Podcast: Abandoned: Loss of Friendships
In this episode, Jackie recounts friendships that were very important to her and how she’s handling the loss of them.
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About The Not Crazy Podcast Hosts
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Jackie Zimmerman has been in the patient advocacy game for over a decade and has established herself as an authority on chronic illness, patient-centric healthcare, and patient community building. She lives with multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, and depression.
Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Abandoned’ Episode
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a Psych Central podcast. And here are your hosts, Jackie Zimmerman and Gabe Howard.
Gabe: Pay attention Not Crazy fans, right now Not Crazy listeners get 25% off a Calm premium subscription at Calm.com/NotCrazy. That’s C-A-L-M dot com slash Not Crazy. Forty million people have downloaded Calm. Find out why at Calm.com/NotCrazy.
Gabe: Hello, everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of Not Crazy. I want to introduce my co-host, Jackie Zimmerman. She’s married to an aspiring rap artist and she lives with depression.
Jackie: And I would like to introduce you to my co-host, Gabe Howard, who lives with bipolar and is also my husband’s number one fan.
Gabe: I love him so much.
Jackie: He’s a really good person. I love him too.
Gabe: I like to brush my teeth and go to bed on time. It’s really cool. It’s a good song. You should check it out on YouTube. What’s his rap name?
Jackie: Ben Holmes, but it’s not under that. I think it’s on my YouTube. Rewinding to let everybody know we’re talking about. We made a rap video for my nephew’s fifth birthday. And it is on YouTube. It’s called ‘Bout to be Five. If you’d like to look it up, it’s a jam. It really is.
Gabe: It is really, really cool. One of the reasons that we’re talking about our spouses so much is because, one, you know, Christmas is coming and we want to make sure that we do well this year, but two because people tend to think about romantic relationships as the only thing that can really cause you like abandonment issues or trauma or, you know, your parents can mess you up, family can mess you up and love can mess you up. But then there’s this whole seedy underbelly that can mess you up. And that’s our friends.
Jackie: I couldn’t agree more, and actually I have been talking about this in therapy a lot because I have a few friends or I guess former friends now whomp, whomp who were like family or were really close. These were people I developed very lengthy, intense, in-depth friendships with who I loved very much, who are no longer my friends. And I have had a really hard time dealing with this. So this is something that hits home with me right now. A lot.
Gabe: There’s many ways that friends can exit our lives in some of these things are healthy. You know, I’m not friends with the people that I was friends with in kindergarten. I’m not friends with the people that I was friends with in middle school. And honestly, I’m really not friends with the majority of people that I was friends with in high school. Really, relationships tend to kind of go with your station in life. It’s one of the reasons that parents always seem to have friends who are also parents and their kids just happen to play together like, you know, these are the things that bind us in. And after school, for example, you know, you tend to move away. You know, I graduated high school in Pennsylvania and I moved to Ohio. Well, nobody followed me. So distance became an issue. The world is getting smaller. Distances is less of a reason to end a friendship in 2019 than it was in 1999 and especially in 1979 for our older listeners. But some of these reasons are healthy. They’re expected. It’s part of growing up. But we want to talk about the reasons that are unexpected and the ones that well, they cause pain.
Jackie: Not only do they cause pain, but it’s a sincere sense of loss. Right? So it’s not just, oh, I had this friend. They were really cool. We’re not friends anymore. It’s like a void in your life of this person that you had. And it almost parallels a romantic relationship in terms of the role that they played in your life. Like how big the role was. You know, maybe you called them every day on your way home from work. Things like that where people play this role in your life. And then when they’re not there anymore, it’s very clear that they’re not there. There’s a very clear hole there. And not only do you miss them, but then it turns into the abandonment part, which for me is always, what did I do wrong? How is this my fault? They left because I did something.
Gabe: Let’s hit this hard on the head. So obviously a friendship ending prematurely or in a way where one party doesn’t want it. It’s going to cause trauma and some of that trauma can be worked out just in grief. You’re grieving the loss of your friend. That’s not what this show is about. So fuck that. Forget it. Move it to the side. When that happens too much, that’s the abandonment issue that we’re talking about, right. Because you visit that sensation on to other people. See, grief is very localized. You’re grieving the loss of Bob. Whereas an abandonment issue is widespread. You’re grieving the loss of Bob on John. You’re the grieving the loss of Bob on to Jane. All of these other people are starting to see the effects of
Jackie: Mm hmm.
