Here’s the thing; sometimes, especially in large friend groups, mental health struggles will come up. When they do come up, they are often incompatible. Through no fault of their own, two or more people will be at odds because their anxieties manifest in different ways. I will give you an example.
My friends Daisy, Cici, Francisco, and C all went to San Francisco for a busy day; the aquarium, the aquarium, lunch with Cici and Daisy’s cousins on the pier, and then the zoo, before grabbing a quick dinner and heading back on the ferry.
I was well past the threshold I usually reach on these adventures, which is the “the rest of the day is canceled, I need to go home and hold my dog” plateau.
The day was going great! We began quite early in the morning; our favorite way of doing these trips is to park at a Ferry landing, and ride the boat into the city. We landed at the Embarcadero at 10, and began exploring. We went to the Boudin cafe for a quick beverage before we hit up the aquarium. I’m sure I’m not the first person to document this thought, but otters are crazy stupid adorable. We saw some beautiful fish as well, and took some awesome pictures that made it look like we were being eaten by a shark. So, in short, an incredible day. The Wipeout bar and grill makes an amazing drink called the California Dreamin, and lunch was delicious! Catching up with Daisy and Cici’s family was so much fun, and we walked away from the cafe excited to close the day at the zoo, with a pleasant buzz. The zoo was great (the first exhibit we saw was full of some extremely slutty lemurs- see my instagram for more information, and visual confirmation of the slutty lemurs), but we all began to feel a little fatigue. I was well past the threshold I usually reach on these adventures, which is the “the rest of the day is canceled, I need to go home and hold my dog” plateau. I made the joke out loud, and we all laughed. After the zoo, we headed back to the Ferry building and enjoyed some delicious tacos. I also slowly sipped a margarita as we went over our favorite parts of the day, and then the wheels came off.
Next Ferry Departure: 8:50.
Sitting at dinner brought to my attention the blister in the center of the bottom of my foot. It brought to C’s attention the fact that an injury to her lower back and thigh was making sitting hard. I checked the schedule, and discovered that we had a 7:30 Ferry back to the car. It was only 6:00, and we were done with dinner. There wasn’t much to do anymore; things were closing, which makes no sense because if the Ferries are still coming and going, why was everything in the Ferry building closed?
We gave up and went to wait by the Ferry terminal, and saw the neon letters that were destined to make my fragile psyche explode like a house of cards.
Next Ferry Departure: 8:50.
I googled again, and found that the next Ferry was in fact leaving at 8:50. The website had shown me the weekday times initially, and we could have left on a 6:30 ferry if I had been shown the correct schedule. We now had an hour and a half left in the city, and not much energy or phone battery left to spare. To clarify for those who don’t know; this is absolutely the worst thing that can happen to someone who’s anxiety manifests itself in planning everything to the letter. I am the woman with a plan. Thus, the mini spiral began.
C suggested we find something to do, and I snapped. You see, her anxiety was manifesting in clinging to the hope of an activity, something to keep us all out of that cursed “wait mode.” I admit, I snapped. I told her “I just need to not have to plan something for five minutes!” But like, Snappier. We both apologized, but in tense tones. I then began scrambling for something to do, and it turned out that what I learned from my horseback riding instructor all those years ago, is also true of people, especially with anxiety. Forward motion solves 90% of the problem. While I was walking, practically blind, in the midst of my mini crisis, C pointed out the lights on the other side of the road, toward the shopping center across the square from the Ferry building. We continued talking a little about what led to the snap, and the peak of anxiety in both of us. We reached a peaceful settlement as she pointed out the pink lights of what looked like a very much still open for business Thai restaurant. We hurried inside, and mercifully got a corner table. The restaurant was beautiful, and we ordered some calming tea, enjoying each other’s company and feeling the immense relief that we’d recovered the day and ended on a high note.
I felt no resentment. I felt bitter shame.
So we finally got home, at 1 in the morning. We cuddled our puppies close and kissed them and then said goodnight, after a productive, fun, if slightly draining, day. But the most important part is this; in the past, C and I have, in large groups, acted as the opposing ends of a slow burning stick of dynamite. I was afraid that the dynamic was returning when we almost got into a spat over the Ferry time debacle, but we each recognized that we were experiencing incompatible stress. I truly don’t blame C for that old dynamic we used to have; in fact when I saw the tension rising, I felt no resentment. I felt bitter shame. The incalculable ways in which she has grown since we first met were the support I needed to pick myself up and keep walking in search of those bright lights, and I had no idea how much I had grown until I followed her lead and felt optimism instead of frustration. Incompatible stress is always going to be an issue, but it can be overcome if you can find a way to meet in the middle. After that day, all I have to say is Thank you so much, C. Thank you for being a good friend. Thanks for patience, but mostly, thank you for having the uncanny ability to find an open Thai restaurant. We plan to go back to that restaurant for a meal. I hope we’ll still have that same corner table, and drink that jasmine tea.
It was a very lucky place for us that night.
May all of you have friends as good as mine. May you love them and laugh with them, no matter what time your ferry takes off.