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How to support a friend when I am feeling totally 'suffocated' and exhausted(79 Posts)
A friend is going through a crisis, lots of issues but main one being a break up. Her DP left saying he needed space and was exhausted.
There are problems on both sides but I understand how he feels re the exhaustion.
She is working on her problems, seeing a counseller etc, she's not in any denial and is certainly trying to sort herself out.
The trouble is we both live alone, pretty much middle of nowhere (to be honest I don't, I live with DP, but to all intents alone right now, as he is abroad for a few months) a few miles apart. She cannot hack it but for me it's not a problem (I have car and pets, she doesn't., but she is very very rich and gets taxi everywhere.. or me! but I get that it's more isolating for her.. I like my own company, she doesn't like being alone and she is the one who got dumped).
She wants me there at her beck and call. Right now while DP is away there are two things I need to focus on..and one of those is finding a job.. I have no money coming in) however like it or not I seem to be running her life (through her persuasion) and I'm the last person who should be , but it's not about me and I do what i can..trying to be a friend.
I don't mind the social stuff, the taking her to places, shops, medical appointments etc, that's what friends do. It's the constant never being left alone to get on with the things I need to. She has no boundaries. I'm starting to feel panicky. When she was with her DP I could go months with her ignoring me! The issue is the bombardment of emails, texts, phone calls. As I write this I hear my phone going ping ping ping and it's her.
She needs reassurance and someone to rant to 24/7. It's like she's transferred her addictive behaviour from her ex to me. She IS a lovely person she is a good generous friend and she is having lots of problems but how can I help when I'm given no space at all...
Today I had to fake a migraine and that's not the first time I've had to do that. I feel bad for that. However , I got no peace. Constant voicemails and texts 'when are you coming round are you coming to see me' . And yes this happens when I'm genuinely sick too which I would never do to a friend!. I'm so worn out. I can't concentrate on the things that need to be done as she's constantly ringing and emailing and if I don't reply she panics ..I feel so claustrophobic.
She has no car but she found a short cut through the fields from hers to mine.. so I can't even 'hide' as she ends up shouting through my letter box or banging on the window... I can't say I'm out as she can see my car is here (unless I've 'gone for a walk' but then she just waits.). As I said I don't mind doing the stuff we agreed to do but it's the every second of the day no peace that I have the issue with!
I tried turning phone off but then I miss important calls , also as I live out here I want to be able to grab phone if there's an emergency (some of the nearest houses have been burgled for eg) . Also as I'm applying for jobs I get calls I don't want to miss.
I've tried to make it clear re boundaries ie 'tomorrow I'll pick you up at 6 in the meantime I have to do A and B' kind of thing, but this doesn't work. I'm bombarded until that time. eg she'll ring saying 'are you doing A and B? When do you finish ? How is your day?' etc. As i said not just one message but constant. And it's not just about her 'issues' but she can ring for hours asking advice about her new purchases, really petty things like can I help her choose a clock , place mats etc (I'm about to start using a food bank ! It's not jealousy by the way.. I could never do her job.. I moved here for a peaceful slower pace of life after living in London and working all hours like she does!)
I want to help (I mean I've spent the last month literally holding her hand)but can't cope much more
For context, I don't know why she wants my help. I'm the pauper living hand to mouth in a falling down cottage trying to help the successful businesswoman who is a different generation to me. But I am here and close and she doesn't have close family and friends. (She is not from this country but we do have mutual friends..but she only wants to talk to me as the rest are men and friends with her DP still)
I like her but I am being dragged down so much I don't see how I can keep helping like this.. she is not working much right now so she is not used to having all this time on her hands and she is taking advantage of me not working (but I NEED to be working!)
What can you do with someone who doesn't respect boundaries? I'm amazed someone of her position doesn't (she's very high up in her field) Sometimes I think I"m just her unpaid assistant. I have my life to sort out and I was meant to be doing that in DP's absence and she doesn't respect that.
Sorry so long. It paints a bad picture of her and she is a kind generous person. But I cannot give myself to someone 24/7 when trying to sort my life out.. I've just lost a month of doing the things I ws meant to because I can't 'escape' from her. I am there most of the time for her but can't be like literally every second of day and night
Have you told her to back right off and give you space? You need to be brutally honest now.
‘I don’t have my phone on all the time. Don’t expect an immediate reply.’