Gabe: What you and Bob went through. It lingers. Our show is about lived experience. And Jackie and I are going to tell you what we went through and how we handled it and share with you. But just to let you know exactly what we’re talking about from the medical establishment, the definition of an abandonment issue is?
Jackie: Before I give you the definition that I have right now, I want to put it out there that there are a boatload of different definitions about abandonment. There’s also different kinds of abandonment. There’s emotional abandonment. There’s physical abandonment. The definition that I’m going to read right now says that abandonment fear often stems from childhood loss. This loss could also be related to a traumatic event, such as the loss of a parent through death or divorce. It can also come from not getting enough physical or emotional care. But to be clear, although a lot of abandonment issues are thought to stem from childhood issues. It’s not always the case. You can have abandonment issues that were started late in life and the catalysts could be something that happened well past your childhood years. If you want more details on abandonment and how it works and where it starts and the different kinds, I would recommend checking out PsychCentral.com. They are a lot more eloquent and also factual than I am.
Gabe: I always love it when you give a plug to PsychCentral.com because it makes the people that support the podcast extraordinarily happy. Thank you, Jackie.
Jackie: Also, they’re smarter than I am. So, I mean, that’s definitely worth going there for.
Gabe: Jackie has a compelling story of losing not one, but two friends to her abandonment issues.
Jackie: Oh, this is so sad already.
Gabe: On the Not Crazy Lifetime movie, Jackie Zimmerman, a woman lost.
Jackie: Without going into excessive detail as an adult, I have had two very close friends who were long term friends from high school. I am no longer really friends with either of them. One of them ended on a poor note. One of them just kind of faded into oblivion. And there is definitely a void in my life where these friendships once existed.
Gabe: Let’s break that out a little. Let’s talk about the friendship that just sort of faded out, because when I hear the friendship just kind of faded out, the thing that I think of is that natural causes thing. You moved away, you went in different directions in life. Maybe they got married and had children, whereas you stayed single and that just sort of made you grow apart. But for you, it’s more than that, right? Even though there didn’t seem to be like a big blow up and fight and I’m not your friend anymore. You still see this growing apart as problematic or impactful or traumatic.
Jackie: The root of that friendship’s fizzling was one conversation. I remember it in detail. I know that is exactly the moment when it started and it was when I was questioning a relationship that she was in. It didn’t go well. We’ll just say that. And we stopped talking after that and we tried for years to kind of rekindle this friendship and start over. And actually all these terms that you use in a romantic relationship. Right. Let’s to start over. Let’s try again. Give it another shot. Go back to how it used to be. All of those sort of well intentioned things that can literally never happen once a trauma happens in any kind of relationship. I am a firm believer that you can’t just go back. You can’t just pretend like it never happened. So we spent years trying to fix it, trying to rekindle it, trying to change it and make our friendship grow with us because we were changing as well. And it just didn’t happen. And over time, we checked in less and hung out less and saw each other less. And I just kind of faded off because I think we both really wanted the friendship we had and we know that it will never be that way ever again.
Gabe: Do you think that the two of you would still be friends if you never questioned her romantic relationship as her friend?
Jackie: Well, as it turns out, I have put some thought into this. The reality is probably not. I think we would not have fallen apart so long ago as we did, had I not questioned that relationship. But she’s still with this person and that alone would have driven a wedge through us because I don’t think that it was necessarily a good person at the right time. But also stepping back from that friendship now, I’ve had a chance to assess it and look at it and look at us as individuals and what we brought into each other’s lives. And I’m not convinced that it was anything that is irreplaceable, as awful as that sounds. Right? And if she happens to be listening to this and I already feel guilt for what she’s going to feel about saying all these things, but I’ve looked at who she is as a person and who I am as a person. And I think we have different values now that we’re older and things have changed. And I think we would still be acquaintances. I don’t think we would ever be besties again.
