I can be a shitty friend. Those of you who know me are probably nodding your head in agreement right about now. I can promise it’s not due to a lack of interest or a lack of affection for the people in my life, I have plenty of that to go round, but most friendships require more than that. They need you to actually show up, and that’s my downfall. I pike on plans, I stand people up, and generally suck at turning up when I’m supposed to. I’m the queen of letting people down. It’s been that way since since I was 18 and it’s only got worse as I’ve got older. Most of the time, when I make plans with someone, I have every intention of seeing them through. I genuinely even look forward to them. But then, in the days leading up to said plans, my brain goes haywire and starts to over analyze every possible way said plans could go wrong and I start feeling overwhelming stress about the impending situation which generally leads me to piking. I’ve no doubt it’s annoying to the people around me, but it’s just as, or more, annoying for me. It’s stopped me from doing so many amazing things I’ve wanted to do. I’ve cancelled on concerts, plays, dinner parties, dates, birthdays, therapy sessions, holidays, coffee, weddings, meeting new babies, you name it, I’ve piked on it. And every time without fail, I’m overcome with guilt and shame for being such a terrible person who’s put people out. I’m flooded with unbelievable embarrassment when I cancel plans with people. I hate inconveniencing other people, and I know that’s exactly what my actions do. But the anxiety I feel before I inevitably pike is so overwhelming at times it makes me sick to my stomach. There have been times where I’ve literally puked all the way to certain destinations. Or I’ve had to get off the train at every stop on my journey to go to the toilet. For years, I’ve carried Maxolon, Stemetil and Imodium in my handbag, prepared for the worst, for those times I couldn’t get out of a plan and had to power through.
One of my best friends lives in Hong Kong and since she moved there, she’s wanted me to come and see her, but I can barely even make it to the airport on my own, let alone get on a plane and fly to another country. She’s understanding but I know deep down she probably wishes things were different, much like I do. I would love to travel, but I’d need a person to accompany me, and even then, it would still be something I’d struggle with and want to pike out of. Just recently, I saw the Paul McCartney is performing in Melbourne. I’d desperately love to go and see him in concert, but I know there’s a 99% chance that even if I bought a ticket, I’d pike on the night because the idea of being trapped in a crowd of people in a place I’m unfamiliar with and couldn’t escape easily would be too much for me to bare. I hate missing out on all the things regular people assume are easily done. I have a couple I’m friends with who had a baby 18 months ago, and I still haven’t gone to see them and their new addition. I feel terrible every time they ask me about it. because it probably seems I’m disinterested or just don’t care. But I do, desperately. I just don’t know to explain that I just can’t. I know it probably makes no sense to normal folks who are able to leave their house to hang out with friends, or go to a gig, or even to the movies. The last time I went to the movies, my friend sprung it on me, then made me buy tickets online so I’d be less inclined to pike because it had cost me $40. To be honest, on the night, I’d have paid him $40 just to let me out of the commitment. I felt sick with anxiety the entire day of our plan, and was keen to come home before we’d even made it through the previews. I know it’s not normal to feel like this about leaving the house. If it was something I could change, I would in a heartbeat. Trust me, I don’t want to look back on my life and count all the amazing things I didn’t do. I really do try, but I know it probably doesn’t feel that way if you’re on the receiving end of my cancelled plans. I do hope, however, that there are things about a friendship with me that help redeem my glaring faults. I mean, you can pretty much guarantee I’m always home if you call in, or that I’ll answer my phone because I’m not busy. And you know that you’ll always have 100% of my focus and energy. And I have empathy in spades when times are tough for you, because I’m familiar with pain and sadness.
Even though I might pike 9 times out of 10, please don’t stop asking me to do things with you. Even if I say no, it means a lot to me that you still ask. And one day, I might surprise both of us by saying yes and seeing it through.