I was reading this friendship book. Here to Make Friends. from the library. Its a book that tells you how to make friends as an adult. That's an area of some baggage for me. The book had you make lists of friends from your past. It got me thinking about patterns of friendship. I realized with shock, almost every friend I made in college, came out of a family just like mine. It was revelatory.
As people here know, when I went through my no contact pruning process, this included several very long term friendships. This includes friendships lost from going no contact and ACON recovery, religion--[my deconversion] and politics. Did I have grief over the end of these friendships? Sure I did. I also arrived at the conclusion that friendships are doomed for failure once one party changes radically or enters recovery. This is often talked about quite a bit in the substance abuse world. Why wouldn't it happen with someone in ACON recovery?
With autistics, we upset neurotypicals easy. Every autistic friend of mine has talked about issues in that realm of life. Some autistic people don't even have friends or very very few. People don't always "get us". I tried to view things through neurotypical eyes, and realized yes I am far too pedantic, and yes I am weird to a lot of people. My mind goes places most people aren't used to. Neurotypicals thrive off of a different sort of bonding. They like those small things, of smiles, small talk and funny jokes. I'm not good at the latter two though I tried. I know a life time of having things be so complicated has taken a toll.
One thing that can hurt, is you know, I see people with close best friends from college and high school who are now in their 50s, it feels weird, and you can get negative feelings thinking "why didn't that happen for me?" I think back, and all my college friends are gone, as you will see detailed in this article. I had no friends in high school, well no one close enough who really got to know me.
There's one lady I know in town, she kind of froze me out over politics and my deconversion, and I really was only a "charity" associate. She was my old Stephan's minister. Her Facebook is full of active happy pictures with her and her three best friends from high school. She grew up in the same area and has a close knit family. This is someone with the complete opposite social life as me. She is well liked. She is very overweight but that never held her back socially. She is somewhere in the 400s, but while she has health problems, she was never disabled and still works.
She's never had to worry about social rejection or not having friends or a family who loves her. She is a nice person, and she's someone I wanted to be closer friends with at one point . She may have froze me out later over politics and religion, we never had any arguments but perhaps my public Trump "resistance" bothered her. Maybe I'm wrong and Covid simply distracted her and we will meet one day again, with some conversation. I don't know. She's one of those people, where becoming her friend, you would be standing in a long line, your dance card with the numbers in the double digits. There seems to be a lot of people like that. It's strange to me how some people are so socially successful and others end up not so much. I do have love and a close marital relationship, she never married in her case.
People like her remind me how family love and support can impact a life. Her family is kind, they respect her, they see her as a good person, I've met her family in passing too. One's family life definitely influences a lot in one's future.
Life socially for me always feels like a minefield. I could be pissing off some people via my Covid opinions. One online friend has stopped talking to me and I suspect it's over what I have posted here about Covid and the vaccines or she could be having problems. I don't know. I've tried writing but I fear I could be getting ghosted yet again. If I say anything more I'll come across as weird or needy. The friendships that last with me, are ones where people tell you what they are thinking. Sadly that's more the exception than the rule.
Some may say don't jump to conclusions, but having lost too many people to failing some kind of test, is wearing me out too. I got tired. I don't want to jump through anymore hoops for anyone and don't want to censor everything in my brain anymore.
People have their own choices to make. I'm not so arrogant a person to think I could not get things wrong--I got religion wrong for a long time-- but there's a lot of crazy stuff I have to talk about and if I can't on my anonymous blog, what good is having one? This has me on edge. I talk about things here but I don't feel safe enough out in society. It's made me withdraw and my worries about becoming an "unvaccinated pariah" are there. Peer pressure is not enough to make me sign up for something I think will physically harm me. I've had my fill of medical trauma for one life. Don't you think? I know there are risks of me dying from Covid too, so we all weigh our individual risks and options, I just wish things didn't seem to be heading towards where that freedom wasn't respected. It's creeped me out to how they are offering Lottos and more to get people to line up. All this coercion just makes me more suspicious.
I have a lot of sadness too over the fact the years I expected to enjoy were taken away. I want to return to just living normal, but where is normal now? My husband is afraid of something happening to me and I am afraid of something happening to him, which has held my hand back on going and "living life". Otherwise I may just go jump back in. The psychological damage and destruction they have done to millions of life with this Covid crap IS unforgiveable.
