friendship

'My friend told me I was 'too much drama'. It destroyed my self-confidence.'

It isn’t said to me directly, but the words travel through the grapevine so they reach me eventually.

“… it’s just that you’re too much drama.”

Who knows if it’s a misquote, or a paraphrase—it doesn’t matter. The sentiment is the same, and it worms its way under my skin and stays there. For a very long time.

Watch: Mamamia confessions — I wish I'd never said. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

Everyone knows the “drama” friend. 

They are the one who is surrounded by chaos, and nothing is ever easy or straightforward. 

The insidious implication is that they manufacture the drama, manipulate situations to play the victim, to position themselves as the centre of attention again and again. They are exhausting; they are relentless. They are too much.

That was the label that had just been slapped onto me.

I use the word ‘slapped’ with intent here, because that was what it felt like at the time. A slap to the face. A sucker punch to the gut. That sickening feeling that settles low in your stomach, heavy like cement.

I’d like to add a little context. 

I was young at the time, we all were, me and this group of friends who had labelled me “too much drama.”

My life was, admittedly, quite tumultuous at the time. I was coming out the other side of a breakup, and discovering the “wonder” that was alcohol and night-clubbing. 

I was dealing with a changing body shape while still suffering from an eating disorder. 

I had no grasp on alcohol moderation (something I’d never learn until I eventually became sober) and was diagnosed with a generalised anxiety disorder and depression. 

All in all – I was a bubbling pot of emotions. I was chaotic; I know this. I felt out of control in so many aspects of my life and it couldn’t help but emerge in my behaviour.

I was using a crazy party lifestyle as a coping method, and that wasn’t my friend’s scene at the time. So, there was distance already forming between us. But I still loved them. I thought they still loved me. Maybe they did. But they took more and more steps away from me until I raised the issue with them and with those parting words – “too much drama” – they were more or less gone from my life.

I have no issue with setting down boundaries with friends or people who you find draining. 

There is nothing wrong with putting yourself first and stepping back from a relationship that you feel has become toxic. 

I’ve made this move myself in the past, making a conscious decision to remove myself from the lives of people who I know that, emotionally and mentally, I no longer have the capacity to deal with. 

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It hurts, on both ends, yes, but sometimes it’s necessary.

But there are kinder words to use, gentler methods. There was a ruthlessness to the words “too much drama” that, perhaps, emerged from our young age of not knowing any better, or perhaps from frustration at me. And those words lodged themselves somewhere deep in my heart, my mind and my soul and haunted me for years.

I was, I internalised, too much. I was too much.

Maybe if I hadn’t been going through so much mentally at the time, the words might have slid off my back, but what I did instead was attach those words to my struggles. My struggles, I surmised, were too much for people to deal with. My eating disorder and mental health were “drama.”

For years afterwards, I would panic when I let people know if I was doing poorly for fear that it would be “too much” for them. 

I transformed my trauma into comedy routines, so I could still talk about the things that haunted me and get them off my chest, but in a way that made people laugh, so it was easily consumable. So it wasn’t “drama.” 

To this day, if I have already confided one bad thing to my friends and then two days later, something else bad happens – I will hesitate in reaching out. 

I’m always worried people will get sick of me. I’m always worried I’m not worth the effort.

Women are often told they are “too much.” 

We are too loud, too quiet, too loose, too frigid. Our clothes are too short, too long, too tight, too billowy, too masculine, too feminine. 

We can never win when it comes to society’s competing expectations. 

We try to tread an oh-so fine line of being palatable, easy-to-consume. Perhaps this is why I grasped the concept of “too much drama” so intensely and let it wreck my way of thinking for so long. 

I had been trained by the world, after all, to take those “too much” statements to heart, to listen to them and obey them.

I know now, with hindsight and age, that there was probably nothing meant by that throwaway comment. I even know now that it’s for the best that the friendship fractured for us to go our own ways, as we’ve all led very different lives.

But I also know now the power of words and labels. I know how harmful both can be when they are unceremoniously placed on people.

We all know the drama friend, yes, but we might not know them completely. There might be battles they are fighting that are masked by the chaos they create. 

We don’t have to jeopardise our own mental health in sticking around if we cannot do so, but remember – there are kind ways to exit a friendship. 

There are gentle ways we can tell people to calm down, to reevaluate their behaviour. You just never know the impact that a few words and a label can have.

Take it from me, the former “drama” friend.

For more from Shaeden Berry, you can find her on Instagram @berrywellthanks

Feature Image: Supplied.

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