I always thought I had a lot of friends. An abundance both personally and professionally. To be honest nothing was further from the truth.
In my late teens into my early thirties my “friends” were the result of self medicating with alcohol. A dark hole to find yourself in to be sure. I was the allstar to lead the way for others to follow, the socialite to make you feel good about yourself if you were down, self-deprecating to make others feel comfortable, at ease in my presence.
Alcohol eased all the pain attached to my Tourette Syndrome, including the mental health aspects. When the alcohol stopped 2008 so did all those friendships.
Work then became my addiction, the filler I used to hold the bubbling of depression and anxiety and OCD at bay. Friends were now defined as the people who had no choice but to listen to be ramble from nine to five. As a National Director for the largest company in my channel there were dozens and hundreds of people who suffered at the figurative knife point of my verbal rages and unwarranted social dominance.
Rather than be anchored by strong relationships based on authenticity and mutual commitment I ran to the edges of my darkness, the extremes of all my conditions and created a world I thought was healthy, controllable. When my roles changed in a shifting economy I found myself an army of one. No one to listen, no one to hear.
But there were a few, three to be exact, that remained. Three people who did not define themselves by stigmas associated with knowing people with mental health traumas. True friends.
In time, with a break from my career and a commitment to self, through yoga, cycling, journaling and meditation, two more friends emerged. Five is my number. A manageable group of people for me to focus with and be committed to.
This past spring, when all went dark, when I had pushed my body and mind and broke promises I had made to myself about over exertion, taking on too much and allowing my conditions to have their way with me, I discovered true friendship.
It is not about the words they might have to share. It is not about wisdom of personal experience. It is not about knowing which steps to take or who to call if it all goes wrong for me again or recognizing the signs of my afflictions should I find myself spiralling unknowingly.
Rather it is their ability to sit in silence, sharing my space without words. Their willingness to acknowledge my pain, my suffering and accept it as their own. Their desire to take my hardships and relieve me of the burden.
I am a grateful man. A man learning that I am deserving of their quality and measure as friends. I am grateful to know it is these invisible attachments we create called friendships which hold my head above water when all feels lost. I stay for friends, I am empowered by friends. I am my friends.
— Shawn Gordon