How to help a friend but also set boundaries
So the backstory for this situation is that I play dungeons and dragons (DND) with some friends that I made online. If you're unfamiliar with DND, it's a game where a group of people collaboratively tell a story together and decide the outcomes of the story by rolling dice. One person (me) takes on the role of the narrator of the story and drives the main plot forward and the other people take on the role of one specific character each (the protagonists of the story).
After we had a couple of sessions one person started to no-show with no explanation why. He would confirm he could make it a week in advance and then at the time of the session would just not log in to the video call and wouldn't respond to messages. Then when I would follow up with him in the days after he would profusely apologise and explain that mental health issues prevented him from attending. I've offered him a lot of support. The only thing I've asked is that if he's not feeling up to a session, please just let me know, no matter how late notice. I'd never be upset with him for cancelling if he just told me that he couldn't make it.
So that brings us to now, he attended a session 3 weeks back and had a great time. Then he missed the following session with no explanation. I gave him a few days and reached out to him and he told me he had a complete breakdown and checked himself into the mental health unit and only just got out. I'm extremely worried about him hearing that and want to give him all the support possible, but I'm at an impasse. The rest of the group is getting quite frustrated that he is no-showing and, to be frank, I spend many hours a week writing stories for his character that end up getting thrown in the bin because he doesn't show up, which is frustrating for me.
So I want to keep offering him support but I want to set a boundary here. The rest of the group is at the end of their rope and have asked that if he no-shows one more time that I remove him from the group and we find someone else to play with. They are somewhat aware of his circumstances but he hasn't disclosed his latest troubles to them and I don't feel it's my place to share something like this with them without his permission. I'm equally frustrated with his no-showing but when he does show he genuinely has a great time and I don't want to take something that he truly enjoys away from him.
Does anyone have any advice on how to set a boundary with him, without just abandoning him?
Welcome to the bb forum and thank you for sharing your story.
You sound like an incredibly caring person and a good friend to your fellow DND game player. Sounds like your friend is having a really rough time and that the game is likely to be important to him, given he attends when he can and has a good time when he presents.
I do, however, understand the impact of his frequent absences on you and the others. Can you imagine how upsetting it must be for him? To not be able to participate in something he enjoys due to illness. So sad.
I'm wondering if it's possible to talk to him and see if he wants to take a leave of absence while he recovers from his illness. It's possible that the "pressure" of having to front up and then the disappointment of not being able to do it is troubling him, too. If he were to take a break that would alleviate the frustration for you and the others cause you already know he won't be there.
Would it be possible to fill his spot on a temporary basis? Can you play one person down for a spell? You could set a return date in a few weeks (take your cue from him on the timeline) and then if he still can't play talk with him again before moving to replace him.
Kind thoughts to you
I absolutely see things from his perspective and understand that it must be very painful for him to feel like he's letting down the rest of the group. As far as reaching out to him to chat, this is something I can definitely do and I'm more than happy to give him some time to recover. If we're aware that he won't make it then no one has any hard feelings.
The part I'm finding most difficult about this is being the person who has had this information disclosed to me, while the rest of the group hasn't. I'm sure if the rest of the group was aware of his circumstances they wouldn't feel as frustrated that he misses sessions.
Any suggestions on how to broach this specific subject would be greatly appreciated. Should I ask him to share what he's comfortable sharing with the group? Or ask if he's comfortable with me sharing on his behalf?
Thanks again for your advice 🙂
Sometimes it can be really scary for someone experiencing a mh issue to disclose to others. Stigma is still a powerful force and once you ring a bell you can't un-ring it.
I think your instinct to ask him what he would like to do is correct. So, I would ask both questions and do what makes him comfortable.
My daughter played a sport at the state level at the time she fell ill with OCD at age 13. She couldn't make all her games or training sessions and it was heart-breaking for her. She disclosed to her coach and closest friends on the team. The coach understood and supported her but not her team mates. The girls eventually bullied her out of her club.
It was soul-destroying for my daughter. With just a bit of compassion and understanding things could have been so different. And I was powerless to help her.
So, thank you for allowing me to help you help your friend. Trust me, by just being kind you can make a big difference to your friend's life and recovery. Everyone needs a friend like you.
Kind thoughts to you