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Old 12-29-2013, 12:08 PM   #1
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How to help a friend?

A friend who means a lot to me has been going through a difficult period, and I donít know how to help him. Recently Iíve started to think that what I thought was kindness towards him might actually be hurting him, but Iím also afraid to back away. So Iím looking for advice.

This friend is a guy who I dated for about a year many years ago, when I lived in another part of the country. Weíve stayed in touch over the years as friends and have seen each other on a few occasions in the last twenty years. Heís now in his early 50s and has never married. Heís not close at all to his family, and I don't know them personally.

About 6 years ago he fell in love with a woman who had a temporary academic position in his area. When the position ended, she moved back to her home country overseas. They maintained a long distance relationship for a while, but that soon fell apart. He was willing to relocate to her country, but she did not want him to do that. His need for her became obsessive, and for the last few years she will no longer speak to him or have any contact with him.

Since then heís been desperately unhappy. He seems to have lost touch with many of his friends (although we donít really have friends in common for me to discuss this with, and he lives on the other side of the country from me now). We talk on the phone or by email/text now and then, and it is always the same story: he says his life is not worth living because she was the love of his life and he will never be happy again.

Heís always been very athletic and has become obsessively so at times during these years. Heís also told me that he has taken up some very risky activities (physical activities that he does without the usual precautions, sometimes under the influence of various substances). I worry so much about him.

Iíve encouraged him to seek counseling. To try doing volunteer work. To take classes, to stay busy, to try to meet other people as friends, etc., etc. I remind him that people (including me) love and care about him. Iíve told him to come and visit and offered to go visit him. Iíve tried to remind him of the good that he has done, and could do with what is left in his life. It seems whenever we talk and whatever I say, he just spirals further and further down and doesnít take any comfort or relief in anything.

Lately heís done and said a few things that have me particularly worried.

Am I actually hurting him by trying to listen to him and trying to be support and encourage him? Does he really need someone to just shake him and say ďGet over it!Ē? Or is that just because Iím selfish and tired of late night calls from him that leave me feeling unhappy and helpless?

Or do I tell him that I think I may actually be supporting his bad habit of obsessing over his part relationship by listening to him talk about it? That I will happily to talk to him at any time about any other topic, but that if he starts talking about her or about engaging in risky behavior, I wonít be able to talk to him?

I've thought about trying to contact his family or a mental health professional in his area, but I think he would never ever speak to me if I did and honestly I don't think he would listen to them. He is so incredibly stubborn and convinced that his pain is something that no one else can understand.

I do really care about him.

Any suggestions or advice?
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Old 12-29-2013, 01:24 PM   #2
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IF he can't appreciate you as a friend, why anguish over it???

... He's certainly old enough.

My two cents .... Tell him to get over it and move on ! period !
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Old 12-29-2013, 01:47 PM   #3
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It doesn't sound like there is anything you can do for him. There are no amount of friendship, anti-depressants, therapy, or anything else that will make a person be responsible for themselves, THEY have to choose it for themselves, until then, they will literally suck the life out of you if you let them.

Sounds like you've tried to be a good friend, offered help to the best of your abilities, now it's up to him to either put on his big boy pants and get over himself, or continue down a self-destructive path to an unpleasant end. You have no control or responsibility for his well being, DO NOT take any!

This may sound cold and harsh, but it is reality. It may be time to distance yourself from him and be done with the relationship.
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Old 12-29-2013, 02:16 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by quietlylooking View Post
A friend who means a lot to me has been going through a difficult period, and I donít know how to help him. Recently Iíve started to think that what I thought was kindness towards him might actually be hurting him, but Iím also afraid to back away. So Iím looking for advice.

This friend is a guy who I dated for about a year many years ago, when I lived in another part of the country. Weíve stayed in touch over the years as friends and have seen each other on a few occasions in the last twenty years. Heís now in his early 50s and has never married. Heís not close at all to his family, and I don't know them personally.

About 6 years ago he fell in love with a woman who had a temporary academic position in his area. When the position ended, she moved back to her home country overseas. They maintained a long distance relationship for a while, but that soon fell apart. He was willing to relocate to her country, but she did not want him to do that. His need for her became obsessive, and for the last few years she will no longer speak to him or have any contact with him.

