Absent Friends

I have no friends.

Sure, I have acquaintances. I’ve been involved in dog sports for many years. It’s a fishbowl; it’s not hard to gather acquaintances.

But I am talking about real friends. People who know me. The kind of people who would invite you to join them for coffee and a chat, a cookout, a hike/walk, go the the movies, etc. But, more than that, someone who you could talk to when times get hard and you really could use someone to help talk you down or sort out the confusing thoughts running through your head. People who might check in with you every so often to see how you are really doing and who genuinely care about the answer. People who know you might not have anywhere to spend a holiday or may be facing a birthday alone and will extend an invitation to include you at their holiday table or make sure you’aren’t spending your birthday just lying in bed writhing in the pain of loneliness wishing someone would at least call to acknowledge the day.

And, no, it’s not something I expect to be a one way street. In fact, when I do see one of my acquaintances struggling with something, I do check in with them and ask how they are doing. And, if I’m capable of it at the time, I ask if there is anything I can do for them. How I ache for someone to take notice of me in the same way.

I don’t have anyone like that. I don’t have a support system. And it’s really hard to fight your way through a particularly bad mental illness patch when you don’t have a support system. In my own case, the lack of support feeds into my dark thoughts and spiraling depression and anxiety. “No one cares about me”. “If I tapped out, no one would miss me. I wonder how long it would take for anyone to even notice.” “I don’t know why I can’t connect and make friends. There must be inherently defective about me.” “There is something wrong with me. There is something wrong with me. I don’t know what it is, but there is something wrong with me and I don’t know how to fix it.”

It is a large black viper that stabs its long, sharp fangs into my very soul and slowly injects its venom. Day after day, month after month, year after year. It causes excruciating pain and lasting damage.

I am fortunate in that I have an amazing partner who understands me better than anyone ever has and hasn’t given up on me. I treasure her and her love and commitment to me. But, she has her own mental health struggles and simply isn’t capable of being my support system if we are both marching down our own separate dark paths at the same moment.

How to make a friendship is a skill of unparalleled mystery to me. How does one do it? How do people make the connections they have in life? How do they build a support system? How do you connect with someone to the point that they care about your thoughts, your opinions, your well-being? I don’t know.

People/therapists say join groups with mutual interests and be yourself (or sometimes they say, just be nice). I’ve been doing that for years. As I mentioned, I’ve been involved in dog sports for a long time. I know a lot of people. Superficially. I talk to them and still remain hopeful that we can spark more of a connection, but it never seems to do more than float at the surface. In the meantime, I see them form connections with each other. They leave a trial/class and go out to eat together. They invite each other to gatherings. They do activities together outside of dog sports. And I’m left behind wondering “Why not me? What’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong?” I feel like an outcast. I feel invisible.

It’s a life-long pattern. I love solving puzzles, but I can’t come up with the key for this most essential of solutions.