One issue keeps cropping up for me lately. It's from my UU fellowship, it's a positive thing. They keep talking about authenticity. It's a hard one because if you are not a person who fits in the mainstream and have undergone a lot of rejection. How do you practice it? What if being YOU, upsets people? What if you are not a flavor of ice cream, most people order? Some people really like or love me, but out on the social scene, I shock people easily if I let down the cloaking guard.
I tell myself things like "Well this is who I am, people have to accept it or not." I can't keep censoring opinions or trying to be something I am not. You can only polish off so many rough edges. That hasn't led me to any happiness either. It's something I am exploring. I also am exploring "shadow side" Jungian philosophies, but that's a subject for another post. Is authenticity with this kind of history even possible? I see the healthy personalities who are authentic, who seem to feel safe to even share vulnerabilities. They are free to be who they are. I watch them wondering how did they arrive at that point? I share vulnerabilities on this blog, but real life, that's something else.
What is sad, is I was finally establishing new decent local connections, and seeing things blossom, that could have grown, before Covid came to mess up my life and that of others. This included new art friends, plans to visit closer by friends less than an hour away, and UU activities which were becoming a big part of my life. Hope had become part of my new reality. People with more active lives felt a lot of pain too, having so much taken away. It's one thing for someone like me already housebound to lose "having a life" but what about the people with very vibrant lives?
The theme of this life always seems to be locked down, from the time I was a little kid locked up in my room, to my 20s locked down from no money to being now in my early 50s living on what is basically house arrest. One could say my fat body is another massive involuntary lock too. I don't understand. My mental place now is like I am locked down in chains and struggling to get free. I was literally begging my husband to sell every damn thing and head for the hills. Even now I want to move to some remote community that still lives the old way of life. I get dark thoughts wondering if earth is actually hell and think about that time Chef tells Stan on South Park, that God allows a few nice things on earth so they can be swiped away to increase the suffering, "It's like taking candy away from a baby!"
So my social life got destroyed, or what there was of one outside the internet. One weird thing is sometimes I encounter friends from my old rural town, the ones who are still alive, on Facebook, and we remember our art and music co-op years with a nostalgia that seems to border on tears, because things just "aren't that way anymore." This happened the other day in fact and it's happened with more than two people. These friends always hear my regret that I moved away. One old friend was this nice older lady, she was in her 50s when I was in my 30s, and she had to move away around the same time we did to another town as things economically imploded. It's ironic over last 6 months I have had a few of those conversations and the friends brought up about how close we used to be and how we could talk about anything back then, and I said "yes everything was far more open, we could even disagree with each other, but it was part of the fun and the back and forth." I said, "It's not like that anymore." She told me she was crying, and I said, I am too. It's just not the same. How did life become like this? The young do not realize what is being lost.
I lost too many people during the course of life, things never were relaxed or secure, and it's affecting me. When I did have friends, they were always taken away from me. All the moving when I was young, plucked out of social situations, being moved on my 13th birthday! I went from having some friends to none and the impact would last for years. All my mother's relatives lived on the same street, but I was the kid that got to live 600 miles and then 120 miles away only seeing the family once to twice a year, while everyone else got to enjoy each other's company. That theme too of being taken away from people was there.
It seems this theme continued as an adult too. Every time I found a place to be and have connection, it was ended and the times where I felt like I belonged were so short. My UU fellowship was akin to my new music and art co-op, and while we have Zoom, they were taken away too now. I've had and have friends in severe health crises, and have deceased friends too, and there too, you ponder how the loss of people in your life. One close online friend is facing an extreme health crisis. I worry for her all the time. This life is too short. Life is too short for narcissist's garbage. Life is too short for this Covid crap too!
This got me thinking on friendship in general. When I went no contact years ago, so many friendships imploded and I ended many others that I did think about the patterns over the years that had cropped up. I've have and had some good and successful friendships, being this autistic, but I am banging my head on the social brick wall. One thing when I end friendships, is I never leave people hanging, I discuss it on the way out. I don't do that ghosting bullshit, which hurts people.
Why is it so hard? People are under the gun, stress is far higher. I know depression is affecting people now and people are withdrawing. Who can blame them after a year and half of this nonsense? This Covid stuff has affected people in endless negative ways.
