Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Ending friendships

Sometimes I go through periods of wanting to shut myself off from other humans. I don't want to engage in conversations; I just want to be alone. This is very easy for me as I don't have many relationships anyway. At work I have the option to chat with colleagues or keep my head down. I can invite others to join me at lunch or wait until others have eaten and take myself off to sit alone in the staff room.

As you may know, I have very few friends. I find it really hard to make friends. Usually I can act normal enough to pass myself in general conversation for a short time but I find myself freaking out at the prospect of people getting emotionally close to me. I think people don't tend to want to get close to me because I am slightly weird and hard to read. People probably find that off putting. I tend to hold people at a distance anyway and I think this is because I'm trying to protect myself from the inevitable hurt that comes from relationships.

I made friends with Pou when we both worked together in my old job. I had always liked her, possibly because like me she is not originally from Northern Ireland and was a bit of a cultural misfit in our very specific workplace. I think I could see she was a bit different from most people too and this made me warm to her because of my being different. I now feel pretty much convinced that her being slightly different is much more than just quirks. I will come to that though.

Shortly after we started meeting up outside of work as friends, I went on sick leave because my depression and dissociation was so bad I couldn't function. We continued to meet and would spend hours enlightening each other on what it was like to be us. Eventually I shared my DID secret with her and she has talked to me about her OCD and mood problems. To be honest, more often than not it was her talking and me listening, but I generally didn't mind because I guess it's a nice break being able to forget about my own issues and listen to someone else's for a while. I felt valued too as a listening ear.

Pou describes to me how at times her mood gets so low and dark that she can't get out of bed in the mornings, doesn't eat, feels so alone and hopeless and thinks death would be a release. Then, within a matter of hours her mood can spring to the opposite extreme. Quite often these swings will happen when I am with her. She may be manic; I find her really hard going when she's like this.

I can tell instantly when she is in this state. I might arrive at her house and beep my horn to collect her and she will burst forth from the house, dancing and jumping and reaching for the sky in exclamation of the beauty of the world. She is very likely to speak to strangers in this state. Quite often it's as though she thinks the whole world is looking at her. So where we might be sitting in a café together, her conversation will become louder and more like she is talking to everyone in the room than to me. She might make loud jokes and then look around to see who is laughing (usually no one is because unfortunately when she is in this mood, her jokes don't tend to be as funny as they are when she is in more of a balanced state). She sometimes behaves very inappropriately too. Last time we went to the cinema, we were walking past some popcorn which had been spilled on the ground. Pou said 'Ooh I'd love to eat some of that popcorn'. Adam and I grimaced and exclaimed about how disgusting that would be, thinking she was joking, but then she went over to it and picked some of the popcorn up and started eating it! I felt embarrassed because people were looking at her as though she was crazy. She didn't care though.

When she is in this state she will also try to wind me up. If she discovers something that annoys me she will do it as much as possible thinking it's funny. Unfortunately, she takes this way too far. I have told Pou on several occasions that I DO NOT like to be touched and I have explained that sometimes I can give her a hug but in general I can't tolerate touch. She will then use this information and try to hug and kiss me and once she even grabbed my boobs and nuzzled her face into them (see here). She can't help it when she's like this and she has lost friendships because of it. She has told me that sooner or later people always get offended or fall out with her for some reason and she doesn't understand why it is. She complains that people don't accept her for who she is. I feel sorry for her, yet at the same time I understand why people do it because when she is in this manic state, it's like she is someone else.

The Pou I made friends with was more placid and down to earth. I struggle with myself when she is like this. I think I need to be more accepting and not get annoyed with her, yet she irritates me so much and I then argue that I wouldn't have made friends with her if she was that person all the time. To be honest, I have always found her much easier to get on with when she is in the depressed state. I have asked her what triggers the mood shifts. She says it could be an argument with her boyfriend or not even an argument, but a perceived rejection. I don't know if there are triggers for the mood swings I see in her when we are together. In the space of half an hour she can go from normal to manic to extremely subdued and introverted for no apparent reason.

She feels her only problem is OCD i.e. because of OCD she becomes overly worried about something and then obsessively thinks about it, which makes her feel down. She doesn't have an explanation for the high times, but as she said herself today, why would she want to change them because they feel so good? How could I tell her that when she is like that she drives people away? Instead I said that surely the high periods are linked in some way to the low periods and is it worth feeling so low to have the high times: wouldn't a balance be more tolerable for her? She mumbled that she supposed so.

