“The real test of friendship is can you literally do nothing with the other person? Can you enjoy those moments of life that are utterly simple?” ~Eugene Kennedy
I could not. When I was with them, we had to be doing something. That is why I didn’t see it. I kept myself too busy to see or feel what was happening.
It was the panic attack during a long-distance drive home that should have been the sign that something was very wrong.
I didn’t see or expect that my choice of friendships was ruining my mental health and, in turn, my business.
It was so much fun, you see. To be with them both.
We’d stay up late into the early hours drinking, eating yummy food, or watching our favorite TV series. In the thick of a global pandemic, when you could only meet with limited people and had nowhere to go, this felt like the perfect escape. We also did healthy things like yoga and meditations together.
How lucky I was.
Or was I?
I’ve since come to learn about trauma bonds through inner child work, and I’ve recognized there was something seriously wrong with my seemingly perfect and fun life.
The Drama Triangle
From a young age I took on the role of rescuer within my family. My mother suffered from severe depression following my birth, and she needed her children’s love and care.
Fast forward to 2020, during a global lockdown, I was playing the role of rescuer with my friends, completely unaware of the inauthenticity I was creating within myself and how I was neglecting my own needs.
What does the rescuer look like?
Warning Sign Number 1: People-Pleasing
I was constantly people-pleasing and offering solutions to anyone around me, even though they never asked for help.
I never considered how my friendships would be if I were not ‘useful’ or ‘fun.’
I could see the red flags—for example, not speaking up when I felt something wasn’t right and instead working even harder to justify or understand one of my friend’s behaviors, and trying to help and save her even more by doing household chores.
When we’re people-pleasing to gain someone else’s approval, we chose behaviors that are not true to ourselves. And we act in ways that negatively impair ourselves because in rescuing others, we’re neglecting ourselves.
Warning Sign Number 2: Numbing Through Binge-Drinking and/or Eating
I was constantly binge-drinking with my friends, and it was damaging to my health. As a result, I experienced:
- Sleep deprivation from the late nights
- A dysregulated nervous system due to hangovers
- Weight gain due to eating junk food
And like a catch-22, the bad feelings I had after these episodes made me want to do it all over again to feel better, leaving me in a vicious cycle.
I wanted to be with these women, like an obsession or craving, but I was using substances to numb the fact I didn’t feel safe with them. Eventually, this set off my internal radar telling me this wasn’t right.
If you are in a cycle of unhealthy behavior with certain people and you’re developing self-destructive habits, it could very well be a way to cope/numb deeper feelings that you don’t want to face.
Warning Sign Number 3: They Are Unavailable
I began seeing our meet-ups as booty calls, enjoying the thrill and drama of rushing to meet them.
I would drop everything to be in one friend’s last-minute plan, or I would try to make future plans if I saw her and I didn’t want it to end.
These friendships felt like a drug—I felt addicted to seeing them, despite knowing it wasn’t good for me or my health. I would eagerly wait for one of my friends to tell me when she was available.
The thing is, she wasn’t available. She didn’t want to make plans in advance or prioritize us on weekends when she had other plans. So I made myself more available. I’d drop things if she was free and wanted to meet.
Being someone’s last resort and being okay with that are clear signs that a relationship isn’t healthy.
I’ve come to realize that I’ve carried a mother/daughter wound my whole life—because my mother wasn’t available due to her mental health challenges—and I was desperate to be seen, wanted, and accepted by people who weren’t available as a result. It was all I knew. It’s how I became programmed.
I was seeking out women who replicated the relationship I had with my mother as a child. I was befriending those who seemed confident, unattached, and unavailable.
However, the issue wasn’t what they were doing. The real work was asking myself why I was making the choice to be around people who made me feel unsafe. So unsafe that I was numbing myself with food and alcohol when I was around them.
Due to my mother’s depression when I was growing up, I didn’t know what it felt like to be in a safe relationship. Since drama and dysfunction were all I knew, that’s all I was seeking out.
Through trauma coaching I learned how to listen to my physical body and then connect to my inner child. To find and heal that little Rav who was looking for love by people-pleasing.
Here’s how I connect to my younger self:
1. I take a moment to pause and feel. I close my eyes and breathe calmly. I scan my body for any aches/tension or obvious pains. After locating the pain, I ask myself when I felt like this as a child, and I explore that.
2. I FEEL the feeling in all its depth. This might mean crying, shouting into a pillow, or even punching a pillow for the hurt I felt as a child during a specific incident, or for the pain I’m feeling now.
3. I journal it all out of my mind and ‘re-parent’ my inner Rav: “It’s okay—I got you. That wasn’t very nice. You’re safe now. You don’t need to speak to mum right now. You can play with your toys or cuddle your teddy. Let’s help you feel better.” It can be in the form of an imagined conversation or even acting it out in the now after writing it out.
The power of this process and being able to recognize those wounds is immense. You really start to understand and sense your own sense of self and your worth. And your current patterns and issues become so much clearer to see.
The questions I went on to ask myself:
- Were my friends asking me to rescue them?
- Did they know I was withholding my honest feelings, too scared to tell them how I really felt?
- Was it my choice to stay with them when I felt unsafe or to drink and stay up late?
After I took an honest look at what was really going on, those friendships came to an end, and I still find myself grieving them but far less than when it first happened. It’s not easy. It hurts. However, I now have the tools to feel safe and to come back to my true self.
Throughout the day I take my right palm to my heart, close my eyes, and remind myself “you are safe.” I repeat this as many times as necessary as I slow my breathing and connect to the present moment.
It is so worth the struggle and the commitment to healing in order to break free. It’s actually created space for me to welcome more aligned friends into my life.
It’s a process to adjust to a less dramatic, chaotic life than I had with them, but I am much more content within myself. I don’t need to hustle or the drama. It’s okay to be safe.
About Ravneet Panesar
Ravneet is a health and well-being coach supporting women’s health through healing and mindset transformation. She is passionate about inclusive weight management methods enabling women to rewrite their food story and overcome emotional eating. Check out her “Why Do I Hate My Body” live talk, including a guided mindful eating exercise, and the answer to where self-loathing stems from and what to do to change your relationship with yourself. Download 15 free Vegan Recipes here.