xenologer: (bye bye)
It is hard. Getting it? Hard.

Getting it is especially hard if you're like me have a lot of friends who are mentally ill or elsewise having problems that really should be the purview of an actual mental health professional. I have thought more than once in the last week that if mental health care were more widely accessible, my social circle would be cut in half.

I am feeling a little rantypants about it.

Seems like every social circle has at least one person who is the cheap substitute for a therapist for everybody else. There are several problems with being this person. The first is that people pretty much only talk to you when they want something.

They know that you won't offer advice unless they ask, so they will talk to you about everything because nobody else they know learned the trick to just listening. They also know that if you do offer advice, it'll be geared toward figuring out what they really want and not necessarily a specific thing that they should do because you want it. You are fairly reasonably familiar (even if not always from personal experience) with diverse relationship structures, and supportive of the innumerable array of orientations and gender identities, and so they'll never hear, "Well have you ever tried not being who you are?"

You see that, though? Those aren't the qualities of a friend. That is a résumé.

These are not friends. They are clients. What the fuck do you do when people turn themselves into projects? I mean, the obvious question here is, "But are they there for you when you need something?"

Header One: No. Fuck you.

This is a bad question for a few reasons. First off, I am not a fucking shambles, so I do not have the kind of drama that they do that I can just go dump on them the way they do to me. I don't have the material for this experiment most of the time, because my life is fairly stable. I've typically been pretty low-drama my whole life except for the instances when I allow high-drama people in (or when they come in and I have no choice but to allow them to remain).

The second reason is that I don't think some of these people are resilient enough to step out of their own wreckage to help anybody else. I have friends who have needed reassurance that it is okay to watch porn, but then have asked me if it is normal/okay to ever be too tired to masturbate.

I have had friends who've needed me to do one on one and couples' counseling type shit with them just because one or more of the people involved have such serious self-awareness problems that they have to be walked through the impact of their decisions and whether it matches with what they say they want.

I have friends who need this now, though I finally fired myself from that because it was starting to affect my ability to be here for my husband, who also occasionally needs me to talk him down from the crazy tree and frankly deserves to be front in line for this service a lot more than anyone else because he's my husband and when I need it in return he actually does it.

There are the people who are afraid to tell anybody they love that they're an atheist, because they're afraid of what that conflict could turn into.

Header Two: Fuck these people, too, because I sure wasn't going to.

Back in time, there was my second boyfriend, the guy who was my boyfriend at least largely because each of us needed someone to keep us away from our prior relationship. I had decided to cut off my boyfriend, though, while he was still a self-mutilating suicidal wreck over the fact that I had "destroyed his destiny" by being nicer to him than his cheating fiancée (with whom he was clearly "destined" to remain locked in some kind of fucked up perpetual suicide pact until they were finally both dead). He needed me more than I needed him. Mostly I just needed someone who knew I was there, but the gigantically gaping enormity of his need just got to be too much. I still didn't break up with him, though. He broke up with me because I didn't want kids and told him that we'd never have sex if he wouldn't agree to use condoms.

So yay, go me. Set a boundary, lose a basketcase.

Digging further back, there was my first boyfriend who was wonderfully intelligent, clever, and well-spoken when he was sober, but who had moved to town because he was struggling with addiction. When he didn't show up to school, teachers didn't call his mother in another city; they asked me if he was okay and I took his homework to him. He said he thought he'd be likely to "deflower" me (eugh that word), and I told him he wouldn't. I loved him the way you can only love the high school love of your life, but I knew that wasn't happening. When he asked why, I told him that my first time was going to be with someone who loved me.

I knew it wasn't him. He didn't even argue. To his (minimal) credit, he said he thought that was sweet and dropped it. For the record, I was right and I got what I wanted. Sex was not going to be like the rest of my life, where it's something other people need from me that I can give. Just this one time, in this one situation, it was going to be something I did with someone because it made both of us happy.

Everybody always wants something from the only sane person they know. Unfortunately, there is only so much stock on the shelves in the sanity candy store, and we're fresh out.

