Hey everyone, I’m doing something a little different today.
When it comes to my personal life, I’m generally not the kind of person who likes to share the intimate details of it with strangers on the internet. I’m a relatively introverted human being who likes to keep their problems to themselves so as not to bother anyone or cause a problem. But recently, I went against that line of thinking and it cost me dearly.
As some of you have probably noticed, I haven’t been writing much over the past couple months, and that’s because issues away from the writing world have been taking up my very limited attention span. And while I don’t think I need to share this stuff with the world, I want to. Writing is one of the few things in life that offers me therapeutic help, such as when my first dog Scooby passed away in November 2016 and I wrote a story about shelter dogs as a way of helping me cope.
So today, instead of a story about hockey, I’ll be talking about my life’s recent ups and downs and the lessons we can all take out of those experiences I’ve had.
Take a deep breath, and let’s dive in.
2019 was supposed to be a year of change for me, but all changes for the better. Back in October I covered my very first professional hockey game, an AHL contest between the San Jose Barracuda and Ontario Reign, for Fear the Fin and I’d recently quit my awful grocery store job in search of a new way to pay the bills and fund my writing goals.
That’s when my best friend, who I’ll be calling Monica in this story, suggested I apply at a coffee shop where one of her college friends worked. I’d always wanted to try a coffee job, so I hooked onto the idea instantly. I applied, got the job and started in early December. There I met her friend, my new coworker, and despite me being someone who has a hard time making new friends, we hit it off pretty quickly.
Pretty soon, the three of us were hanging out on a regular basis. Studying at work, day trips to the city, pizza and movie nights. For the first time, I was being pushed out of my comfort zone and making a better effort to leave my house to go on adventures, or even just to put my computer on a different table. I was having the time of my life. For me, it was like finding what nearly every sitcom is written about; that dysfunctional group of friends that seems to double as your family.
Fast forward to February, and while so much was going right for me career-wise, I’d started to rethink my life decisions away from the rink. I told Monica about what I was thinking, and asked her to keep it to herself until I was sure about what I wanted to do.
But on Valentine’s Day, my world got turned upside down.
While I don’t want to get into exactly what I was thinking about, you can probably guess. I found out the next day that Monica had spilled everything to my coworker, instantly shooting an arrow directly into our friendship. Suddenly I had a bunch of difficult decisions to make, before I was really ready to, in an effort not to lose one of my closest friends.
I had the hard conversations, I took some time to myself and eventually, my coworker and I had our own chat about how to make things okay between us. I did my best to listen, but even then, I admittedly handled it poorly by holding out hope for a future that was never going to come.
But here’s where the story changes. What looked like it was going to be a turning point towards a different but still bright future, ended up being the cliffs edge into a bottomless pit.
My first mistake was venting to Monica about everything going on. The things I told her were, in the grand scheme of things, only minor problems; something I just wanted to talk about to get off my chest in the moment and then let go forever. And I’d expected her to understand that; instead, as I discovered a week later, she’d been immediately turning around and telling my coworker all of it.
That’s when I made my second, and potentially largest mistake; to this day, I have no idea exactly what story my coworker got. But instead of asking to make sure we had the exact same understanding, I stupidly chose to just accept responsibility to avoid an argument.
There are certain parts of the story in that area that don’t add up, and at this point I’m certain that a bunch of what Monica told her was either exaggerated to sound a lot worse than it actually was, or just entirely made up (things I know for a fact she’s done to other people before me). Had I handled everything as well as I could have? No. Was I ever angry about the situation? At worst I was a little salty, but that’s it. But I chose not to double-check the story my coworker got to prevent a fight, and in doing so I didn’t know every exact detail of what I was apologizing for.
By this point everything was really starting to take its toll on me, and while I was a little upset that Monica hadn’t been helping my case, I assumed that she’d meant well and wasn’t going to raise a concern. I also ended up blaming myself for everything, which brought out my first ever bout with what I now know to be depression.
Yet I still held out hope that sooner rather than later, things would more or less go back to normal. There was a light at the end of the tunnel that I couldn’t wait to get to.
It never came.
The last time the three of us hung out was at a rock concert in the city in March. It was awkward for large chunks, but there were still so many moments where it felt like old times. The jokes, the drinks, points where everything seemed okay. I had a lot of fun that night.
It was also the last night I’ve had fun since, although I have tried.
Because I’d shouldered the blame, I did my best to set things right for good. I told both of them that I would give them a couple weeks so they could have some time to themselves while I made an extra effort to find some other friends to make sure not to overwhelm them with my issues again.
It was the hardest couple weeks of my entire life. I caught up with old friends and got myself out of the house as much as possible, but I was in a really dark place the whole time. All I really wanted was to talk to them both, but I just kept telling myself, “It’s only a few more days, you can make it. It’ll all be over soon.”
Finally, fourteen days later, I messaged them both to see how they were doing and see if we could hang out again. The response I got was completely unexpected.
They wanted me out. For good.
That final crushing blow came just over a week ago, and I’m still recovering. In a couple short months, I’d lost my two best friends. I haven’t been the same person since, and I don’t know if I ever will be.
Monica told me she actually hated hanging out with me, and then blocked me on social media; we’d been friends for almost five years and yet I didn’t even deserve a face-to-face conversation about it. My coworker now hates me and won’t talk to me anymore, and because we work in the same place, it’s made every shift I’ve had since uncomfortable and upsetting (and I’m sure the feeling is mutual).
