This weekend we had some university friends and their other halves to stay.
Not only did they come to stay at our house, I invited them and did most of the organising without the Northern One finding out. It’s quite difficult to get everyone in one place at the same time because they’re spread up and down the country with very different careers, commitments and work patterns but I found a date when everyone was free.
As someone who finds the majority of social situations uncomfortable at best and petrifying at worst, I was proud.
Proud that I’d thought of the idea, been brave enough to suggest it to everyone and then keep my anxiety under control sufficiently to actually co-ordinate everything.
It was supposed to be a surprise for for the Northern One; he’s worked so hard over the last few months and he really deserved to have a lovely weekend. I did end up having to tell him about two weeks ago because I was starting to panic and I knew he’d rather see everyone and know that they were coming than me keep it a secret and then not be able to pull it off.
These friends, first the Northern One’s and then mine are all lovely, caring, understanding people that we have known for nearly ten years. We may not see each other for months or even years but each time we get together it’s like we only saw each other last week. We fall back into the same easy ways, everyone knowing how much teasing everyone else can take without anyone feeling uncomfortable.
Despite large periods where we don’t see each other and the rather inauspicious start we had they have been completely accepting of me and my mental health problems. Plenty of people have found it easier to ignore my depression or pretend that it didn’t exist;
Not these friends.
They know that I have problems; that I often struggle in social situations, especially when they’re in my home and I can’t escape for a while if I feel overwhelmed.
When I was about five months pregnant, complete with rather obvious bump we all got together for a birthday party. The Northern One sent everyone a brief message to let them know that I was struggling and that I’d rather not talk about babies, particularly my impending one.
Not one of them made me feel like my bump was the proverbial elephant in the room, although I did feel as though I rather resembled on and definitely felt like I’d been pregnant for as long.
Whenever we see each other they never fail to ask me how I’m doing and how I’m getting on. They tell me how far I’ve come and how proud of me they are.
Yesterday they all told me how wonderful Squidge was and how I was clearly doing a brilliant job being his mummy.
But when I first met them I hardly made the best first impression.
I had just dropped out of my first attempt at university and they were all at university with the Northern One. I had also just been diagnosed with depression, getting used to the antidepressants I was taking and was attempting to get my head around the completely unexpected direction that my life had just taken.
I was quiet, confused, bursting into tears at random moments and my confidence in making friends and just being the sociable person that I’d been a few months before had taken a beating from which I still haven’t recovered.
I’d only managed six weeks at university before leaving because I hated it and it hated me. The course was wrong for me, I wasn’t ready to leave home and the five other girls I was assigned to live with thought I was weird and boring because I didn’t want to spend every night out drinking and actually wanted to go to my lectures.
When the Northern One had been to visit me for a few days they told him they couldn’t understand why he was with someone like me.
Shortly after I left one of them texted me to tell me how boring I was and how pleased they all were to see the back of me.
So before I’d even met this group of friends I was totally intimidated by them and the very prestigious university that they were all attending. I thought they’d all look down on me for dropping out of university, having very little idea what I was going to do next and wonder what the intelligent, funny and permanently cheerful Northern One was doing with me.
I spent most of that first visit sitting quietly and napping at every available opportunity, even if there were other people in the room.
I wanted to like them but I couldn’t see how they could possibly like me.
I sat on the train home thinking that they must be saying things about me to the Northern One similar to the thinks my university flat mates had said to him. I waited for the phone call telling me that it was over; that I just wasn’t the same person anymore and he didn’t want to be with the quieter, sadder, more complicated version of me.
That never happened.
Instead they took the time to get to know me instead of writing me off and unsociable and uninteresting. They understood that first impressions can be deceiving and instead of questioning the Northern One as to what he saw in me they decided to wait an find out for themselves.
They’re the most supportive friends I’ve ever had.
When the Northern One and I got engaged we happened to be hosting them all the next day for Sunday lunch. We told them our news and they all screamed and then burst into applause because they were so happy for us.
We only had a small wedding but we invited them all; they were far more important to us than relatives that we barely saw.
Rarely have I found such unwavering, non-judgemental support and such complete understanding.
They could have decided that getting to know me was too much like hard work and just not worth it when there was so many other people to be friends with.
They could have tolerated me and been polite to me because I was the Northern One’s girlfriend but not taken it any further than that.
They could have told him that he didn’t need someone who lived so far away from him and with my problems in his life.
But they didn’t.