I struggle to know what to say to her about this. On one hand, I think I should just keep out of it as she is not the kind of person to take advice from me anyway. Yet on the other hand, I can see that her life is really affected by these swings. She is extremely insecure in her relationships. I've seen so many guys break up with her in the few years we've been friends and she's not been able to understand what went wrong, when to me it seems clear that they couldn't handle her instability. If she got help to find out what is wrong and got treatment for her, she could feel more secure and be more able to maintain friendships. But if I tell her 'by the way Pou I think you might have borderline personality disorder' I don't think she's going to take that too well. Secondly, I don't know enough about borderline personality disorder to be sure that's what she has and I know there are other conditions that could cause these mood shifts too.

However, I am struggling to know what to do about our friendship too. I said before that I felt valued as a listener but all of that has changed. Over the last year I have felt more and more uncared for by her. She often cancels plans with me, usually because she's had a better offer. Quite often now it's to spend time with her current boyfriend (who, by the way is 'the one' and she is already planning to marry him after just a few months, but what would I know about relationships... as Pou reminds me: she's had so many, she's an expert. I've only had the one serious relationship so what would I know? We've managed to stay together for ten years but hey what would I know?). When we do meet up, the conversation is more and more one sided and more and more it's about how amazing her boyfriend is, which is all very well, but I don't need to hear it non stop and forgive me for saying so, but it's very early days and he's just a normal guy. She's so obsessed with him that she's distracted too and it's obvious she isn't really in the present moment with me.

So, at the start of the post I said that I sometimes want to shut myself off from other humans. I've been doing this more and more in recent months. Pou was about my closest friend in the world besides Adam but it's been hard to maintain that with me wanting to push everyone away so trying to distance myself from her at times and her making it really hard for me to want to be her friend at all. A few weeks ago I found myself texting her to see if she wanted to meet up. I had no desire to see her as last time, I felt she had absolutely no interest in me as a person. But I told myself I am being too critical and should just accept her friendship as being more of an acquaintance who I can have a chat and coffee with.

So after much too-ing and fro-ing, because she wanted to make sure her boyfriend wasn't going to be free on a day we planned to meet (wouldn't want to miss out on an extra evening with him would she?) she finally committed to meeting today.

Today she was not manic. Today she was down, very, very down. The reason? She had left her mobile at her boyfriend's house and wasn't going to be seeing him for three whole days so wouldn't be able to talk to him on the phone or text. Fair enough, that's annoying; but you'd have thought he'd just been sent away on a prison ship to Australia for the way she was carrying on. She was so preoccupied and must have mentioned at least ten times during dinner how upset she was about forgetting her phone. She looked like she was going to cry at several points. I tried not to say anything about it. At one point I suggested that it might be liberating not to have a phone but she firmly reminded me that she needs to keep in contact with her family because they are far away. Ever heard of payphones or Internet?

The phone issue aside, I think I spoke about myself for a total of about thirty seconds throughout the whole dinner except to ask her questions about herself. She just talked and talked and talked and talked. At one point she did ask me how it was going with T but to be honest, I don't want to talk to her about it anymore. It's hard for me to talk about my issues at the best of times but I don't feel she is a friend anymore. I don't want to share this part of my life with someone who couldn't care less about me. It didn't take much to steer the conversation away anyway as it didn't appear she was actually all that interested in what I had to say about T.

She invited me back to her house for a cuppa but by the time we had paid the bill I actually felt like I could cry. I told her I wasn't feeling well (which was true, the stress of it was making me feel ill) and I dropped her home. On the way to her house she started on about her phone again and I was so at the end of my tether that I loudly told her to get over it (in a jokey way). I told her absence makes the heart grow fonder. She didn't like to hear that; she said that he was absent enough without being able to even text him. I expressed that this would make the heart grow even fonderer (I don't think that's a word) but this just seemed to annoy her more. I then said that maybe it would be a good thing to remind her that she is her own person. I didn't mean that she has forgotten that (although it would appear she has) but she took it that way and told me I was really annoying her now and that she knew she was her own person and has had enough relationships to realise that (why does she feel the need to keep telling me how many relationships she's had?). I just laughed and let her stew in her annoyance. I was done with it.

So, dear patient enduring reader, what do I do?
Is it me looking for a reason not to be friends with her anymore and should I just keep trying to accept her for who she is even though at the moment spending time with her is about as enjoyable as poking pins in my eyeballs? Or is it clear to you that our friendship is hopeless and that I am flogging a dead horse and should move on?
Or is it something else? Be honest, tell me if I'm just being a dick about all of this.
Any thoughts/opinions/diagnoses welcome.