Gabe: It’s an interesting thing that you said there, because you said that you think that the friendship would have just grown apart naturally on its own. But if you didn’t bring up that conversation about her love interest, then you wouldn’t feel guilt. So even though you would have ended up in the exact same place, you wouldn’t have anything to blame yourself for. You would have felt like the growing apart was equal. So you’re going back to one moment in time and saying, A-ha, this is my fault. But now in retrospect, you’re also saying, hey, I think the die was cast. I think that we were growing apart as we reached our 30s. And that’s just something that just happens naturally anyway. So that’s very interesting to me, because on one hand, you’re acknowledging that the relationship was already growing apart. But on the other hand, you’re also acknowledging that you blew it up. You’re a bad person and it’s all your fault.
Gabe: Those two things don’t coexist.
Jackie: They don’t.
Gabe: Why are you blaming yourself?
Jackie: Because in this version of the history, which is what happened, I was the catalyst for an explosive conversation slash argument that we had, and I can’t undo that. And even though I didn’t try to undo it, but I tried to clarify it or I tried to assuage it a bit when she and I talked after that, the damage had already been done. So if you look at it from this perspective, this was in essence in a dramatic way. My fault. I was the catalyst. It was never the same because of me. Even if we were headed down a path where maybe we weren’t gonna be as close, that sting is a lot less than I am the reason we don’t talk anymore.
Gabe: Let’s flip the script entirely, Jackie. Everything happened exactly how you said it, but you were just being honest. You were looking out for your friend. You saw a concern and you voiced it. And she, ugh, she did not respect your opinion. She just ignored you entirely. Didn’t thank you for your concern. Just didn’t even care about you at all and just abandoned you and ran off. Why isn’t that the truth? Why didn’t she cause the crisis of breaking up the relationship for not respecting your honesty? Because after all, you were just being honest with your friend. Isn’t that what friendship is based on? Honesty and good communication?
Jackie: This version is something that I have thought about, too, and when I was really angry and really mad at her for how our friendship had fallen apart, this is the version that I told myself was it’s all her fault. She really fucked up here. I’m such a good friend. I am such a good friend. Like, what is she thinking? But that version, the anger goes away when the hurt creeps in because the root of anger a lot of times is fear or sadness or something like that. And in this situation, it is it’s much easier to be angry at her. I would love to be angry at her, because then I would feel I think I would feel better. Maybe I would, but I’m not angry at her. And instead, I’m just really, really sad about it.
Gabe: We will be right back after we hear from our sponsors.
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Jackie: We wouldn’t abandon you. We are back talking about abandonment issues.
Gabe: Do you think that for you, that hurt is a more prevalent and stronger emotion than anger? And that’s why the hurt has risen to the top and the anger is sort of diminished.
Jackie: Yes, for me, I think anger is one dimensional for me, and I hope that I explain this correctly. When I’m angry. I’m just mad. I’m like seeing red. Looking forward, I’m angry at the one thing that I’m seeing that’s making me angry. And when I’m hurt, it’s almost like it opens up this space for all these other emotions, for guilt, for loss, for regret, for all of these other feelings. When I’m feeling sad or feeling like somebody has hurt me personally, all those other things come into play as well. It’s not as one dimensional, it’s more complex. And it allows for me to blame myself in that mix. And also it allows me to feel things like abandonment and then maybe I’ll get angry about the abandonment, but then I’ll just be really sad that I lost my friend again. It’s like a sad cycle.
Gabe: And that’s, of course, what’s important to realize, right? That’s how you process this. That’s how anger and sadness and loss. That’s how it all exists inside little Jackie’s head. But for example, me, if that exact same thing had happened to me and I could just be angry the entire time. Like loss wouldn’t even come into it. I mean, loss would come into it because loss would be driving the anger. But that’s how I manage my emotions. But other people aren’t. And that’s one of the reasons that these things are so difficult to work out, because you could explain this story to 10 different well-meaning people and get 10 different pieces of perfectly accurate and honest and well intentioned advice. And none of it could be true for you. And that’s really complex. And I know we sound kind of like a broken record, but that’s where therapy is very helpful because you’ve worked out a lot of this stuff in therapy because it helps you decide the best path forward on an individual personalized level. And I think a lot of people with abandonment issues don’t realize that they think that they can emotion their feelings away.
