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To want to withdraw from this friendship a little

(17 Posts)
Shakirasma Sat 11-Jun-11 10:53:55

will try and keep things simple.

Met best friend 2 years ago. She moved from her hometown 50 miles away for her job. We got on great from the start.

She suffers with mental health issues that can cause suicidal depression, so it has never been a carefree, relaxed friendship. More of a hard work, dependant friendship.

Then a couple of monthsago she was diagnosed with cancer. It's vey aggressive and keeps spreading but she is fighting hard and the battle is not lost.

She has not bothered to keep in touch with family and friends from her hometown and now seems totally dependent on me and my husband for all her emotional support. She lives alone in a remote little village outside our town and can no longer drive. So we have fallen into a routine of picking her up each afternoon and taking her back at night, because otherwise she would be on her own all day and she cannot cope mentally with that.

More recently she keeps phoning throughout the day too, for silly reasons. And the last couple of days when I haven't answered straight away because I was busy at that particular moment in time, she has rung and rung and rung both mobile and landline until I answered, just to say hello!

She is a lovely person, kind, funny and generous, but so needy! When I have tried to talk to her about this she does the "don't worry about me, I will be fine" speech, through tear glazed eyes.

I really don't know how she would cope if I withdrew some of my attention. But I am a wife and mother of 3 children, the youngest has special needs and is very demanding. I work part time each day and my DH works long hours. I am exhausted, burnt out.

I just want a normal friendship! One where I see her a couple of times a week, ring her every other day to have a chat etc etc. Instead i am running around like a tit in a trance and am feeling stressed and as though I can no longer give my family all the attention they need.

She is here 7 evenings a week. I need some space. I need some time alone with my family before crack up. But if I withdraw my attention I don't know what will happen to her.

Sorry it's long. AIBU? Am I a heartless bitch?

FabbyChic Sat 11-Jun-11 10:58:05

You aren't heartless but you have as the saying goes made a rod for your own back.

You need to cut down her visits, and tell her not today I've this to do, or not today I've that to do, gradually over time her visits will be less. She sounds extremely lonely.

Icelollycraving Sat 11-Jun-11 11:03:33

I feel very sorry for both of you. Could you maybe pick her up in the morning & drop her off in afternoon before school run & say you have some things to do in the evening so you have time with husband etc. Slow the contact a little but don't withdraw as she sounds desperately lonely.

ENormaSnob Sat 11-Jun-11 11:06:31

You don't sound heartless at all.

No advice tbh because I just couldn't do as you are doing. I would feel stifled which would probably lead to resentment sad

lettinggo Sat 11-Jun-11 11:07:42

I couldn't read this and not respond although I have no real advice for you.

No wonder you're feeling smothered. Does she work? Why has she no contact with her family? How did you meet her and why has she no other friends? Have you no other friends that you need to see? Do you go out with your DH? Isn't there things you need to do with your children in the afternoons and evenings?

I think you do need to withdraw a bit or else you'll crack up and the friendship will break down. You need to change this routine of collecting her every afternoon. Your DH must be going mad that she's there very evening. Does she not see that a family needs space? I understand that she's sick and that sometimes such a serious illness means the sufferer gets tunnel vision, but that doesn't mean that you have to get sucked in to it. You've tried talking to her about it and that hasn't worked so it's time for action.

I think if I were you I would gradually withdraw each week. Next week, take one day "off" where you tell her you have other plans in the afternoon. Phone her and say "I won't be over today because I'm doing X, is there anything you need, I'll get DH to drop it into you?". Then the following week, take 2 days off etc until you're at a level of time committment to her that you're comfortable with.

She's become dependant on you which is not good for you or for her. And she's too sick to break free so you need to do it. Otherwise, you'll end up exploding some day and that will be the end of the friendship.

Shakirasma Sat 11-Jun-11 11:22:08

Thank you all for your kind responses.

We met at work. She is no longer working as she is too ill. She only knows her colleagues over here. Her mum rings her most days, but her dad works very long hours 7 days a week and her mum is not confident enough to drive over here on her own. They are a bit useless tbh.

On odd occasions when I have insisted on a day off, she has plastered her Facebook wall with woe is me statuses, then I feel so guilty. She is very I'll, not just physically, that is why I need some reassurance that I am not out of order to put my families needs first.

I absolutely have made a rod for my own back, I should have been firmer a lot sooner. But I feel sorry for her, as does my DH which is why he puts up with it.

I just want her to widen her support network to take the pressure off me. She has got loads of family and old friends back home but she just doesn't bother to ring them, but then they haven't exactly put themselves out to stay in touch.

It's such a mess. I do feel stifled tbh.

cuttingpicassostoenails Sat 11-Jun-11 11:28:07

This kind of relationship can be addictive. The danger is that when she starts to recover (as I hope she will) she will continue to be dependent and clingy. You seem to have taken the place of her mother to some extent and while this is very comforting for her it's a huge burden for you. Talk to her again and start to strengthen your boundaries. Don't look at her FB postings!

giantpurplepeopleeater Sat 11-Jun-11 11:39:47

She has become very dependent on you by the sounds of it.

