I think my first birthday party that someone came to was in eighth grade. One person came.
I always wondered what was wrong with me. Why did some people seem to have dozens of friends while I struggled to even get one person to come? Was I flawed, unlovable, unworthy? Would I ever have a friend who wanted to spend time with me?
I cried myself to sleep most nights because I just wanted someone to care. My sister had sleepovers and went to friends’ houses. My brothers had friends they played with. Every outcast, bully, and misfit at my school seemed to have a friend. If they didn’t, they must have hid pretty well because believe me, I looked. I thought, if I could just find someone as lonely as me, I could be their friend.
In high school, I did make more friends. Not any that I could spend time with outside of school, but at least I was talking to people… even if it was just helping them with homework. I did have a couple other birthday parties and a few more people came. I didn’t feel as lonely. I didn’t cry myself to sleep every night. I didn’t think about suicide as much. In fact, high school was pretty amazing for me.
Then I went to college and pretty much had to start all over. I had suitemates, but they were stressed out college students that I had no idea how to connect with. I attempted suicide. I begged to be seen. It was an utter loneliness that I had never experienced before. At least growing up I had my siblings, there I had no one who understood me.
My second year of college, I withdrew for a semester and laid in bed helping every depressed, suicidal, or discouraged person I could talk to online. I finally had friends. It became an addiction. I wasn’t addicted to helping people. I was addicted to the feeling of being needed. I couldn’t lose that feeling. I didn’t care if it was real. I just desperately needed to feel loved and wanted. And I was hurt by many people’s lies.
But I gained a friend, a real person that seemed to want me around. I did everything to keep that- things I shouldn’t have done, things I didn’t want to do. But we’re still friends. We worked things out and our friendship is generally pretty good.
I still wonder what’s wrong with me sometimes though. When I feel alone and like no one really wants to spend time with me, I wonder if I really am flawed. My best friend is my best friend because she needs me as much as I need her.
But I do have other friends. I do have other people who don’t need me quite as much. Life can still feel very lonely. And when something disappointing happens, it’s easy to go back to my 12-year-old self sitting alone with my birthday cake and just hoping my friends got lost.
It’s hard to convince yourself that things have changed when life gives you evidence that it hasn’t. But I try to look at the big picture. I try to remember the good thoughts, the positive affirmations, the evidence that I’m not unlovable. Maybe one day I’ll really believe it.