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Sunday, 11 January 2004

Conscience Twinge

I'm not speaking to one of my best friends. She doesn't read this blog (because she "doesn't want to encourage me"), but her friends do, so I'm not even gonna use her usual pseudonym. She's a heart-on-her-sleeve, high maintenance, manic type who takes a lot of energy to deal with usually, but who would go to the ends of the earth for you if you say just one word.
But she's on the 'up' part of the manic cycle right now, and I'm clutching at defences to cope with her when she over-medicates and rings me on Christmas Day to shout "where's my PRESENT", or on New Year's Eve to yell "donkey!" (Christ only knows why), or to point out that all-my-friends-are-out-with-my-ex that night, and doesn't-that-feel-weird-for-me?
Last time I saw her, she cooked me a beautiful Christmas dinner, but then invited someone she knows I loathe to share it with us, and they spent all day chatting about how wonderful all their relationships had always been. One minute she was cooking in the kitchen, the next she was nowhere to be found - she'd run out of the house to 'do something' without thinking to tell us.
The time before that, we had a sugar products and videos evening (like you do); I spent #15 on Belgian choccies to take round. I left in a hurry for some reason - she rang me to tell me that I'd left the chocolates and she didn't want to get fat, so she'd thrown them in the bin.
She's caught up in a relationship triangle, too, that's hard work, because one of the guys she's seeing - the geriatric millionaire - is a homophobe, and doesn't like to think of me or her other gay friends being in her house, because it makes him feel unclean. Her other partner, a builder in his twenties, is lovely, but a bit hopeless, but she keeps ridiculing him to everyone: in his presence, on the phone, mid sentence, then calling him possessive. I did use to point out my objections, but I think it hurt her badly, and now I find that hard to bite my tongue about.
The medication she's on makes her belligerent and prone to exaggeration; largely because she drinks heavily on it, while asserting that she lives an ascetic lifestyle, and is avoiding the usual outre lawlessness of our previous social lives while trying for a baby. So when she tells me that she spent most of the holiday alone in bed being depressed, I'm not sure if she means a day, or a week.
I feel dreadful guilty about it, but she's too much for me to take right now. Dreadful guilty, because I know that she's the only person in the world who doesn't get bored when you ring in tears at three in the morning night after night after night. And because the only reason I didn't lose my mind entirely last autumn was because she let Wickedex move out of here to stay with her rent free. She's a thick and thin type of friend who's always always there for you. But with the other stuff that's going on right now, I just can't deal.
I know that long term friendships with people necessarily go through highs and lows, and points where you don't talk at all, then forgive each other for. But still, the man-triangle thing and the medication thing mean she needs support right now. Also, we had intended to go to South Africa together this summer - dunno what'll happen to that now. I was talking to JatB about this, and she pointed out that it's ten years to the day since the last time this friend got too much to deal with and I stopped speaking to her for six months.
I dunno. As a teenager, one of my friends was sectioned, and I couldn't deal with it. She developed a fixation with hating me because of that, sent me all sorts of weird stuff in the mail - copies of greek tragedies with all the lines that referred to killing people underlined in purple (she seemed to think purple represented me for some weird reason), and all the other pages scrawled with words like 'hate'. All my friends at the time (who weren't as close to her) thought I was a shit of the highest order for cutting her off at her lowest point - just one, much older friend, said that how we deal with mental illness is our prerogative, that others couldn't judge us for saying no. I never regretted making that decision, (despite her knocking me unconscious in the street three years later) - but I'm not sure if this, here, now, is a similar case. Or if brooding on my own problems is simply making me become more and more insular, and encourages me to make less and less effort with my friends.
Anyway, I'm not speaking to her. On the grapevine I found that neither are several of her other friends who've had a bit of an overdose of her mania of late. I might be right, I might be wrong.
I hope I'm not too wrong.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 10:52 AM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 January 2004 6:17 PM GMT
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Sunday, 11 January 2004 - 11:10 AM GMT

Name: Legomen
Home Page:

Part of the process in dealing with issues is to try and articulate them, which you've done quite eloquently here. Sometimes this is enough to apply a perspective that helps you move forward.

Another possibility is to apply the "see through onion" technique. You decide just how much a 'risky' person is going to see of you or understand how you feel. Part of the process of coping with being 'out of control' for someone with these type of difficulties is to apply control others to compensate.
If you apply this technique they see what you want them to see and the 'real' you is protected or only viewed at a distance.

Rejection for someone struggling with 'mania' just exacerbates the problem really. It's pants all round really but then that's life and we can't ignore it.

Sorry if this sounds sanctimonious twaddle...

Sunday, 11 January 2004 - 11:16 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

It doesn't, it's given me some real things to think about. I think the onion thing happens to a degree with everyone - certainly was happening with this friend already. I think the problem is that I'm not in a hugely mentally wonderful place myself, so don't have the usual resources to support her. Thanks - seriously.

Sunday, 11 January 2004 - 3:46 PM GMT

Name: lemonpillows
Home Page:

It's a difficult one. From a personal perspective, I think your friend needs you, but you really need to look after yourself first. Like you said, you're not in the best place mentally at the moment yourself. I'm afraid that you need to work out just how much you can cope with, and then try and stick to that. For example, if it would make you feel better, maybe one phone call a week (either answered or made) to check on how she is. I know that when someone is manic, it's a lot to cope with, and there's no explaining your feelings, as it won't get through as intended.

Only you can figure out the right thing to do. You have obviously thought a lot about it, and are not abandoning her. Don't be too hard on yourself.


Sunday, 11 January 2004 - 3:55 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

If I ring her once, there'll be twenty five return phone calls, though, which is why I'm procrastinating about it. I think I will ring her. But you're right about how sometimes no matter what you say to someone, it doesn't get through. Thanks.