As I got older it got harder to get close to people. Most of my social life was lived online and that's true today. My peers were all light years ahead of me. We had the money issues that kept us out of regular society. Normal people had children, grandchildren and endless friends and career connections, while I floated out in the outer space of often housebound disability. The me of the old rural town even with the autism had a far easier time. Maybe when I was younger I was more lively, it's hard to fathom. I'm not sure it's me or that a working class area was far more open and closer to my own personal culture. The people here are often kind and friendly but with the majority being far more affluent they seem far more close-mouthed, and close to the vest, they seem a lot more formal. It doesn't mean they are bad, just different and my personality has more difficulty with this. I feel like I could relax in the old place but here socially that never happened except a few groups.
It's been hard these last 15 years. While there are formerly hopeful signs, I haven't been able to fix things either. I got burned a lot here too. I'm not sure why things were so different after I moved here. Did I finally reach a point where I got tired of losing people? Did I get burned out on life being a grind of always being put in a new place of having to "sell myself" instead of knowing the comfort and security in belonging somewhere? Did society change radically in those years? Is this why I spent two years begging my husband to move back but economically it wasn't feasible? Now I finally get somewhere and Covid enters in to take away the fun, spontaneity and new relationships I was finally finding. Was all this social yearning and desperation trying to make up for the family that hated me?
Maybe as you get older close friendship gets more complicated. People are busy with family and careers. No one is "hanging out." Even non-disabled people slow down with age. So when Covid shut down all my groups and activities, outside of my marriage, all social connections were shut down. One thing that happened to me too, is some very cool people moved away. At least 5-6 friends have moved away since I moved here. Some I have kept in touch with and there is two to write this week.
With this Covid crap, the social isolation has taken a toll. It is depressing me. A big part of the problem is the clamped down aspect to it all. I will have to start living my life again accepting the risk, that I may die over it. I will have to see people even though I have been brainwashed that they are all germ vectors ready to take me out. Living life as a hermit or two hermits together in this case is not healthy. Here I know the vaccinated have the advantage of less worries on that front and it's definitely got to be a motivation for folks.
I have enough wrong with me, that life was kind of led that way anyhow, but now with Covid hovering over me, it sucks. The stress is affecting others. I wonder how many are silently sinking, a hand sticking up out of a puddle, unseen and not helped. Some went the path like the British did in WW2, volunteership, smiling faces on Zoom, focusing on the positive, like still bagging up food for the homeless shelter, and doing some gardening or going camping. I have the feeling those who had the strongest family relationships/local relationships fared the best, while those single and isolated perhaps with only work or school and online friends have suffered the most. According to America media, everyone is a well-connected yuppie with 2.5 kids and a house with 2,000 square feet with ample room for your new Paletron work out station, and huge marble table for baking bread in your luxurious kitchen. Grandma and cousins are right down the street. Work is a few easy hours on a computer that never falters and the Wi-Fi never fails. There's no lonely elderly people denied their friends or little kids trapped at home with no school or social activities.
I worry I adapted too much to this whole mess. What did I do last week? I gardened, watched youtube videos, cooked, started a new painting, set up a new printer--still working on that, did the medical stuff, put new vacuum cleaner together where I have to wash the filters, read some books, went to the library, went to 4 Zooms, went to the kidney doctor, did my medical stuff--that's 5 hours a day, spent time in bed for illness--flare stuff, and did some cards, Zoom class for the UU, and hung out and helped husband with a few things. Sometimes I feel creeped out they got me to live "the new normal" so easily. I have lived very isolated for 15 months. I don't talk to people except on Zoom. I feel more shy and afraid of people though I did get more used to Zoom. I did go more deaf over the last year and half, and have the transcribe phone but wonder too how that is going to affect things.
However with all that, there's some mornings I wake up just crying. "They fucked our lives up for good!". I will never get to be relaxed at a stamp club or go on a road trip again, taking pictures. There were never even be the ease of talking to a stranger at a park or saying hello to a clerk at the gym.
The elites really screwed up our lives. I see no end to any of this. Just so many losses, and why? So a bunch of rich assholes could get even richer? So some creeps could make viruses to destroy humanity? Under stress, my autistic cloaking is harder to maintain. I follow endless social rules not to upset neurotypicals. It kind of is hard because that does overlap with the "not walking on eggshells" stuff one wants to avoid. I'm sick of all of it.
