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What A Difference A Year Can Make

How I Learned To Love Myself Again

By Justin HigginsPublished about a year ago 10 min read

On March 6th, 2022, I have coffee and conversation with my best friend of 6 years at a local Starbucks. We were there from approximately 6:45 to 8:45 AM. We hugged each other and went our separate ways. Little did I know this would be the beginning of a nightmare. I went back to college about 1 ½ hours away, thinking everything was okay in our friendship. I was excited to return about five weeks later so that I could spend time with my best friend during Easter.

For the next two weeks, I was frazzled because she was not responding to my text messages. Even so, I tried to stay calm, but my world collapsed on March 20th. My best friend’s best friend told me it was all my fault. She told me I had deeply stressed her out, causing her anxiety to overwhelm her from dealing with me. Lastly, she told me I should just leave her alone. I was completely crushed, and recovery felt virtually impossible. I lay in a fog for about a month as Easter weekend was the worst of my life.

I was in deep anguish and did not want to leave the house. On my first night, I had a toothache which caused me to go to the emergency room. On the second day, I had lunch with an acquaintance that left me frustrated and even more discouraged. Additionally, all weekend the weather was absolutely beautiful – clear and sunny. This made me miss my best friend more than ever because I knew just five weeks earlier we had planned to spend some of that weekend together. My heart was truly distressed as I was afraid of running into her all weekend and being rejected. That was something I knew I could not handle.

Paradoxically, however, Easter weekend was when I first felt a slither of hope. On Saturday, I decided to go to church because I literally had nothing else to do. I was very angry at myself for losing my friend and thus determined that I would not go to church. My life was ruined as I lost the sweetest, most real, and most endearing friendship I ever had. I prayed I would not lose the friendship because I could see how special it was, yet my prayer was not heard. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with anything involving Easter, so I was surprised when I woke up and decided I was going.

What happened next, I cannot explain. The speaker said, “What do you have to [release control of]?” When he spoke those words, I instantly knew I had to give up control of my relationship status. It was the first time in a month I had hope. Despite being uplifted during church services, I could not wait to leave to return to school. Being home still hurt my heart, but the beginning of my healing process had started.


I remember a couple of months before March 6th, my best friend told me she thought I should seek out therapy. I was also encouraged to do so by my best friends, Myles and Josh, at school. Since I am in graduate school to become a licensed professional counselor, our own therapy is also encouraged by our professors, so we can gain a better understanding of ourselves. With so many voices leaning in the same direction, I decided to go for it. I always took it seriously, but because I was not particularly sure what to talk about, I leaned toward talking about the love and affection I had for my best friend.

Our Friendship

I met the girl who I consider to be my best friend 7 years ago when we cleaned together at a Catholic school. She was my supervisor, and we were responsible for the overall cleanliness of the classrooms and administration offices. We bonded quickly, and I enjoyed my time working with her. After about a year, she quit, but we kept in contact. Even after moments of no contact, we would somehow manage to reconnect to resume our friendship. She is someone I garnered much respect for while developing a great love for who she is. I knew I could tell her anything that was on my heart. I knew I could trust her, and she saw me for who I really was. For me, that was rare. Nobody ever truly saw me for who I was, so I felt secure and safe in her presence. I, too felt deeply connected to her. She always knew what to say to me and how to gently encourage me toward the pursuit of greatness and beyond.

Back to Therapy

When the event of March 20th took place I was inconsolable and unsure of where to turn. But fortunately, something powerful occurred during Easter weekend that at least gave me hope. When I arrived back on campus one of the things I was excited about was going to therapy. I only had two sessions left and wanted to make the most of them. The previous three or four sessions had been spent trying to figure out how to feel about what had occurred. I was angry, shocked, caught off guard, humiliated, fearful, and sad.

When I came in for this session, my therapist wanted me to take an attachment quiz, which I readily agreed to. Anything that could shine a light on what happened I was eager to do. When I finished, I was not surprised when my results were an “anxious” type of attachment. That was expected as I knew I struggled with anxiety. However, as my therapist and I were reading through the report, what was read rocked me to my core.

“You are caring and kind to your partner's needs. However, because you may become preoccupied with catering to your partner's wants, they may end up feeling as though theyneed space from the relationship.”

“You are hypervigilant towards any threat to your relationships. Due to your fear of rejection and need for intimacy, you may overanalyze all of your partner's actions, but yet misinterpret fundamental problems in the relationship.”

The two phrases that hit the hardest were “space from the relationship” and “misinterpret fundamental problems in the relationship.” I saw these two problems as one and the same. My best friend had kindly told me that she thought it would be a good idea for me to get therapy. She was appreciative of everything I did for her, but she assured me she would be fine, and that I should take care of myself. I heard what she said, but I did not understand the depth of the statement until I read that report. My anxiety had become such a problem that I could not relax unless I knew she was okay, and I did not even realize it. I was constantly on edge and worried about her. Being my best friend, I was ashamed and sorry I had put her through such turmoil. Reflecting on what we had just read, my therapist said something I’ll never forget, “You were doing the best with you had.” As I reflected on that truth, I knew I had plenty of work to do as the spring semester ended.


For the first time, I was going to be staying on campus during the summer, and it could not have come at a better time. Being home would have done nothing but make me depressed, so having to take two summer classes, one of which would be in person, was epic timing. As the calendar turned into May, I solemnly took stock of where I was.

