Thursday, April 23, 2009

Meandering Michele's Mind: What Kind of People Surround You?



The following quote comes from Mike H's ever evolving and really interesting Zen/PTSD blog:

You simply cannot become healthier and happier as a human being unless you hang with people who are healthy and want to encourage health. That's the crux.

This morning I'm wondering: Who are you hanging with?

During my healing PTSD years, I made and got rid of many friends. Some friends I made because it seemed like a good idea at the time. They seemed interested and understanding and totally supportive of my PTSD. They asked questions, wanted info and generally kept up with me on a daily basis, always trying to better appreciate my predicament, prodding me to go deeper in my explanations than even I had planned to go. It was nice. I got to explain and expound on what I was going thrugh.

And then I got hip to the fact that these friends behaved this way because they liked seeing someone more miserable than they were! When I began to heal, all they wanted to do was poke at me to see where was the misery? It had to still be there, they were sure. They weren't interested in my growing strength or happiness because then they were left with the fact they still had to handle and manage their own displeasures, disappointments and sadness. When they couldn't vicariously and voyeuristically experience mine (and then go home at the end of the day thinking themselves so much healthier and happier than I was) these friends got annoyed at my unwillingness to be the one cataloguing desperate emotions.

There've been people, too, oddly enough, on the other side of the spectrum. People who so genuinely loved to feel my pain and share my burden that I felt worse because of it. I have made friends because their love and compassion and emotional connection to my struggle felt so good. But then, as I healed, their interaction with me didn't evolve. They still handled and approached me through this murky emotionality; they wanted to always soothe and empathize, even when that was no longer necessary. I found myself playing a role - playing the PTSD victim because that is what our friendship needed to survive. If I healed, our friendship had no other substance. I got tied to a couple of these people and it was hard -- really hard! -- to realize they were becoming toxic to me.

In healing, we're so desperate, desolate, isolated and fragmented we don't always make the right decisions. Heck, sometimes we don't even make decisions; we do things by default. This can be hazardous to our recovery. We must become conscious at all times in order to really heal. We can begin this sort of cosciousness raising (to revamp a phrase from the 70s) by being aware of the simple act of choosing whom we allow around us.

Take a look at the people with whom you surround yourself. Ask yourself whether or not they support or hinder your being yourself; how they encourage or discourage your feeling good about yourself, recovery, and the future. Ask yourself if the people around you are good or bad for you. If the answers are negative... well, you need to begin thinking about how to change the energy surrounding you. Time for some friend/family spring cleaning! If we want to heal we cannot have our energy siphoned off or mutilated by the negative effects of others.

Mike includes in his approach to new friendships the question, 'Would this be healthy?'

Are you this conscious in choosing who you spend time with?

How do you approach new friendships? How do you choose who you allow into your inner circle? Have you seen friendships begin or end in relation to your PTSD evolution? This is an important topic to consider! Let's pool our resources.



(Photo: vnduan)

6 comments:

Mike H said...

Michele:

Lots of good points here - so I'm going to steal them ;-)

I found a lot of benefit in not telling people I had PTSD because it meant that they didn't treat me as 'sick'.

Whilst I consider it important to tell some people I often found that people will treat you how they think you want to be treated so if you say "I'm sick" they'll treat you accordingly. Sometimes pretending "everything is fine" helps you to become fine because that is how people expect you to be.

I've consciously avoided people who would play "my life may be bad but it's not as bad as his".

I've been wary of people who want to "take care of you" because they can end up deliberately trying to keep you sick in order to maintain their place in your life.

I worked out recently that a friend was 'protecting me' in a way that was making it much more difficult for me to establish new friendships.

I've put a stop to it.

Healing PTSD is hard enough as it is without the process being hindered.

I see real benefit in keeping an eye on friendships WRT to healing and thinking "Well, this person has helped me in the past but now it's important to move on".

Doctors and Nurses can be good friends until you heal. "Oh Poor you" people can be good friends until the time you start to heal.
Healthy friends are good friends as you work on healing and a total nightmare when it just makes you aware of how unwell you are.

Phew!

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Elizabeth Stanfill said...

Hi Michele,

I do feel like I am conscious of who I am around. I love positive loving people and I tend to make them my friends.

When I am around contentious, drama addicted people, I tend to avoid them.

The people we are around really can elevate or drain our energy.

Elizabeth

svasti said...

Great post Michele, and I completely agree.

Its something I noticed over the years, even before I had PTSD to deal with. Yes, its true - there are some people who like you better when your life is in chaos. If it means they can help you and/or look down on you, then yeah, they get to feel better about themselves.

Generally speaking these days, I have a small group of friends. But I find even amongst those, and certainly including my family too, there are very few people who are supportive in a way that's beneficial.

Actually, I can think of only one - a very good friend of mine, L. I write about her on my blog from time to time. She's never trying to be anything other than my friend, and as supportive as she can be.

She offers helpful advice and ideas if it seems appropriate, but never getting up on a soapbox. She lets me know if I look nice, and tries to get me to aknowledge that too, and she does fun stuff with me.

What she doesn't do is crowd me, or give me way too much space! She seems to have this amazing balance between the two. And I am grateful for her, so very much.

I've definitely had other friendships end over PTSD related situations. And I've noticed moreso, that most people just don't want to know. Even my own family.

So while I do feel a little lonely and abandonned at times, I count my blessings for my good friend L!

Michele Rosenthal said...

@Svasti - The funny thing is: I was really much happier when I was more alone in my healing. It's so exhausting playing the role friends expect/want you to. I was always relieved to end a friendship - more time for me to focus on and be myself!

And now, I'm developing new friendships based on the healed Michele, about whom no one needs to have any healing or other attitude toward. Aaah. So much better. :)

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