To survive in life, I had to shut down my emotions, not talk about special interests too much and to try and make sure to keep focused and "project" some energy, but it got harder as I got older. I know on this blog, I am probably pissing off a few people with my "real opinions" but am smart enough not to buy myself more trouble in real life. I don't relate to people who trust the system. Part of me envies them in that they see the world as a safe place with well-meaning types when I do not. There's too much going on. If you trust in the system, you have had a completely different life then me. The system probably worked for you and provided enough money for you to live decently. It didn't threaten and harm you at every turn though nowadays I believe far more people are in danger. One reason these long time college friendships died out too, is they trusted in the system and "joined with it". The Borg got them.
A friend wrote me and told me an aunt died right after her second shot, and these reports are definitely adding up to be far more than just statistical deaths. She posted on this board too since I showed her my new article. I don't want to make the same friendship mistakes I made over Trump, with Covid.
I always feel sadness at the end of any friendships but don't regret the ones I ended in ACON recovery. Sometimes when you change, a friendship can't survive. You outgrow each other. One strange realization, was how many of my old college friends came out of abusive or narcissistic families themselves. It is known water seeks the same level so it doesn't surprise me, I found friends who experienced the same things.
My ACON recovery definitely doomed all these friendships. You can change and outgrow people. I also believe as a young person, I went with "what I knew". For many people who grow up in narcissistic families, this can be a disaster. One goes out into the world with a gaping hole, a void that leaves you vulnerable. I would meet people with autism, who even though they faced what that entailed, they had a foundation of family love or other structure where you could tell life was very different. Don't forget too here, the impacts of living in an extreme body. Around healthier people, I realized too, weight didn't mean so much.
It makes me sad looking back on things how my family trained me to put up with bad behavior.
I feel sad for younger me, who was so desperate for the love and connection she was denied. I lapped up whatever crumbs I could find. I had fleas to overcome. In my family, I witnessed meanness, how was relationships modeled? It's scary to think how everything was set up about "winning".
There was so little modeling of anything that was healthy. Facing the thwarting of the life I was building has been extremely painful. I hope to have it back. I was doing far better, being around healthier and kind people, ones who cared about others, the community and more.
As I sought healthier people out in recovery, my being raised by wolves made things difficult for me. One part of this was gravitating to a lot of intellectual and far kinder people, where my brain was overjoyed to have new connections like that. However on the other hand, you see the lives people had built, where they had a sense of comfort, connection and confidence, that you wish you had been able to acquire. I felt sadness over the lost years and what could have been. In the latter years of "no contact" facing "what could have been" has been painful.
There's high school people I am friends with on Facebook, and I noticed how they were able to have close friends in high school and make connections I was denied from my abuse. My parents didn't let me participate in anything except one club my sister happened to be in too. I lived too far away to rebel and sneak off to my high school which was 13 miles away. I saw them in new eyes. Maybe that happened on their end. When I was very young, I didn't talk about my home life, I hid it. With a few closer high school friends, I opened up. I saw no one outside of school but I did have my Spartan club and classes, where I got to know a few people. I told these friends who were closer over the years how things were. One or two told me they could tell. They knew something wasn't "right".
However looking back on my friendship history especially when young, things were frightening, I carried how the abusive family treated me out into the world. It was like peeling an onion. Even for years an ACON, will have to focus to avoid bad patterns. You can be eight years in like me and still analyzing some weird stuff. It made me sad looking back how I was treated or allowed myself to be treated as trained by the family.
I still remember how one friend from college treated me, this was not the Army friend or the millionaire friend but someone I roomed with my senior year in college. She was in the same circles, and lived in the same dorm when I was rooming with the millionaire friend. She was almost a copy of my sister except she was career and grades driven. It was strange as years passed I get them mixed up in my memories. They matched in style of dress. They matched in personality. It was very odd but made sense to me later.
She invited me to her wedding but she seemed embarrassed of me and kept me in the corner. She had been a bridesmaid in my more informal and smaller wedding but had not invited me to be one. This too followed the theme of how my sister refused to have me be a bridesmaid. It was the same rejection for being fat, being replicated. It bothered me inside but I thought too, at least she has spared me the expense and she had me do a reading instead. However at the wedding and reception, she gave me strange looks, I saw the face of someone who really did not want me there. That hurt.
She would write me these 10 page heart felt letters during the course of our friendship, we were almost into this Victorian-esque letter writing thing, and I have positive memories of that, but when it came to other people, things were not good.
She was always "busy", in fact she got mad at me for writing her an email that was "too long" and complained "All you write me is 'words, words, words'. She treated me like my family, so there was this push and pull. I would run eagerly at her beck and call but where was she from the other side? Years later I would realize the entire friendship was one sided. She kept me around but didn't even like me. I was repeating the same exact dance with her, that happened with the family. They would put out their pinkie beckoning me forth when they wanted me around but if I had needs or wanted anything from my side, those were ignored. That's not really a friendship.