Since then heís been desperately unhappy. He seems to have lost touch with many of his friends (although we donít really have friends in common for me to discuss this with, and he lives on the other side of the country from me now). We talk on the phone or by email/text now and then, and it is always the same story: he says his life is not worth living because she was the love of his life and he will never be happy again.

Heís always been very athletic and has become obsessively so at times during these years. Heís also told me that he has taken up some very risky activities (physical activities that he does without the usual precautions, sometimes under the influence of various substances). I worry so much about him.

Iíve encouraged him to seek counseling. To try doing volunteer work. To take classes, to stay busy, to try to meet other people as friends, etc., etc. I remind him that people (including me) love and care about him. Iíve told him to come and visit and offered to go visit him. Iíve tried to remind him of the good that he has done, and could do with what is left in his life. It seems whenever we talk and whatever I say, he just spirals further and further down and doesnít take any comfort or relief in anything.

Lately heís done and said a few things that have me particularly worried.

Am I actually hurting him by trying to listen to him and trying to be support and encourage him? Does he really need someone to just shake him and say ďGet over it!Ē? Or is that just because Iím selfish and tired of late night calls from him that leave me feeling unhappy and helpless?

Or do I tell him that I think I may actually be supporting his bad habit of obsessing over his part relationship by listening to him talk about it? That I will happily to talk to him at any time about any other topic, but that if he starts talking about her or about engaging in risky behavior, I wonít be able to talk to him?

I've thought about trying to contact his family or a mental health professional in his area, but I think he would never ever speak to me if I did and honestly I don't think he would listen to them. He is so incredibly stubborn and convinced that his pain is something that no one else can understand.

I do really care about him.

Any suggestions or advice?
Telling someone who has depression to shake out of it is like telling a cancer patient to cure themselves. Doesn't work. And it sounds like your friend has depression.

I suggest that you continue to support him and talk to him but also very strongly encourage him to get help. He may be adverse to seeking therapy, because of either the fact that 'men don't need therapy' or because he doesn't want to be medicated. The latter is a very valid reason (unless he truly needs to be medicated), so encourage him to find help with therapists who cannot prescribe meds. If they feel, after a few sessions, that the person truly needs medication, then they will refer to a specialist.

What worries me is the risky activities untaken under the influence. Can that potentially harm others? What happens if he accidentally injures an innocent bystander? Have you brought this up to him?

You may have to contact the authorities if he is doing something potentially dangerous and harmful (like driving drunk). This is not only for his well-being but rather for others.


This link is also helpful in giving tips.

Good luck.
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Old 12-29-2013, 02:53 PM   #5
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Thanks for your comments; I appreciate them very much.

I have talked to him many times about seeing some kind of counselor or therapist, and he says he went once and the person he saw said something really outrageous and hurtful and now won't see anyone else. But I will keep pointing out that option for him, as I know it is one that works for many people.

It seems like he is in a place where he doesn't WANT to feel better. He wants to wallow in his unhappiness as it is a way to keep his love for his ex in some strange way alive and real. Or is that just me trying not to feel guilty for not doing more for him?

His destructive activities are not the kind that would hurt anyone else, thankfully (unless he hurts himself seriously, in which case his other friends and I will be hurt emotionally).
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Old 12-30-2013, 09:07 AM   #6
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Quote:
quietlylooking quoth:
he says he went once and the person he saw said something really outrageous and hurtful and now won't see anyone else.
did you ever find out what precisely it was that was said? because when people aren't ready to hear something helpful they make up crap that gives them permission to dismiss it.

i agree that it sounds like depression.

ed
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Old 12-30-2013, 01:49 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by NippleMuncher View Post
It doesn't sound like there is anything you can do for him. There are no amount of friendship, anti-depressants, therapy, or anything else that will make a person be responsible for themselves, THEY have to choose it for themselves, until then, they will literally suck the life out of you if you let them.

Sounds like you've tried to be a good friend, offered help to the best of your abilities, now it's up to him to either put on his big boy pants and get over himself, or continue down a self-destructive path to an unpleasant end. You have no control or responsibility for his well being, DO NOT take any!

