Can I Fix a Friendship I Destroyed?
“We have to acknowledge the fact that our relationships are one of the major sculptors of our identities along with our present surroundings and upbringing” — Joren van Schaik, The Value of True Friendship
Two years ago, I almost called off my wedding. My fiance was in the USA and I was in Cameroon. She had just visited a few months before, and I asked her to marry me.
A few months later, I had a major depressive episode and shut myself out. I didn’t pick anyone’s calls. I spent days without taking a bath or seeing the sun. I wanted to stay in bed, eat enough to keep crying and just lay there.
I was at the University at the time, so I lived alone. My siblings knew I wasn’t dead because they would show up unannounced, and I’d just hang out with them enough to reassure them I was still alive.
My parents had no idea what was happening.
I was scared to death. I was afraid I was going to ruin my life — her life, her dreams, and my dreams. I was afraid to leave my birth country. The fear was so debilitating I chose to call off the wedding — without even telling her.
She called. And called. For weeks. She even wrote an email and was about to end it all.
Then she called my father.
My father is the only person I have ever trusted in such times. I could reject everyone’s call, but for some reason, I always tried to hear him out.
I picked his 10th call.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“I am not doing very well…I don’t know…I just…”
“It’s okay. You’re going to be okay.”
“Queen has been trying to reach you”
“Yeah, I know…”
“Just listen to what she has to say.”
“You know I love you, right?”
He dropped. She called. I picked.
I was crying and she was crying. I told her everything I was going through and how I didn’t think I was ready. How she was the love of my life and I didn’t think I’d ever find someone else, but that I wasn’t worth her.
When I think about it now, it’s almost funny how I would admit to loving someone this much and still prefer to move away.
She was not the only person I shut out.
It was not the first time I had gone dark and chosen to deal with my feelings alone.
The one thing that has remained very clear for me is how being honest and reaching out with my heart has created an amazing bond with my remaining friends, as well as my family, my wife, and my new friends.
I know there will be dark times.
Just last November, I felt very strongly that moving to the US was the worst thing I could have done. I was homesick, scared and feeling the mounting pressure of being a new husband and living in a new country.
I still feel fear. I still need my wife to reassure me that it’s going to be okay.
I don’t think it ever goes away, we only learn to act in spite of it.
I have also learned that I am not alone, that we all feel this way. I have had to reach out to friends and give virtual hugs and let them know that they’re not alone.
You are never alone.
We all go through hard times and we all fail someone at some point. If we live well enough, we will fail a lot. We will learn a lot about ourselves, what we want, what we dream to accomplish and how we want to live.
I have sent apologies to friends I hurt, and I have received apologies.
I have learned that some friendships end in a silent fizzle and others end with a bang. For some, you even have to redefine the new roles of the friendship.
Not all friendships are created equally. My best friend lives in the UK and we speak very rarely, but I know I can count on him and he can count on me. I also know the relationship I have with him is unique and different from every other, say, for example, with my wife.
Apologize when you feel you did wrong, but don’t punish yourself.
Learn from what went wrong, and be there for the people you care about.
Showing up is half of the battle, being present and acting with love and kindness is a great way to start.
In the end, there is only so much we can do to change the past and it takes two to build a relationship.
“People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime” — Unknown
I pray you find the peace and joy that comes with forgiving yourself and the strength to be there for others who find themselves where you’d been.