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OT - Friendship probably over, but should I feel guilty?

lieutenant_dad's picture

DH and I have a mutual friend that we will call M. M clearly has a whole host of mental health issues - depression, anxiety, and anger are the big ones. Depression has been diagnosed, but the others are extremely obvious. My couchside diagnosis is bipolar disorder with manic tendencies.

Anyway, DH and I have been aware of these issues for years, as have our other friends in the circle, and we have all just learned to tolerate them. M used to be really good at disconnecting from us when he was having a bad time, which used to help him recharge by taking him away from social situations.

Recently, however, his mental issues have rapidly gotten worse and more chaotic. He had a few fairly major (non-life threatening) health problems last year, graduated from University, got a job, moved out on his own, and had a brief relationship that he was hopeful about go south really quickly. All of these things have made his isues worse, and he is seeking out care.

Here is where I am struggling, and I'll tell you the straw that might have broken the camel's back. There are aspects of M's personality That I am unsure whether they are his mental health issues or just him. He has a severe superiority complex. He has had trouble dating because he thinks he is super hot, super smart, and super successful. In reality, he is fairly average on all fronts. He's annoyed he can't get super model-level beauty, and if you try to point out that he is average, he gets super angry. Then he gets nasty. Then he gets depressed. Everything stems from him thinking he is God's gift to creation, and when that gets tested, he starts cycling through all these emotions. Additionally, if he gets upset with a girl he is interested in, he won't tell her. No, he dumps his emotions on other people, like me, because he doesn't want to ruin whatever shot he has. If you tell him he needs to tell her, or that his reaction seems over-the-top and unhealthy, he accuses you of telling him how he should feel and tells you that he can't trust telling you these things anymore because you just dump on him.

So the straw: Last night, M invited DH, myself, and another friend (J) to come out to a bar that a mutual friend/former coworker of DH, M, and J just opened (we'll call her C). I text M to let him know DH got ofd work super late and we are running behind. I am texting M the whole way while DH drives giving him ETA on where we are. We are running super late, but none of us in this group are ever on time for anything so it has never been a big deal.

Well, it's never a big deal when people (M included) are 30-60 minutes late to my house on game night with no text; however, when we are running late AND keeping M informed, he gets super crappy with us. He tells us he is waiting in the lobby of a hotel on the other side of the bar. I tell him we will meet him at the bar. His response is "as I said 5 minutes ago, I am waiting in the lobby for anyone to show up."

I try to keep my cool as I know we are running behind. I just say that we would have to walk past the bar to get to the hotel, so let's just meet at the bar. DH and I get to the bar less than 5 minutes after that text and text him that we are there. We wait outside for 5-10 minutes looking down the street toward the hotel waiting. He finally texts back saying he is inside the bar at the bar.

Go inside, J is there with him. Sitting at the bar. With no open seats. M then calls me on my phone acting like he hadn't said a word about the hotel, acting like he had no idea we were that close, and wanted to know If I was getting a table.

DH is pissed and gets us a table. We tell M and J we have a table. Five minutes later, C comes marching up to us telling us she is pissed that we didn't say hi or sit in her section, cussing at us, then walks away. DH has had it at this point (M has been moody for weeks and giving me crap, and DH went into protective DH mode), then proceeded to tell M and C both to eff off and he was tired of the games.

He came and sat down, J walked over and sat with us. Apparently, he had NO clue we were that close or he would have gotten a table. He had NO idea C had a section of tables we could sit at, though apparently M did. So M, who had been there before any of us, couldn't get us a table, or let J know when he picked seats at the bar that we were less than 10 minutes away, or let us know that C had tables she was running in addition to the bar. No, instead, he wanted to make us all feel bad for running late and told C something that pissed her ofd enough that she came and chewed out DH and I.

J sat with us through dinner and M left at some point. This is just the thing he does - complain that he wants people to go out with him, but when we do and don't do exactly what he wants, everything turns into a game where everyone but him looks like an a-hole. And since M has a thing for C, he played up the sympathy card with her so she fought his battle for him.