‘Please don’t keep texting me. I feel suffocated. Sometimes I don’t want to reply to your messages’
Nope, she’s not kind or generous. She’s a selfish leech.
The question is, why are you allowing yourself to be utilised and ruled?
It’s not her fault. She’s a toxic drain, yes - but the only person responsible for the fact you’re being used and having your boundaries trampled over is you.
You can say no. You can say you can’t. You can say you’re busy. You can keep saying this. The sky won’t fall in.
Codependency is hard to crack but worth the effort - I know myself.
Yes I spelt it out clearly 'I am not a slave to the phone'.
Yes I have said it over and over to deaf ears.
The thing is, I'm trying to rebuild my life. I have PTSD and severe anxiety from leaving Domestic violence (I have posted lots on this in past) . I'm still some time on trying to rebuild (very much a 2 steps forward 5 back scenario). There is a lot I need to work on. I have a fairly supportive DP but he works away a lot and it's down to me. Only I can do that. I'm about to start the Freedom programme and possibly return to counselling. I'm not in the best head space to be helping her but I am a compassionate person . Part of my anxiety is that I need a lot of space and that includes from people, dramas and chaos (having lived with an addict..ie my ex, drugs and alcohol ). Moving here to the sticks helped that and now I feel that's been taken from me. I am still trying to find inner peace myself. My ex died but I have panic attacks and chronic insomnia. I can only work part time because of this but right now more stress as NO money coming in. I do feel I owe something to this friend as she has given me paid work before. But I can't owe her this much surely!!!
I guess, Atrocious, because I've been in her shoes regarding feeling desperate and depressed and angry. However..I never dragged friends or family into it. What I did was take myself to Al Anon 4 or 5 times a week (as I was affected by my ex's drinking which ruined my life) and rant there in a safe place where i would not be judged and others were going through the same.
Friend is seeing a counseller and I've seen a big difference but once a week is not enough I guess to sustain her
Sounds like you’ve had a shit time
Ultimately it’s up to you if you choose to martyr yourself for her.
Learning to lay down a boundary now will have an enormous positive impact on your life.
You can’t save her. And you can’t save yourself by being anyone’s saviour.
You need to set much clearer boundaries - “9-5 I am looking for a job and I need for you to not phone me or come over. I want to support you but I am feeling overwhelmed so you need to either give me some space or I am going to have to walk away from this friendship for my own well being.”
You need to do this otherwise chances are you wil break one day, lose the plot with her and it will be a big fall out. ( I’ve got that t shirt)
I wish DP was here as he is very down to earth and could talk to her. She is his friend or rather I met her through him. But he's also good friends with her ex and they sometimes work together so no one wants to be taking sides. Hence I can't call on mutual friends as they are all closer to her ex than I am.
Yes I feel like a martyr. In my own situation I don't want to be a victim. I try to help her not be a victim. But now I am feeling I am her victim. I am happy to be there for any friend. But this is nuts, I mean DP is away and I only speak to him once a day! It's like I'm in a relationship with her! No wonder her ex had to run. I don't want to sound mean. She's had some bad traumas inc bereavement. I honestly feel sorry for her. But I don't know what more I can do. To be there for someone I need space.
I feel I am letting myself and DP down. eg I need to empty our house out , it's going to be rebuilt as want to sell it, etc. And I need a job . I have to focus on that. That was my goal for DP's absence .
She keeps buying me gifts too and I feel uncomfortable. One or two was lovely but it's all the time. It's odd.
Today when I had the migraine (ok not migraine!) I said I can't take any calls I can't answer any messages (I am prone to them so I really am totally out of action when I do get them) yet she bombarded me.. that is the last straw.. that IS selfish behaviour. As she was saying why are you ignoring me.. jeez when I have an actual migraine I can't see, speak, move, I mean I'm in total agony , I even can't get to the loo sometimes it's so bad so for her to pester me is crap. I guess I needed to write all this down to realise this!
I felt really cross on your behalf reading this. Bereavement doesn't make a person behave like this. I think you're still in an abusive relationship and you're simply being bullied. None of the things you describe are normal.
Storm, maybe you are right. I feel panicky as it's deja vu for me. It's a friend now and not a partner doing this but it's still that controlling obsessive nature. I almost feel like talking to her ex DP but if she found out she'd literally never forgive me, I don't want to be accused of betrayal.
