I hadn’t met my friend until this year, but I know we have friends in common. And it’s been the darkest few months of my life.
I made a new friend this year. A mean friend. A debilitating friend. A friend that enabled my anxiety and all the bad thoughts I’ve ever had about myself.
A friend who wouldn’t let me go to sleep at night because I was so terrified that I’d dream about him or worse, wake up at 2am with him sleeping beside me, reminding me that I would never be free.
A friend who stopped me from seeing the good in anyone and anything, but instead helped me see the bad. A friend who constantly had me second-guessing myself, over-analyzing every decision I made and every interaction I had in case I’d done something wrong.
A friend who loved my mistakes and reminded me constantly that I’m a bad person. A friend who made my soul ache when I was alone, an ever-constant hose to my simmering fire.
A friend who sometimes gave me hope, but then took it away as soon as I started to believe that it could all go back to the way it used to be. A friend who held me back at every turn like a possessive partner, afraid that I could step into the light and no longer trust what he told me is true.
I hadn’t met my friend until this year but I know we have friends in common. I’ve read books and seen movies and I’ve seen the damage that can occur if you don’t tell anyone who he is.
I’ve heard about the power he has, the kind of control he can take and the grip that sometimes ends up strangling you because you no longer have the resources to fight it. No one is immune. My friend is opportunistic and preys on weakness.
My friend helped me live my life in the shadows the last few months. Made me feel so crippled with shame that I couldn’t tell anyone what was going on. The bond we shared felt so strong.
My friend let me be a parent. Somehow, he made sure that my daughter’s every need was met and that every smile she gave me was met with another, but he never let me forget what a bad parent I am and how I need to try harder. My friend has been good like that.
In truth, it has been the worst time of my life. When I don’t have my daughter, I drink more, eat more, and have stopped seeing most of the people I know. I want to be alone so I can eat chocolate and hate-watch TV until I am physically so exhausted that I have no choice but to sleep.
I’ve gone over every decision I have ever made and chastised myself for not being better, for not realizing that everything could have been different if I’d just made another choice.
But suddenly, a few weeks ago, the fog somehow lifted and I woke up feeling different. My friend was still there but didn’t feel as powerful as before. Something inside me had shifted.
I don’t know what changed, but for the first time in a long time, I feel more like myself. Optimistic? Happy? I can hear myself think again. I can hear my heartbeat and my footsteps and see the road ahead of me.
I know there’s still a long way to go and that’s OK. I wanted to write it all down so when I’m happy again I can look back and remember what it felt like so I can do my best to never let it happen again. But if it does, I can deal with it.
If you have the same friend, you need to talk to someone. My friend made me want to jump in front of a train. How much power does your friend have?
Sally Tysoe is a writer and digital communication specialist. She works as a corporate writer during the day and is an avid, armchair bigfoot hunter by night. She lives in Brisbane with her daughter.