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friend who let me down now needs support and it's draining - help!

(16 Posts)
halen Tue 02-Jun-09 13:59:32

Just posting for advice on a close friendship that has gone a bit wrong.

Have had a difficult time over the last few years bereavement (lost a child) and illness - and I felt really let down by my closest friend who in a get well card let me know that she could not support me.

Bit by bit things we got back in touch - mainly via emails - and met up for the first time 2 years after the loss.

She knew I had been upset at her lack of support - but said she had problems of her own - so I forgave her.

She then started having other problems which I supported her through.

And then developed an illness similar to what I had had myself.

So now I am getting weekly or monthly texts and emails -in the guise of supporting me - but really it just feels that she is offloading her stuff on to me as she just goes on about how depressed she is. She has also mentioned worst case scenario of the illness which is still something that could apply to me although I am optimistic that is not going to be the case.

I feel I should support her as a) she has told me I am the only friend who understands b) I could really help her having been there myself

But I feel I need to put myself first as a) expecting a baby in a few weeks and it has been/remains a difficult pregnancy so need to conserve my energy b)I find her very draining c)when I needed support she was nowhere to be seen but she has said that she did not understand until she started going through something similar herself.

We have seen eachother once in the last four years and I just feel that she is overwhelmed by her issues to the point where all she can do is take.

I don't know what to do because I don't think it is very decent to just withdraw support - even though that is how she behaved with me; on the other hand she feels like a Harry Potter dementor even now the friendship is just on email and text.

I do know that friendships go through ups and downs of give and take - but this feels like a four year down where she has just been taking, and through a time where I had little left to give. But I do know that when you go through a difficult time and all your friends disappear it makes things worse.

On the other hand, she is still in contact with other friends as she mentioned meeting up with her oldest mate recently; I know when she disappeared on me, she assumed that I had other friends being kind to me (which was not true - most people did a disappearing act!) - so to do the same would be sort of justfied in a way.

If I "get involved", my feeling is that at some point down the line, the same thing might recur - if life became tough for me, or she felt overwhelmed by problems she would just disappear - and I just feel that I can't build things back up only to be let down again like that.
I think what she writes affects me so much as there are similarites to what I went through recently; on the other hand any person worth their salt, and an ounce of compassion would help someone in these circumstances I would be very ashamed to not do so.

Oh well, not sure if this is making any sense, but I'm hoping by just writing this down it will help me decide what to do. I realise I have been a bit vague about things on here so it might be difficult for anyone to reply.

I have given her numbers of support groups etc but I don't think she has got in touch with them.
I was so hurt when she let me down - would have done anything for her before that - but I just have lost some sort of trust in the friendship now that makes me want to self-protect. I don't want to tell her anything about me, as the reply is always a short one with regards to me, until she gets on to herself.
She is not a nasty person, but I guess has always been someone who can be a bit flakey; though I cannot blame her for being flakey with what is going on at the moment.

I think all I can do is send a reply trying to keep things light, while being sure to look after my own well-being given the changes that should be happening in the next few weeks!

islandlassie Tue 02-Jun-09 14:37:33

I totally believe in forgiveness and i think you have to an extant forgiven her and it is nice that you have let her know that

BUT now you have a baby coming and have a responsibility to that child (congratulations btw) to be in a sane (as much as any of us are lol) state of mind.

This sounds horrible but for your own state of mind i think perhaps you should dwinddle this off a bit, e.g let the gaps in between responses get a bit longer, still respond but certainly dont jump to do it.Show kindnesss at all times but dont feel responsible. physically respond but not emotionally, dont let any of it weigh on your mind.

halen Tue 02-Jun-09 14:48:28

Thanks island lassie
I've tried leaving gaps between replies - and end up getting another message saying "I am worried, please let me know you are ok". It is sweet to show concern but when I really needed support, several months went by with no message...
Perhaps part of the problem is that I haven't truly forgiven her for her previous disappearing act. Or maybe I have forgiven but not forgotten.

