Monday, March 30, 2015

When I was in my early 20s, I stopped going to church. This was a pretty major lifestyle change for me, as church had been the base for my entire social, professional and college life. All my friends were Christians, so we went to similar events and saw each other regularly. I trained as a Christian youth worker. I studied at a Christian college. I had a few very close friends I talked to and saw everyday, a few more good friends who I made an effort to stay in touch with, and plenty more people who I just loved chatting to whenever I saw them. I was never lonely.

Then, very quickly, I was. It wasn't that I was suddenly shunned because I was an unbeliever; it happened naturally. I don't really blame people for it. I didn't see people at events anymore. I still saw my closest friends, the ones that I would see in my spare time anyway; but we had less in common. I think some people felt uncomfortable talking about theology or church issues around me. I think other people feel uncomfortable, or at the very best disinterested, when I talk about my current lifestyle. We grew apart.

I ended up in this odd position where I was desperate for friends, but had no idea how to make them. I made a few romantic connections through people I met online, but I missed having a community, or a basic friendship group. I missed watching TV at someone else's house. I missed playing board games. I missed cooking for someone else. I missed being a part of other people's lives. I was bone-achingly lonely; it was a pain I was aware of all the time.

I invested in every romantic connection I made. I hoped that having a special person in my life would make me feel better, but it actually made it worse; spending hours every night talking to a long distance partner killed the last of my friend connections. My boyfriend hated me talking to, or spending time with anyone other than him. I felt that he was all I had, so I cut my limited contact with other people to keep him happy. I felt even more isolated. As the relationship became more emotionally abusive, I felt I had no more options anymore. One of the reasons I stayed in it so long was because I thought he was my only friend.

During that time, my mental health wasn't at it's best and I struggled with social anxiety. That made the idea of "putting myself out there" impossibly hard. I could just about handle self check outs in supermarkets, and was so afraid of bumping into my housemates I would wait til they were asleep before I'd even leave my room to pee. Turning up at a social event I was interested in was totally out of the question for me at that time.

Then suddenly, circumstances came together and a lot of my life changed at once; I got my own place, I got promoted, I lost a lot of weight, I left that bad relationship. I suddenly felt a lot more confident and healthy. I decided I liked who I was.

Then over the next year, friendships started to evolve naturally. I felt comfortable spending time with people I liked at work in my free time. I met some of their friends, then started spending time with them. After realising I was interested in BDSM and talking to people online, I started going to events and met lots more people I wanted to spend more time with. People actually invited me to spend time in their homes. And I'm pretty sure at first it was just because people were inviting me to things out of politeness because they were friends with my boyfriend, then after a few months, I started to feel like I had friends of my own too.

I don't really know what the point of me writing this was. Other than that I'm feeling REALLY grateful and happy that there are so many awesome people in my life now. So many that I don't have enough time or energy to give each person as much as they deserve. I feel so spoilt and so lucky. Do I sound like I'm gloating? I don't really care. I have friends and they're awesome. So there.