Her own family seemed to be extremely narcissistic, and years later, some of them seemed to go no contact with each other. Her brother told me, he hadn't talked to her in 10 years and she only called him if she wanted help moving or needed help with something else. Otherwise he didn't exist to her. Hmm that kind of seemed to describe our then "friendship". He was one of my mean teasing friends of my post-college life. He's the friend who dated and lived with the millionaire friend, and cheated on her before they broke up. He also mocked me for being overweight and once when I was at work, while we were roommates, he got into my dresser drawer with all my journals in there and read them all. He was the one who dated, lived with and broke up with the ex-millionaire friend. He showed all the signs of growing up in the crucible of cruelty too, on both sides, as a receiver and a giver of it.
Going back to his sister, who I unfriended in 2013, that she was a golden child just like my sister. I remember she never had to work in college, her working class family devoted every single dime to her education, and she was able to get a good professional job via connections of her mother. She once told me her mother chose her college major because it was one a woman could make more stable money in. It wasn't a field she was thrilled about but it would do. She never rebelled and she even changed her religion according to what church her mother was in at the time and there were several changes like this, if her mother left a church, so did she. She went from Catholic to Methodist to evangelical based on what church her mother was attending at the time. Her brother did not get the same investment in his education and the differences were stark.
Her mother was very odd, when I went to visit her house a few times, her mother ignored me and was always asleep in her room with a migraine. She was respectful to my golden child friend but she had checked out long ago. The family dynamics matched a lot of those in my own family. One child was the favorite, the golden child, while one was the scapegoat. There was little affection. There wasn't even normal socializing because every time, I visited her mother refused to speak to me or even make a meal, or anything. We ate sandwiches out of the fridge or went out to eat. While one close school-aged friend's mother treated me with kindness, I realized a lot of the parents of my friends hated me. Her father was nicer but he seemed distant. The family life was centered around work to the extreme. No one shared meals, there was shut doors between all members of the family. Her brother was often banished to his room by both parents.
This friend had a strange view of friends and ignored her friends all the time. She had high school friends she was always blowing off. Some of them would be in tears at her rejection too. That was some weird dynamics. I don't know what the psychiatrists would label her as, but I wasn't the only one who got the push and pull stuff.
She almost seemed to make this a point of pride that while she was present in people's lives sometimes, other times she didn't want anything to do with you. It was odd, she would call or write me crying that her friends had dumped her because she had not called or written them in a year. I said, you have to show that you care, to keep your friends around. I said, "Everyone gets busy, but if you don't write or call someone for two years, then they are going to assume you have moved on.". I realize her priorities seemed skewed. Maybe she didn't even really want to have friends but had them because she thought she was supposed to. Her family frowned on her having friends at all like mine.
I had positive memories of this friend too, she was smart, she was a very eloquent letter writer and we got to levels of personal sharing in pre-Internet days--I am showing my age here, that I think was rare. We would discuss art, religion, politics, life, and sometimes it's hard to understand why things had to go the way they did. I don't understand it. She would shut herself off from friends all the time, thinking people would remain in her life who she didn't talk to at all for 5 years. She definitely had problems too, many I didn't understand in my youth, especially as she got deeper into hoarding.
Oddly one problem we both shared was an extreme struggle with OCD. While my OCD made me check things constantly like light switches and water faucets, I remember her in school rewriting her papers over and over again, to make them "perfect". She literally could rewrite a paper 10 times. Sometimes she got envious at me for my more relaxed view towards school work while drawing around a 3.4-3.5 g.p.a in college. I remember one bad day she got mad at me and said, "You are in an easy field, art education is a joke! So wonder you have less work to do!". Us art teachers didn't get much respect, but that's a subject for another day.
I literally was begging near the end, asking her "Why won't you write, or call?", and that's a habit with ACON recovery I definitely had to give up. Our contact then was only a couple times a year. There too she joined the pattern of my family. That's a hard one. Our split was inevitable, I wasn't going to put up with it anymore. With all these college friends there was a pattern, I was the "helper", the "go to gal" to listen to their problems, their troubles, and be there when they wanted me to be, but on the other side, when I had needs--even for fun--my desires came last on the list. The same message came..."we are busy."
