The consecutive loss of multiple close friendships made me realise we are all capable of toxic behaviour.

The uncomfortable parts of relationships such as breakups often expose a lot about who we are. When I was ignored and blocked by two of my friends, I could not help but wonder if I was the problem.  

I was not always a bad friend, but I know I have failed dismally at this role before. I have a tough time keeping friends. This was not always the case, but something changed in 2019 when I experienced a brutal betrayal from someone I had trusted.

In my second year of university, my former friend decided to begin a transactional relationship with an older man and told me about it. I was very clear on the fact that I didn’t want her to do it. I felt that it was dangerous and potentially abusive territory. I shared my concerns with her and nonetheless, she continued, explaining that she was in desperate need of the money because she did not have a bursary and her parents were not managing to cover all her costs. I distanced myself from her but respected her decision.  

Our relationship took a turn for the worse when she attempted to bait me into doing the same thing. She lured me into going for a “girls’ night out” but when I arrived, the plans suddenly changed. Initially, it was just the two of us but out of nowhere her ‘boyfriend’ and his friends appeared. When I confronted her about it, she was defensive about the change of plans and called me sensitive. I realised I had been called as ‘entertainment’ when the club’s bouncers refused to let me leave, because I was ‘‘paid for’’ by the men surrounding my friend. If I wanted to go I had to pay, and I had to plead with my friend to let me go home. The experience was humiliating. 

I was extremely hurt that my friend had sold me as sexual entertainment to men I did not knowOften, I think about what would have happened to me if things went according to her plan. I developed issues with trusting the people around me.

In 2020, left alone with my thoughts during lockdown, my unresolved issues with the situation came backI was seeing a psychologist and had been prescribed antidepressants. I refused to take them because I was in denial of my diagnosis. I subsequently felt overwhelmed by my depressive episodes and decided to isolate, which manifested as a complete communication breakdown. I did not take calls, nor did I try to return them. I was selfish with my time; rude, unresponsive and did not care that my self-destruction was hurting others.

Naively, when I recovered from that dark period in my life about two months later, I assumed my friends would be there to pick up where we once left off. Instead, I was blocked. 

I repeatedly attempted to apologise to my friends explaining that I was not myself and consumed by my own issues. However, they still took the same stance insisting it was too late now to fix things. The rejection I received from friends was a result of my own failures. I failed to communicate. 

The sudden split from my close friends came as a major blow to my self-esteem. My friends represented a sense of acceptance and refuge. In my circle I felt seen, heard and appreciated. It has been incredibly difficult reckoning with the fact that the people I have intimately intertwined with my life, chose to leave me.  

The level of emotional intelligence I exercised, along with my friends, may have been immature. I spoke very briefly on the betrayal of my former friend but shared nothing with my friends about how it truly made me feel. Instead, we interacted with the emotional skillset of teenagers, taking petty, subtle jabs at each other instead of talking about how we really felt. 

This season of my life taught me that you are often going to fail others in attempts to take care of yourself. I had to focus on overcoming a deeply traumatic event in my life that made me a horrible friend. I am not evading accountability and I am admittedly ashamed of how little I cared for others, but I recognise it was something that I needed to do. 

However, balance is important. People will leave if you are not sustaining your end of the deal. I have a responsibility to maintain the relationships I want to keep. In forgiving myself, I recognise how important it is to reflect on your actions. I am excited to create new friendships as I enter the adult chapter of my life with what I know now. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Keamogetswe Mosepele. Photo: Black Maple Photography