friendship

"My closest friends formed a secret online group chat to bully me behind my back."

It was a regular Saturday morning as I sat on the couch flicking through Facebook on my phone, unknowingly about to click into a message request that would completely ruin my entire weekend.

To: Jacki
From: Anonymous
RE: You don’t know me, but…

…I work with a girl who is always chatting to her friends instead of getting shit done, so one day I shadily went through a group chat she’d left open on her computer.

I wasn’t really surprised to see her and her pathetic little ‘dream team’ talking trash about everyone I know – including myself – but another name was coming up almost more times than any…Yours. To start off, they think your marriage is a joke and your haircut is ridiculous…

***

The message went on – in horrifying detail – about basically every mean, malicious, bitchy comment these girls had ever made about me; every picture they’d ripped from my Instagram and laughed at; every employment issue my husband had ever experienced; every hair colour I’d tried, or outfit I’d worn, or status I’d posted, or life choice I’d made – they discussed, dissected and made fun of it all.

My personal favourite was their theory that the reason I’d adopted a pet rabbit in the last year was because I was desperate for a baby but unable to have one. Girls if you’re reading, I’m sorry to say that’s not true – I really just think rabbits are adorable. But good guess, I suppose.

But the worst was yet to come – as I neared the end of the message, I realised my would-be bullies weren’t simply a group of sad strangers who’d found me on Facebook and decided for whatever reason to secretly bash my whole life to bits. They weren’t strangers at all.

The Well talks friendship: The good, the bad and the toxic. Post continues after audio.

They’d been good friends of mine since high school.

To clarify things, in no way have I ever been under any ridiculous sort of impression that all of my teenage best friends would be my best friends for life, or that we’d all continue to speak to each other every day after graduation, get married at the same time, have babies at the same time, buy houses in the same street and live out the next sixty or seventy years of our lives together in harmony before peacefully and painlessly all passing away on the same day while holding hands and humming the school song we’d somehow all managed to remember.

I’m not an idiot; I know life doesn’t work that way. In reality, we all start uni or full-time work, we move out of home, we settle into a routine, we put our heads down and focus on adulthood and by the time we finally look up we’ve got crow’s feet and a mortgage and haven’t seen most of our old friends in more than a year.

However, I do think that some relationships are special, and that there are some friends we like to put in the life-long category – and unfortunately, I’d pretty much put these four girls on that list years ago. All four had been at my wedding; I’d travelled internationally with two of them; I was attending one of their birthday parties that same week.

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"At first I tried to laugh the whole thing off." Image via iStock.

Yet here they were, picking me apart like I was nothing more than the annoying new character on whatever mindless teen drama came on the air when Gossip Girl ended. Is Pretty Little Liars still a thing? Whatever.

At first I tried to laugh the whole thing off. A bitchy remark about an outfit here, a snarky comment about a hairstyle there – so what? I’m the first to admit that I am less than amazing in the looks department, and that I’m completely out of my depth when it comes to attempting the perfect selfie. But to say someone’s marriage has no hope of lasting? To speculate on why they haven’t yet decided to have children?

There’s expressing an opinion, and then there’s acting like an inappropriate asshole. Sure my marriage has ups and downs just like everyone else’s, but there hasn’t been a day in the last five years that I haven’t loved my husband, or that I haven’t thought we’d be together forever. I wonder how many of these particular girls could say that? I’d garner zero, considering they’re all currently single.

What annoys and frankly baffles me the most, however, is why – as they clearly have so much distain for every minute detail of my existence – why are these mean girls maintaining the façade that everything’s fine? If you don’t want me at your party, ask me to leave! If you don’t want me as a friend, cease the relationship! God knows I’m not always the easiest person to be friends with; I get it.

"Why are these mean girls maintaining the façade that everything’s fine? Image via iStock.
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I don’t often disclose my battle with mental illness amongst friends, but on the rare occasion I do, it’s with a complete understanding that they might distance themselves from me as a result. That’s 100% okay. Mental issues can often make people act selfish and sluggish and unpleasant to be around, and ten years suffering on-and-off episodes of hard-core depression, social anxiety and various eating disorders have turned me into kind of an unpredictable neurotic loner.

Admitting to mental illness itself can cost friendships, and I learned some time ago to not let that bother me. So why pretend? Why stay and smile to my face, then leave to say something horrible behind my back? I’m not asking you to be nice to me; I’m just asking you not to be mean.

***

It’d be great to be able to say that I’d had the balls to confront my bullies with confidence and maturity and grace; that they’d admitted their wrongdoings and realised the consequences too late; that later, I’d celebrated my courage at a boozy barbecue with the people I could now see had been my true friends all along.

But of course life rarely works that way. There was no big confrontation; no acknowledgement, no apology. But the barbecue – well, that actually did happen.

And while I was still too emotionally devastated to celebrate any kind of courage whatsoever, my beautiful, amazing, incredible real friends were there, and they were the ones who kept me laughing through any tears.

And if nothing else, that’s what this whole experience has taught me - appreciating the great friends I have makes it much easier to let go of the not-so-great ones I used to have. It’s a new year. Perhaps it’s the best time for some people to reconsider their relationships; and perhaps for others, their behaviour.

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