When Self Care Means Letting Go Of Your Best Friend
I can still feel the moment when I realized our friendship had to end. Only a few weeks earlier we had been laughing together over something that I can’t remember now. It was only after realizing the emotional and physical toll that being friends with you was taking on me, did I know in my gut that I had to break it off.
Our friendship, as it turned more toxic, affected my health. It affected my mood. It became the intrusive, obsessive thought in my head: “why can’t I let this go?” and “why are you being like this?” and “why wouldn’t you just be the same as you were?”
No one prepares you for toxic friendships, and when they slowly develop from something that was once healthy and fulfilling into something that eats away at your peace of mind, it’s even harder to come to terms with it. I never wanted you to become a stranger.
So no, I wasn’t graceful when I ended our friendship. It wasn’t my finest hour. It had been nearly a year of trying to be near you and support you, loving you closely because I considered you my best friend. Even Marie Curie was poisoned by her own passion.
After it ended, I found myself with a space in my life where your friendship used to live. A space full of six years of shared memories: laughs, worries, anger, time spent together, time spent apart, secrets, love, support. In the span of twenty-four hours I went from knowing exactly what existed in that friendship space to having a vacant lot the size of six years in my heart.
I’ve since spent two years rebuilding that space, turning a vacant lot into a garden. I planted the seeds of new friendships. I turned the energy I used into worrying about you into energy I now use to take care of myself. Each day is a bit easier, but it’s not always easy. Ending our friendship meant changing patterns.
When I want to text you, I reach out to a friend I haven’t seen in a while. I used to hoard all my secrets until I saw you. Sometimes months would go by before you would commit to a day just for us, and I would keep them locked up tight until then. Now, I trust more people with knowing the real me. I opened up my heart to others and found there are so many people willing to give me shelter.
When I want to call you, worried that I did the wrong thing, hearing your voice saying that you need me, that you can’t do this without me, I talk to myself the way I used to talk to you. I put my phone down and remind myself, “you deserve people who put their claws away and hold you gently.”
When I feel like I will never stop missing the you that you once were, I pick up a book.
When I find myself wishing you had apologized in our last fight, even when I knew that it wouldn’t have been enough to fix our friendship by then, I schedule my calendar with events in the city. I go alone to galleries and author talks and themed dance parties, and I remind myself that there is an abundance of things that will fill my heart with joy.
When I feel like I will never stop missing the you that you once were, I pick up a book. I find comfort in the stories of characters facing their own struggles and see in their victories my own eventual goal: looking in the mirror at someone who is strong enough to care for herself, even when it’s hard.
When I feel like fixing someone now, I buy a plant. I agonize over which colour flowers will go best in my apartment. I water them and watch as the droplets drift into the soil. I try my best to accept when the leaves shrivel up and the plant eventually dies. I remind myself that people won’t accept help if they don’t think there’s a problem.
The truth is I still miss you. I miss when being friends with you meant having someone who would laugh with me and share my dreams. I miss when being friends with you meant when we were at our low points, the other person was there to pull up the slack.
So when I find myself wanting to talk to you, I write to you. At first, they were poems full of anger. Then, sadness. Now I write to you about happiness. Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m saying I love you to you or to me, but at the end of the day, I know that I no longer ache or wish that you were here to see what I’ve built. The space in my heart where you used to reside is filled with saplings and flowers that possess strong roots.
Written by Calyssa Erb