Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What should I do if my friends won't help me?

Hi, 

I was browsing Google for help and stumbled upon one of your answers at Psychcentral. If you still like giving advice and have the time I would truly appreciate it. You have an interesting take on relationships and what to expect from others. I only have one friend which is my ex-boyfriend. We were, and still are, incredibly close. He broke up with me because I have some depression-like issues and he was not happy having to care for me all the time. He says it brings him down, so while I cry he would just ignore me. I started acting like a child to get his attention. 

Since he is my only friend and person I can come to with my problem, my need for his care when I feel depressed of course did not vanish because he broke up with me. I now feel worse than ever. I am not looking for advice on what to do for myself (I have a plan on what I need to do), but I am so torn between if I should remain friends with him or not. If he is not there for me when I need him, and he ignores my crying while I am reaching out, should I just stop hanging out with him altogether? I literally have no one else.

WELLLLL, I THINK THE first issue is how you see the problem. You seem to think that your plan of what to do for yourself and your issue with him are separate, but they're not. They're linked to one another. You're turning to him to soothe your feelings of discomfort, and he does it through feeling bad for you. He's literally taking your bad feeling away by feeling bad himself. Now it gets complicated, because on the one hand, we expect our partners and friends to listen to us and support us, but on the other hand, we have to solve our problems wisely.

What's happening now is that your feelings are turning outwards and becoming his problem. They're not really healing, just being soothed for a few hours, and at his expense. Instead, you need to find better ways to heal in the long-term, and better ways to deal with your depression in the short-term. You've been dealing with it the same way for 4 years, which means it's going to take some time to develop new habits, new insights, new ways of perceiving and reacting. A good therapist, some careful introspection and analysis, an open mind, and discipline will help you develop new coping skills. Most of all, you have to be patient and honest with yourself--not getting upset at how "damaged" you might feel, but also not making excuses for yourself to indulge in your feelings and feel sorry for yourself. I think the more you're able to "hold" those feelings and moods on your own, the easier you'll make new friends and keep the ones you already have.

Send all your good, bad, and WTF questions to askedahn@gmail.com.