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Friendship and Self-Sabotage...
I’m in my early-mid 40s and have recently been ‘officially’ diagnosed with anxiety and depression (something I have lived with on and off since my teenage years). I’ve been taking medication for a couple of months now but I am engaging in some damaging behaviour that I feel is having an impact on its effectiveness and my recovery.
I’ve recently formed a new friendship with another woman and we have become quite close. We get on really well and are in almost daily communication (sometimes feels like we’re dating 😂!) which probably drives her nuts but helps me a lot in getting through my day, especially when I’m struggling. As well as having some awesome ‘midlife crisis’-style fun together, we’ve been supporting each other through some recent difficulties. I’ve actually opened up to her a bit, which is not something that I normally do - I am normally very guarded and (possibly because of this) I don’t have many close friends. I don’t even disclose much about myself to my husband or parents. She has been a revelation of sorts!
All sounds great so far, and it should be. But the trouble is, I’m messing it up. I can’t seem to strike a realistic balance in my mind - I seem to alternate between extremes of wanting to her to be my high school BFF and then wanting to push her away. My friendship with her seems to send me into highs and lows - she can make me feel wonderful one minute, then depressed the next. I have no idea what triggers the mood swings but it makes me tend towards feelings of self-sabotage. Mostly I can resist but on two separate occasions I have deliberately tried to end the friendship and push her away, and in doing so I have said some terrible things. Thankfully she has seen through it and hasn’t let me end it, despite having plenty of reasons to tell me where to go. We have somehow remained friends but I must be doing some damage. I feel terrible about it because she doesn’t deserve that behaviour from me, someone who is supposed to be her friend. I just want to enjoy the friendship but I’m having trouble keeping myself together.
I was wondering whether anyone else has experienced anything similar and what they did to get themselves out of it? Am going back to the doctor next week to discuss my medication, as I don’t think it’s working for me, but I also need to sort out my behaviour too. I’d be devastated to lose her friendship - and I think I must be on my last chance.
I’d like to welcome you to the forum and was delighted to see that straight away you had reached out to support someone else. I guess it shows a caring disposition.
I have a feeling that the level of friendship you are having now with this woman is one you do not normally experience. You did say due to your work environment you tended to be on guard as a matter of habit, and that even extends to your family. In my own case shared experience has made a load of difference and I’ve found myself opening up far more than I’d intended.
Being recently diagnosed and on on meds for a few weeks I guess lots of things are unfamiliar territory at the moment.
I’m not sure that what you call self-sabotage is a good description, do you think it might be a reaction to the level of trust and empathy you are extending? It can be pretty scary after all. You sound –as the sole breadwinner, mother and partner as if you rely a lot on yourself, not others.
There are a couple of excellent things in your posts –well more than a couple actually. Having sought medical help is a big step, and it looks like you are approaching the matter sensibly, going back to review your regime quickly and not letting things drag on.
The other major thing is your friend sounds quite perceptive, having the wisdom to realise some of your more extravagant activities are not what they might seem on the surface.
OK, so you are worried you are doing her damage, and don’t understand why your moods swing as they do. It sounds to me that the friendship is good enough for you to be able to speak frankly. If you don’t know why sometimes you explode say so. If you are concerned you are upsetting or otherwise making life difficult for her than say that too.
Taking the opportunity to assure her you will be there for her if she needs it in the future, it is not just a ‘fun’ acquaintanceship might be a good idea too.
So what do you think?
I too wish to elcomeyouto the forum. And taking the step of pasting and skip for help.
Croix has given helpful suggestions.
I can relate to pushing people away then falling apart and being needy as I used to do that and then was surprised I was all alone.
I think when you have spoken to her as Croix suggested and you feel more confident in yourself this may help to stop the push pull.
I agree with Croix that your friend had seen through your behaviour and wants to be there for her.
Also new relationship are tricky at the best of times,the add to that mixture tour dual diagnosis, as well as your responsibilities.
You sound a very caring person always worrying how you are affecting someone else.
Thanks for your reply. You are absolutely right that this is a new type of friendship for me and I’ve found it a little challenging at times! I don’t feel comfortable relying on other people - I rarely accept offers for help, I place a lot of importance on independence and doing everything for myself. I don’t like to talk about myself, I’m an expert at deflecting conversation back to the person I’m talking to and will run a mile if I sense that someone is trying to get me to open up to them. I have no problem making friends but not many of them ever really get to know the real me.
But this particular friend is a bit different, she has a way of being there for me when I need her but in a practical way that I don’t find so threatening. The same way I tend to try to help people. Not ‘here’s a hug and a box of tissues, pour out your heart and let me fix you’ but ‘I’m here for you regardless, if you want to talk about it or not’.
I actually shared the contents of my post with her, by way of explanation of my behaviour. And to let her know that the problem is definitely with me and not her (I have said some nasty things recently) and that I’m desperately trying to fix it. I think we’re going to be ok! The friendship has proven it can withstand some stress, which is a great sign for the future. She’s definitely a keeper 😊
I’m also working on taking down barriers and opening up more to my other good friends and family too. To see if I can make myself more accessible. I just need to convince myself that people do care about me and are actually interested in what I have to say!
