Everyone has that one thing that no matter how hard you try to convince yourself to not be afraid of it, you just can’t shake the fear it strikes in you. For many people, it’s spiders, snakes, heights, or another understandable fear. For others, it may not be the most rational thing and might come off as a strange thing to fear, but it still triggers that fight or flight response.

Unfortunately for me, that one thing that will always stop me in my tracks and cause me to run for the hills, is a person. I had the misfortune of running into them today, and if it weren’t for my partner being there, I probably would have just turned around, put down the stuff I was planning to buy, and left the store without a word. Thankfully, because my partner understands my history with them, he offered to check out for me so I didn't have to interact with them. Now, you’re probably thinking it’s an ex or something that would cause such a strong negative reaction, but it is a bit more complicated than that.

To make this easier to follow, lest call this person John. John used to be one of my closest friends, and now I can’t even stand to look at him. I met them through a mutual friend, that friend actually being my best friend at the time, let’s call her Jane. I met Jane through a club we were both in, and we became very good friends really fast. We felt like we just understood each other, and it was as if we had already known each other for years.

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Jane knew John previously through the same club, so I got to know him through her. The three of us were pretty much inseparable, hanging out every weekend and spending most of our free time together. While the three of us spent so much time together, I still prioritized Jane over John, because she was my best friend, and as far as I knew, she felt the same.

Things started to change when Jane opened up to me about her crush on John. I was supportive of this because I knew how happy it made her, and I felt like they could be a great match. Unfortunately, things went downhill once they actually formed a relationship with each other. After they had been dating for about a week, we discovered that he had been living a bit of a second life. We were told about a lot of horrible things he had done to other people, including something terrible he did while with Jane. I don’t want to go into detail about the things he did, but just know, you wouldn’t want to be with someone that hurt people as he did.

As someone looking out for the best interest of their closest friend, I was strong with my opinion that she shouldn’t be with him. He wasn’t who she thought he was, and I didn’t want to see her get hurt. Despite my friend’s (many who he hurt as well) and my efforts to convince her that he wasn’t a good person for her to be with, she ended up going back to him anyway. She dropped me and all of our friends despite knowing all the things he did to us, and to her, but Jane didn’t want to hear it. She was in love, and couldn’t accept that h wasn’t the man she built him up as in her head.

I lost the best friend I had ever had, and had to pick up the pieces he left behind along with everyone I knew who had been manipulated and mistreated by him.

So, whenever I run into John around town, I freeze. I get overwhelmed with anxiety and don’t know what to do with myself. It’s not because he took my best friend from me, Jane and I are on good terms and check in on each other every now and then, it’s because I know about all the terrible things he has done to the people I love, and I can’t wrap my head around how he just goes on living a normal like knowing the pain he’s caused.

So, while most people freeze at the sight of a spider or a snake in their path, I freeze when I see him. Hopefully one day I won’t have such a negative response to running into him, but as long as John and Jane are together, and I know she is still with the man that hurt so many people, I can’t face him and pretend as if nothing happened.

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