My Anxiety Ruined All Of My Friendships

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Dear Ex-Friends,

You might have remembered the first time we met. More than likely we instantaneously clicked and thought we would become BFFs. We probably called each other almost every other day and planned out life events together. We probably really loved to be in each other's company because we were just "so much alike," and I couldn't speak highly enough of you.

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Do you remember the time we saw that concert together? How about that time we sang karaoke until 3 AM and got piss drunk? Or that time I was there for you when your jerk of a boyfriend dumped you? What about the time we said that we would be best friends forever, no matter what?

Then almost overnight, "no matter what" happened, I began to withdraw and would find character flaws about you that I didn't like. I started to put distance between us because I was pretty sure you were obsessive and possessive.

Our phone calls started to lessen and lessen; I was pulling away because I felt smothered. I started to think that your obsession with me was crazy. I started wondering if maybe you might need some clinical help. So I did the only rational thing: I broke up with you.

I found reasons not to like you anymore because quite honestly, you terrified me. Even after the breakup, I would receive email messages, phone calls, and text messages telling me that I was making things up in my head that didn't really exist. You actually thought I was being overly sensitive and kept pushing me farther and farther away. Until one day, you gave up or I made it perfectly clear that we were no longer friends.

Today, as I sit here blogging about my past relationships with all of you (and I have a lot of exes), I start to realize that it really wasn't you  it was me. You see, after finally having karma bite me in my own butt last year (someone actually dumped me), it sent me on a series of questions that begged me to ask "What was wrong with me?" and "Why don't people like me?"

As pathetic as this sounds, I really believed I was somehow damaged. I realized at that lowest point of my life that I needed to find help, and quickly; I felt myself spinning down a rabbit hole. What came of it began to answer some of the questions that both you and I have, and what really went wrong in our relationship.

I want you to know that I started psychotherapy and am now seeing a therapist every week. Through my therapy sessions, we have started to uncover that I have General Anxiety Disorder and Cyclothymic Disorder.

Most everyone is aware of anxiety. It's that gnawing feeling you get in your gut before a test or butterflies before you do something out of your comfort zone. General Anxiety, however, is living every waking moment of your life under the pretense that something awful is about to happen, or someone doesn't like you or is gossiping about you. It affects 4.2 million people in the United States alone.

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Unlike, GAD, most people have not heard of Cyclothymic Disorder (or simply Cyclothymia). Cyclothymia affects only one to five percent of the population. Not because it's special, but because it is usually misdiagnosed as Bipolar II or ADHD.

Cyclothymic Disorder is a very mild form of bipolar disorder. We still ride the same waves, but our waves are much smaller and less intense. It's like riding a six-foot wave instead of a monster 50-foot wave.

Chances are, when we met I was riding the high of the wave. Since I go through cycles and they can be frequent, I most likely was funny, smart, witty, and over-the-moon positive. Just f*cking happy. Like, all of the time. My nickname is Sunshine, and I'm pretty sure I got that when I was riding that wave like a pro surfer.

This was when we started to make future plans and ebbed out our scheme for world domination. Lots of drinking, dancing, singing, and more drinking ensued. Everyone loves a happy drunk. I was probably really productive during this time, too, and you would have seen me just "loving" everybody or my job. Everyone at work loved me, too, so you weren't the only one to be disappointed in the end.

I am no pro-surfer, however, and like every good wave, there are mushy waves that are impossible to ride or waves that you catch and wipe out immediately on. I'm sorry to say that these are probably the waves that killed our relationship.

I became a recluse and would stay indoors to binge-watch TV. I would also lose a lot of weight (25 pounds) due to being malnourished. My digestive issues were so bad that I went months just eating rice and fish because nothing else would stay down.

I would write poetry, or just sleep all the time because getting out of bed was really difficult that day. This is the crash that happens with Cyclothymia. I'm sorry, friend, but those were the most extreme and difficult days to face.

These are the days I would think that you didn't really like me and were probably gossiping behind my back. These are the days that I would think to myself that you would be much happier if I wasn't around. These are also the days I would find time to write you an email or a text starting to distance myself.

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If you asked me out for dinner, I probably had some lame excuse like, "I'm broke," or "I don't feel well." While there may have been some truth to it, the real one was a lot harsher than what you think. I just didn't like myself and felt your life would be better without me.

With Cyclothymia, you never want to hurt yourself or others, so there is no worry of self-harm or suicide.

The damage becomes real, though, and I tear myself up for being stupid, unlovable, and worthless. These are also the times that my job performance began to suffer because of my low-self esteem, and instead of being on top like I was in the beginning (with an over-inflated ego), I was now on the opposite side of the spectrum, hating myself and my job.

Panic attacks would come and I would find myself feeling faint and lightheaded. The once proud "Employee of the Month" was now sulking and tired at work, and couldn't explain why, a few weeks ago, her dream job was now a job from hell.

I wish that I had known about my disorder a long time before we broke up. I know that there is nothing to do to ever rectify the damage that I have done to our relationship. I feel awful for the way I left you, and there is no way to come back from that.

All I can do is ask for my new friends, and the ones that have stuck by my side, to keep supporting me and understanding that I am going to have good days, and bad days. I might even have a few "normal" days mixed in there, too. If you can do that, I will champion you no matter what.

I am a very loyal friend if we can get through this together. If I start pushing you away, don't push back. Let me be. I may just need time to recharge. I'm like a battery: I start off fully charged and ready to be with everyone, every day, then my battery runs low and I need to recharge, sometimes for weeks.

But I always come back, friend.

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Sarah Chamberlain is the Founder/ President of DBSA Aloha Honolulu (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance) a support group for people suffering from depression and mental illness and providing support to their families.