Thanks again for your support and advice Croix 😊
Thanks for your response. The ‘push pull’ is a vicious cycle, I lost a close friend years ago because of my bad behaviour. I’ve always had those tendencies, which is why I try to keep friends at arms length - if I let them get too close I start to want to push them away. I’m hoping that this is the start of me stopping this behaviour and letting close friendships develop. Fingers crossed!
You are right about new relationships being tricky, I have known her for nearly a year but we only started getting close at about the same time as my anxiety and depression started to get unmanageable - really poor timing. But if she can weather the storm with me now, I figure our friendship can only get better from here! We really do click as friends, it’s so nice to find someone new at this stage of my life, when it’s a bit more difficult to find the time required to form new friendships.
I'm answering your other post here, hope you don't mind.
First off having a close friendship is a wonderful thing, as you know it is a rare event. For someone who had maintained a gulf between her and and all others, even a partner, it is doubly so.
From what you have said your friend has patience and wisdom, been able to see thought your outbursts and understood. You have even trusted her with your post, after which it would seem the friendship is stronger than ever.
When this sort of relationship happens it can indeed be confusing, its new territory after all, and in some ways one is back being a teenager, with all the ups and downs it implies. I obviously can't say which way your feelings for this lady lie, if you don't know how could anyone else:)
Although it might sound a bit could-blooded, if you do have sexual feelings for this lady do you want it to go further? Having an affair - irrespective of the sex of the other person - comes with it's own set of problems. Please don't think I'm in any way judging, just suggesting you ask yourself - I'd guess though you have probably already done so.
I do know both that there really is no hurry, if she has stuck this far she sees something in you she likes and wants to be with as a friend, and secondly if there were anything more than friendship it would need to be a two person thing.
Although you may not be in the happiest of places at the moment do you think it might be worth waiting for a while to see what her reaction is? You already know she is perceptive and has come to know you well. If you are still showing signs of confusion or distress then she may well talk the matter over with you.
If it was me at that stage I'd be frank as to the cause of my confusion.
However you feel or whatever happens you know you are always welcome here, it is your place too.
(Update to thread, copied from a related post)
I’m currently struggling with anxiety and depression. Am on medication and trying to work through my issues, but one of the setbacks I keep having is that a close friend of mine also appears to be a trigger for my depression.
It is a relatively new friendship and I have confided in her a lot more than I usually would. I like to call myself a ‘high functioning’ anxiety sufferer - nobody would ever be able to guess what I am going through because I’m skilled at acting ‘normal’. One way I maintain this charade is to keep people at arm’s length, just in case they get too close and actually discover the real me.
My friend has now seen the real me, and it ain’t pretty! Surprisingly she is still sticking with me, which is of great comfort to me. But I have developed a real attachment to her, almost a dependence, and it doesn’t take much for something that she does or says to send me into depression. I feel as if I have developed a crush on her - I obviously love her but I’m confused as to what type of love it is and how intense it is... I don’t know whether it’s just a product of me finally getting close to someone who isn’t a partner, or whether I am actually in love with her.
It is awful and it is affecting my recovery and wellbeing. I can’t face the thought of distancing myself from her, but I don’t know how I can continue feeling this way. Has anyone else experienced this? I could do with some tips on how to cope. It’s making me very sad... I really just want to have a normal, close friendship with her but in my mind I keep stuffing it up.
Hello again Croix 😊
Yes, sorry - I should have continued posting on this thread... I’ll copy the other post into here... am still learning the rules...
Again, your advice is very useful... I really don’t know what I want from her. I get such mixed signals, it’s impossible to know what she is thinking. After recent catch-ups with her I think it is actually possible that she feels equally as confused about me. But, no, I doubt I could ever go for an affair, it wouldn’t be fair on my partner and kids. And I doubt she would either. If the relationship was to go further it would have to be done in an honest way, which would take considerable time to sort out.
I’m so confused and unhappy about this, but I agree that I should wait and see what happens. Let things run their natural course. Try to act normal around her. Try not to let it set me back with my depression. Try not to overthink every little thing she does or says. None of this is going to be easy!
I really could do without this, sometimes I wonder whether the friendship is worth it to be honest... I enjoy her company but I’m feeling pretty miserable trying to deal with these feelings. Whatever they are....
No hassles with the other thread, these things sort out. Now all I'm going to do is give a thought about something you said.
sometimes I wonder whether the friendship is worth it to be honest
Well there is no going back to square one. If you broke off the friendship ask yourself how you would feel.
I think if it was me I'd feel unhappy with myself on at least two counts. First I might have hurt someone who did not deserve it and secondly I'd see myself as one who had real difficulties offering and receiving friendship, even if uncomfortable at times.
Then again there are the "what if's" to plague one. Plus I guess I'd miss the friend.
I stress this is just me, not you. I'm a quite different person and I don't know the level of distress you are experiencing because of this, or how well you function with that permanent mask on to all. So no way am I advising, just reflecting if I was in your position - which I'm not.
I do think with patience you will sort it all out. You are pretty capable after all.
Yes you’re right, patience is required. And plenty of distraction. I function quite well with my mask on, have been doing it my whole life! A few more months of hiding my feelings won’t make much difference. With any luck they will pass.
Thanks for being my conscience 😊