Once again, thank you if you have made it this far. It never ceases to surprise me when people read my posts and comment on them.


Pandora said...

I think I've commented here before that I can completely relate to distancing yourself from friends because you're shutting down from the world. But I really do not think this is one of those occasions.

I sympathise with Pou to an extent - it really sounds like she has some form of bipolar disorder and, arguably, borderline personality (based on her attention-seeking and emotional neediness - really doesn't sound like me even though I was diagnosed with it, but anyway, it sounds like her). That's shit for her, and I wish her the best, but honestly - it's not your problem.

OK, it could well be argued that friends should 'be there' for each other during times of mental ill health, and I agree with that sentiment - but only to a point. You have given her almost endless support, to the point where your own needs within the friendship have not been met.

She may have issues, and as I said I do sympathise with that, but she's selfish and it seems to me that she's using you when convenient - and that, to me, is the bottom line. I know that sounds harsh, but I'm guessing you'd prefer honesty to platitudes.

I'm trying to think of what I'd do in this situation. I want to say, "tell her she really needs to speak to a therapist and/or other mental health professional, explaining why, and also state that until she does, you can't see each other (much?) because your own mental health is being damaged by her behaviour and attitudes." I want to say that, so I suppose that's my best advice, but in reality I'm a coward and would never have the balls to do it myself.

Sometimes I get out of difficult situations by emailing the person, and then blocking their address or setting a filter so as I don't have to read the reply (way back when I ceased contact with my aunt this is what I did). Pathetic, I know, but you have to look out for yourself at the end of the day. Of course, a (potentially kinder) alternative is just to let things taper off; only reply to her text messages occasionally, 'miss' her calls - it's not like she isn't already doing it to you!

But that's all easy for me, as an outsider, to say. Unfortunately friendships - even ones that have become toxic - have a psychological investment in them, and whatever way this pans out, it's likely to be unpleasant.

Ultimately, though, it strikes me that you've done everything reasonable (and more besides!) to recover this one, and Pou won't play ball. If she is willing to - and does - sort herself out (whether that's through therapy, medication, both, whatever), then maybe the relationship could ultimately be salvaged. Until then, though, I think you need to put yourself first and hold back.

Sorry if this was a load of old bollocks; I hope there was at least something vaguely useful in all of it!

Take care, and good luck whatever you decide to do.

*hugs* (if that's OK)

Pan x

Anonymous said...

Well, what to say. I think I can jump in on Pans bit and pretty much push the Borderline diagnosis right to the front as the described mood switching sounds about right for it (strangely I don't think bipolar necessarily switches thanks to stimulus like minor events, far more likely to be a personality disorder). I will continue to throw fuel on this fire by saying that I wouldn't rule out Histrionic just yet, but then PDs are so closely related it's hard to differentiate at times.

I can actually identify with your position though as I'm quite often the weird one in any group and it makes life tough. It's to the point when someone says to me "You're weird" my standard response is "No shit Sherlock". I dunno, I just don't seem to be able to hide it like others. And as a result it can be difficult to make friends.

Of the aspect of the friend, I've kinda learned that some friendships are transient and so if they don't last then I'm not happy about it but I accept it. As selfish as it may sound I have my limits and I'm not going beyond them. No, I don't have many friends and I have times when I just want to disappear so I don't have to interact.

I dunno, whilst you may query it, I can't see where you're going wrong. Sorry I can't provide a solution but then I'm kinda in the same boat.

JustEliza said...

Your safety is your responsibility, so if you are feeling unsafe with Pou, you should find a way to (safely) tell her that.

If you are wanting to help her get help with her instability or if you are worried about HER safety, you should only do that in the context of sticking with it. Commit to being friends. Start having different conversations, where you are able to be a bit authentic and tell her when she's crossed the line. Let HER decide whether she cares how you feel and is willing to moderate her behaviour to spend time with you. Continue to make an effort to invite her out, to send her the message that you DO care even if she's increasingly vulnerable.

Chances are she may very well be unable to cope with the gentle criticism or see that her boundary crossings really are boundary crossings. But nothing will change unless someone does something differently. And Pou sounds like she's in desperate need of someone kind showing her what appropriate boundaries are.

JustEliza said...