I’ve been through some tough situations in my life, but nothing has ever hurt as much as this. All I’ve had to look forward to since this whole mess started was the chance to hang out with my friends again, but I never got it. There are things I wish I’d done differently; things I wish I’d said differently. And knowing I’ll never get that chance hurts.
The depression has only gotten worse, and because of the situation it’s hard to get it out of my head even for a day. Work only reminds me of the good times we had, sitting at the large circle table with our laptops out, each of us working on a new project. Not one shift goes by where I’m not either fighting back some tears or need to go take a minute in the back room to breathe and calm my mind down.
Because of where I live, days off aren’t an escape either. In such a small town, taking my dogs for a hike, going to a movie or even shopping at Target now give me panic attacks at the thought of seeing them there too, having a great time without me. And when I’m home alone, which is a lot of the time these days, the darkest thoughts push their way to the surface.
I’ve gone through the whole range of emotions in the time since, but even now I wish I could get my second chance. There were so many things I was looking forward to doing with them this summer and into the next year, and things that I had planned for my own future that I was hoping they were going to be alongside me for and pushing me forward to get there.
One thing I’d been planning for a while was the idea of moving to San Jose, and I didn’t just want them around to help me lift furniture into the U-Haul. Moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone is a scary thought, but knowing that I’d have friends a two hour drive away that would maybe come see me if I got lonely was gonna help me get through those hard nights alone. Now, that courage is gone.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes this year. I wish I could take so many things I said back and do-over so many different decisions I made. But I also wonder if a person who I thought was my best friend was actually twisting the truth or straight up lying in order to turn my coworker and I against each other, knowing she couldn’t cut me out of her life guilt-free if we still got along. But because I decided not to fact check what my coworker heard, I’d only have myself to blame if it’s true.
Hurt and Hope
Regardless of what happens next, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the people around me in the last few weeks, the first being how much I value my time on the ice. Adult league hockey has been my only true escape from everything, since it’s a place where I can safely be myself and gain back some pride in something I’m doing. No matter how awful I’m feeling, the thrill of stopping pucks always brings my joy soaring back, even if it’s only for a few hours.
I’ve also reconnected with some older friends that I haven’t talked to in ages. Whether or not I’ll ever reach the same connections I felt I had with my last friends, I’ve learned that no matter how long its been since you’ve spoken to them there are some people out there who’ll always be there for you when you’re having a personal crisis.
To be clear, no one should feel obligated to make a person happy. The only person who’ll ever be in charge of or fully care about your happiness is you, and sometimes that means being aware of the people who don’t.
Imagine spending the majority of a five-year span with someone who you thought cared about you, only for them to paint you as a villain the first chance they get in an effort to push you out of their inner circle. They’re thinking only about themselves and none of the ramifications it might have on you and your day-to-day life. And then, right when you feel you need them most, they cowardly toss you aside like your friendship and the support you’d given them in the past never mattered to them.
I made the mistake of ignoring the clues she’d dropped over the years. Things like always introducing me to new people as “my best friend’s boyfriend Lachlan” instead of directly referring to me as her friend. How she always had excuses when I suggested the idea of us going on a trip. Or the time my girlfriend and I accused each other of not being supportive enough of her, only to realize Monica had separately complained about us to the other person while assuring us both that “your opinion matters more to me than theirs”.
By playing off all those signs as a misunderstanding or routinely telling myself that she’d never purposefully do something hurtful, I ended up bringing this eventual storm on myself. When a person time and time again gives you that clear of evidence that you only matter when it benefits them, you shouldn’t ignore it. Now I’ve learned to look for those warnings, so from here on out I can make sure I don’t let someone take advantage of me in that way again.
It’s one thing for someone to not be strong enough to give you the emotional support you need; it’s another thing when they actively work to hurt you for their own personal gain. No matter what you think you know about them, those people never change, and they’ll continue to manipulate the friends and family that care about them until there’s eventually no one left.
As for my depression, at the end of the day I get that this probably won’t be the worst thing that happens to me in my life. It doesn’t seem like it in the moment, but I know deep down that time (and therapy) does heal all wounds. The daily mental struggle might be at its worst right now, but with the support of my family and friends, I know that it’ll slowly fade away into a distant memory until I’m back to the closest possible thing to normal I can be.
So why am I telling you all this? It’s not to air out some dirty laundry I have against a person who took advantage of me, or to try and convince myself that I’m blameless; I know I’m not. I chose to tell this story because the lessons I’ve learned, like not taking the easy way out of an argument or how your true friends would never use your troubles against you, will not only help me avoid making the same mistakes later in life. It’s also for the people going through something similar right now who might see this and know they’re not alone in their fight to be heard.
If you have the right people in your corner, are able to trust them to have your best interests at heart if you open up to them about your problems and are willing to do the same for them in their own time of need, then you’ve found that special sitcom family you love and want. Those people are out there in the world for you and me; it’s just a matter of finding them.
Thanks for reading. To learn more about or donate towards raising awareness for mental health issues visit foundrybc.ca, an initiative run by the BC Children’s Hospital in partnership with the Vancouver Canucks’ Hockey Talks program.