Keeping Friends at Arm's Length Due to Migraine

I had a friend crush as soon as I met Stacy (a pseudonym). She’s clever and confident plus she’s a writer who practices yoga and plays tabletop games. Stacy is so interesting and engaged in life that I hoped we would become close. And, as I’m someone who becomes close to people quickly, I expected it would happen early in our friendship.

The friendship that never quite blossomed

The close friendship never materialized. Even when my husband and I hung out with Stacy and her now-husband, I often felt awkward. We didn’t seem to connect in conversation and I felt like she was holding back. I pondered this frequently over the first couple years of our friendship. Some theories: she’s a really private person and my openness didn’t appeal to her; maybe she didn’t trust me because she overheard me speaking a little too candidly with one of my closest friends; maybe she just didn't like me.

After almost two years, I finally figured out that I *was* the problem, but not in the way I thought. I’m the one who kept the relationship from progressing. I’m the one who didn’t let her in. I’m the one who kept my distance.

A peek at what my life could have looked like

I envied Stacy. We have so many similarities—valuing authenticity, loving to learn, a desire to challenge ourselves—that when I heard about her life or saw her activities on Facebook, I became acutely aware of what my life is lacking. I want to be engaged in the world, to take up new sports, attend lectures, and practice yoga regularly. I want to have a writing group and pursue wider publication. I want to work full-time. Stacy’s doing all that and more. When I heard about her life, I could only see the alternate reality I could be living if only I didn't have such severe migraine.

Worried about being judged

I also feared Stacy judged me for being so disengaged and inactive. I knew that was ridiculous. She’s not a judgmental person and is always supportive. And still I was so concerned that she wouldn’t see the real me—the self I know that I am buried underneath migraine—that I didn’t want her to know much about me.

Finding out my friend actually admired me

I shared my revelation with Stacy. She said that she never saw me in the limited way I saw myself in comparison to her. She instead admired how fully I live despite how migraine limits my life. Sadly, she now lives six hours away. She comes back to visit fairly often, and I’ve already felt much closer to her than I used to.

As frustrated as I am with myself for holding back from Stacy, this experience reminded me of three important things.

  1. I often judge myself more harshly than other people do.
  2. Often a disconnect is about my own issues rather than another person.
  3. Most importantly, migraine interferes with how I live day-to-day, but it has not fundamentally changed who I am. My strengths (and weaknesses) still shine through to other people, even when I feel like they’ve been eclipsed.

I’m so glad I finally figured out that I was the barrier to getting closer to Stacy. I only wish I’d done it before she moved away.

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