My friends betrayed me and now I trust no one

I thought I was getting over it, but I'm reverting to anxious, self-destructive habits

Published May 23, 2011 12:01AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I recently experienced some serious betrayal. My best friend told some pretty big lies (laced with some small truths) to my "person." He wasn't my boyfriend (we broke up after two years because he couldn't even admit that he loved me) but he was the biggest part of my life. Anyway, so my best friend told him some heinous things about me and he cut off all contact with me, changed his phone number, etc. He didn't even ask me for the truth. And my friend lied to my face and swore she did not tell him. Unfortunately, the small truths she interspersed with the lies were facts only known to her, and she'd threatened to tell him before, once, when she was angry with me.

I moved, I did the stuff exchange, I said good riddance to both of them and have tried to move on. I mean, with friends like these, who needs enemies? I am fortunate enough to have lots of good people in my life who have stood by me -- a good family, good friends who didn't believe the lies, etc. On the outside, I have moved on.

But it's midnight and I am sitting in my car writing this, listening to "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell on repeat. Things are not OK. I am not OK. The two people I have loved the most over these past five years are gone. And I don't even really know why. I spend lots of money I don't have, I don't sleep, the eating disorder I have worked so hard to beat is rearing its head, and I feel like every day I am putting on a show - -- even, sometimes, for myself. I tell myself that I am better off, that things are looking up, I go to a therapist who encourages me to stay present, I run, I listen to happy songs and try to get outside as much as I can. But the heart wants what it wants, and what it wants is to not feel like love is a sham.

I am scared to trust people. I am scared to let anyone really know how much I am hurting -- I am afraid that they will hurt me or leave me too. I am ashamed that I was fucked over this badly -- ashamed that I still, for all intents and purposes -- don't have a clue as to why this happened, as to what I could have done to deserve the calumny of betrayal, and worse the lack of trust (why didn't he just come to me? I could have told the truth!).

I don't think there's anything to be done that isn't already being done, but I'd love some perspective if you have it.

Thank you, Cary,

Both Sides Now

Dear Both Sides Now,

Love is not a sham. Some people are untrustworthy, but not all people. Some people are very trustworthy. So you are in a painful situation, but you have done some good things and all you need to do now is take care of yourself and do the things you are doing, and be patient and pay attention and not go off the rails while you heal. What your therapist says makes sense: Stay present.

Staying present is the big game. The "why" may or may not come. Many people's actions are beyond our understanding. It is our own actions that become clear over time: We come to see how we ended up in the sphere of untrustworthy souls. We see how they led us in, how they trapped us. We see what it was about them that fooled us into thinking they would be loyal.

And we learn how to take care of ourselves after something like this. We learn what lines of thought are helpful and which ones lead to further anxiety. It is tempting to wonder what we could have done differently and why people did what they did, but that is not a very helpful course in the early months. In the early months it's good to take care of yourself.

Can you take some time off? It's hard to get back to ourselves when we are so taken out of ourselves by work, family, bills, routine, responsibilities, worries, interruptions, etc. I believe in taking the occasional day to give yourself a break. If you pay attention to the benevolent forces of nature around you, such as trees, clouds and rain, mountains and forests, grasses and flowers, it will become apparent how much you are still part of a much larger world that does enfold you and embrace you. Human betrayals shrink in comparison.

What will come out of this is a better understanding of yourself. Eventually you will see how certain traits in these people led you into their orbit. You will see how certain things they offered awakened your own unknown hungers. You will see how there may have been warning signs. You will see patterns and learn to protect yourself. This will happen. And if you do this gradually, with some grace and some faith that you're going to be OK, then the scarring will be minimal; you won't go into that rigid, protective crouch that we sometimes find ourselves in after a difficult emotional scene; you won't come to flinch at the least hint of intimacy. If you take it gradually, and just heal, and stay present, you will heal wholly.

Take your time. Answers will come.

Creative Getaway

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