A friend’s sudden, and unexplained, departure from your life can cause you to—unnecessarily—reevaluate your own self-worth.
Lola (not her real name) was my first friend in a strange new world. My husband and I had moved from the comforts of our North Carolinian home to the icy plains of Minnesota—she and her husband had done the same. Lola and I immediately found laughter and refuge in one another. We were both passionate about sharing God’s love through music, which is why we had uprooted ourselves and come to work at a mission organization far from family.
We became each other’s family. For 14 years, we laughed, cried, prayed, cared for one another’s children, and cooked for each other. Then, in the blink of an eye, everything changed.
I remember we were sipping lattes on her couch and talking about our complicated lives. Unfortunately, that day, I did most of the talking. I poured out my bruised heart, concerned about the heaviness of life and family problems. She shared her struggles as well. At the end of our “mom time,” we hugged, and I left.
Soon after, I began to wilt under my life’s stresses until I emotionally collapsed into a deep well of despair. I was limping through a dark place that made getting out from under the covers as difficult as climbing the Eiffel Tower. I was diagnosed with depression and began seeking treatment with medication and therapy.
But when I reached out to Lola, she had all but disappeared. No return phone calls, no emails, no visits. I was worried, fearful, aching, and my self-image lay in rubble at the foot of my bed.
When I finally connected with Lola, she said she needed time to process some things about our relationship. She would get in touch with me soon. I had no idea what she was referring to. Were there cracks in our relationship that I had not noticed? I begged her to tell me, but over time it became clear: she was not interested in giving me my day in court.
She wanted to be gone. So she was.
How could she just leave me? I would ask my therapist repeatedly. Why won’t she tell me what I’ve done wrong? My therapist pointed out that I was completely internalizing the fault for our relationship ending. She had me think about any inconsistencies in Lola’s personality or behavior that might help explain her abandonment.
She was like a sister to me, so I didn’t want to see her imperfections, but slowly, over time, I began to realize there was a pattern of Lola fleeing when the going got tough. She had been mostly missing during a serious injury that took me six weeks of healing, and there were absences around my each of my three babies’ births.
I started to wonder if Lola’s strong veneer was polished enough to hide some fear associated with others’ struggles and needs. If that were true, then it made a little more sense that she couldn’t handle my depression.
Still, I couldn’t help but blame myself for this friendship ending, one that meant the world to me. I started overthinking even childhood relationships and how I had negatively affected them. Thankfully, with the help of my husband who knew me back then, I was able to finally put the self-condemnation to rest after several years.
It has been 10 years since I experienced that deep depressive episode—and since Lola exited my life. A part of my heart still aches, but my head understands that though I most certainly contributed to our problems, Lola had issues and made decisions that had nothing to do with me. I realized that, like all relationships, this one had its flaws, and it had just run its course.
Because I have depression, I may always have moments where I question my value, no matter how I feel or what anyone else does. The bottom line, though, is that I am worthy of love, friendship, and faithfulness simply because I have a heart—bruised or not.
Printed as “Viewpoint: When Friendship Ends Unexpectedly,” Spring 2019
via Esperanza – Hope To Cope
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