The problem is, as you seem to be aware from previous attempts, she is ill and trying to do something reasonable like getting some time back for yourself will not work. She will loose what she appears to see as her only support and get desperate or try anything to get it back.

Therefore I don't think you simply backing off a bit will work for either of you (simply my latent opinion though)!

My advice (up to you if you agree or not) would be to help her build up her support network and gradually back off. UNfortunately I do think this will take a fair bit of effort on your part but it sounds like she is in a very difficult situation and simply walking away would be cruel. Could you try for instance getting in touch with some of her freinds/ family and explaining the problems she is having and request their help. Also could you introduce her to a few clubs or something you could join her in to get her to meet people. Also there are some very good mentoring and befriending charities out there (go look at MBF - the mentoring and befriending foundation - online and see if they can put you in touch with anyone). They could help getting someone for her to spend time with during the day.

WorkingItOutAsIGo Sat 11-Jun-11 11:40:29

You have been so good.

But I dont think you can just withdraw a little as the others suggest as she will be confused, upset, and will make you feel terrible. I think you need to have an honest conversation where you tell her you are there for her, value her friendship, but cannot be her only support. You need to tell her it is too much for you and things have to change.

I'd suggest you tell her what you can manage quite honestly and then work with her to help her plan how to manage the change. For example, you set a goal of reducing her visits to 5 a week next week, and shorter ones; then 4 the week after; then perhaps 3 until you are down to 2. She needs to work out what she can do to fill those gaps - probably needs to visit her GP and get better support, put plans in place to visit her family, use the internet to skype if she can't travel etc.

She will find it hard, but with some active support from you to help put a broader support network in place it might well be possible.

But you will need to be really honest, and really firm.

Enjoy getting your life back.

verytellytubby Sat 11-Jun-11 11:40:55

While I feel desperately sorry for her, she's manipulating you with her FB posting. Don't look at FB while you withdraw.

I agree, take off one day a week.

You sound like a saint. I like to think I'm kind and there for my friends but I couldn't and wouldn't do what you do.

WorkingItOutAsIGo Sat 11-Jun-11 11:41:24

I see giantpurplepeopleeater and I are of the same view... hope it helps to have it from more than one person.

passivelyaggresive Sat 11-Jun-11 11:49:58

from what you say, it sounds like sadly, it might not get better sad So then what happens when she actually needs to be cared for? I think you should ask her about the possibility of looking into some of the services provided by the NHS or social services, it is way to much responsibility for you. I am sure there are organisations out there who can help, and offer befriending services - this is what your friend needs, it will be better for her in the long run, that way there is a line, she can dump all her worries and stuff on them and continue to be friends with you.

You taking a harsher line with her might actually be good for her, force her to be a bit more independent and may help her be more positive about her condition and that can only be a good thing.

I dont really have any useful advice but just to say i think you are a very special person.

bessie26 Sat 11-Jun-11 11:54:38

I Agee with giantpurple and workingitout, you need to get some more people into her life - there must be such a thing as local cancer support groups? Perhaps you could take her to one of those? (or arrange for someone else to?)

You have been so lovely to help her so much, block her feed on fb & I hope you get some of your family life back soon.

lazarusb Sat 11-Jun-11 14:15:13

Have you tried organisations such as Macmillan? They might be able to point your friend in the direction of some support/ befriending schemes. It sounds like you really need to distance yourself a bit, but don't feel guilty. You have gone far and beyond the realms of friendship for her but you and your family also need time to be together.

Pumpernickel10 Sat 11-Jun-11 14:38:40

You sound a good friend but you really need to step back the more you do the more she will expect you to do. She needs to find some independence Macmillan do some wonderful day centre schemes etc

Pixieonthemoor Sat 11-Jun-11 14:44:50

Is there any way you can speak to her parents? As you say, they are being "a bit useless" which I interpret your very kind and extremely nice way of saying "totally and utterly useless and wtf?!". Their daughter has cancer and her mum cant come and see her??? You need some help here and that is the first place I would go - can you offer to take her over to her parents?? They need to be made aware that she is going through a tougher time than they seem to realise and they need to step up. Feel for you though - if she was just a needy friend then that's one thing but throw her terrible illness into the mix and its a different ball game.

JoniRules Sat 11-Jun-11 16:39:09

She suffers with mental health issues that can cause suicidal depression, so it has never been a carefree, relaxed friendship. More of a hard work, dependant friendship.

And yet you say she is your 'best friend', but the 'friendship' has always been hard work. Are you sure you haven't fallen into a 'rescuer' mode, maybe you have enjoyed the dependency a bit. It sounds like you haven't been able to have any boundaries in the past with this relationship, if historically as you say the relationship has always been 'hard' work.

I don't think you would be a 'bitch' if you started to take a step back. You need to put some boundaries around the relationship and be clear with yourself about how much time you are willing to give the relationship, and then be clear with your friend. Otherwise you will end up feeling angry and resentful if you aren't already.
Do her family know she is ill?

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