Holding a grudge can be mentally exhausting, but sometimes, you can’t help it.
Growing up, I didn’t have many friends.
The friends that I would make would stick around for a while, then, they’d drift away because I got too close, did/said something that was too intense, and away they’d fade.
Mostly, it was them leaving, but sometimes I’d pull away. It was after they did something incredibly offensive to me that I would decide to cut them off, right then and there, usually without explanation. Offensive things like excluding me from an event, talking behind my back, not returning my calls, cancelling plans a few hours before or just being a jerk.
In case you didn’t know (I write about it often), I have BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder, and probably the biggest issue for us is the fear of rejection leading to abandonment.
When someone offends a normal person by doing something normal that normal people would do, the normal recipient would say “What an ass,”
whereas, people like me see it as a rejection, which leads to us feeling hurt and betrayed. That betrayal can often give birth to a grudge, and that grudge can last for decades, maybe even forever.
Culturally, I’m Italian, and would validate my grudge-holding by explaining it with our predominant stereotype: the vendetta.
The word “Vendetta” is Italian and originates from the Latin word “vindicta” meaning “Vengeance”.
I am a grudge-holder and am working on trying to get through them and move on with my life, but it’s really, really hard when it shrouds your entire being and your self-identity; “That person betrayed me and maybe I deserved it, but let me prove to myself and others that I didn’t so that I don’t fall apart.”
This morning, an opportunity arose to do just that, so I’m writing about it – processing what’s going on through free verse and, hopefully, helping others out there to understand why we’re so intense and how we can get better.
As I mentioned, I didn’t have many good friends growing up. In fact, I wasn’t really close to anyone except two of my cousins, one of whom is about 18 years older than I am, and another, within a year of my age with whom I was very close, but, when we hit the age of 16, we found that we had very different interests and a wedge was driven between us, transitioning into a more casual relationship of occasional weekend clubbing, phone chats and family gatherings.
I did, however, meet a friend when I was in my second-last year of high school. She came to our school because she’d been kicked out of her previous school for mouthing off to the teachers.
Immediately, she began to date one of the guys in my class – a small fellow who shared her petite stature – a guy who would make mean comments to me and rile up the other guys to do the same. In fact, he’d encourage anyone (towering) around him to pick at me, including his new girlfriend.
But then, a semester later, she and I were the only people in the school who had the same spare period together. The dumbest period spare where you don’t get to sleep in later or go home early, but you get an extended lunch. Clearly, I hadn’t thought that through when planning my schedule.
This forced us to meet each other and, I, always being social and friendly, approached her and, with some reluctance, based upon what she’d been told by her boyfriend and others at the school that had nothing better to do than pick on the nice, somewhat eccentric smart girl, she and I began to hang out on our spare together.
Quickly, we became friends and it evolved into a deeper friendship, where we’d talk on the phone, hang out and do things outside of school together.
She eventually broke up with the little man, and I was there to help her through it. I was there to help her through her many breakups. I was there for a lot for her. I was always ready to go out if she needed me; sitting in the passenger seat as she did a drive-by of a boyfriend’s home because he wasn’t answering her calls; she’d turn down the car radio, duck and drive, while I’d be looking into the home’s living room for a sign of another woman. I’d always be laughing my ass off because we must have looked like such idiots…and her car was very unique. Skilled operatives, we were not.
I was there for her when she spontaneously married a guy who was not right for her (or any woman, for that matter), after she met him on a trip abroad, finding them accommodations and putting down the rental deposit from my own savings. I was there for her when she divorced him, helping her with a lawyer, researching all of the paperwork and administrative requirements that she didn’t have time to do. I was there for her when I introduced her to her now-husband, who made her so happy and secure. I was there for her when she had her first child…but not the second.
When I found out I was pregnant, I called her with the news. Her first comment was, “How will you afford it?”
I didn’t call her back again after that and we didn’t talk for almost three years, during which time she had her second child.
I had been rejected, once again, only, this time, not as a friend, but as a mother.