Too many people clinging to me because of my unique status as the one who isn't falling apart at all times. Problem is, if you have enough people hanging onto you, they start pulling off pieces and taking them with them. It doesn't even help them, either, because they never stop coming back. Clearly because I am more resilient than they are, I am infinitely so and this makes me some kind of magical beast of emotional burden.

This has got to stop.

Header Three: I am not a Decanter of Endless Sanity.

To return to the previous question about me seeking support from them, they can't really help me with my problem if what I need is for them to stop being so fucking crazy. That is not how mental illness works, and if they could stop being emotional shit-shows, they just would, because they're certainly not enjoying it. I either need to learn how to be friends with mentally ill people while still keeping them at arm's length, or they need to learn how to be friends with stable people.

Unstable people need friends at least as much as stable people, and probably more so. Unfortunately, they're in a poor position to be good friends themselves, and these are the people I tend to attract.

I like them and would love to be available to offer them support, but being relatively stable doesn't make me fucking magical.

A lot of unstable people feel really guilty about talking about their issues because they don't want to be a burden, which is part of why it has taken me so long to accept the way I feel and why it took even longer after that to get up the nerve to say it:

You are a fucking burden.



Cut that shit out. Cut it out until I can see your number come up on my phone or your name come up in my email or your IM window flash without thinking, "Oh fuck what do you need now."

I'm tired of being reliable. I'm tired of being dependable. Maybe if I were a complete fucking flake or if I were liable to implode at the slightest touch like everybody else, people would see me as a finite creature because this time they would have to be constantly hyper-aware of my limitations and all the careful measures that they need to take to prevent a collapse. Maybe if I were the one with emotional dynamite strapped all over myself, I'd get some fraction of the energy back that they need other people to expend for them.

Not going to happen though.

I need something more than new friends. I need a new way of having friends. People do this because they can get away with it, and maybe if I change that... maybe if I change what they can get away with, a few of them will step up their game and at least try to treat me like a friend and not a resource.

If reading this hurts someone's feelings, I finally don't care. If our friendship is only sustainable as long as you're the only one who gets to freak out, then our friendship sucks. If your mental equilibrium is entirely dependent on never knowing what's going on with me--which is something I have often suspected--then fuck you. Maybe you're being the best friend to me you can be, but that doesn't make it automatically good enough.

Header Four: There is one exception to this.

There are people who talk to me about things we have both been through, and in many of these cases I have never had anyone to talk to about them.

If you are dealing with someone waving their borderline personality disorder flag in your face and all over your life, talking to you is probably good for me because what we are doing is commiserating, and it feels good. If you are ripping yourself apart for the people around you because they seem to think that they'll fall apart if you don't and you believe them, that's an experience worth sharing, too.

The difference is that these are equivalent exchanges. These are peers sharing experiences and supporting each other. The people that I'm having these specific conversations with are not dumping projects on my metaphorical desk and clinging to my knees until I drop them an emotional loan that we both know they'll never be able to repay.

I didn't realize how much this was upsetting me until a friend and I talked about a problem he's having and I actually connected with it. For once what someone needed was to hear about me, and for me to make that connection between our experiences. It wasn't until I had that connection that I realized I didn't have it with the others.

Header Five: So yeah anyway fuck you.

So maybe people are gonna go cry now because they have to deal with my feelings like I've been dealing with theirs for a while now.



That is exactly the number of fucks that these people give about my feelings or even my existence as a separate creature with a life of its own outside of my usefulness to them. That is how many fucks they get back.

If they don't have the luxury of caring about anything but their own wreckage, then that's fine. I guess that's how it's gonna be here. They fucking started it.

So yeah. Tell your friends. Candy store's closed. Also it hates you.

Date: 2012-04-19 08:12 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] amalnahurriyeh
amalnahurriyeh: XF: Plastic Flamingo from Acadia, with text "bring it on." (Default)
1. holy shit those are the two best gifs I have EVER SEEN. Amazing. I love them.