I don't react well to various ghostings, blow-offs, and more, today I try to just write a person once or twice, and let things go but it hurts. If I feel the cloud of "rejection", it is usually there. In some cases, someone may have fallen into depression or have other problems and life problems where they "disappear" and I try to do my best to discern between the two. The days of being the "please love me puppy dog" have to end. That's something probably all recovery ex-scapegoats have to arrive at. One rule I established for myself, is when people slam a door in your face enough times, listen and move on.
I can cope with rejection better now, in that I did work on separating these things from myself. I focused life more on getting my needs met through other things then looking to people to fill the void. My secure loving marriage helped me in healing too.
That's a place of trouble for many ACONs and I see it in many Aspies too, especially young ones I have contact with or am friends with. This place of thinking you "must work for affection", after all weren't we taught this by narcissistic families? It is a mindset that will only lead to social hell. It feels like one I am going to struggle with for the rest of my life. This is one place where I remind myself things like "You don't have to TRY anymore" and if you are scrambling it's already over anyway." Among the healthy people I had to learn to be more spontaneous, to be more relaxed and to focus on activities, causes and not on the social baggage that can make you too focused on yourself. I'm not sure if I can fix everything but it took pressure off I didn't need anymore.
Then there was the millionaire friend. She was at least willing to be seen in public with me but her mother constantly told her I was an embarrassment and she wanted her to end her friendship with me. Sadly this would become a pattern in my life too, due to my extreme body. There was extreme ableism and classism involved here too. I had a local friend here circa 2014/2015 the "project" friend, who came to me that one day and she complained that her family said they were embarrassed for her to be friends with me, that I was too fat and my body was too extreme. She went from laughing with me making cards to a sudden shut down. I ended this friendship but this is one theme between me and unhealthy people. The focus on my weight and appearance, just like my mother.
This happened with the millionaire friend even when the friendship was 20 years old. It shocks me now but she never failed to let me know. Her thin wealthy mother was always telling her to dump me. My joining the UU church, that I learned about from this friend in the 1980s and her family didn't bring me any goodwill at the time either. One irony is one hobby I shared with this friend was holistic health and nutrition and we would visit health food stores and eat at vegetarian restaurants. As late as 2016 we visited this huge health food store near where I live.
One positive aspect of this friendship is she did introduce me to the UU, liberals, PBS, health food, British music including punk and goth music and the better things of culture. We would eat feta cheese an exotic item in the 1980s, Amaranth crackers and oddly, endless numbers of peeled Kohlrabi, which I seem unable to find today, peeled, cut and eaten raw. Those were days of new discovery, and a lot of excitement for me. She loved art museums and nature centers too. We shared many of these interests even into the 2010s. One last memory of her, is visiting this large nature and gardens park, and taking photos looking at the plants and more. She was into a lot of the same things I was. These days I will remember with fondness. Even if a friendship ends, one can still have positive memories of it.
We did share many intellectual interests, and would get coffee and read the magazines together. Two favorites were the Utne Reader and The Progressive magazine. Here too, the "fat thing" reared it's ugly head. Her mother even as late as the 2010s and even though she had not seen me in years except in, told her I was a "fat blob" who she needed to get rid of as a friend because I would only "drag her down".
When I look back, I remember acts of cruelty that shocked me and where I chose to "forgive". I almost ended the friendship several times, due to moments where I faced some crisis and she wasn't there for me or judged me for it. My husband never interfered but he had deep concerns about my treatment and was glad that I later saw it. When I ended this friendship, she didn't know it but if she had just shown me just one iota of compassion or feeling, I may have rethought things, but being tired I had reached the end. Like my mother, she never was going to show emotion or have empathy, and those two things were absolute deal-breakers.
There was the visit where she came with this other college friend, to my small rural town in 2001, and we were antique shopping and eating out, and they kept making mocking jokes about me. There's no way the me of today would put up with that. When people do that mean "teasing" crap they may as well be trying to punch you out. It's all on the same level.
Her mother showed signs of extreme narcissism along the "engulfing" spectrum and she could have been the "golden child" although she suffered from her mother's control for years. They argued for years, but her mother left her the millions when she died. She faced no danger of being disinherited like a scapegoat. Narcissism, and lack of empathy definitely were part of her family's history too. Like my silent college friend's family with their shut doors, this family had the same shut doors and weird nervous dinners. The unspoken anger would shimmer in every room. There was no laughter or smiles, only endless nitpicking, nagging and more. I would go hide behind the New York Times newspapers strewn around their living room while the family argued.