It wasn’t just that comment, but everything that happened during our 17-year friendship, and the memories and their strong feelings came flooding back.
I went away to university, and she’d never once come to visit me, despite my numerous invitations. When I was home, we would make plans to go out at night, just her and I, and she’d call an hour beforehand to cancel, leaving me incredibly disappointed and with nothing to do. She would mock my choices in relationships, having something to say about my partners, making offensive comments based upon her perceptions of what was going on that made me feel like she was saying it out of jealousy, just to make herself feel better.
In addition to the “How will you afford it?” comment, the next question asked was if the child’s father was going to stay with me.
This air of superiority disguised as well-meaning inquiry was too much for me to handle, and, at a time that should have been my happiest, I was feeling like an incapable loser.
After the call, I was immediately brought back to a year prior when I was left out of her first child’s christening. I had always had a close relationship with her, one that I considered to be like family; she came from a single-parent home and didn’t have any cousins or close family friends, except for me. I was the Maid of Honour at her wedding (both of them), planned her birthday parties, and even helped her (now) husband with her engagement ring. I was a good friend. To be excluded from this event was so upsetting to me and I felt like that caused the initial rift; the comments about my pregnancy were the (sorry, I need to use this cliché) straw that broke the camel’s back.
Because of that interaction, things changed, I was living in a different city, and it was (sort of) understandable that we didn’t talk. I didn’t call her and she didn’t call me. It made me upset, but I believed that I was doing the right thing.
I had been excluded and abandoned, betrayed and ignored. I wasn’t going to go running after her, giving her another chance like I’d done all those times that I was sitting by the front door, ready to go out, and she’d call and cancel.
Years later, a mutual friend was having a party and, I hadn’t even thought about the prospect of it beforehand, but she was there. I saw her, said hello and we began to talk. For me, I was firm in my feelings about our separation, and, surprisingly, didn’t feel any emotions when I saw her again, so I was a cool customer. She’d rejected me so many times before; the chances of it happening again were high, so I thought, be civil and move along at arm’s length.
But life doesn’t work like that…for me. As much as I try to stay stone cold, my empathic nature
allows forces me to feel the feelings of another person. In this case, I knew she had missed me – I could see it in her eyes. Not wanting to be the “rejector”, since I know how badly it feels, I smiled sincerely and told her that we’d talk.
So we did.
We maintained a casual friendship throughout that year, speaking occasionally on the phone, and even getting together for our kids to meet. She came to my house, looked around (probably thinking “How can you afford it?”), said that she would invite me back to hers, but never did.
Months later, I received an invitation from her husband to attend a surprise party for her milestone birthday, and I went.
In my mind, I rationalized and accepted that we wouldn’t be like we were in high school; together all the time and talking every other day on the phone, and that this new way of friendship was how adults with priorities like jobs, kids and mortgages did things.
I was an adult now, even though I wasn’t ready to be.
Seeing her for her birthday was nice, and we had a good night together. We caught up, we laughed and all went well; it’s like no time had passed.
On her birthday, later that week, I sent her a text, wishing her all the best and mentioned that I was looking forward to getting together again.
I didn’t hear back from her.
All of the rejection and abandonment came flooding back to me and I was angry at myself for thinking that it would be different. For letting go and trusting her again; for being nice when I should have remembered the past and stayed stoic.
Shortly thereafter, my mental illness surfaced through a severe nervous breakdown. It was not expressly from this incident, but I believe it played a role in it.
During this time, everything was so amplified, my past, my present, the anxiety of my future, and all of the hurt and wrongdoing that had been perpetrated upon me flashed like bright white strobe lights two feet from my face, causing me severe pain because, no matter how hard I tried, I was unable to close my eyes or turn my head away from the glaring reality.
There it all was, pulsating in front of me.
Amidst my illness, trying to figure out what was happening with me, I firmly held this grudge towards her for months. “I thought things were going well and now, my longest friend has rejected me? Again?” and it weighed down my despondent BPD thought process, which was already plagued by the constant analysis of my parental relationships, my familial relationships, my romantic relationships and my friendships, obsessively inspecting each one for a reason to outsource blame and be angrier at those involved in the betrayal of our interpersonal interactions.
