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Question
Posted by: Nicky | 2009-03-22

Needy friend

Hi, I am bipolar and have been going through a difficult time the last year. I am stable, but my work is very demanding and when I get home, I just want to be alone. My work is emotionally very demanding. I work with difficult people who scrutinize everything I do and they are never satisfied. They come up with the most ridicoulous demands. I cope at work, but I think I use all my energy at work, and when I go home I don' t want to socialize. I do have a friend that I see once in 2 weeks and another whith who I speak on the phone almost daily. She helps me to blow of steam, she is an old colleague and understands what I am going through.

My problem is, I have this friend that is very needy. She is an older woman. She has PTSD, she has not had a wonderful life, but she is married now and is doing well. But, she has decided that she has this " bond"  with me. I' ve know her for 14 years. When I got to know her I was a very different person. I was not bipolar and I had energy for other people. She is putting so much pressure on me to visit that she is causing anxiety. I moved recently and she does not know where I stay, otherwise she would be at my doorstep every day. If I do not visit every 2 weeks she complains (to put it mildly). She makes such an issue out of it. The whole visit is spent on: WHy have we not seen you? I explain every time that my work is demanding and that I don' t have the energy for people. I have not seen her for 2 months now. I don' t answer her calls, just send an SMS to say I' m fine and I' m busy. I want to end the friendship. Am I wrong? How do I do it. I can' t face seeing them again. She is very manipulative when I visit or speak to her and makes me feel bad because I haven' t visited. It seems they are deaf when I say I can' t handle seeing people at the moment. She starts crying when I' m there and then takes out the photo albums to remind me of the old days. Those days are gone! I am a different person. Just because I was there for her 14 years ago, does not mean I can be there for her today. Can she not understand it. All my other friends understand that I' m struggling to cope and they are happy with an sms every now and again. She makes such a scene when I go there that I don' t have the energy to go there.
Am I a terrible person? How do I let her understand that I can' t do this right now and it won' t change soon. I have to stick with this job until at least the end of the year.
My psychologist says she does not think I should see her right now, but I can' t get her to understand that I need time on my own.
I sounds ridicoulous to complain about something like this, but believe me, this person makes me very anxious.
I would appreciate your advice.

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Our expert says:
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I think many of us in helping professions experience this sort of situation, where your daily supply of the milk of human kindness gets used up at the office. Maybe CBT counselling could help you cope een better with the stresses of your work ? Explain that your work has become much more demanding and when you get home now, you don't even have the energy left to growl at the cat. That you really worry that she needs to develop other contacts, maybe see a personal counsellor, as though you are unable to meet her needs, you do want them to be met by someone better able to do so. Explian that having moved, you really can't manage to visit her now.
Anyhow, this clinging and deeply needy friend. Can't you explain to her calmly and quietly, that since you have developed Bipolar Disorder, you find it very difficult to be as supportive to her as you'd like to be. ? Don't allow her to make you feel guilty --- there is nothing wrong, especially after having put up with her for so long, with you wanting to move on and leave her to her own devices --- that's a very healthy ambition. And tell her that your own psychoplogist srongly advises you not to meet more with her, or anyone else connected with your past.
She can only manipulate you if you allow her to do so. And it may actually help her if she can't dig back into "the old days" but will have more motivation to look for a future. Don't go there again ( it gives her far too many opportunities for manipulation ) --- send her an e-mail or a letter. You are not aterrible person --- SHE IS.

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