Over the course of six years, I was in an abusive friendship. It was a physical and mental abuse that affected me well after the end of it. I have since forgiven the “friend,” and want to share how I did it. It might help you overcome your past, might not.
When I was 8 years old, I met the new kid in my building. Let’s call him Max. He was a few months younger than me. The two of us became close friends. Even when he moved to a city about an hour away during the following year, we still spent weekends together. Our friendship lasted for about 8 years. We had a few months worth of breaks in between, as I did have enough sense to walk away at least temporarily.
The bullying started around 10 years old. It was a systematic thing that worsened over time. It began with small things like getting a little too angry when I accidentally caused us both to lose in a game. From there, he moved onto peer pressuring me into things like stealing candy from stores. In our final years, he was beating me up just for the hell of it.
Literally, just for the hell of it. We could be watching TV, and he’d suddenly punch me in the face. We could be playing cards, and he’d cheat right in front of me, then beat me up for confronting him. The beatings were so bad that I would feel the bruises and aches for weeks.
When we were about 15, he came up with the idea to have me walk around a nearby city with a tin can and ask people for donations. If you’re new to this blog, I have a pretty noticeable birth defect, which is how he got the idea. He’d follow me from afar to make sure I was safe. We’d be out there for hours, and we did this whenever I was at his place for the weekend. Yes, our parents knew what we were doing.
To be honest, I was okay with this at first because it was easy money. After the first few weeks, I wanted to stop. I was afraid of getting caught, I was upset because this became a major part of our “friendship,” and Max was cheating me out of some of the money. But he wanted to keep going, so we did for several months.
One of many times I told Max I wanted to stop the donations scam, he lit a metal lighter for a few seconds. Then he grabbed my arm and held the hot, metal part against my arm, leaving a mark. His mother later found the mark, and asked me what happened. With a casual tone that people use when telling someone the time, Max told her what he did. His mother yelled at him and hit him. Then she told me that if he ever hits me again, tell her.
Which leads to the question that everyone is wondering: why did I rarely tell anyone what Max was doing? Well, for starters, making friends was very difficult for me, and he was the closest thing I had to a friend. If he were to end our friendship or our parents were to make me stop hanging out with him, I wouldn’t have any friends at all. That was so scary to me that the beatings were worth the 40% of the time when he was actually nice to me. Another reason is that I was holding onto the past. We were close when we were kids, and I thought that we could get back to level of friendship at some point.
The last time I spoke to Max was in either 2004 or 2005. He had called me to ask if I’d go to his place for the weekend. I told him that I wasn’t going to be there, and that we were no longer friends. Of course, this led to an argument. His final words to me were “Next time I see you, I’m fucking you up.”
Just like that, it was over. I still haven’t seen Max since the week before this conversation. As time went by, I got over our drama.
In 2011, I was talking to a success coach about negative beliefs. He explained that events from our past can create beliefs that cause us to subconsciously sabotage the things we do today. In this case, he wanted to know about past negative events regarding money. The only thing that came to mind was Max’s donations idea, and I didn’t see how that could block my attempts to earn money. I told the coach, which led to me also telling him about the abuse.
Our conversation led to an amazing revelation: I hadn’t gotten over Max. I was holding onto some lessons that I learned the hard way from him. I had trust issues and, ironically, a fear of getting close to people. I was also afraid of rejection. Hardly the best qualities for an entrepreneur. Believe it or not, I had forgotten where those issues came from, and it was my first time in years having a major thought about Max.
For the next few months, I wished that I hadn’t had that revelation. Now that it was no longer buried, the abuse was constantly on my mind.
One day, I learned that some people cope with negative events by writing about them in a journal. That sounded easy, so I picked out a notebook and got to work. Over the next few days, I wrote down every single thing I could remember about the abuse. Everything he said, everything he did, the first signs of his behavior, the last time I saw him, my thoughts on some of his actions, everything. When nothing else came to mind, this composition book had 12 new pages written.
Writing all that was a very emotionally draining experience. I don’t remember how long it took to get it all on paper; maybe 2 to 3 weeks. I went through a depression that lasted until a week after I finished. The thoughts got even worse, playing in my head almost nonstop, even when I had them all written down. Visions of the taunting and beatings would keep me awake at night, and show up in my dreams.
Then I woke up one morning and the depression was gone. The thoughts were no longer flooding my mind. Of course, the memories were still there, but they didn’t scare me anymore. When I did recall those memories, I felt like an outsider with little attachment to them. I was barely angry at Max.
There’s an old saying that in order to reach the Promised Land, we must first go through the wilderness. Those weeks of dealing with the memories definitely resembled the wilderness. When I made it out, I felt an odd sense of relief.
So here’s my advice: write your story in a journal. Write everything that comes to your mind about your past; your thoughts, that person’s actions, your actions, things that were said, etc. The more you get on paper, the more you get off your chest and out of your mind. That way, it doesn’t eat at you. When things get overwhelming, keep reminding yourself that you have to go through the storm to get from where you are, to were you want to be.
My storm was intense and scary at the time, but the end justified the means. Even after all Max did to me, I forgave him and buried all my anger in 2011. I fondly look at the brighter sides of our friendship, and I can calmly think and talk about the darker sides. When I first stepped away from that situation, I never thought I’d be able to do any of that.
Please consider journaling if you have a similar issue.
Make a nice day!