You've Got a Friend in Me ... Or Not?

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Hello readers! I hope you are all taking care during these strange and uncertain times. If you are here for the first time, welcome. If you have been following my blogs over the last couple of weeks, welcome back!

Social isolation and distancing have introduced a new level of loneliness into our lives that most of us probably wouldn’t have ever expected to experience. I consider myself lucky that I have been isolating with my family, but my heart goes out to those that haven’t been quite so fortunate.

I have always figured myself to be a lone wolf as it were, deserted and abandoned by my own pack. Yet, it would be incorrect to assume I ever had a pack that I truly belonged to. It just was that way and I let it be that way for a very long time because I didn’t know any better.

We all have that desire for human interaction, and we rely on it because we are sociable creatures. A few months into isolation and we are screaming to be released from our cages to be reunited with friends, family and loved ones. It’s only natural that we feel this way.

Friendships have never come naturally for me. I have longed for them, true, but I guess I have just been extremely unlucky in that matter. I never had the same opportunities as most people nor did I have a remotely normal childhood to notice that there was ever any kind of absence. I was happy, safe and alive, and this was more than enough.

It feels very strange to say that I have never really had a proper friend before – surely everyone has, right? I guess I never blossomed into the social butterfly that I thought I would be.

Ever noticed the person sitting alone at the lunch table at school? Well, that was my reality for a very long time.

Ever noticed that weird child always hanging around with the teacher? I bet you got it again. That was also me.

Ever noticed the panic-stricken child that could never find a partner in class activities? Ding! Ding! Ding! It was all me.

I felt rejected and unwanted. Surely, there was something wrong with me, right? In these situations, we never recognise that maybe it isn’t ourselves that is the problem, but those around us. Nonetheless, I always found fault within myself.

I have always had an innate desire to please people: family, friends, strangers. I guess I didn’t deal very well with the idea that I was alone and that I was seemed to be the only one struggling. I thought that it was my condition that was letting me down and this wasn’t something I could change. Let’s face it, a wheelchair always stirs apprehension. We are too quick to judge a book by its cover that, despite all its attributes, the book remains untouched and discarded.

I tried to change myself to get people to notice me, the real me. I stopped using my wheelchair in sixth form to create some distance and I decided to not use any assistive technology that would have helped me in lessons. In hindsight, it was wild to assume that this would change anything. I was only hurting myself, but I was ashamed and completely disregarding rationality.

Irony is a funny thing. My situation began to improve, and I was finally doing okay. I eventually found friends, even my best friend, and everything looked perfect behind the rose-coloured glasses. It wasn’t really all that perfect for many reasons.

I wouldn’t classify what I went through as bullying because it seemed, at least to myself, to diminish those real painful experiences suffered by others. In comparison, I experienced something mostly harmless and inconsequential. Perhaps, I was just being too sensitive.

For a couple of weeks at uni, I was seeing a well-being counsellor because my anxiety had amplified, and I just felt so out of control with everything going on around me. I needed help and I was glad that I reached out. During our sessions, we touched upon the topics I have been talking about here, . The counsellor suggested that some of my social anxiety might have stemmed from the bullying I experienced at school.

I was targeted online by a group of students, becoming the subject of a WhatsApp group that they named after me – I can’t say I was honoured funnily enough. It was offensive and insensitive, mocking my condition and the fact that I used a wheelchair. I was being singled out for something that was way beyond my control. Again, I felt rejected. I think this mostly solidified my decision not to use my powered wheelchair during this time.

I kept what happened to myself for months after the incident. I didn’t breathe a word because what was the point? I knew who had started the whole thing and I never mentioned it. I don’t know why to be perfectly honest. I guess I just didn’t want to be targeted again for being a tattle tale. I just had to put up with it.

Nasty, insensitive and even hurtful comments are not a new thing – I have dealt with my fair share over the years. You listen, you endure, and you move on. What else is there to do? I thought this was the right thing to do because I couldn’t change people and I definitely couldn’t change myself. Why should I anyway?

I’ve developed quite bad social anxiety over the years, possibly because I have felt too scared to open up and be vulnerable to people. I don’t want to get hurt. I thought university would change a lot of things for me because people aren’t so judgemental.

You are a tiny fish in a massive, diverse pond and I was confident I would find my tribe there. It’s not as easy as it sounds, unfortunately. I have stayed quite isolated at uni, just myself and my accommodation for the large part.

I am almost coming to the end of my degree now and I am embarrassed by how I have let things affect me. I have missed countless opportunities and experiences because I am too scared.

I am trying to work on it. This year has been full of many positives. I have signed up to write for the book club section of my uni magazine; I was nominated to be apart of accessibility and equality group that deals with inclusivity in the university environment; I have made a few new friends and I am hoping that this will continue into third year.

Swiftly moving to the end … stay tuned for the next post!

Keep reading and supporting!

Love, Hema.

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