BTW, I'm sorry for the interpersonal stress. :-( If I were your friend, I wouldn't invade your personal space or talk all about myself. Perhaps in time you can find more sensible/stable/respectful/caring people to be friendly with?

Anonymous said...

Hi Candycan,

I discovered your blog a few weeks ago or so.... I was diagnosed with DID about two years ago but I feel that its all new to me if that makes sense... Its getting my head around it/did that i'm having trouble with.

The friend thing or even friendships i find is so hard... I don't think i'm at your level of self/selves understanding as yet! Anyway to get to the point, In the past I've given friendships loads and loads of chances, to most people i could be seen as a doormat! I don't know if i live in my own bubble or what but i have been in situations like yourself, and i've constantly questioned myself, eg, what about me? I've got worries? but yet im sat here listening to the other person wittle on about themselves, sometimes i have zoned out so to speak.... and thinking to myself if this person as even noticed me just nodding and forcing a sincere smile on my face... do they know ive disappeared? Im sorry to ramble but to get to the point eventually i'd have to admit that the friendship wasn't going any where? this leads me back to my introduction! I have no friends, i need someone to talk to, without sounding desparate, but when i find a slight connection with someone i want to hold on to it! Does that makes sense? but at the same time i can't keep on allowing other/friendships or potiently (excuse my spellings) friends drain the only resources that keep me affloat!

btw, i hope you dont mind but i have mentioned your blog to my art psychotherapist, as i'm finding it hard to describe whats happening to me inside.

PPS. I think the friendship you have with Pou sounds like a friendship you cherish yet its not 50/50 committment! If you can accept that the friendship might entail you getting between 5 and 20% back then maybe you should stick it out, however if you need something more then, you might have to sit her down and explain where your coming from, your needs or what you'd like to expect from her! and take it from there!

I hope I've helped in my way!
good luck

Candycan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Candycan said...

Hi Pan, I was hoping you would comment given your diagnoses and background psychological knowledge and your insights are valuable to me. Your advice to encourage her to seek help is good and I have in the past tried to do this. She is going to CBT but I can't help feeling she needs more help than CBT (possibly because I despise CBT but also because I think her problems are more than just her thought processes going haywire). I didn't want to rain on her parade by saying she needs more help at the moment although I feel she might eventually come to that conclusion herself. She got referred to clinical psychology once and then decided not to go because she 'felt better' (ie had an on top of the world phase). Your alternative is something I have been considering doing too, ie just stopping responding as much, and I kind of have been doing that but as I'm still in two minds about if our friendship is over on not I end up contacting her again. Thanks for the *hugs* :)

Nullfuture: I don't really know what histrionic is (although I'm sure I remember reading about it so I should know) but what you say about the rapid shifts and Borderline is interesting. I hope you have success with your friendships. It's OK to be weird, it's just finding the right people who will embrace your weirdness. I have had friends in the past who see my differences as part of me that they love and others who I have had to hide so much from. It's always easier with the former. Good luck :)

Candycan said...

Eliza, thanks for your kind words. I am glad to have met you even if it's just via blogs and I can see that you would be the kind of friend you describe. I would love to make some friends who are sensible/stable/respectful/caring but so much is in the way of that being able to happen and I'm unsure if I will ever feel normal enough to be able to make proper friends in life. Pou is really the only real friend I've made since I left school. When things have been good with us, they're great. I've had aquaintances and friends of sorts, but not close relationships. Do you find these things a struggle too? Do you think it's all linked in with dissociative disorders?

A: I know what you mean about getting your head around DID. It's an ongoing process and sometimes it can feel like you have reached an understanding and then it all changes again and it's like we're back to square one. I was the same as you when the psychologist first talked about DID; it was all new to me too; confusing, overwhelming... and yet strangely fitted perfectly at the same time. I'm sorry to hear that you have similar struggles with friendships. I have found meeting other people with DID via blogs a real support and a help to feel less alone with DID; maybe it can be a help for you too. If you ever want to talk or have questions feel free to message me here (I may not have any answers but I'll try). I don't mind at all you sharing my blog with anyone. I wouldn't put it on the net if I cared who read it. It would be interesting to hear about art psychotherapy if you had any thoughts of starting your own blog. Thanks for commenting anyway. C

To all:
I need to decide if I am going to continue trying to work on our friendship and overcome things; let go and try to see her as an acquaintance who I can meet occasionally and chat with or, cut ties altogether. Each has its pros and cons. It's hard when I feel so angry with her that I want to block her out altogether and it's hard when even if she were a great friend, part of me feels I don't deserve friendships and wants me to be alone. I don't know!

