“Don’t go any further”

(A short story, but something I wanted to get off my chest. Maybe it’ll be useful).

Despite not recognising my underlying anxiety issues, for the few years building up to seeking help, I was acutely aware of when things were too much. Identifying when a conversation or social situation was going to cause me more stress and damage than I could deal with. It was at these times when I have fled the scene, or stood up to a friend and said: “Don’t go any further.” And yet, to some people this seemed like a challenge. An opportunity to get one over on me, and exercise some supposed superiority. And yet despite my firmer responses I am often regaled with further riling comments, or remarks like: “It’s just banter” or “Just a bit of fun.” It may seem like fun to you, but to me it cut pretty deep. There’s nothing more damaging than having your insecurities mocked in what you deem a safe environment. I’m not entirely sure how long I felt like this, or how long I allowed people to step beyond the mark, and accepted their subsequent flaky apologies. But as my situation got worse, so did the strengths of the feelings of frustration, doubt and depression that accompanied these misdemeanours, and despite my opposition, the number of incidents didn’t decrease. People just kept pressing. After countless further incidents of some friends overstepping the mark, and unsettling me on a whim, I understandably grew fed up. Despite my continued confrontations, the explanations of my feelings, of the mental health problems I was learning to deal with. I felt bewildered and isolated. These people were meant to be my friends, right? And yet they consistently joked to me that I was “useless”, when I showed that I was struggling with lethargy and poor university attendance. In the end I discovered that perhaps these people weren’t my friends after all. My welfare was none of their concern; I was just an easy way for them to take out their frustration, to give them some form of self-validation. That’s not what friends do. It’s not what anyone should do. My mental health isn’t something you can toy with for your own amusement. I’m not your punching bag, and I am far stronger than you give me credit for. Now leave me alone and let me learn to deal with my problems without your petty jibes.

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