One of my closest friends, the one I can 100% be myself with and say anything to knowing there will be zero judgment, has gone missing again. Right now, she is really overwhelmed with life, and when this happens, she shuts down for months at a time and I barely hear from her. She’ll call if she wants to talk or is in the mood to chat, but if she’s not, she goes silent.
My occasional texts and phone calls get ignored so I don’t push it and let her be, but I’m not going to lie: it is hard for me and to be on the receiving end of this if I am struggling too, want to check in, or simply want to make myself available to see if there is anything I can do for her. While I am aware of her needs right now, there have been times these past weeks when I really, really needed her. And the silence hurts.
Being a single mom who has gone through divorce, I’ve had some hard stretches in my life lately when I’ve shut down for a short period of time. There were times when I didn’t feel like I could lift my head off the pillow, return a text or phone call, and I lost motivation to connect to people. So, I get this is a way we self-protect and preserve, I really do.
But honestly, when I go into hiding to recharge, it doesn’t last more than a day or so. My friendships are a crucial part of my life, and I don’t feel good about keeping them on the back burner for a long time. While I have stretches of being a bit introverted, and taking time to sink back into myself when something is wrong, at the core of my soul, I need my people.
I long for human interaction and connection. I feel better after talking with my best friend or just getting out and mingling with different air and people to get my mind off my problems. There is nothing more humbling than being there for someone else, helping them move or redecorate, or just be a sounding board.
For me, when I shut down and don’t communicate with family or friends, or focus only on myself for too long, I spiral and feel even more hopeless.
There have been times when simply getting out of the house has jolted my out of my own tiny world and made me realize the power of a change of scenery or focusing on another person.
When I’m in a dark place, I’ve realized reaching out helps my mental health in a big way. I’ve never regretted picking up the phone and asking for help, or getting out of my slump by putting those jeans on and getting my ass out of my damn house, even when I didn’t want to.
So it’s hard when someone goes dark for several weeks at a time.
I’m not talking about being needy and calling someone who I expect to be available 24/7 and come to my aid whenever I have an issue. I’m not talking about having high expectations of your friends, or not understanding when they have too much going on to see you — I get all of that. I’m talking about those times you want to get a coffee, have a good bitch session, or someone to go to spin class with to take the edge off and shed a bit of light on your world when things feel off.
I’m talking about reaching out with a text and getting a response within a day.
I’m talking about that person who is able to say, “I want you know I am overwhelmed now, but let’s get together in a few weeks.”
And when you have a friend who shuts you (and everyone else) out when they are in the thick of it as their way of coping with something, it can be lonely. You can understand their situation and not want to be self-centered and still be hurt by it.
After all, science says good friends make us live longer, and I fully believe that. I’m a better version of myself when I nurture my friendships. The times when I’ve really needed a friend and I’ve been pushed to the side, or even ignored, it feels like being kicked when you are down. It feels like rejection. It feels like you are left waiting in the wings until they are able to make room for you, and it can damage the friendship even if you try and be the bigger person.
I know this probably sounds like I’m setting up to have a huge pity party, but let’s be honest: being shut out for months at a time by a really good friend can make you question the connection. Again, I am not talking about being ghosted or knowing your friendship is changing and you are desperately clinging on while they’re trying to let you go. I’m referring to those times when you need a sound ear, when you miss your friend, but they aren’t available at all because of the things going on in their life.
We all deal with things in different ways. I do respect my girlfriends and our differences, and I never want anyone to feel like they’re doing me a favor by spending time with me because I am clingy and they grow to regret me.
But when you need a friend and those you count on the most aren’t responsive because they aren’t capable of that, it can take you to an even darker place.
There is a fine line between giving someone space and feeling like you are cast aside whenever life gets too overwhelming for someone because they know you will just be waiting in the wings when they are in the mood for you.
I don’t care who you are, when you are already feeling low, this can be a tough pill to swallow.