This may sound cold and harsh, but it is reality. It may be time to distance yourself from him and be done with the relationship.
^^^^ Excellent advice! Very well said NM! I concur 100%.
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Old 12-30-2013, 02:05 PM   #8
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You know... The way you describe it, that he tells you about these dangerous things he does, and regularly shares how he is feeling, but keeps wallowing in self-pity... It's like he is trying to get more of your attention, quietlylooking. Maybe I'm way out of line, but that's honestly what came to my mind as I read what you've shared.
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Old 12-30-2013, 02:40 PM   #9
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You know... The way you describe it, that he tells you about these dangerous things he does, and regularly shares how he is feeling, but keeps wallowing in self-pity... It's like he is trying to get more of your attention, quietlylooking. Maybe I'm way out of line, but that's honestly what came to my mind as I read what you've shared.
This is what I was getting as well.
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Old 12-30-2013, 05:53 PM   #10
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It seems like he is in a place where he doesn't WANT to feel better. He wants to wallow in his unhappiness as it is a way to keep his love for his ex in some strange way alive and real. Or is that just me trying not to feel guilty for not doing more for him?
I don't think these things are clear-cut. Depression is a horrible thing (been there, done that) and the nature of the disease can make it harder for people to seek treatment. But that doesn't mean they have no choice in how they handle it, and there's a fine line between supporting somebody through a transient problem and enabling them to avoid dealing with something that needs professional help. My response in the situation you describe would be something like this:

"I love you and I want to help you, but it's been X years and I'm concerned that you're using your relationship with me as a way to avoid getting the help that you really need. You're an adult and you get to make their own decisions, but it's distressing for me to be in a situation where I'm helping you harm yourself. So next time you start this conversation I'm going to ask what you're doing about getting professional help, and if the answer's 'nothing' then I will hang up the phone."

(Some counsellors do suck, BTW, but the good ones are worth it.)
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Old 12-30-2013, 09:37 PM   #11
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did you ever find out what precisely it was that was said? because when people aren't ready to hear something helpful they make up crap that gives them permission to dismiss it.

i agree that it sounds like depression.

ed
I went back and looked at the messages, and this is what he said. You may indeed be right:

"I talked to a lady psychologist who told me men who really fall hard for a woman and don't let go, live short lives...and I can't let go, that the problem"

I think he is depressed. But I think he may be exaggerating to some extent what the psychologist told him. I think he may, indeed, be wallowing in some self-pity, but, on the other hand, I think that may be his strategy for coping with the depression.
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Old 12-30-2013, 09:39 PM   #12
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I don't think these things are clear-cut. Depression is a horrible thing (been there, done that) and the nature of the disease can make it harder for people to seek treatment. But that doesn't mean they have no choice in how they handle it, and there's a fine line between supporting somebody through a transient problem and enabling them to avoid dealing with something that needs professional help. My response in the situation you describe would be something like this:

"I love you and I want to help you, but it's been X years and I'm concerned that you're using your relationship with me as a way to avoid getting the help that you really need. You're an adult and you get to make their own decisions, but it's distressing for me to be in a situation where I'm helping you harm yourself. So next time you start this conversation I'm going to ask what you're doing about getting professional help, and if the answer's 'nothing' then I will hang up the phone."

(Some counsellors do suck, BTW, but the good ones are worth it.)
I think this is likely a good approach. I need to steel myself for a potentially poor response. On the other hand... hearing me say this might shock him into some positive action.
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Old 12-30-2013, 09:41 PM   #13
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This is what I was getting as well.
Thank you all for such thoughtful and reasoned responses. You have succeeded in making me feel better, at least!

I'll try to report back as things progress.
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Old 12-31-2013, 11:44 AM   #14
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I'm not very "proud" to say this but I'm going through a situation that makes me have the same tendencies as your friend. (Except I do not do dangerous nor illegal activities). So maybe I can give you some perspective from the other side of the femce.

I had several friends just like you, who were ALWAYS trying to help me with my situation. They went above and beyond to push me to get help and to break through the chains that were holding me down. I can honestly say that as much as I appreciated their help, once I noticed they were trying to escape my life, I deleted their phone numbers. It was for the best. I was putting them through pain that they didn't deserve.

