When I think of past friendships that caused me anxiety, I think of this quote from a song by NEEDTOBREATHE: “It’s wrong when it feels like work, to belong all I feel is hurt.”
Growing up I always had a few close friends, but because I was involved in so many activities, I often found myself on the outside of various friend groups looking in. I didn’t really feel like I “fit in” anywhere, and I often found myself excluded from various activities.
Fast-forward to college… College is supposed to be the best four years of your life (right?). You are supposed to make life-long friends and be in each other’s weddings. When I started college, I thought that I would meet the love of my life, make a great group of friends, and finally find my “group.”
Long story short, I didn’t find my group right away. I found that many of the friends I made were great, but I never really felt like I could be myself with them.
Why did I have so much anxiety spending time with people who were supposed to be my friends?
I had convinced myself that I was only being invited because of my roommate and that no one actually wanted me around. Looking back, I know part of that feeling was driven by my anxiety and making me believe the lies that the devil put into my head. But at the same time, I shouldn’t have to feel anxious around my friends, and neither should you. True, authentic friends are people who you can be yourself with.
Finding authentic and virtuous friendships is one of the greatest things you can do to point your life toward Christ. Many of my friend groups that had induced anxiety were friendships that were not based in the faith.
After a relationship ended my senior year and I had very few friends to really depend on, I realized how much I needed friends who were there for me in good times and in bad…friends that I could be 100% myself with. In order to find those friendships, I needed to become a better friend myself.
Heartbroken and feeling alone, I ran toward Christ. The run was slow and exhausting, and I found myself stumbling, but I finally realized that I could not fully pursue Christ without the help of others who were also pursuing Christ. I went through the process of discipleship through FOCUS and started attending every single Catholic event offered on my university campus. A new anxiety medicine and a heck of a lot of prayer helped to ease my anxiety, and after a little while, I began to feel completely at home with my new Catholic friends. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a solid group of people who liked me for me. I had found my “Saint Squad,” and together, we were running toward Jesus.
After I graduated from college, I moved to a small town with a parish that is seriously lacking in young adults. I now know just how important some of those college friendships were. Due to distance and the craziness of life, I lost touch with a few, but I know that if I needed them, they would be there for me just as I would be there for them. Now more than ever, I know the importance of having a “Saint Squad” to run with us toward Jesus.
Remember we are human. If we fall and are running alone, then it will be a whole lot harder to get back up. But if we have loyal and trustworthy friends who are also running toward Jesus, then they can help pull us back up, hold us accountable, and help us to finish the race.