Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How do you help someone who doesn't want to be helped?

I know, I know: you CAN'T. It just goes against every fiber of my must-fix-ALLLLLTHETHIIIIINGS!-being to throw my hands up in defeat: trying to fix things is one of the ways I show love (which is kinda screwy, but there it is).

I was talking to a friend last night on the phone: what was meant to be a quick call with a simple question turned into 2.5 hours of her talking about how unhappy she is, how much she hates her life, how disappointed she is in... everything. She started asking me questions about my antidepressants - how long did it take for them to start working, DID they start working, what difference did they make, etc. (I don't think she realizes that, not only am I still on them, but Dr. GP issued a prescription refill for another nine months, which will put me at a year and a half on them (which is... weird for me to wrap my head around)).

I answered her questions the best I could, interjecting with snippets of the conversations I've had with Dr. GP. At that point, she burst in to say that she doesn't even feel like "bothering" with her doctor because he's SO hands-off: he doesn't ask questions, he doesn't explain things - hell, he doesn't even use a stethoscope when she complains of chest pains, just writes another bloody prescription. I got a little tough with her at that point and told her that it's up to her to be her own advocate (thanks again to @beautifulwreck2 for that extremely helpful kick in the pants <3), because no one else can (or will) do it for her. More excuses.

She talked about how she feels like her whole life has been a waste and how she feels like such a failure. When I chimed in to commiserate, she told me that my perfection issues and low self-esteem aren't "as bad" as hers, while saying in the next breath that "it's not a competition." Oooookaaaaay... O_O

To be completely honest, I don't think she wants help or a solution: this is the same refrain I've been hearing for years - her life "sucks" and she "hates" it, yet she's not willing to do anything to fix or change things. When I make suggestions, they're shot down with comments of "that's not going to change anything." To be even more honest, I have a (guilt-inducing) feeling that she... well, not likes having something to complain about, but really identifies herself by her problems and is likely afraid of what life would look like if she did make positive changes. At the same time, I feel slightly judged (and sometimes ridiculed) by her reactions to the things I've tried or done to improve myself and my outlook on life; while I know that I'm the only one who can control how I react to someone, it still makes it hard to continue wanting/trying to help when I'm feeling embarrassed by my dippy-hippie exploits.

It's hard and frustrating and emotionally draining. It makes me question myself and my issues and the work I've done. However, no, I can't just wash my hands of this "friend" - it's not that easy. But then, stuff like this never really is that easy, is it? Pin It


  1. Ooooh, her.

    Yeah, that makes things quite a bit more complicated, doesn't it?

  2. For some people I know, I've set a 'complaint limit'.
    You can complain to me about the same thing 3 times.  But after that, if you don't want to fix it and just want to whine about it being broken?  I don't want to hear it.  

  3. You're such a dippy hippy with all your self-fixin's. 
    I am no help with the situation, but I liked the post a whole bunch because:
    a) I used to be that woman. Then I decided not to be. That was helpful.
    b) I like you and you wrote the post. That is also helpful.
    c) I think more people needed to read it to think about whether maybe they're doing this in their own lives, or supporting people who are doing it to them. 
    d) I like you.

  4. Oh, I must say I cut most perpetually problematic/negative people out of my life. I didnt used to do that, but these days it is about survival and my OWN mental health!

    If they're just trying to use me as a venting/sounding board and won't take any advice I offer, or get snippy when I empathize, en they're using me like they'd use a garbage can and I don't have the mental energy for that. Dumping on a friend to make oneself feel better, without taking the responsibility to fix the situation causing the problem to begin with? Yeah, I'm not their receptacle for all the emotional crap they want to poison the world with.

    Too much drama for my life, thanks.

  5. From here, it sounds like the reaction she wants is for you to be pushed away. I almost think those negative sorts of things may feel like achievements to her, and they prove that her negative outlook on life is correct and justified. I think that taking the direct route, i.e. just saying what you think she should do, will not work. I think it will only give her one more thing to argue that it will not work, or to try and then say it didn't work--because it sounds like she needs that right now. I'm not trying to say that she isn't truly hurting. It sounds like she is in terrible pain. I wonder if perhaps simply NOT being pushed away when she pushes would be a help to her? It sounds like your friendship needs a different format, if that makes sense. Less hours of phone conversation, instead maybe getting together in person, in public, so you still spend time together, just in a place where there is some healthy distraction from the vortex of misery.

  6. YES, yes, and yes to everyone. I agree with them all.

    You can't change her or how she feels. It's definitely hard when you know that only SHE can actually fix it. But if she REALLY didn't care, she wouldn't be talking about it. Sometimes tough love is needed, and good kick in the pants to get her to a dr who can help her. Becasue she can't do it alone. You can't make her, but you can't totally let it go either. Good Luck!!

  7. You know, it's bad enough your 'friend' can't or doesn't want to handle her own issues - but then she has this poisoning effect on YOU - making you feel less worthy for what you've done to help yourself.

    Lay it out for her.  If she truly is a friend - you'll be doing her a service.  If she truly is a friend, she will see herself for what she is and do what she can to be, perhaps, a little less deadly to other people's feelings of self-worth.

  8. That is so hard fo want to help someone who's unwilling to help themselves.. the topic at church this week was healing from emotional pain. The main concept of the sermon was that to heal from emotional wounds, your pain must be greater then your fears. I immediately thought of that when I read your post.

    Perhaps all she's looking for is a sympethetic ear? Someone who will just listen. Sometimes its easier to implement changes when the idea is your own, so maybe by sharing your own experiences with her when she asks will help her draw her own conclusions of what she should do.

    Either way, you're a good friend.

  9. I call these people "emotional vampires". They charm you with their friendship status ways and then they suck the life right out of you.  I have a "friend" of the same nature as the one you write about and I completely get where you're at.  I, though, just kind of let her walk her own path out of my life. Vague responses to her self-loathing and "woe is me" mentality seemed to leave her without the result she was hoping. Good luck! And stay true and positive to you!

  10. Maybe it's time to scale back the number of conversations with her? I know. It stinks to have someone whom you WANT to be a friend to, who kind of sucks the life force from you at the same time.

  11. I'm with Rockle. And I SO get it. When we've figured some things out, we want everyone else to just learn from us damn it! I used to be oh-so-militant until I realized something...well, two things:

    1. "Being the change" (or modeling or being a good ever you want to say it) is more powerful than giving advice, even when they ask for it.

    2. Who are we to take the struggle away from them? You know how good it feels to have worked it out, to have had the ah-ha moment? Even though the part before that sucked? Well, there you go. :-) It's hard to watch our friends and family struggle but struggle can be a gift! 

  12. oh, man. I KNOW. i am surrounded by people who have mental health issues that they don't want to treat for whatever reason - "i don't like to take medicine," "i don't want to kill myself or anything so it's not that bad," "i know everything will get better if i just had more sleep/time/sex/money/food/etc.," etc. lord help me, i have heard it all. as i'm sure you have, too. (and i will even cop to making some of the same arguments about myowndamnself at various times.)

    and boy howdy, is it hard to offer suggestions, remain positive and supportive, when all people want to hear is "there, there." some people DON'T want help, and you may be right - she may just want to have something to complain about. obviously she DOES think that depression is a competitive sport, too. good luck! many hugs from me.


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