So he might be a lost cause. I might be. But from my own experience, it's best to let go. My friends tried their damned best but I literally said "no" to ther faces time and time again.

Hitting rock bottom and realizing that the pain is more difficult than the climb back up is the only way somebody will make a change. I've hit a few rock bottoms already and I can tell you that they were not enough. It's going to take something drastic to change. If not, then just let natural selection take its place. People who are healthier will thrive. People who are weak die. That's how the world works and that's good.

Good luck. I say let go.
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Old 12-31-2013, 12:39 PM   #15
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IF he can't appreciate you as a friend, why anguish over it???

... He's certainly old enough.

My two cents .... Tell him to get over it and move on ! period !
That's nice dude. Hope you get your guts ripped out some day too.

I guess it's not just American women that shit on their men then is it? It's like some women have this agenda to get even with men for something they perceive we did to them.... Oh wait, that's slavery.... no it's feminism..... It's easy to get confused in a day and age when we have the obligation of carrying the burdens of our forefathers around our necks.

As for you Browneye.... I hope YOU get to experience some of what this man and what I have felt in OUR lives. Smug bastard. Bet you stand over 6' tall too don't you?
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Old 12-31-2013, 12:42 PM   #16
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Very similar to my situation.

There is not a lot you can do for him. He has to work it out for himself. When he does give him my number and tell him to share how he did it.

As for myself, When I throw the ring in the glove box in the river I guess I'll have gotten past it. Maybe I'll do that the NEXT time I buy another car.
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Old 12-31-2013, 01:30 PM   #17
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That's nice dude. Hope you get your guts ripped out some day too.

I guess it's not just American women that shit on their men then is it? It's like some women have this agenda to get even with men for something they perceive we did to them.... Oh wait, that's slavery.... no it's feminism..... It's easy to get confused in a day and age when we have the obligation of carrying the burdens of our forefathers around our necks.

As for you Browneye.... I hope YOU get to experience some of what this man and what I have felt in OUR lives. Smug bastard. Bet you stand over 6' tall too don't you?
Curious Coot, I'm sorry you have had some painful experiences that have lead you to make some disappointing generalizations. Remember there are many good women, and kind and decent feminists out there! And some women (especially shorter ones like me) find shorter men incredibly attractive too.

For the record, I don't think his ex did anything wrong at all. She didn't want to continue the relationship, and she ended it kindly, and they did stay long-distance friends for a while after that until he became obsessed with moving to her country and getting her back.
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Old 12-31-2013, 01:35 PM   #18
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I'm not very "proud" to say this but I'm going through a situation that makes me have the same tendencies as your friend. (Except I do not do dangerous nor illegal activities). So maybe I can give you some perspective from the other side of the femce.

I had several friends just like you, who were ALWAYS trying to help me with my situation. They went above and beyond to push me to get help and to break through the chains that were holding me down. I can honestly say that as much as I appreciated their help, once I noticed they were trying to escape my life, I deleted their phone numbers. It was for the best. I was putting them through pain that they didn't deserve.

So he might be a lost cause. I might be. But from my own experience, it's best to let go. My friends tried their damned best but I literally said "no" to ther faces time and time again.

Hitting rock bottom and realizing that the pain is more difficult than the climb back up is the only way somebody will make a change. I've hit a few rock bottoms already and I can tell you that they were not enough. It's going to take something drastic to change. If not, then just let natural selection take its place. People who are healthier will thrive. People who are weak die. That's how the world works and that's good.

Good luck. I say let go.
Christopher2012, thanks for your honesty and insight. I'm sending you some hugs to help you through your painful time. It's not much, I know. And try not to forget about your friends... when you get to a better place, or even before then. They were there for you because they care about you and their friendship with you.
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Old 12-31-2013, 03:06 PM   #19
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That's nice dude. Hope you get your guts ripped out some day too.

I guess it's not just American women that shit on their men then is it? It's like some women have this agenda to get even with men for something they perceive we did to them.... Oh wait, that's slavery.... no it's feminism..... It's easy to get confused in a day and age when we have the obligation of carrying the burdens of our forefathers around our necks.
Dude. When a woman starts a thread specifically looking for advice on how to help a male friend... hijacking that for a rant about how women are cruel femmos who screw men over? Really? That's a pretty big chip on your shoulder there.