I remember sitting at her family's dinner table and her mother would go on these endless litanies, I supposed it reminded me of home, as her mother detailed everyone's sins, what they did wrong, and gave them endless to-do lists. The water heater always needed fixed or some furniture painted or something taken to recycling. Her mother never seemed happy, even living in this large 5 bedroom house with a lot going for her. Everything had to be "perfect", there was a point where I wondered are all mothers like this?
Her mother even during our college years, when I went to go visit her house, would complain and snipe about the smallest thing, her father would hide in his upstairs office. She would clean out the fridge, nattering about the most minute things, while wrapping everything in the fridge up oddly with wax paper. Her mother would commandeer my eating trying to get me to "lose weight" and would make strange scary tasteless food when I was there. This included macrobiotic brown rice with figs and once a weird lemon curd dessert that made us pucker since she added no sugar to it. The best food in the house was Grape Nuts. Her father seemed like a nice man but didn't say much.
The family dynamics too allowed for little exploration. My friend checked in with her mother on everything, and her mother succeeded in helping to end this friend's live in relationship with the other friend's brother. She would date one other man for a few months and then gave up dating for life in her late 20s. She would never have a boyfriend again, and I think her mother liked it that way. Engulfing dynamics are far different than ignoring ones. Her mother controlled her decisions.
There were times her mother yelled at and insulted me when I was visiting at her parent's house during college. There's no way if I had been raised in a normal household, I would have taken such abuse. My friend seemed afraid of her mother, there was even one time, I pointed out to her, "You have your own money--she had a large enough inheritance by college that set her up for life--though she got a bigger one later--why shake in your boots when it comes to your mother? Why do you do what she tells you to do?" My friend never rebelled against her family. It was odd, my past friend was a psychology major who was always trying to minimize abuse because it happened in her family. Her mother nagged her relentlessly. She would dissuade her from dating--"all men were out to grab her money"--and then get angry that she had not given her grandchildren all in the same 10 minutes.
Our split here too was inevitable. I was holding on to past fond memories. I wrote about more of the experiences that split us up in another article. That said, this one was painful for me. I had been friends with her for over thirty years. She never tried to reconcile, or work things out. The main reason the friendship was completely doomed was she had no empathy. She was against my no contact. She even witnessed some of my abuse and years later minimized it. When I look back, I do think about the type of family she was in. They didn't show much love, affection or empathy either. Some people grow up to be like their families, some people become the complete opposite of them.
With the Army friend, I also noticed some commonalities in that friendship with ill treatment. I would take the train to her college town. I still love the city she lived in and would visit it all the time for years. It was closer to my old rural town. She was always "busy" too like the first friend. I would end up walking the streets alone to used bookstores her town was full of. Looking back it was strange how every time I showed up, she had an "emergency" 20 page paper due. She never planned ahead for my visit. I accepted this because I loved visiting her city but used to wonder "Why does she always do this, and why doesn't she want to spend any time with me?" It was strange. I would show up, and get very little of her time.
Since I was in college and "used" to this type of treatment, I took it. The me of today would not. My memories of exploring her city are some of my positive ones, but those are memories that should have been shared. I and my husband have some of our most wonderful memories in that town too.
Later she would call me all the time but refuse to visit me even with available funds and health to make it happen. My husband joked that I was her "free counselor" especially when days came when she called me multiple times and I was too tired from health problems. Her record for phone calls hit 10 phone calls in the same day when she feared getting fired from her job. She always worried she was to be fired but never was.
Her family was very dysfunctional too. In her case, I do think she could have been in a scapegoat role of sorts too. One telling detail is all her siblings were sent to expensive private schools, they weren't that far from her in age, but she was sent to public school. Her multimillionaire father acted just like Lois's father on Family Guy. He once screamed at her "to get off the phone" when she was at their house visiting. He screamed at her like she was a teenager and she obeyed! We were in our mid 40s. She seemed very enmeshed with her family, still going home to do laundry well into her middle age or when on furloughs from the military.
I have positive memories of this friend too. I could talk to her about anything and did. It was completely open. She could be fun, and saw things in new ways. She brought excitement to the table and also was extremely intelligent.