During this time, I would remember all of the things that occurred during our friendship that made me feel as though she didn’t respect me as a friend. It wasn’t until eight months after I’d sent that text message that I went back to look at and lament over the text, when I realized that I had sent it to the wrong number.
I yelled out loud. I was upset, not only at my carelessness, but at the fact that a simple mistake could cause such a severe quake and destructive aftermath.
I thought about what to do: do I re-send the message saying “OMG, I just realized that this went to the wrong number!”?
All of those feelings I had toward her that were part of the grudge, I now realized, were probably being felt by her toward me.
With a 5 instead of a 6, I had drastically changed two lives and caused upset and heartbreak.
I decided to do nothing.
(That is very atypical of my usual response).
In the state that I was in, I rationalized that it was ok to do nothing because “I was sick” and everyone should be coming around to check on me. I thought that I was important in peoples’ lives. I had always made an effort to check in on my friends, usually connecting first, and their lack of communication with me during my time of need only exemplified how little I have always meant to them. I was just a time-filler. I didn’t need them.
I thought about her over the years (it’s been just over three), and have observed my “doing nothing” as indifferent – something that I have never been. Each time I would think about it, I would use the same rationale; she should be contacting me.
I left behind my nervous breakdown and the associated severe mental health issues about nine months ago, but have not given that relationship any consideration, even after my mother told me that she saw her and mentioned that I wasn’t well, to which friend replied “I should give her a call sometime,” but never did.
Earlier this week, I tweeted about the friendship in response to someone wishing that they had a good group of friends. I said that people change over time and, even my solid, 17 year friendship with my former best friend was no longer. I wrote it feeling confidence and maturity, not sadness and longing.
As the week went on, signs arose that reminded me of her, and last night, I was bombarded by thoughts of her and our friendship, more intense than they’ve ever been in the past. There is no particular reason, reminder, special date or commemorative value, just a flood of thoughts and feelings rushing through my limbic system during that particular five minutes in time.
“Hmm…” I thought, and fell asleep 20 minutes later.
This morning, I awoke to find a text from her. It had been sent late last night, about 45 minutes prior to when the thoughts began to enter my head
(My phone was on silent).
It’s a screen capture of a post about best friends: how we drift apart and how we’ll always remember the good times with happiness and a bit of sadness. Regardless of the wording, the sentiment, “I miss you” is front and centre in her text.
Immediately, I felt a sense of happiness to hear from her. I was about to reply, when I thought that I should regulate my emotions and think it through before I respond.
That, Dear Reader, is what you are witnessing right now.
Do I reply to her, moving on from the past and all of the things that happened in our youth? Things that hurt me because of how I interpreted them, some justified and others perceived differently due to BPD? Or do I appreciate the effort, but not respond because it may only lead to more hurt?
“…as a result of these perceptions and resulting quarrels…[s]uch reactions from others may, in turn, reinforce fears of rejection and disconnection, and sensitivity to others’ behavior among individuals with BPD, thus maintaining the painful cycles of disturbed interpersonal relationships.” (Sourced from GoodTherapy)
So, as I sit here typing this out, my heart and my brain are telling me that I’m in a different place of my life right now. I am a (fairly) mature adult now that can handle the fact that BFFs grow apart physically but can still maintain a connected relationship through occasional phone calls, texts and emails. That some people have their own mental health issues and say/do things that are misconstrued by others who are dealing with their own mental health issues, and so on…
I feel confident moving toward reconnection. I feel confident moving toward forgiveness. Forgiving her for comments and actions that were hurtful and felt like rejection, and forgiving myself for holding a grudge, not having the understanding of her, myself and life that I do now. Forgiving myself for not understanding what forgiveness is, and that I don’t have to forget what’s happened in the past, but that I can leave it there as a step to climb upon in order to take me higher.
This should be interesting…