Jackie: Well, the other part of it, too, is I think even when, you know, it’s a we’ll say overreaction or not an appropriate reaction, when I can identify my anger is not warranted or even my sadness and my guilt is not warranted. It doesn’t mean it goes away. So I think people who are maybe opposed to working this stuff out in therapy are like, well, I know that this is ridiculous, so that means that I have solved it. I’ve gotten to the root of it. It’s done. It doesn’t matter anymore because I know that it is the way that it is. But not for me, even when I know the way that I’m feeling is not the appropriate reaction. I still am feeling that way and have to get over that.
Gabe: And you have a twofer, because that’s the one that you said the wrong thing, you remember the moment, it just kind of flitted away and you have very strong feelings about it. You don’t know what to do. It’s all living inside your head and it’s causing you to be bummed out.
Gabe: But then you also had the eruption, the more stereotypical dramatic television moment where everybody’s yelling each other. And in an instant, you go from we’re friends to we’re not. There’s no wonder, there’s no slowness. It’s Hiroshima.
Gabe: What happened there?
Jackie: With the other friend?
Gabe: No, we’re talking about baked goods now. Yeah. What happened with the other friend?
Jackie: This one is more complex because even I don’t really know what happened. And that’s part of why it hurts so much and why there’s such a void there. And it’s also a major part of why I blame myself so much, because it’s much easier to tell myself a narrative of what I did wrong or to rethink my steps or to think about how I could have handled it differently or what I could have said differently, because I don’t know the reason why we are no longer friends anymore. There was a catalyst that I’m not interested in talking about. But it wasn’t a clear catalyst. It wasn’t like after that she was like, Go fuck yourself. And I was like, you go fuck yourself. And then we never spoke again. It was something that felt on the outside of our relationship that affected our friendship in a way that I never dreamed was possible. I never dreamed that we would not be friends at the end of what happened.
Gabe: Do you think that there was ever a point where it was fixable? Because, you know, to my Hiroshima joke, you’re kind of saying that never happened. Nobody dropped a bomb on your friendship, but there was a moment. And I know it’s difficult, you know, to protect the privacy of the people you are, you know, part of public sharing is to remember that we can only share our side of the story and we can’t necessarily share the side of others because we have to protect their privacy. But as best as you can, what was that moment? Were you in person? Was there yelling? Was there screaming? Did somebody say, lose my number and never call me again and you did? I mean, how did you know that it was over?
Jackie: It was an email, which feels like the ultimate breakup move, right? Send somebody an email or text that says we’re no longer together. At the end of this event, we’ll say that was pretty toxic, I thought. At no point did I ever think our friendship wasn’t fixable. We had been friends for almost 20 years at that point. We had been through all of my sickness. She supported all of that. She supported the death of my father. She was family. My family considered her family. We were family. So I never dreamed that we couldn’t fix it because you can almost always fix something with family. Even when it gets really bad. And she sent me an email that basically was like, I’m about to go through a massive life changing thing. She was pregnant at the time and I don’t have time to handle this. I don’t have the capacity right now to handle all of this, which I respected. So I will talk to you maybe after my baby is born. And that was two and a half years ago and I haven’t heard from her. So the email that I got from her basically stating that was so unexpected because it was the first time she’d ever said, no, I don’t want to be around you.
Jackie: I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want anything to do with you right now. But maybe in the future, I will. And now that we are in the future, I have still not heard from her. And that’s probably the hardest part. That’s the part that that’s the part that kind of breaks my heart. Oh, I’m crying. I’m crying because it’s still a very real pain. Like, I miss her a lot. But there’s also a lot of anger there now because it’s been so long. There was the opportunity for her to reach out to help maybe rectify this or even to tell me this was never gonna get better. But here’s some closure. Not that she owes me closure. Second guessing, right? She owes me this, she doesn’t owe me this. I feel guilt, I shouldn’t feel guilt. All of the things where I do feel heavily abandoned by her. And I’m sure her version of what happened is very different. And that’s I would love to know her version. I’m not sure I have the right to know her version, because whatever she’s feeling is probably just as much hurt as I’m feeling. The worst part is that I don’t have a chance to rectify it because I don’t know what happened.
