With A Lot Of Help From My Friends

Saturday, June 1, 1996

My therapist told me Thursday that it's not unhealthy to want people's company often. That surprised me a lot. Oh, sure, it sounds all right when I'm normal. Which is to say, those times when I might be bored to be alone, but I can find a book to read or a movie to watch, so that I can spend the day or the evening alone, and deal with it. But for the majority of the past month, since Saturday, April 27 in fact, I have not been normal.

That morning, I woke up and had breakfast, and sometime during that period, sank into an emotional state where I could pretty much do nothing but cry. I was supposed to write a paper that weekend. I didn't. I called Chris in Orlando, an hour and a half's drive from me in Tampa, because at that time of day (about 2 p.m.) when I'd finally given up on feeling better by myself, my only close friends in Tampa would not yet have been awake.

Chris did more than talk to me, which is all that I had expected. He drove over to Tampa. We spent a wonderful evening together: shopping for Mother's Day cards, eating out, and walking on the beach. I enjoyed myself greatly and was sure that the next day I could work on the paper to make up for my unplanned "day off."

And Sunday the same thing happened. I couldn't work, I could only cry. I was scared of not getting the paper done, I was scared of the juggling of two jobs that I was going to be doing temporarily because I needed the extra money (though neither job was new to me or beyond my capacities), I was scared of dealing with the problems I had with a roommate (also an ex-boyfriend, just to add to the tension) and I was scared of the process of finding a new roommate and moving in with someone who would be essentially a stranger to me. The filth of the apartment (I've given up fighting with my two slob roommates about it) depressed me. But those problems mostly got dealt with, albeit haphazardly, over the next month, and the attacks of misery continued.

The mornings are the worst. Once I've found something to get me though the morning and the day, the evenings aren't too bad (often because I'm still doing the thing or with the people that were getting me through the day by their distractions.) But I live in dread of those mornings, especially weekends, when I wake up and can't stand to be alone because the fears of nothing in particular are too great and I don't know how to cope with them.

Usually I call Jon and Brian, my only close Tampa friends. I normally spend a lot of time over at their apartment, even when I'm not in emotional crisis, because it's within walking distance and I hate the smells and mess of the place where I live. That and most of the people I used to hang out with have scattered after we all moved out of the dorms. I worry about wearing out my welcome there, because I am there nearly every evening and often in tears when I arrive. Both guys have assured me that it isn't happening and is unlikely to ever happen, but I worry nonetheless. I've driven people away before.

So whenever I can, I try and cry on other people so as to spread it out and not tire anyone of me. I call Chris. I arrange stuff with my friend Matt, who is back in town for the summer. I get together with my mom, though she loads me up with bad advice (l like "get a boyfriend and you'll feel better." Perhaps my mom should read Why Do I Think I'm Nothing Without A Man?) I talk to my therapist, which tends to do the longest-lasting good--one hour with him in the morning can get me through the entire day without a problematic thought, whereas as soon as I part from some others my feelings teeter on the edge of that cliff at the bottom of which I've been spending far too much time lately. The company of those who care can lift me out, sometimes so quickly it's miraculous. I think I stand on solid ground then, but it often disappears when the people do. But my friends can't keep a watch, they can't be with me all my waking hours. I wouldn't want them to have to be, to have to be always spending time with this person for the sake of her mental health, withno consideration for theirs.

But on the other hand, I can't kill myself because it would hurt them. In some of those alone-and-haunted-by-large-nonspecific-fears moments, the fact that there is someone out there who I don't want to hurt has felt like the only reason not to go ahead with those eerie sense-flashes I keep getting of a blade against my wrists.

So I fear getting caught alone without any friends to distract me from the undetermined fears, and that fear haunts even my good moments. I don't know when it will ever go away and let me function with normal emotions again. I feel like I'm dependent on the friends I have now (of course that fear assumes that I will never make any more, as this situation of fear is hardly conducive to meeting new people and I've never been much good at that in the first place) and that for the rest of my life it will take them to keep me functioning. And when they get jobs in other places where I can't necessarily follow, or I get a job offer somewhere where there are no friends to steady me? I can't think about that; the fear is too big and I don't know how to deal with it. Marry someone just to tie them to me, something like that. I am really scared that desperation might drive me to some such course.

My therapist Octavio doesn't think there's anything wrong with my wanting people around. He says he grew up with siblings, and has always lived with roommates (on closer terms than I am with mine), and would feel odd without other people around most of the time.

I, on the other hand, grew up as an only child of divorced parents. Being at home for me meant total aloneness or time with Mom, to which total aloneness was usually preferable. I rarely saw my school acquaintances outside of school; they never lived close enough. I had friends in the neighborhood we lived in until I was 13, but once Mom dragged me to Florida, we moved into a suburb full of retirees and there was no one near that I spent time with. In short, I was pretty much alone and used to it until I entered college.

I was lonely for the first six weeks of college and then someone I had seen in calc class took pity on me and invited me to sit with a group of friends which had already formed in our dorm. Once I got to know them, I didn't have too many dull moments for the next three years, as long as some of the group still lived in the dorm.

After that, I started noticing something. My ability to spend time alone had atrophied greatly. I felt a lot more alone now with only three or four people I could call on a Saturday night than I had in high school with nobody. And I felt like this was wrong. My natural, uninfluenced self had coped with life without people; why wasn't I able to now?

But I can't. I call up friends, I write letters and e-mail, I try to keep open every connection I can and make use of the ones I have. I'm surprised Brian and Jon (and their third roommate Nick) aren't tired of me being over there all the time. (I thought this even before this past month.) I want to be a social butterfly, just for the company and the distraction. I want my friends to be there, every instant I might need them. And I don't feel this is right, especially at those times when I can't imagine ever being able to be alone again. It doesn't bother me so much when I'm calm, but when I'm calmer I don't need people that same way. I still haven't figured this out in my head, but it seemed to help to write it down.

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