Sunday, 11 January 2004 - 7:07 PM GMT

Name: kfx
Home Page: http://KFX.TOASTMEDIA.COM

I've found that sometimes relationships, especially with people we love, run a certain course. Occasionally we move beyond people, or they us, and the wisest course is to cherish and remember the good times and recognise that those times are past. I've had good, good friends in the past that I've had to let go because where I am now is incommpatible where they are. This doesn't mean I don't love them with all my heart, just that I cannot be with them.

Of course, being an ex-junkie, now married with kids, this is going to be a common thread in my life, but I believe this happens in most people lives.

And there is also the theory that the best thing you can do for a freind is confront them with their own @#%$!....if the result of their actions is that no-one wants to be around them, them being their to support them is counterproductive. Sounds like your friend needs to be reminded to think more about her friends feelings.

Sunday, 11 January 2004 - 7:14 PM GMT

Name: fridgemagnet
Home Page:

Your older friend was quite right, it's always our own prerogative. As long as you don't do something actively harmful, it's your choice as to how to react to someone's behaviour and always should be. Furthermore, you can't help someone if they're driving you mad yourself. I've had friends/acquaintances/partners whom I've partially or totally abandoned because they were frankly @#%$! me off and exhausting me so much that I couldn't think about them any more without shuddering and wouldn't answer the phone in case it was them on the other end. I've also been on the other end of that.

Some people will *always* need support continually, because they constantly get themselves into trouble. Don't think that there's necessarily anything special about the current situation. You can lose all perspective getting involved in someone else's problems.

Sunday, 11 January 2004 - 8:31 PM GMT

Name: jatb

I agree with fridgemagnet.

Sunday, 11 January 2004 - 9:14 PM GMT

Name: cape
Home Page:

"when you finally decide to let it be their problem, you do feel stronger..."
You said that to me not so long ago. And with that I remembered, it really is ok to say no sometimes.
Best to you on this one.

Monday, 12 January 2004 - 2:06 AM GMT

Name: Rose
Home Page:

Vanessa, whenever I wonder if someone's supportive or not, if their "friendship" is truly a friendship, I revert to this bit of wisdom.

Supportive people:
* keep us from feeling alone
* offer approval
* are honest
* give strength
* want what is best for us
* help us keep our heads up
* supply us with kind listening
* keep us from falling or sinking
* speak in favor of us
* make time for us

And I ask myself these questions:
"Does said person keep me from feeling alone?
Does s/he offer approval?
Is s/he honest?
Does s/he give strength?
Does s/he want what is best for me?
Does s/he listen with kindness?
Does s/he speak in favor of me?
Does s/he make time for me?

If my answer is "No" to a few of these, I do not consider that person a friend... It's hard letting go of someone who's been there for us in the past, but people change. Life is like that; change is part of life.


Monday, 12 January 2004 - 2:36 AM GMT

Name: cape

Rose, I understand the content, however bearing in mind the many Many factors the go along with being supportive. If one shovels their driveway of snow, and that is the only thing they do because that is what they are best at doing via showing support, than that in and of itself is support.

Given Vanessa's current emotional test, for example, one can only give what one is able to. Your comment is very accurate Rose, don't misunderstand me.

I commend anyone who can offer all those listed things. I know on any given day I sure can't. Sometimes, doing one small gesture fills the whole list, depending on the perception of the receiver. I just think the responsiblilty needs to come from the individual in need, as well.

Maybe this just hit home. I have lived with a parent who is manic. It's damn hard. But nice thoughts though, Rose.

Monday, 12 January 2004 - 4:41 AM GMT

Name: Pimpress
Home Page:

dealing with friends like this is always hard. there is never a really clear right or wrong way to handle it. you have to deal with it the way that best works for you. while this will sound a bit stupid i hope it makes sense: you can only do, as much as you can do.

after that you risk damaging any future friendship. you have to consider your feelings and your emotions. while it may appear selfish to say "you have to watch out for number one". it's also a matter of self-preservation and you know better where you are emotionally and mentally now then anyone. it's not like if she called you in shambles you wouldn't be there for her. but the day to day stuff for you right now and dealing with her may just be to much for you to deal with.

Monday, 12 January 2004 - 6:30 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

That's a really good point.

Monday, 12 January 2004 - 6:32 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Yeah. Nail on the head, as usual. Ta.

Monday, 12 January 2004 - 6:33 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Generally, though, I can answer yes to all those things for her. That's the issue - she's about the strongest most loyal friend I have. But when she's being like this, suddenly some no's creep in - the 'help us keep our heads up' no. Which, again, suggests that the problem is as much mine - my self-absorption right now, as hers.

Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Rose.

Monday, 12 January 2004 - 6:39 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Fridge Magnet said: Some people will *always* need support continually, because they constantly get themselves into trouble. Don't think that there's necessarily anything special about the current situation.

That's exactly the issue. I had one answerphone message that went "(dolorous, resonant tones)Disaster .... (heaving gulps) ... but one always knew it would come to this (click)"
I can't cope with someone putting cliffhangers in their answerphone messages. Whatever their problem at that point, creating a narrative that sounds impressive is obviously their prime focus if they have the time and effort to do that. You're right, there's nothing special about the situation she described. So I don't want to live in someone else's self penned Greek tragedy.

So I think I need a little time off till I have more charitable nature to give of myself, then I'll try again. Reading all these comments has helped me to think it through - I'd be losing a great friend if I cut her off completely, and someone I love and admire. However, I can't do it right now.

I also feel hugely guilty for blogging this!

Monday, 12 January 2004 - 7:54 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Yeah. I hope that's not the case here, but you're quite right; it could well be the worst case scenario. And congratulations on that little word 'ex'.

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