I just spoke to DP and he was suggesting showing her the amount of texts and emails she sends 'as maybe she doesn't realise'. Hmmm
Does she pester you while she's at work?
Time to start getting angry and reclaim your space and privacy. Tell her it has to stop or you will cut her off completely. If she can afford taxi's she doesn't need you to drive her. Tell her you have your own shit to deal with and the constant stalker behaviour is making you ill.
Yes, Ijust, as she works from home but she's just changed roles and whereas she used to work crazy hours they are now massively reduced (believe me, if she was in her old role she wouldn't have time for any of this! but I think the overworking has caused much of her issues..and her relationship breakdown) Also she's been taking a lot of time off. She can't cope with suddenly having spare time, combine that with being alone. But I have both those issues and don't pester people
in fact I thrive on it
Channel those feelings as if you had have had a migraine (I’m a fellow sufferer so fully sympathise how utterly shit they can be), and use that as your starting point as to how selfish she is being.
Ie - today I was ill, you knew I was ill, you know how I am with migraines, yet you were still bombardingme. This is wholly unacceptable and actually leads me on to x,y, z ...... (you can then mention your need to job hunt, clear the house etc....) and state that as much as you want to be suppportive you are simply not able to be at her beck and call 24/7.
It's really hard to tell a friend that they are acting like a stalker! I need to put it in a jokey way somehow, show her how she's clogged up my phone and inbox.
She didn't need me when she was loved up with her ex. Sometimes I'd be ignored for months. But this was one of the reasons he left.. her possessive jealous behaviour and rudeness to other women etc. I don't want to sound a total bitch. She's had some awful things happen in past that have contributed to these behaviours, I really think she can't help it. But I have PTSD too ( as I think she has) and I don't dump on others in this way. When I am actually with her, it's mainly fine. We have fun and she's not acting crazy. The problem is when I'm home and she's home and she can't leave me alone for 5 minutes. So it's definitely about her not coping being alone . But I can't help that. She has so much money the world is her oyster! She could just quit job and travel the globe. Anything. More therapy. Whatever. She is privileged from that sense. I know money doesn't buy happiness and stop loneliness but I literally have nothing and am not lonely and my life is fulfilling despite being the skintest I've ever been. I keep telling her to use that money and enjoy herself as life is too short . It would also be the big fingers up to her ex to be enjoying her life.
She obsesses over Facebook and every detail of her ex's life and even de friending people for 'liking' his posts. Then I have to hear hours of rants about them too. She's nearly 60 and it's real teenage stuff.
My DM is like this, and I’ve had to be very firm.
Send one clear text to your friend. Outline the ‘working hours’ you’ll be keeping free of social interactions. 9-6 sounds good. Add some weekend hours you’ll be devoting to self work (progressing on your mental wellbeing- alone). Add 3 evenings each week you’ll be doing ‘hobby & housework’ alone.
Commit to a response turnaround you can live with for texts and voicemail (3 days?). Set a specific timeframe each week you’d like to spend time with her, driving her around, whatever. Be very specific.
Now, she’ll test your boundaries for a while, no doubt. All you do is keep resending the same text. Don’t add/change anything. Be a broken record. If she comes around, don’t hide. Just don’t open the door. Sit with the awkwardness- she will leave eventually. If you can’t bear it, do the vacuuming or put on headphones. In fact your new, time-intensive hobby should prolly be guided meditation. Done with headphones, in a room she can’t see into.
She might need a prod if she doesn’t get with the program within a month. Text her that you’ll be taking a break from the friendship for a month, because you are finding the intensity of contact exhausting and unhealthy. Then stick with no contact for a month. Some people, even good people, need to feel the sting of consequences before they consider what’s in their (and your) best interests.
She sounds scary
I don’t want to be melodramatic and I know on MN and all other forums advice can be sweeping, one sided and based on incomplete information, but she sounds, to me at least, that she actually knows full well what she’s doing. And the thing that makes me think that is the gifts. It is odd. And it got my hackles up because it sounds like she is on a bit of a power trip with her ability to “have” you all the time. A bit like an abuser in a bad relationship
I would tell your DP that this woman is affecting your MH, causing you stress emotionally and practically and tell him she is making you put your life on hold; you are at a standstill and nothing you are doing, even blatantly telling her you are unwell, is deterring her. But I do think you should give her one more opportunity to back off graciously herself by sending her a message where you explicitly say (and not because of a temporary thing like a migraine or similar) that the relationship is becoming too stressful, you support and care about her but the constant contact is becoming an issue and you hope she understands that you want to be friends but you need space, and that if you say now is not a good time, then that has to be respected.
