I should’ve listened to the fear.

I exited treatment and life went on. It was different, but I still had my friends. That’s what I told people when they asked me things, or when things got bad. I still have my friends! And that’s all I need goddammit. And the months went on, and I lost confidence in that answer. I still have my friends??? Or do I? Where are they? It doesn’t feel the same anymore. Are they leaving me?

In therapy every week, I began to realize what was different. I reach out to them, not the other way around. I invite them to things, not the other way around. Things I used to be invited to, I’m no longer told about. Events that would have drawn in at least five people in the past now draw in no one. Conversations are few and far between. They’re cordial and friendly, forced you could say. Plans that are scrounged together with a lot of effort are cancelled last minute with no regard. People they have just met now have more meaningful relationships and frequent hangouts than I ever did in the years that I’ve known them.

I’m sober. I don’t think the price I paid was worth it.

The message has been received. The message has been printed on a sign. For fuck’s sake, the sign is laminated and there are copies to post in every room of my house. You are unwanted. You are unloved. You are disposable. You are tiresome. You are broken. You are forgettable. We are leaving you behind for bigger and better things, everything you wish you had. And we will be so much happier without you. 26 years, lather, rinse, repeat with everyone I’ve loved and cared for.

I squeeze my Lotso bear tight when sleeping, so I don’t feel so pathetic wrapping myself in my arms. On my current bed arrangement, there are no less than 15 stuffed animals on there. They say the more pillows and stuffed animals you have, the more anxious, depressed, and alone you feel. Current pillow count? Four. I pile blankets onto myself to add weight and surround myself with pillows, mimicking the feeling of being held. I haven’t been held in years. I sleep better when my cats are either next to my face or cuddled against me, so that weight feels almost like a person. Almost, but not quite. Their breathing makes me feel less alone.

As I reflect, I know I used to and sometimes still blame myself for everyone leaving. Many were my fault. I was needy, clingy, demanding, emotional, unmedicated. But so many, so many were not my fault. I’m better now, can’t you see that? Why are you still leaving if I’m better now? I didn’t do anything wrong this time, why are you punishing me? Why am I still not good enough for you to stay?

Mason, Landon, Jerry, Rachel, Briana, Kiersten, Luke, Jessica, Mina, Kayla, Laura, Rick, Brittany, Daniel, Andy, Shawn, Ernest, Moon, Teresa, Tilly, Nikki, Tori, Christian. Just the ones off the top of my head. You walked out the door, and you never looked back.

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