Most of this friendship was spent long distance, and via phone calls. We talked actively up to the time, I went no contact. She was the friend who told me, "If you go no contact, you will be alone and have no one". We made different choices that made the split inevitable here, she conformed and identified with her family. I didn't. Her family remained disrespectful of her, but I think she saw it as the "price of doing business". Better to take their abuse than be "alone". Since her father had contacts in business and with the military, those connections served her career wise. Her siblings became high level stockbrokers and one a well-known author so at least she was given a little family help too. She seemed to think I was crazy for walking away from my entire family. This friendship too was thirty years old, the year I ended it. Her family was just like my own except with far more wealth and power. Appearances is what matter, and success. Work was everything.
I would notice later all three college friends had toxic families that showed signs of being Cluster B dominant. Two fulfilled the obedient Golden Child role with overbearing parents. The millionaire friend had her only real romantic and live-in relationship split up by her parents who changed clauses in their will saying that her far poorer boyfriend was "after her money". She would run over to her elderly mother's house multiple times a day and was at her mother's complete beck and call. The "I am busy" third college friend worried about her family's opinions all the time and lived her life by what her family wanted, I remember she even chose her career based on her parent's desires and discussions of that. The Army friend I believe was a fellow scapegoat. Given her family's wealth and status, however in her case, she too went with what her family wanted and focused her life on pleasing them. Her decent health and higher status via her rank in the military also took her life down a totally different trajectory. All three friends were completely enmeshed with their families.
All three friends were against my going no contact. Two of the past college friends, had a problem with hoarding. There was definitely patterns there. I know now all these friendships were doomed for failure even having reached the 30 year mile stone. My ACON recovery ended these long standing college friendships. I would no longer be the same person anymore.
I look back and realize now years into my no contact that I definitely replicated the bad treatment and rejection of my family in my friendships. While I have and had decent friendships including people who are deceased, troubles appeared early on. The personalities of these friends matched those of my family. Their parents matched my own parents in workaholism, coldness, superficiality, and focus on appearances. Two families were extremely wealthy while one was working class people who had worked their way up to the middle class. Their way being in the world matched what my family desired. Young girls were supposed to do what their families told then, they weren't supposed to rebel. People were supposed to do what they were told. Even the "project" friend got angry with me over my no contact shouting, "How dare you cut off your whole family!" Her family didn't treat her very nicely either. Family was seen as their everything.
Towards the end all three made excuses for my family after all they had stuck by their own for life. I got the feeling some were angry at me for daring to uproot the status quo. Maybe they regretted the choices they made in their lives. All three admitted I was abused, but my solutions were considered wrong by them all. Two friends didn't face what I did, they were respected within their family systems even as toxic as they were. One was disrespected but things were at a different level for me.
I and the Army friend spent years crying on the phone to each other crying about our abuse. We were two drowning victims hanging on to each other out on the floating debris of narcissistic families. I would call her desperate to have a listening ear which she provided and vice versa. Sadly she would prove no ally, some scapegoats do choose conformity and obedience to the family system instead of no contact, leaving and growing. That's one thing to remember about scapegoats. Not all of them will be your allies, some stay and identify with and defend the abusers, that would apply to Aunt Scapegoat too.
A few years ago as I wrote about on here, I made it policy to hide my abuse background with the family and my no contact. I am old enough for most people to believe my family died off especially since I am childless. Some abuse websites would warn for those who faced severe abuse growing up, you didn't want to bleed all over everyone, oozing your messed up emotions onto innocent others. That one hit me hard.
I couldn't take this baggage into new relationships. I needed a clean slate and needed to make that happen. It isn't always easy. Starting over constantly gets hard too. This definitely fixed a lot and protected me from those who would use my history to prey. However that put me in the position of having to be more cautious about what I shared with people. I was burned so much, I became far more private. Maybe more boundaries was a good thing.
I learned to be happier in casual friendships and acquaintanceships where I didn't pour out my guts to every person I met. I learned to be happier in activities. I had this weird view of friendship reading too much Anne of Green Gables that all friends were supposed to be bosom buddies who poured out their hearts to one another. I still idealize that vision of friendship and have enjoyed friends like that and believe close friends are a good thing but I had to adjust expectations in life especially as I got older.
The patterns of these older friendships however stood out to me. My friends in college came from dysfunctional families like my own. Water met it's own level. I went with what I was used to. When I went into ACON recovery, it changed me as a person. While I have some fond memories of all these friends, the cracked foundations led us to where we are today. It's hard to examine the fact that my narcissistic family made me pay a heavy price when it came to friendships too, but it did.