I predict some fall out with this one, and I hope I’m wrong about both that and the odd power play tendencies this woman seems to have. Good luck, keep posting, we can bolster you!
I'm re reading all these replies, thanks.
Silver, there's an element of me feeling uncomfortable and somehow in her debt and I hate that. After years with my controlling ex (he was the opposite though, I earned and he took all my money for his addictions but he was controlling/ obsessive in every way) I'm trying to regain control in my life that I'd lost (and confidence). She IS a very generous person...I see this with how she is with mutual friends eg birthdays but with me it's frequent gifts so that's odd.
Also say she wants a night out.. I automatically say no (I lost my job in March). But she'll beg and cajole saying ' I am inviting you and you do so much for me, it's my treat' and she'll pay for everything. She says it's fine as she doesn't want to go alone so she's happy to pay. But I am left feeling awkward (I mean I never let any boyfriend do this in the past!) and that I am in her debt, even if I really did not want to go out but did it to cheer her up (not saying it's all bad! we've had some good nights. But as someone who was always financially very independent until I left the DV situation and became jobless/homeless, it doesn't sit right with me..)I do think there is a degree of manipulation even if she doesn't realise it. She knows I am alone and DP is away for ages.. and that although I'm ok being alone I do feel the need to be social at times. So she 'enables' me to go out. I have recently been saying no but she keeps booking things ...then I feel bad if have to cancel! But it's things that are to her taste of course..her type of film, music etc..
Silver, I told DP all this. (felt really bad earlier using our precious one call a day to have a rant! but he's known her far longer than I..) He says to show her my phone, inbox etc in the hope it may 'hit home' but also to talk to her best male friend (who is DP's close friend too) . Which I think I will do as he is the only other friend who is local. However, it's a tricky one for him (the friend) while as he does care about her (he was her first friend when she came to this country) but he's also good friends with and has to at times work with, her ex DP. But I guess I can at least try him for advice rather than him intervening. I mean I was the last one to move here and the one she knew least (I moved in with DP). Everyone in this area I know through DP. Yet it's all lumbered on me as I'm the only female and she knows I'm 'available' (ie childless, no job) when of course my aim is to be unavailable.. I said to DP, if you come back and I'm working 24 hours a day, you'll know why!
I almost feel like talking to her ex DP but if she found out she'd literally never forgive me
Hate to say it OP but would that really be such a bad thing? Whatever her good points do you really need a friend who tramples on your boundaries to such an extent you can't even have a migraine (real or otherwise!) in peace?
Even if her circumstances change and she 'needs' you less in the future will you ever be able to feel relaxed in this friendship now you know how little she respects your needs and boundaries?
What you're describing sounds more like stalking/controlling than friendship to me, no wonder you're feeling panicked and suffocated. Doing the Freedom Programme may well be enlightening for you, any 'relationship' can be abusive, even friendships.
Your latest update makes you sound co dependent on this woman. It's not quite as black and white that you are a victim of her. You are an adult with full control over how you respond to her behaviour.
You don't have to be nice to her. You don't have to "tell her in a jokey way" to spare her feelings.
If you want to maintain the relationship, fine, carry on. But if you want it to change, YOU have to change what you are doing.
There's no right or wrong here. I think given the background info you've shared on your past relationships, you could see this as a learning opportunity in assertiveness.
Only got through half of the OP.
Tell her to fuck off
I think you've got to stop blaming her behaviour on bereavement and mental health issues. Are you ok with somebody treating you like this as long as they've got a good enough reason? I also think you need ask yourself why you are describing her as a kind lovely person, because she doesn't sound it at all, and the things we say to ourselves have an effect.
I really think it's a mistake to speak to this friend. People like this woman can make us feel like helpless children, but the friend cannot fix this for you, and there's a possibility she will turn on you if she finds out.You're going to have to find a way to put a stop to it on your own.
I think it takes a long time to recover from an abusive relationship and it can be scary to start saying No to people. Its not going to happen overnight, but you can start taking baby steps. I've a similar background to you and I've been reading this blog which is good for assertiveness and understanding what is behind the fear of saying No.
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