Have you ever been so burned by a childhood friend that it has left you scarred and wounded for your present friendships?
Did a high school friend betray your trust and now you find it difficult to let your guard down with current friends?
Did your best friend in sixth grade leave you in the dust to trade you up for a more popular crew and now you feel like you will never be good enough to be someone's bestie?
Because we are friends, it's important that I am upfront with you.
This is why I need to tell you that over the course of the next month you are going to hear me mention Lisa Jo Baker's upcoming book, "NEVER UNFRIENDED". As soon as I heard tell of this book, I hunted for how I could join the book launch team because I'm not ashamed to admit that I can be a fangirl from time to time. Plus, you guys! This book is about FRIENDSHIP! You can imagine how I excited I was when I received a FREE copy of this awesomeness.
Lisa had me hooked by the first chapter because she mentioned something that I think we ALL can relate to ... Friendship PTSD.
"A rupture in a relationship can feel like a bomb going off and can shake through every layer of your life, causing a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) in all future relationships." (Lisa Jo Baker, Never Unfriended)
A friend of mine shared with me that when his wife was in middle school she was invited to a sleepover with a couple girls. When she arrived at the sleepover, all of the girls had decided that they did not really want her there and they chose to ignore her the entire time.... from night into the morning. They literally pretended that she did not exist and carried on as if she was not present. She sat on the couch and cried through the night until her father came to pick her up after breakfast. As he told me the story, her husband wiped tears from his eyes,
"You know. She has never gotten over that moment. She brings it up a lot. She is always afraid that her presence is not really wanted by her friends."
THIS IS CHILDHOOD FRIENDSHIP PTSD.
I had an experience when I was in high school when I was hanging out with a few guy and girl friends. We were about to eat lasagna together and a friend offered to pray for the food. During his prayer, he joking asked the Lord to "Deliver Noelle from the sin of gluttony." Everyone laughed because I usually ate a normal sized portion of food. Many of my girlfriends were on diets or struggled with eating disorders. It appeared that I ate a lot more than they did and I earned a reputation for being a "glutton". I was so ashamed and humiliated by his prayer that after I ate a few bites of the lasagna, I ran into the bathroom, shoved my fingers down my throat, and threw up. To do this day, I still wonder if my current friends' think I am a fat glutton when I eat in their presence.
THIS IS CHILDHOOD FRIENDSHIP PTSD.
What has happened to us in our childhood friendships can affect our current friendships. It can make us fearful of getting close to friends. It can cause us to become distrusting and anxious about their approval.
How can we start the process of healing from CHILDHOOD FRIENDSHIP PTSD?
In Never Unfriended, Lisa Jo Baker shares how she began to deal with FRIENDSHIP PTSD, by writing two letters to herself:
" First little Lisa Jo wrote a letter to big Lisa Jo telling her about all that hurt. All the places the bomb had wounded her. All the ways she felt lonely and scared and misunderstood. I wrote it in my left hand. My baby hand. The hand that doesn't know how to hold a pencil properly. And so when I read it I could hear my younger self clearly through the purple marker and scrapbook paper.
And then I replied. I wrote myself back. My grown-up self wrote back using her right hand and her mature voice to reach in and answer the painful questions I'd been living in patterns for decades, without ever before pausing to see if they were healthy."
Why is writing letters to ourselves helpful in getting over CHILDHOOD PTSD?
- Writing to our "grown-up self" helps lift the lid of emotions that we may have stuffed deep down inside ourselves for many years. Allowing our younger self to express her fears, her questions, and how she felt is an important foundation to the healing journey. A letter is a great tool for bringing this memory to the surface.
- Replying to our "younger self" will bring a mature perspective to the painful memory. When I wrote to my younger self, I was able to communicate the truth of what was going on around that dinner of lasagna with friends. It was healing to hear my "grown-up self" shed light on how those high school friends, including myself, were very broken. We all were hurting and in turn, we hurt each other. It was not right but it was the reality.
- Using this exercise of writing two letters (one from our younger self and one from our older self) will help set the table for forgiveness and healing to take place. After I had written these letters, I laid them on the floor and sat down beside them. I began to pray and asked Jesus to help me forgive and to move forward in healing. Afterward, I called a friend and told her about the letters, the story of the high school lasagna dinner, and how I often wonder if she thinks that I am a fat glutton (full disclosure: I am overweight) when I eat in front of her. My friend affirmed her love for me. It was the beginning of healing from Childhood Friendship PTSD.
2 SIMPLE WAYS TO START HEALING FROM CHILDHOOD PTSD:
1) Download the FREE "Letters To and From Myself: Healing from Friendship Hurt" kit.
You can receive this tool by filling in the form below:
One last thing, you may find during/after writing the letters that the pain feels too deep to reach towards. I would recommend that professional counseling is a gift for those of us who have deep, deep friendship pain. Please do not hesitate to reach out and talk through this pain with a counselor who is skilled in guiding you safely through it.
Dear friend, we when choose to face and heal from our childhood friendship PTSD, we free ourselves to become the friend that we were meant to be! We will be able to fully embrace and enjoy our current friendships and that is a gift. A true gift.
Noelle is a researcher, speaker, and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.
Noelle is passionate about helping women empower women through the art of friendship.
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