I think you are right, my priority has to be this baby, and as my midwife said, the best way to get through a difficult pregnancy is to block out the things that aren't helpful. I may feel a bit hard-hearted doing it, but it's not for selfish reasons it's for the baby that's on its way!

I do not think it would be right to just turn my back however. I like the idea of physically responding though not emotionally, and as you say, taking time to respond is a good way of easing the pressure, without totally abandoning someone.

Feel a lot better now!

islandlassie Tue 02-Jun-09 14:54:20

Good because preganancy and children drive you insane enough (hehe only kidding sweetheart, she shouts to son as he tears up a crisp packet sending crumbs all over the floor hmm) without letting a load of other stuff bother you. Sometimes you have to just shut off your mind to certain things!

halen Tue 02-Jun-09 15:01:06

Good luck clearing up the crumbs!
Thanks for taking the time to post to me, it has definitely helped me decide what to do!

tinatutor Tue 02-Jun-09 16:12:42

might be worth in one of your replies mentioning something like ' i sometimes find it hard to discuss these things with you because it brings back bad memories for me, i hope you understand'

then at least she'll maybe stop hassling you if you don't respond straight away.

Good advice to take longer to reply to mails and also try and send shorter responses. It is hard yes, and it does seem heartless but sometimes in life you do have to be selfish.

warthog Tue 02-Jun-09 18:26:31

so sorry about the loss of your child. i can't imagine how someone could desert you at a time like that.

i'm sure i remember another thread you started about her? she was ttc at the time?

anyway, i'm sorry to say that i'd send her an email explaining what's going on in your life, but not in great detail eg. nearly giving birth, difficult pregnancy etc. and i don't feel i can support you right now. i think you should contact the groups i suggested and i wish you all the best.

then i really think you have to move on. because, see, you're a giver, and she's a taker and you need to do some taking right now and she's not letting you. friends do that for each other, as you well know. sometimes people do get what they deserve, even though it's horrible and makes you feel bad. but once you've let go, you'll feel so so much better.

i did this to a friend a while back. 4.5 years ago to be exact and occasionally i have guilt pangs, but then i remember what she was like and consider myself well rid.

honestly, you deserve better.

halen Tue 02-Jun-09 18:51:44

blush at someone noticing I'd started another thread elsewhere on this... but this is a different friend who I don't think I mentioned much on that thread!!

I felt so much better after starting that thread about the situation in general that I thought I would post here after I got upset after this friend's latest email.

I think I will take everyone's advice, shorter emails, with more time in between them, a more frank explanation of my situation, but still with not too much detail; and if the give-take balance does not improve think about backing off more fully.

warthog Tue 02-Jun-09 18:54:21

it might not have been you!

what did she say in her latest email?

junglist1 Tue 02-Jun-09 21:22:40

Sorry you've lost a child. A true friend would have bent over backwards for you. Was she really not there at all? No calls, nothing? If so, she's a waste of space. Use your spare time for real mates. And don't feel bad about it.

SolidGoldBrass Wed 03-Jun-09 01:59:16

Remember that you don't actually owe anyone anything other than courtesy unless you have made promises to care for and support them such as marriage vows (and even then, if the other person behaves horribly, the vows stop being irrevocable). It's OK to withdraw from being available if you are not up to it: she can get support elsewhere - if she is so utterly selfish and demanding that no one else feels like being permanently there for her either, she can get professional support.

toomanystuffedbears Wed 03-Jun-09 02:37:41

"Fair weather friend" comes to mind.

But also-from your description of her dismissiveness of your concerns, yet when it happens to her (or her circumstances in general), it is a completely different story-she may have trouble seeing that you exist. Of course you are there physically, but emotionally there may be some kind of block where her concerns are the only ones that really matter and whatever is happening to others is nothing more than peripheral static-thus dismissiveness.

