Flickr photo by gato-gato-gatoIt’s a fact of life that you can’t truly form a relationship with at least some degree of vulnerability. You have to open up at some point or another. This has been one of those particular problems for me and as I get older I’m slowly learning how to let people in.

The truth of it is that I tend to keep people at arm’s length. I tend to maintain a distance even between my closest friends and that may be to my detriment. Jumping in wholly and completely just isn’t something that’s easy for me to do. Whether it’s a result of being hurt in the past or a result of the paranoia I feel every day as someone living with schizophrenia I’m not sure.

The point is that I rarely allow myself to be vulnerable with other people.

Trust is a big word. There’s so much meaning behind it and it’s something I struggle with innately. My mind will always be whispering things to me that make it extremely difficult to trust people but there are a few (I can count them on one hand) that I trust. These people are my mom, my dad, my brothers and one friend. I can tell them anything and they’ll be behind me no matter what. I have nothing to hide from them. They’ve seen me at my absolute worst.

The thing that’s different about these relationships are that, in all the time we’ve had together, they’ve seen every facet that’s been manifested from my illness and they’ve never left. So few people see me when I’m struggling simply for the same fact that I don’t trust them.

I think what it takes to be truly vulnerable with someone comes down to two things, shared struggle and continuous exposure.

That is, continuous exposure means that you seem them regularly. The conversation builds over time until you find yourself discussing intensely personal things, things you’d normally never tell another soul. This is warts and all. Every tiny insecurity is eventually on the table and the test is whether or not they leave when it gets intense. If they don’t, well there’s a friend for life.

In that same vein is shared struggle. Whatever happens, even the horrible, really bad stuff, you two are there for each other. It’s no surprise that my family falls in this camp. They stuck by me when I left, with no warning, to go to the U.N. thinking I was a prophet and they visited me every day in the mental hospital upon my return. They put up with my crazy notions that I had to escape and that every tiny thing had some huge connotation and connection to me.

Simply knowing that I’ve been my craziest around them and they stuck by me created a foundation for an intense, innate trust that many families probably struggle with. They’ve always been there for me, even at my worst. It’s as simple as that.

Being vulnerable and taking steps to trust someone is something that comes with time. It’s like a wall that builds slowly, one brick, one secret at a time until it’s 30 stories tall. I’ve made the mistake before of being too trusting. It’s cost me, but it’s also given some perspective and some good stories.

Essentially what it all comes down to is whether they stick around when they see the worst of you. If they’re still there, you know you’re good.