My Friend Q

I have a friend.  She’s a lifelong friend—for the sake of this post, let’s call her Q.  Q and I grew up together, and went to school together; we played as children together, and as adults we now work together.  We’ve been roommates, living together, and to make a long story short, we are as close as any two friends can be.  That said, there are moments and periods in my life when I want nothing more than to be as far away from her as humanly possible.  Right now is one of those times.

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In the early morning before work I was out in the backyard; Q was there with me, and while I picked up dog poop, my sweet puppy Colette frolicked around with her toy, radiating joy and pure doggie bliss.  I watched her with a smile, glad she was so happy, when Q spoke up.

“You shouldn’t let her do that – she has an injury, and letting her run around is probably just making it worse.”

“But she’s having fun,” I protested.  “Look at how happy she is.  Let her have this moment.”  Q crossed her arms and looked away; I could feel the judgement radiating off her.

“She does need to have fun, but you’re not providing her with safe and effective ways to it.  I hate to say it, because I know it’s hard to hear, but… you’re really not giving her what she needs.  You don’t play with her or work on her training nearly enough.  She needs more attention from you, rather than you just letting her run around on her own, hurting herself.”

I knew she was right, so I didn’t argue.  Instead I just put down the pooper scooper and called the dog back inside, away from her prancing in the mud with her toy, away from her joy.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

That afternoon, Q popped in my classroom at school, shortly after the bell rang and students had departed.  I was clearing up and preparing materials for the next day’s lessons, and she looked over them with a critical eye.

“This is what you’re doing with them tomorrow?”  There was a pregnant pause.  “Don’t you think it’s a little… boring?”

“It is a little,” I agreed.  “But I have so much going on right now, and so much grading to catch up with, that it’s pretty much what I can do right now.”  I paused a moment to look around and consider.  “It’s not a great lesson, but it’s not completely awful.”

The look on Q’s face told me she disagreed with my assessment.  She sighed.  “Honestly, Kylie, I expected more of you.  This is disappointing – surely you can see that?  You’ve been uninspired lately, I can tell.  Your lessons are dull, they don’t challenge our students creatively…  you’re getting lazy.  I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad, honestly, I’m just trying to help you.  You have to admit you are lazy.  If you spent more time on your work and if you were more dedicated to your job and your students, you could be a much better teacher.  But right now, as things are… you aren’t a very good teacher.

“Not all my lessons are bad,” I defended, but I knew it was a weak defense.  I changed tactics.  “And I do care about my students.  That’s not even a question; you know that better than anyone.”

“It doesn’t seem like it,” Q said.  “If this is really the best you can do, you should look for another career.  I know it’s not nice to think about, but you’re holding these kids back and bringing this school down.  Leaving would be better for everyone, because they could have a teacher that actually knows what she’s talking about and provides the students with the guidance they need, and you could get a job you can actually do.”

I had to leave then, as I didn’t want anyone to see me cry.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

That night, after taking care of the dog, answering emails, putting away laundry, and cooking dinner, I settled down in the living room with a hot cup of tea and a chocolate covered pretzel.  I turned on the television, flipped the channel to the Bachelor, and settled down to paint my fingernails.  The dog came bouncing over, toy in her mouth, tail wagging.  “I’ve played tug with you for the last twenty minutes,” I told her.  “Go lay down.  Dad will play with you in a couple of minutes.”  She dropped her head and sighed before resigning herself to sleep, jumping up to curl into the most comfortable chair in the room.

As the show played and I slowly worked away what was left of the chipped nail polish on my fingernails, Q started up again from the couch next to me, talking over the show, making it impossible for me to hear and keep up with it.  “Your living room is a mess,” she said.  “The least you could do is clean it up while Jon finishes the dinner dishes.”

“I need a break,” I pleaded with her.  “I’ve been productive since I got home from work today – just leave me alone for ten minutes, please.”

“That’s selfish,” Q responded without a moment’s hesitation.  “Do you realize how selfish you are?  You are constantly complaining and saying that you need to “take care of yourself,” but what you’re really doing is avoiding work and responsibility.  Your poor husband—I feel sorry for him, really.  He could do so much better than you.  You’re constantly ignoring his needs, always just focused on yourself.”  I let her talk.  She was really getting into it now, and I knew when she got on a roll like this there was no arguing with her.  “And you want to have a child?  Lord woman, you can barely take care of yourself, and you want to add a baby into the mix?  Talk about bad ideas.  You’d be a terrible mother.”

“You don’t know that—” I start to say, but I should have known better.

“Of course I know it!  You’re a terrible wife, you have no friends, your family loves you but you don’t reciprocate that love.”  On and on she goes, giving me a thousand reasons why I’m not good enough, how meaningless and worthless my life is, how I don’t deserve any of the goodness and love and light in my life.  At this point, I don’t have the strength to fight with her anymore.  I just want to get away from her.

“I’m going to bed,” I mutter, shoving away my manicure supplies as quickly as I can.  But there’s no escape—she follows me up the stairs and into the bedroom, all the while berating me for my choices, thoughts, and actions. It’s long hours before I can find sleep, and even then she has to have her parting shot as I drift off.

“Oh, and it looks like a six-year old painted your nails.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

By this point it’s clear that Q is no friend.  The inner monologues we hold with ourselves are more powerful than we realize. In some instances, they become so hateful and punishing that they wear away at our very existence, eroding our image of who we are until we are meaningless, worthless, nothing.

This, my friends, is just one snapshot of depression.  It’s one small piece of one day, one small look at the pervasive self-hate that makes daily life so difficult.  Living, hour after hour, day after day, with such persistent, unyielding internal dialogue makes me want nothing more than to be as far away from myself as humanly possible.  But of course, such a thing isn’t possible at all.

Some days I’m better at fighting back against Q; other days, not so much.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Author’s note: This is Part 1 in a pair of posts.  For more on self-talk and how to challenge it, check out Part 2, and as always, thank you for reading! 

One comment

  1. You are a beautiful writer, woman, wife, daughter, teacher and much more.
    Having suffered with stinken thinking for most of my life and reinforced by those who should have been my unconditional love and support.
    Please blog about that which you have to be thankful for. You are loved unconditionally by your husband and your family. You have a wonderful job and I’m sure you’re very good at it or you wouldn’t have your job. You have a bright future and I believe a very strong faith. Trust me when I say, it is your faith and the support of those who love you unconditionally coupled with your willingness to see and own that which is blessed in your life, that will turn your negative thoughts into joyous, life-giving ones.

    I will keep you in my prayers.

    Like

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