When Your Life Is Not Yours

The art of manipulation is careful and silent most of the time, even more so when the possibility of it isn’t even a possibility in your mind. At thirteen years old, I was quiet, timid, and passive. I was kind. I was compassionate. The last two—great qualities. I still try to embrace them today as an 18-year-old, but it takes one wrong person to exploit such characteristics.

I remember when I was younger, vividly wanting to help people. I loved to listen to their problems. I loved to provide perspective and advice. I loved to ease their troubles, even if only temporarily. I remember reaching out to strangers on social media if they were upset, in case they needed my comfort. One day, I reached out to a girl.

I had followed her blog for some time because of my love of The Hunger Games. This blossoming friendship went well for a while. She only lived an hour away from me, I found out, and after talking for so long on social media, we decided to meet each other in person. We met up multiple times, then eventually, with the permission of my parents, proceeded to hang out regularly. Regularly turned into every week.

Due to attachment, anxiety, and her worsening depression, things eventually did not run as smoothly as the first couple years of our friendship. I found myself talking to her more out of necessity than desire. She needed me. She depended on me. Heavily. This attachment weighed me down, catching the attention of my parents, my family, and even my friends.

Soon, I had myself stuck in the headspace that I could not leave her—because if I did, anything bad that happened to her would be my fault. There were threats she made to her own life, her own health—to her own well-being. Without meaning to, she had made herself my first priority. I let her come even before myself. This is where I drew the line. If somebody else becomes your first priority, how can you take care of yourself? If you cannot care for yourself, how do you expect yourself to properly care for somebody else?

I will reiterate that I was young. At this point, I was 15 or 16. And I was taking care of somebody else to the best of my abilities when I was still learning how to do so for myself. You shouldn’t let anybody stunt your growth if you can help it.

It got to the point that I never saw my friends outside of school. I was on the phone with this girl all of the time; talking to me eased her anxiety and became a routine that she needed to function. I was on call with her while I got ready in the morning. I was on call with her as soon as I left school. I was on call with her while I did my homework, until right before bed. I would even be on call with her when my family visited, remaining upstairs or somewhere private so that she wouldn’t be bothered by the noise any of them made.

When I wasn’t on call with her, we would be exchanging texts. I would text her in the car, while my mom dropped me off to school. I texted her on the way to my locker and in between classes. I would text her throughout my lunch period, choosing not to talk to the friends who sat with me, even when I wanted to. I would text her during every college tour I attended as a junior. I would text her on the weekends, when I went out with my family. If I didn’t answer right away, a problem would arise. I remember wishing class periods would never end so that I didn’t have to text her back. She had memorized the start and end times of my classes.

Another point was reached where we had turned our locations on for each other. When she brought up this idea, she claimed it would comfort her. She would ask for my exact schedule every day. I would have to report to her how long I would be gone if I wasn’t texting or calling her. It had to be reported down to the minute.

It would be an understatement to tell you that this schedule was exhausting. I was constantly drained of energy. I never slept well. I cried often. Other times, when I knew I was alone, I would scream until I couldn’t anymore. I found myself hurting myself, too. I only found comfort and happiness in the small spurts of time I would get with my family or friends in school. I was grateful when the teachers enforced the no-cell-phone policy. My ties were cut with her because of it—for the meantime, anyway.
Because of those tastes of freedom, and my overwhelming need for more, I cut her off.

It was hard. It was like trying to chop off an infected limb with a dull axe. The whole actual process took about a week, but I had been thinking about it for the last six months. It wouldn’t have happened without the help of the closest friends I had in school, one of them now being my boyfriend. No one in my family knew what I was truly going through, and I didn’t believe that going to them for help would’ve helped. To this day, I don’t know if they would’ve understood, or would understand now.

So I was grateful for my friends. I didn’t know how to take my own life back, and I thought that I’d be doing something absolutely unforgivable if I chose myself over her. But I pictured myself without her, and the future that I saw was happy. I saw that I could afford to carry all my dreams, and then some. I could be with the people I adored and cared for without cutting my time short with them or cutting off time with them altogether to take care of somebody else. I could be myself, and I could take care of myself. Putting myself first for once had never felt so good.

About half a year after leaving the entire situation behind me, I won’t lie—and I’m sure that you’ve figured out by now—I didn’t leave untouched, unaffected, or unscathed. I had believed that I would be completely fine once I was in the process of leaving her, and I was foolish to think that. Sometimes, I find myself being doubtful of the people who really love me and are closest to me. I’m still healing, and I have to be patient. It’s important that you’re patient and kind with yourself. That’s the only thing that will help you get to where you want to truly be.

Life, though called a gift by many, can feel like a prison. Though your life is technically your life, there may be circumstances in which it doesn’t feel that way—or can’t feel that way. That’s where you do your best in trying to stand your ground. As far as we know, we get one life. Live yours as it’s meant to be lived—happily, on your terms, and freely. Please. Take care of yourself.

By Gwen Peralta

1 comment

  1. i felt the vulnerability while reading this. this is a really important story to tell.