I hated myself. I had no self-love. I was riddled with anxiety and anxious thoughts. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of using the affirmation of others (especially girls) to show I was worthy of being loved. I was fearful and constantly overthought all my interactions with others. I, too, had a deep sense that I was truly not worthy of being loved for who I was. And I never reconciled the relational and familial hurts I received in the past. In short, I was a mess.

This was the first time my primary focus was not on getting my best friend back. I understood I had to heal from the past, and I had to face my anxiety head-on if I was going to overcome it. To start, I continuously sought out the truth, I am worthy of love just the way I am. I had to believe I was not flawed. I had to begin believing that I was worthy of love, not because of what I have done, but just because I am me. I had to learn to take more time outside and enjoy nature. Just as important, I had to learn to be okay with being alone.

I thought I was good at being alone because of my natural introverted tendencies. Being alone is easy for me; it’s how I recharge my batteries. As I learned this lesson, I began to understand what being alone actually means. As the summer progressed, I noticed I had to deal with my negative thoughts as they came up. I had no distractions available to keep them away. My best friends were not on campus, and I had no family to tell me what to think. Campus was largely empty, so there was no aimlessly hanging around people to people watch. I had to deal with my thoughts.

When discouraging thoughts came up, I had to reconcile them. I could no longer run away because I was scared or push them down because they made me uncomfortable. Surprisingly, that was the best thing that could have happened to me. Being forced to sit through my uncomfortable feelings forced me to understand myself more fully. It forced me to see why I made the choices I did. For example, I noticed how naturally I would self-deprecate whenever I made a mistake.

These revelations made me understand how anxiety affects every area of my life. It had a much deeper hold on me than I ever realized. I was not only anxious when I would talk to girls I was attracted to. I was anxious about numerous areas of my life. I realized I could wake up and be anxious. Or I would be irritated and depressed. I suddenly could be scared and fearful after being in deep thought. I began noticing how deeply insecure I was and that my best friend was correct. I absolutely needed to seek help for how anxiety affected me. As the summer went along, I began slowly but surely to understand that my best friend leaving me to myself was not because she was ruthless, or wanted to break my heart. But because she loved me and cared about me.

Second Chance

On August 31st, while working my on-campus job at the dining commons I sat down for a moment to take a break because I had been working nonstop for a couple of hours. When I looked at my phone, I had nine unread text messages. I was genuinely surprised when I looked and saw I had a text from my best friend. I did a double-take to ensure I was not making it up. We instantly chatted for a few minutes and scheduled a phone call for later that night.

When we spoke at our pre-determined time, I almost cried when I heard her voice. That was the first time, I heard from her since March 6th, which had been precisely five months and twenty-three days ago. Much healing and excitement came from our much-needed conversation. I apologized to her for what my anxiety did, and she apologized to me for leaving me in the dark. But I understood why she reacted the way she did. I had no hard feelings, and I was just glad to be speaking to my best friend again. Our conversation lasted approximately two hours, and I loved every minute of it. It was like old times again; we were bouncing ideas off each other and enjoying each other’s company.

We began texting each other again, and despite the six-month absence, it felt like everything was back to normal in our friendship. As this happened, I became nervous because I wanted no repeat of what led to our separation to come roaring back. Therefore, I wondered, how will I know if my anxiety has truly improved? I have an answer to that question later.

Our friendship clearly means a lot to both of us. We both care about each other more than we care about being right. The way we communicated with each other over the next month was a beautiful description of how we both had grown in the absence of each other. I had become more aware of how anxiety affected me. I, too, began to understand just how much I did not love myself, thus making me aware of speaking life into my life more often. My best friend also had her own experiences of self-growth over the summer, and it actually made our friendship closer and more meaningful.

Keep Going

When my best friend returned to my life, I asked myself, “How do I know my anxiety has improved?” The answer has been several months in the making. I enjoyed my best friend being back in my life, but on October 2nd, after telling me we would make plans to see each other, she again disappeared on me. While I do not know what happened this time, I am confident of two truths. (1) It’s not my fault (2) I don’t think her stepping away has anything to do with me.

My best friend is not only wonderful, but she is the best person I know. She is deeply thoughtful, intuitive, kind, very intelligent, and in tune with her emotions. She is always looking out for others, and she can become overwhelmed, especially when areas in her life become hectic. Pretty much the fact that I still love my best friend lets me know that my anxiety has improved greatly. I still become anxious, and thoughts sometimes overwhelm me, but I now know how to combat those fears when they come up. I know my anxiety has improved because I have learned the uncomfortable art of sitting in my discomfort. For the record, I do believe my best friend, and I will eventually reconnect.

FriendshipHumanityEmbarrassmentBad habits

About the Creator

Justin Higgins

Hey everyone!!! I’m looking forward to being inspired. I have always enjoyed the creative aspect of writing but only recently over the past two years have a seriously started engaging in it. I write short stories & poetry.

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Comments (1)

  • Rowan Finley about a year ago

    Thank you for sharing this. You seem like a wonderful person and I appreciate your honestly here. I really appreciate this line..."uncomfortable art of sitting in my discomfort." I have always struggled to vent when talking with friends but I'll listen to them vent all day. Uncomfortable emotions are exhausting, but they catch up to us at some point if we ignore them.

Justin HigginsWritten by Justin Higgins

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