Gabe: Let’s hang on to something that you said for a moment. You said that, you know, that her version would be much different and that you don’t know what her version of events are and that you don’t believe that you have any right to know it. I think that’s a very interesting statement because so many people are trapped in this cycle where they’re constantly telling themselves, if I only knew what happened, I could get better. And the reality is, is that’s not a lock. You can know what happened from another person’s perspective and it can become much worse. Now, it is true, it can also become much better. But forget about both of those things. The thing that I want to make sure that people understand is that there is a path forward without ever talking to the other person. And so many people believe and we talk about these traumas that involve our friends. And when we feel abandoned by people, we believe so strongly that our only path forward is hand-in-hand with that other person. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a path forward for you and you alone, because ultimately, they’re your emotions, they’re your feelings. And whatever the other person is thinking, feeling or doing has little to do with you. And it’s a bit egotistical to think that what they’re feeling and doing and thinking has something to do with you anyway. If you think about it that way, you have to be in control of your own emotions. You have to be able to move forward and you can’t expect somebody else to fix you. And that’s kind of what that sounds like to me when people say that. Well, as soon as they explain it to me, I’ll be fine. Really? So you owe your happiness to an outside source. That doesn’t that doesn’t sound right to me. You’ve already gotten there. Can you tell us how?
Jackie: Do you mean that I am moving forward basically knowing that I’m never going to talk to her about what happened?
Gabe: I mean, you’ve accepted that you can get better without her involvement, that you can move forward without her involvement,
Gabe: That there is life ahead that is emotionally and positively fulfilling, that you don’t need her to unlock or achieve.
Jackie: Well, part of it is what you said, where I know that if I talk to her and let’s say the way that she remembers this, I am horrible. I did awful things to her. And she remembers it in a way that I don’t. That’s not going to help me heal from this at all. That’s probably actually going to make it worse. And I’m not saying I don’t want to hear it just so I can continue to feel better about myself. But her version of the story very likely will not help me get through this, even though I really want to think that it will. In reality, it’s probably not going to. The other part of this is that I have accepted that I probably will not completely heal from this. This is a devastating loss. And I talk about this a lot in therapy. Another plug for therapy because it feels like she died. That’s the loss. It feels heavy like she died, but she didn’t. She’s still out in the world living out there. And I am not a part of her life. So it’s almost a double whammy, right? It feels like the heavy loss of a death, but it’s not. It’s worse because I could talk to her and I can’t. I know that that devastating loss is not going to go away 100 percent.
Jackie: It’s just not. It’s like when you do lose someone to death, you never completely get over it. But what I have committed to doing is continuing to just move forward and know that her friendship is not the only friendship I’m ever going to have in my life. I will have other friends. It’s not going to be 20 years friendship. It’s not going to be the same kind. It may never be as deep and meaningful as that one was, but it doesn’t mean I’m gonna be sitting at home in my house really wishing I had people to hang out with all the time. Part of being someone who commits to mental wellness of myself means that I don’t let myself continue to mull about it over and over and over again, because I know I’m not going to get anywhere. I’m not going to get the solutions. I’m not going to get the closure that I want because she’s not a part of it. And like I said, even if I did have her, I probably still wouldn’t get it. So it’s understanding that closure may never happen. And choosing to say, OK, well, that sucks, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
Gabe: Jackie, thank you so much for your candor during this episode. One of the takeaways for me is like the Rolling Stones said, you can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need. Thank you, everybody, for listening in. Here is what we need you to do. One, we always put a funny after the credits. So if you’re not listening to them, you’re really missing out because Jackie and I mess up a lot. Wherever you downloaded this podcast, there’s this thing called rankings. You can give us as many stars or dots or bullets or hearts or whatever as is humanly possible. But also use your words. Subscribe to our podcast, tell your friends about our podcast, do everything that you can to shout Not Crazy from the social media rooftops. And we’ll see you next week.
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Podcast, N. (2019). Podcast: Abandoned: Loss of Friendships. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 2, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/podcast-abandoned-loss-of-friendships/