2. This is an excellent post. And it actually shows a lot of compassion, in part because you understand that sometimes the people who don't give a fuck about you can't, and that's fine, but you're not gonna get sucked in. Which is healthy. And good.

Date: 2012-04-22 06:48 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] silveradept
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
It's a good thing when someone says, "No, I will not exhaust myself trying to be everyone's therapist, and especially not for the people who seem to revel in their own dysfunction." And/or "I do not have the spoons to deal with this particular incident, you will have to go somewhere else."

Date: 2012-04-29 11:16 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] ellixis
ellixis: kitty with pencil (Default)
Cut that shit out. Cut it out until I can see your number come up on my phone or your name come up in my email or your IM window flash without thinking, "Oh fuck what do you need now."

I would like to stand up and applaud you for this whole rant, but particularly this line, because it encapsulates the whole thing very well, and it's an immediately recognizable incident and feeling to anyone who's been there.

I have so been there. It's hard saying no, and it can make you feel like a giant bitch/bastard, but someone who only takes is a leech, not a friend, and that's not a healthy relationship.

Bravo, madame/sir.

Date: 2012-04-19 08:05 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] eac.livejournal.com
You're very severe, here. But I actually moved 3000 miles away in large part to disentangle myself from these kinds of relationships, so I am sympathetic. (It worked, but wasn't really a very practical solution.)

Date: 2012-04-19 08:14 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] virginia-fell.livejournal.com
Over a period of years, it gets to be very wearying to know that only one person can have their needs at center stage, and because I'm not the one who'll implode hardest, it's never gonna be me.

I just don't feel like that is a good sort of friendship to have, and I have gotten myself into a lot that work like that. I think I need to steel myself for feeling more than a little severe, for feeling like a horrible heinous selfish bitch.

I was told once that there is such a thing as healthy selfishness. If I'm going to give all my mentally ill friends this much license to be self-centered and not give any fucks about my feelings, then maybe I need to be a little more generous with myself when I want to put myself before them.

So yeah. I am kind of ramping myself up to be a real bitch about this, because me being a bitch is pretty much just... me saying, "You know, I am not available for this right now." But it takes me being willing to be what feels like really callous even to get that far.

Date: 2012-04-19 08:26 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] eac.livejournal.com
I never looked like I was imploding, either. Because I had a great poker face while melting utterly on the inside.

Treat yourself at least as kindly as you do them. You need to protect yourself or you'll be an empty husk of a person. And that serves no one, least of all you.

Date: 2012-04-19 08:31 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] virginia-fell.livejournal.com
Thanks. That is a thing I need to remember.

apropos of nothing

Date: 2012-04-19 09:01 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] veronica-rich.livejournal.com
We should eat lunch on a Wednesday sometime soon. (I won't tell you my problems. We could rant about politics if you're amenable to participating. Or just make up new superheroes for an hour.)

Here, have a doctor more in tune with what you're feeling today. He's very honest about his name.

Dude.

Date: 2012-04-19 09:51 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] crysthewolf.livejournal.com
We have money now. Or will, after Friday. We should come over and shower good sushi upon your household or some such thing.

Date: 2012-04-19 09:51 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] afro-dyte.livejournal.com
ext_118625: (Default)
I feel ya. And, if/when you're up to it, it might be worth looking at how race, gender, and class are tied into the expectations these people in your life have for you.

Speaking for myself, since I'm a Black woman with a bit of girth, people often Mammify me despite not knowing the first thing about who I really am, what I can really do, or even how I feel. It's . . . exhausting.

Date: 2012-04-19 11:17 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] eac.livejournal.com
Thanks for this comment about the Mammifying - it's absolutely possible that I do that to other people, and I'd never thought about it. Now, at least, I can think about it.

Date: 2012-04-21 03:34 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] interactiveleaf.livejournal.com
This was awesome to read. Thanks.

Date: 2012-04-22 08:38 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/__kat__/
Damn you are articulate.

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