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Luminescence Offline
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I can't help her anymore - what do I do? - October 5th 2017, 05:20 AM

This thread has been labeled as triggering by the original poster or by a Moderator. Please take this into consideration before continuing to read.

It's been awhile, and I'm feeling stuck.

I've been struggling for awhile in regards to an online friend - we're closer than anything. I'll call her K. K is a couple years younger than me and is disabled, and I suspect she's also got depression or some other related mental health disorder. She's never explicitly confirmed it to me, but her symptoms mirror that of depression, including bouts of self-harm and suicidal ideation (which she has never admitted to me until after it's passed).

We've been friends for over a year now. I stuck with her while she went through a rough year in school and I ended up spiraling downwards during my corresponding school year - I don't know if those correlate. She dealt with abuse from bullies, told me about something very personal to her when she's gotten very nasty reactions towards it, and realized her sexual orientation because of me. She's dealt with bad parents who hold her to standards too high for her, who would probably send her to a conversion therapy, and who are strictly against her being friends with me just because I'm a boy. I supported her through it all and have done all I can. At points, I've practically become her therapist. I've sent her hotlines and resources, offered to help her find a therapist, I've gone out of my way to help her with things. I've told her I'm always going to be there for her, but at this point, I'm starting to wonder if I need to back out of the friendship.

Lately I've been telling a mutual friend, H, about how drained I feel around K. It used to be just a now-and-again rant, but lately it's been getting to a point where I have to talk to H almost daily about it. I feel terrible myself whenever I talk to K - she constantly disparages herself, talks about how she wishes she was straight and how she wishes she wasn't disabled, which is really hard on me as an LGBT autistic person. She can act happy, but I highly suspect it's just her putting on a mask since she immediately drops if I bring up anything even remotely touchy (including attempts at setting boundaries). It's to a point where I can't even say what I really think around her because I know it's going to upset her, and I feel damn guilty about that.

I talked to her today and told her I can't help her if she won't accept the help. She told me she doesn't want help and gave me a spiel about how every time she's tried to get help, it's only gotten worse, and that was when I broke and went to H. I cried behind the screen. I didn't tell H that at the time, but I suspect he already guessed I was messed up given how I've been feeling around K lately.

Now I just feel guilty as hell whenever I'm around K, or whenever she messages in a group chat. I feel depressed and I suspect this is part of it. I want to help her, but I can't do it anymore.

I don't think K's trying to be manipulative and she definitely doesn't intend to be a drain on me. I can tell she's just a teen with depression. I've been in her spot and I understand, but at this point, I really feel stuck - what do I do, stay in this and risk another spiral, or back out of the friendship, or what?

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Celyn Offline
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Re: I can't help her anymore - what do I do? - October 5th 2017, 11:51 AM

It's lovely to see how much you care for your friend, K, but as you have realised, this can be draining especially if you feel like you are a 'stand in therapist'.

It's clear from what you have written that K has been dealing with a lot, and doesn't seem to get support from her parents, meaning that for her, she is likely to seek support from friends (you) instead. It's always good to have supportive friendships, but when it comes to mental health difficulties, friends are not therapists, and shouldn't be expected to act like a therapist either. It's unhealthy for K to be relying on you so much rather than seeking professional support (or at least building up a support system like other friends and hotlines) and it's unhealthy for you as you feel burnt out and the friendship is getting you down.

What have you attempted with regards to setting boundaries? It sounds like if you want this friendship to continue, boundaries are very much needed. I understand that she may get upset or defensive when you bring up boundaries, and that this make you feel guilty, but remember that setting and maintaining boundaries is best for the both of you, even if she doesn't see it that way right now. Remind her that she has hotlines to call if you are unavailable and that you'll still help her find a suitable therapist. Getting help can sometimes be difficult, especially if she feels that trying to get help doesn't work out, but there are many therapists and treatment options (like medication) out there and sometimes it's just trial and error of finding what works for her. But ultimately, it's her decision whether to get help, and as you have said, you can't do much if she refuses.

It's entirely your decision whether to stay in the friendship or not. If you do stay in the friendship, be sure to put up boundaries and perhaps limit the amount of time you spend talking or helping her so that it doesn't interfere with your life so much. But equally, if you need a break from K, then don't feel guilty about backing out of the friendship. You need to look after yourself and put yourself first before helping others. Not only that, but friendship is a two way street and it's generally unhealthy if it feels one-sided.

This friendship seems to have taken it's toll on you, so it's important that you look after yourself, whatever you decide to do. It's great that you have H to confide in, and I hope that you have other support as well, at the very least, we are all here for you!

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Last edited by Celyn; October 5th 2017 at 04:43 PM.
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Re: I can't help her anymore - what do I do? - October 6th 2017, 01:26 PM

Setting up boundaries is a good idea but it must be tough if she gets upset when you try to set them up. Perhaps you can try again, and mention that these are for the good of the both if you even if she cannot see that right now. It is hard when someone gets upset but perhaps she needs to hear things she doesn't want to hear even if they are painful.

You mentioned that she said she does not want help because it gets worse when she does seek help. Often times, when people do seek help things get worse before they get better and that period of feeling worse can be very challenging but it will improve over time. If she does not want help that is okay and she may feel ready to accept help in her own time. You can point her to all the different resources but if she doesn't want to utilize those that is completely up to her. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

As it has been said, whether you stay in the friendship is up to you but you said the two of you are close so it may be worth trying to salvage your friendship. However, you ultimately have to do what is best for yourself and if you feel like this friendship may trigger you to struggle with your mental health, perhaps you can take a step back for a while.

Feel free to keep us updated.

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