She texted me today to ask if I had any nice plans for the weekend. I haven't replied yet. I wondered why she had texted. Did she feel guilty because she was so distracted when we met? Is it genuine? Whatever it is, it's fucking with my head. I become sure she's selfish and doesn't care and then she does something nice and I feel guilty. Grr!

JustEliza said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JustEliza said...

Hard for me to say, Candy. I was depersonalised for much of my childhood and unable to cope with the stress of managing friendships. I didn't trust people, I wasn't myself, and my fear came out as indifference to others rather than vulnerability. So, while I could attract people as friends and lovers, I couldn't tolerate any form of attachment. I could always find reasons not to trust or value people.

I am only just starting to build friendships based on authenticity, mutual interest and trust. I had to reach out despite my fear and give people opportunities to earn my trust. It was hard but very rewarding. It most certainly made the difference in my ability to cope with the end of therapy.

I have had experience being friends with someone with bipolar disorder. It wasn't a nice friendship, and she knew she was bipolar and received treatment for it. I tried to be friends with someone with similar instability of moods and also found it too stressful to cope with.

I think people with dissociative disorders tend to want to hide all lability of mood and fly under the radar. Perhaps that makes us more sensitive to such extroverted behaviours in the the manic phase of bipolar disorder?

Candycan said...

You could be right about avoiding lability of moods. I was finely tuned to detect changes in my dad's moods and it was like I had sensors that could instantly tell when he was in a 'bad mood' so I would be able to lie low to try to avoid being a target.
The person who crushed me and broke my ribs has borderline personality disorder and obvious problems with boundaries. I think this makes me more wary of Pou because I have seen she is very similar. Although I know she couldn't crush me she has already shown how she can affect me in other ways and when she is being 'manic' this is much more likely so yeah, you are right.
P.S I am in awe of your crafting abilities and am so jealous of your talents!

Anonymous said...

Hi Candycan,

thanks for the warm welcome, I've been thinking of starting my own blog... but don't know where to start! At the moment I have my own handwritten journo... which is filled with abstract drawings and randon words vented via parts however my main problem I have is to put things into words and sentences... if that make sense!!! I'm not very techy so I dont know where to start!

Anyway back to you and Pou... Is it safe for me to assume that you could be over thinking this dilemma that you have with Pou! I know that deep down you are aware of your next step however based on emotions things get harder... you attached to Pou however her behaviour/label bpd makes friendship harder to maintain than someone without labels?

I guess what I'm saying is its up to you to decide, friendships aren't easy! I know... I mostly listen to my internal parts and vote what to do but that is sometimes harder if no-one agrees! I in the past have given a three strike-ish or 100th rule and there out, I'm also not saying I am right but my life became easier-ish, I still felt bad, selfish, guilty but in time it passed. However I am left with no one to share with, no friends! Trust for me is a big deal, ive still got loads of issues that i'm working through and trust is hard for me!

I hope you manage to figure the whole friendship out, it might take some time but there's no rush! just take your sweet time! Axx

Candycan said...

Blogs can be a great way to share your experiences with others and find people who have things in common, but it can be tricky enough getting one set up. It's taken me a long time to figure out some of the things on blogger and my knowledge of blogging is still very basic but I really enjoy doing it. It's not everyone's cup of tea though and some people prefer just to keep a written diary. Some blogs are more based around pictures and/or videos too with less in the way of written text. The good thing about a blog is that you can do it whatever way you like and don't have to make apologies for it (although quite often I do). People don't have to read it if they don't want to! I like the idea of what I write not being on paper anywhere in my house as I worry that it will be found and read by my mum when she visits. At the same time, I still write and draw and keep a folder of paper things because some things can be hard to express in my blog format.
If you do decide to start a blog, let me know the link as I am always looking to find new blogs to follow. Good luck!

Candycan said...

That's a response to A btw!

Interwoven minds said...

Hi Candycan,

Ive taken the step and opened my very own blog... I do feel liberated in a way... It feels like almost a coming out blog eg, here's me warts and all (o; I'm gonna try and be brave-ish... I think having DID or any other mental health labels builds individuals into the labels stigma, it isn't very flattering... To me its almost that we the (labels) are almost rejects of society... and I think that is so sad! I guess the more people (we/the labels) can enlighten, maybe the more we can open up their minds! Knowledge is power! Ax

feel free to comment and my blog, Ax