- 5 years ago
- Wedding: May 2017
So I have a friend who has been having an incredibly tough time in life and I’m trying to be there for her but I’m finding it really hard to know what to say or how to help her, especially as she can be rather difficult and stubborn. It’s really hard to change her mind once it’s made up.
A bit of hers and my backstory:
We were next door neighbours and incredibly close friends from around the ages of 12 to 17-18. She has always been very strong willed and fiery (but then again I can be too, although I’ve always been the submissive one as I don’t like conflict with people I care about). When she left highschool (she was a year older than me, same school though), she went to University in another city and I didn’t see her much, but we still talked and were still good friends and she seemed much the same person as always. After a year at that Uni, she came back to our home city to go to a different Uni as she said she had hated the other one (though she had been super excited to go initially). So she and I by chance ended up in a lot of the same classes as we were taking a similar BA degree course. She again was soooo excited to be at this Uni, but once again, by the time the year was up she hated it and couldn’t wait to leave. I had also decided I wanted to go to a different Uni because I had decided to focus on a completely different career path (in Design and Photography). And again, we happened to both decide to transfer there independently of each other! She was once again incredibly excited to start a new course (for the 3<sup>rd</sup> time in as many years) and always commented how much she hated our previous course, the professors were terrible, people terrible, and the system was broken etc. etc…Even though I didn’t have the same feelings I just assumed she had a different experience than me and shrugged it off and sympathised. So anyway we were both in this new course and so excited to be starting, so we were seeing a lot more of each other around this much smaller campus than we had at the previous much larger one. It was now that I started noticing more and more about her that I just wasn’t understanding. She acted so angry and bitter all the time, and would snap at me for the most benign things (like me complimenting her designs!), and I heard from fellow students that she would talk really horribly about me behind my back. I honestly felt that she just absolutely hated me. So eventually I took her aside to talk, and it came out that she had felt like I hadn’t been there for her and that she was going through a really difficult time and I had been ignoring her. I of course felt very bad as she was crying when she said these things. Even though I too was going thru a lot (I was in a very stressful relationship at the time), I acknowledged my part in it and apologised and said I would be better. And so we were fine again, just like old times, at least for the following few weeks. But I slowly started noticing her saying nasty things behind my back again and just generally acting very resentful (others noticed it too and said she was a bit intense and difficult). I’m not gonna lie, she said and did some pretty nasty things, although I’m not here to vilify her now. Eventually I just threw up my hands and allowed us to drift apart because I was having a difficult time myself and didn’t have time or energy for such drama.
Fast forward a couple of years (she ended up despising that course and uni too, and believed the people there to be very toxic, which in the past I’ve wanted to roll my eyes at, knowing the way she acted). We had given our relationship some breathing room and slowly over the years we have had the odd catch-up because while I never thought we would ever be close again as I didn’t trust her at all, I still had a nostalgic need to catch up once in a while for old times sake. And while she still had her trademark negativity and bitterness, I often did enjoy our chats and felt that maybe she had grown up a bit and so very gradually over the years we’ve had more frequent catch ups. And yet still, every time she talks bitterly about something (friends, relationships, money, jobs, health problems) I’ve had a tendency to think to myself “well you’re a bit of a hypocrite and you’ve sort of brought all this on yourself by the way you have treated people and just your general terrible outlook of the world”. And I guess I sort of gave up on her since any time I tried to offer advice or help it would be shot down. So my philosophy towards her became kind of well you’ve made your bed, now lie in it. Which sounds terrible, but I guess I had grown rather jaded over the years.
Fast forward again to around a couple months ago. We had one of our infrequent catch ups where she came over to my house. The catch up was good with a smattering of her complaining about something or just the world in general. And I sat silently as I often do, just wanting to tell her to stop being so negative. Then all of a sudden she starts crying. Like real, heart wrenching tears. To be honest that kind of broke me and I suddenly realised how insensitive I had been. She cried telling me how she feels so alone and she’s tried to kill herself twice already (her arms are also covered in vicious scars), and that no one is there for her, even when they say they will be, they’re just not. She feels her life has no purpose and she can’t go on. So I of course was in tears by this point too and I held her for ages saying how I promise I’ll be there for her and I really meant it. So I’ve been making much more of an effort lately, like calling her to check up, talking to her about her problems and not judging her about them and just generally hanging out and keeping her company.
About her particular situation:
She is on so many medications I can’t honestly keep up, and she has been bounced around from doctor to doctor and tried counselling and psychologists and she’s just super disillusioned with all of that, though she keeps trying (though now they’re sending her away thinking she’s just after drugs). Because of her severe anxiety and wild moods she’s struggling to find a job that doesn’t drive her insane (also in our town it really is a very limited job market). She’s living with her partner who supports her, but they don’t have enough money to support themselves on one income and she can’t get benefit support. So that’s all stressful too. On top of that, she has a pretty dysfunctional family (her older brother tried to commit suicide multiple times too) and I think her mother is the biggest stress for her. She feels completely scape goated, and her mom pretty much tells her to suck it up and “get-over” her depression, and that she is just selfish and dramatic. So my friend has eventually just stopped talking to her (I mean fair enough, who says that to a daughter who has depression and tried to kill herself multiple time???). She also seems to make really bad friends. Like ones that just turn on her on a dime. Her outlook of the world is also incredibly nihilistic and she believes pretty much everyone is inherently bad and selfish and that selfless people are an extreme minority. Basically she sees the worst in people and in the world. But I now understand that this view has a lot to do with her childhood, her very stubborn personality, combined with very bad depression (or bi-polar? She and I are both thinking it actually might be Bridal Party considering how wildly her moods swing and she has like no control over them).
So I guess I just need advice on how to deal with this? I’m trying to be supportive and just hear her out, but I don’t know what to say to help her see things differently at least so she can see there’s some good in life worth fighting for. I mean, I’ve had pretty bad anxiety and depression myself, but for me it didn’t manifest in stubborn anger against the world so I just don’t know how to deal with it. She says everyone just tells her to stop being so negative and it drives her crazy, so I’m trying to find more subtle and caring ways to maybe try help her see things from a different perspective. And sometimes it does work, if it’s something she hasn’t already put her foot down on. And just I feel like she sometimes makes things worse for herself, but I don’t know how to tell her that gently without sounding judgemental..
I know this post might have made her sound terrible and some people might just say to cut the negativity out of my life, but this is just one aspect of her. I’ve known her half my life and I know that aside from these awful challenges she faces, she has been a good friend, she’s fun, creative, and can be very caring when she’s more lucid. She has been putting in a lot of effort to be a good friend to me too, like offering to help with the wedding and stuff like that. Which I know is hard for her when she just doesn’t want to live somedays. I’m trying to encourage her in starting her own business (which she does seem excited for) just to give her some purpose and direction. I guess I just don’t know how to handle things when she says she thinks that the world would be better off it were just nuked entirely….I don’t know how to help her see things more positively without sounding like I’m judging her being overly bubbly and happy and “oh the world is a beautiful place” cause I know that to a person with depression that manifests in anger and bitterness that this probably wouldn’t be the best thing to say..
Anyway, so sorry for the insanely long post! I guess I just needed to vent a bit and hopefully get some advice if any of you have been in a similar situation with a friend or maybe you were the one with depression and how a friend helped you?(or what you needed from a friend).
A long time friend has been having a tough few years coupled with depression, panic attacks and anger and bitterness. How do I help her have hope when she’s so stubborn?
Thank you heaps for any advice!!