I see you already started a thread to discuss the shortcomings you perceive in women. Perhaps you could leave it there instead of interrupting somebody here who is trying to deal with a distressing situation and help a guy who won't help himself?
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Old 12-31-2013, 03:15 PM   #20
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Christopher2012, thanks for your honesty and insight. I'm sending you some hugs to help you through your painful time. It's not much, I know. And try not to forget about your friends... when you get to a better place, or even before then. They were there for you because they care about you and their friendship with you.
Thanks. It's a tough situation to be in when you actually DO NOT want help. Any healthy person would find the logic to be ridiculous. I don't really know how to explain it.

To be more specific, escape seems to be the answer in our heads. We use those same problems that we have almost as therapy to treat the very situation that we're in. We become dependent upon our problems and we don't want to let go no matter what. It hurts yet at the same time, it's comforting. We desperately seek out a reward stimulation in our brains and our problems give us that fulfillment. Reality becomes fantasy. Reality becomes unreachable.

We do want attention but that doesn't make us "attention seekers" like the stereotype goes. We know we need people in our lives. We know that we need loved ones. And at times, we try to do whatever we can to get even the slightest hint of love from other people. Some resort to pets or inanimate objects for that personal love.

But in the end, we are stuck in a viscous circle of self-defeat, self-pity, and self-hatred. Ultimately, fear is our foundation. Fear dictates what we do. We are truly killing ourselves slowly. It's best to leave the weak behind. We will either pull through on our own or we will die, enslaved to our problems.

Sucks... But what's a brotha gonna do?

For more information about how people with mental problems deal with loneliness, here's a video that somewhat explains it. You have to look past the video game stuff!!! If you can do that, you'll have a better idea of what I mean.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5w6ieaTxGA

Last edited by Christopher2012 : 12-31-2013 at 03:29 PM.
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Old 12-31-2013, 07:08 PM   #21
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What you are describing sounds like love addiction. Believe it or not, people can be addicted not only to substances or activities like gambling or sex, but there's a growing body of research about love addiction. To learn more, google it,. One excellent facility that treats it is the Meadows in Arizona. Check out their website. Also, google Pia Mellody, who has some you tube lectures online. She's a leader in that field. Anyone out there who knows anything about addictions will recognize your friend's behavior. Substitute something more familiar for the woman and it may make more sense to you. It's very difficult for friends and family to understand, and it is very powerful. There is help, though. Hope this helps.
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Old 01-02-2014, 03:58 AM   #22
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Old 01-02-2014, 05:21 AM   #23
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I'm kind of torn on this. I think he is telling you about the dangerous stuff and wallowing in his misery because he has at least some awareness that he needs help. I'm not entirely sure if he actually wants help though. I would tell him that you support him but that he needs professional help. It's a big burden to take on being the listener in this situation, so it's up to you to decide if you want to continue on this or not. It puts a lot of stress on you but it's also hard to cut a friend loose especially when they aren't really in a good place. It is not your responsibility to fix him. If he is indeed depressed, there really isn't any way to really snap out of it. He will likely need therapy or meds or both.
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Old 01-02-2014, 01:25 PM   #24
subwannabe
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You are nothing but a crutch to this person. There is no way to help him if he doesn't want it. The end result here is he will drag you down along with him if you let him. You need to be more selfish and think about yourself. It is his fault he is at this place in his life and only he can fix it. If he can't then he can't. Don't let him drag you down his road.
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Old 10-29-2014, 08:14 AM   #25
quietlylooking
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Just to tie up the loose ends here: my friend did eventually end up climbing out of his hole of darkness. He sounded great the last few times we talked on the phone; he seemed to be his old self and had found new happiness. He still had some residual feelings for the ex, but seemed to be handling them more normally.

Very, very sadly, though, I just learned with a shattered heart that he died this week in a tragic accident. I think he was in a good place again in his life when this happened. Not sure it makes it any better, but I'm glad he did get to see the light again.
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