My sister is like this. I think for her, it may be a superiority complex or some form of narcissism. I found a description of "covert narcissism" that fit her to a "T".

The manipulations, guilt, or her "sweetness" (gifts?) are tools she is using to recruit you to meet her needs. It is not about you, it is about her-you already know this. Another clue is that you feel you can not share personal subjects with her-more dismissiveness (or my sister would always give an analysis and judgement/lecture of what did wrong or should do -never any empathy).

It is frustrating, especially when you can't quite put it into words what is going on, what you feel...

You might feel degraded? When she is pointing out that the problem is important for her, when the same problem (that takes the cake angry) wasn't important when you had it- yes, that would be degrading.

You might feel "ground-to-dust"? She is playing on your good manners, good character, goodness in general. She is pretty much saying the general rules of friendship or morality don't apply to her, but they do to you.

You are not subordinate to her and you obviously do not owe her anything. But you do owe a lot to yourself. You owe it to yourself to preserve your mental health. Being around this "friend" may not be good for your mental health. She will continue to press you down in comparison to her superiority / importance that it may lead to depression in you.

There can be some danger concerning just physical response with emotional detachment. This detachment is detaching you from yourself so you can cope with the toxic one. It is a coping strategy but the more you do this the more you are validating that you are not important. This is where a depressed state can slip in and start to manifest itself. Very tricky, very subtle, very serious. Take care.

I hope you will end the friendship, with notice or not. She doesn't deserve an explanation. She would just be dismissive of it like she is to everything else you/anybody says. However, notice might give her a much needed "clue".

Sorry for such a long post. blush

halen Wed 03-Jun-09 05:44:02

The latest email was quite generally down - and at the moment I guess I am very sensitive to other people's low moods (maybe pregnancy does that to you?).

I have also been very careful to present things as "glass half full" through all my problems when talking to others - to avoid giving them compassion fatigue that it feels a bit odd if others don't do that in return.

She did call and text, but told me she could not send flowers or a card, and then contact became more sporadic, no visit when I was in hospital just a text saying she was going out clubbing, then a call 5 days after I was out, where she complained solidly about her problems and a Get well soon card saying she was sorry she could not be there for me.

Toomanystuffedbears, your post made a lot of sense, spookily. Things spring to mind from before all this, from years back: what you have written about "her concerns being the only ones that really matter and what happens to others being peripheral static"; and also where you wrote "it's not about you, it's about her" - also strikes me as true.
The guilt-trip was a few months ago telephoning me with a half-apology for not being there for me, but that I was the only friend who understood and she felt lucky to have me. While completely ignoring what I was going through at the time - and I felt as though it was big set up for me to get used so started backing off a little then.

The more I think about it, the more things I realised have happened like this.

I'm very confused now! I think I would do well to remember what SolidGoldBrass has said!
I think I also have way too much time on my hands and am over-thinking everything (so apolgies in advance if I don't revisit here again, but it might help me stop obsessing if I don't - not sure if I will have the willpower not to check the thread though!)

Thanks everyone for replies

warthog Wed 03-Jun-09 11:47:05

gosh toomanystuffedbears - that sounds like very good advice. i think you know what you're talking about.

halen Fri 05-Jun-09 08:33:23

I just wanted to post back really with good news. Things are now much more sorted - there has basically been a LOT of crossed wires due to email communication - and now things are all out in the open, support is much more mutual.
The lessson I have learned is to be really careful of emails!

toomanystuffedbears Fri 05-Jun-09 13:28:02

Thanks warthog. smile

halen - hmm
I am glad that you are happy, but you need to remember that you do have "red flags" regarding this friend, extending back years.

"Oh, has technology made me misunderstood again? tsk, tsk." Seems superficial.

Sorry to seem so cynical blush, but "one-way-street" people don't change their fundamental character. They do "lip service" really well.

I do truly hope that I am wrong regarding your friend.

Good luck with the last weeks of your pregnancy and the birth. I hope everything goes well for you. grin

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