Work Friend Drama Leaving Me Miserable - I need help!
I have been plagued for months with this horrendous feeling regarding some ****ty situations with my coworker friend group and I would really love some advice. I’m going to try to summarize what has happened to my best ability, but this would be a novel if I were to try to fully explain everything so please bear with me.
A group of my coworkers and I recently became friends, right before COVID hit. We started to hang out a lot, having social distance hang outs etc. outside of work. They became incredibly frequent, and the whole group was talking and hanging out constantly. This group of people seemed to me like ideal friends. Looking back I realize I was 100% looking at them all through rose colored glasses. We all had a lot in common (work of course, but also the fact that we all struggle with anxiety and depression) and we all promised to try to be the best friends we possibly could to each other.
Since we felt so close so quick, I let my guard down fast, and very quickly made them aware of what I believe my flaws to be. I expressed how I have struggled finding true friends because I have had many experiences of being “dropped” by friends in the past for seemingly no reason. When sharing these stories, everyone said that these friends who had dropped me were not kind, good friends which made me feel that much better about this group. It was like I finally found my people, so I continued to share my fears, my anxieties, and my insecurities – looking back, this was too much, too soon, but nonetheless, it’s what I did, as they were encouraging it and doing similar things.
Eventually, we all started to get to know each other more in depth, and smaller friend groups seemed to form within the larger group. There are 6 of us – Bianca* and Marla* paired off, Matt* and Aubrey*, and then there was another woman and myself. Being about 20 years my senior, this other woman did not seem upset in the slightest to being excluded (kudos to her!) and simply was not as active a part of the group as everyone else; however, that being said, she was a later addition to the group to begin with, and again, is far older than everyone else. But alas, my insecurities and anxieties got the best of me. Hang out after hang out, everyone seemed to pair off immediately and I had no one to talk to or spend time with. It was astonishing how alone I could feel when surrounded by others. I would try to do my best to join in on conversations, but it seemed like I was bothering others and my attempts to engage with others were not successful. The more time people spent paired off, the more and more things seemed to separate and hang outs quickly turned into a group of pods instead of a whole group intermingling.
I gave it some time, but eventually I shared this concern with the group, simply letting it be known that I was feeling a bit excluded. I placed all of the blame on myself, but did ask that if anyone felt so inclined, that it would really help me if others were to also try to make an effort to include me instead of me just trying to join in. I understand that I can’t be included in all conversation topics, etc. and that people may occasionally break off and have separate talks, experiences, but that in general, it might be nice if we were having a group hang out, to give me a little more back when we talked instead of giving me a one word response, and then going back to conversations that were exclusive.
At first, everyone seemed receptive and on board, and said they would do their best to reach out to me more and make more of an effort to include me; however, I can’t say that anything changed. People immediately went off to their pairings, and despite my best intentions, I was left alone. Again, I had placed all blame on myself and they seemed to support that sentiment as well, so I was viewing this as an “I need to work more at including myself in these situations more.” This was very hard for me but I was trying to let it slide until eventually they realized I was still upset and they wanted to address it with me.
When sharing my feelings again, I was told the following – “You shouldn’t feel that way because no one intended to hurt you.” “You have never had real friends before, so you don’t know what a real friendship is like.” “You are so stubborn, that you are not seeing all the effort others are putting in to be your friend.” (When I asked for occasions where people were supposedly putting in effort and I apparently couldn’t see it, none could be remembered…) “We tell you we love you all the time, what more do you want?”
When expressing that I do have other friend groups and I have never experienced feeling this excluded before, even between others that have have far stronger relationships with each other than with me, I was told “You cannot compare friend groups.” When sharing that my therapist and husband believed that I was being excluded by the group and that this was not just an issue that was my fault to handle on my own I was told that my therapist “is a bad therapist who is just telling you what you want to hear,” and I “shouldn’t confide in my husband because he is bias towards me.”
Eventually, through weeks of work with my therapist, I came to see that these friends were not as kind and as inclusive as I had thought them to be. They were in fact not being awesome friends to me and were actually gaslighting and refraining from accepting blame of any kind; however, I work with these people. While I was coming to realize that maybe these people weren’t my best friends, I still did not want any animosity from any side, so I tried to talk to everyone individually. Essentially, it resulted in this: “I don’t like when you make me feel like a bad friend and I need space because I feel like you are doing things to intentionally hurt me.” – Marla* “I am not upset with you, I am just exhausted by this situation” – Bianca* and little to ow response from the others. So needless to say, I stopped talking to everyone entirely. I would still smile and say hi at work, but I was no longer in text chats, group outings, work day gatherings, etc.
It has been a couple weeks and no one from the group has since reached out to me and I have refrained from reaching out to them again in fear of making things worse. My therapist, family, other friends, other coworkers, etc. all think this group of people is toxic and unkind, and yet I can’t help thinking about the situation and wondering what I can do to fix the problem. They continue to hang out at work without me, and I know that some rumors have been spread about my character. I am not entirely sure anyone even fully knows why I was even upset anymore, or what has happened, as they were all involved in parts, but no one ever in all conversations. I really don’t think any one of them knows the gravity of what has been done and said to me, and in turn, I think they all truly believe this is a me issue, and me alone.
I’ve been working on trusting my gut instinct and knowing that no matter what has happened or what continues to happen, the only thing I can control is myself, and all I want to do is be kind. I know deep down that I have done everything I can in this ****ty situation, and that these friends are not bad people, but maybe just not the right friends for me, but I am still constantly thinking about it. It kills me to think that at some point they may try to accuse me of being a horrible friend and “abandoning the group” when in reality I have been deeply hurt and to this day, no one has validated nor apologized for their actions and harsh words. I feel like no matter what I could say, they would tell me “they had no idea I felt so hurt still.” I am working on not caring about what they think with my therapist, and to continue to be patient, but I do worry if this feeling will never end.
I don’t want anyone to feel hurt or upset, myself included. I am sick of feeling this horrible. As a true outsider, what is your advice on how I should continue? Should I continue to try to give them space of all kinds and only discuss the issue if they are to ever reach out to me? Or should I attempt to address it once more, perhaps in a different way, so that I can ensure that they know the full story and not just bits and pieces? I know they talk, but who knows what has been shared, and what has been told that is true or not.
Thank you in advance!