Again, we were late. We apologized. DH got stuck at work and couldn't leave. DH didn't even want to go but wanted to support M's request to go out. Anytime M is late (which is frequently) or anyone is late, we raz them a bit, but we don't turn it into a cluster. We don't purposefully do things to make that person feel excluded. And we don't passively-aggressively chide them, either. We're all good friends and roll with it. It's not like we were late to a wedding; it was just hanging out, a thinb we do every other weekend.

So my struggle now is that DH and I are both done with the pettiness and the anger and the mood swings. We have tried to be patient and kind and understanding, but recently it has become too much. It's daily texts from morning to night that are up and down emotionally, from him feeling suicidal to being higher than a kite emotionally. We can't handle it, and he won't do anything between therapy sessions to help. He doesn't want to be medicated, but he also won't do anything else therapeutic. I am not his therapist, his wife, or his mother. I can't fix him.

But is it wrong, as a friend, to not help him when he is clearly in a ton of pain? I don't know what else to do. DH has tried talking to him, and I have encouraged M to reach out to DH for help. Nothing. I have tried telling him to call the crisis line to see if they could ger him in sooner. Hope. Call his GP to see if they will put him on something to balance his moods? Doesn't trust them because they gave him a depression medication ONCE that didn't work, so he thinks they're incompetent. Exercise, meditation, deep breathing, centering? No, he'll just fix his chemical imbalance with willpower (legitimate thing he said).

I can't keep this up. I can't be the dumping ground for his emotions and then get punished when I don't jump how he wants/needs me to. Please tell me I am not in the wrong for stepping back and washing my hands of this. If I should feel bad, then tell me what else I can do. I am at the end of my rope with this, and I don't know what parts of M are him or his illness.


oneoffour's picture

Let's start with M. Just tell him his behaviour is very difficult to deal with. He holds everyone to a much higher standard than he is willing to do himself. This makes the relationship very one sided with you all making allowances for him and he calls everyone out for their 'faults'. So for the next 6 months you are taking a break from him. No hanging out, no game nights. Nothing. In 6 months with some personal growth on both sides you will see where things are. Wish him the best and disconnect. Or consider it adulting disengagement. Smile

Now C. First she was in her place of work and felt it was acceptable to read you the riot act and get pissy. If she is the owner she would have just lost a client for a few weeks. It doesn't matter who she spoke to earlier, who told her what. If she is aware of how M is then she is aware how he behaves. So her behaviour is also unacceptable. She could have said "I have saved you a table over here. Do you want to move or are you settled here?" It doesnt matter how great a friends she is or how close, she was working and should have been more professional and her attitude was just crappy and rude. She would owe me much more than a few free drinks. A resolution not to behave like that again would be expected.

Don't let people hold you in toxic relationships that do not have an equal ebb and flow.

mommadukes2015's picture

Often times you’ll see something that is refereed to as “delusions of gradniousity” co-occurring with manic phases of mental illness. It’s not that uncommon and when they are in a manic phase, there is no reasoning them out of it. 


Also so at the same time, what you have going on on the inside will manifest on the outside. 


I agree reed with you assessment that it is time to walk away from this individual. He clearly needs some help, but there isn’t anything you can do for him from where you sit. You don’t have to show up to every fight you’re invited to, and you’ve done just that. 

Iamwoman's picture

You can’t help those who don’t want to be helped.

M seems to have all these various mental issues, but given everything you’ve written, I think every last one of those “issues” is bs, and M uses diagnoses to gain sympathy. M’s behavior toward everyone in his life is classic narc all the way. Natc to the extreme.

I don’t think you are wrong for dumping that friendship. People like M will treat others as others allow themselves to be treated. They will push boundaries constantly, and explode in rage when the “players” (you and friends) in their “game” (life with M as the lead character) don’t follow the “script” (M’s idea of how the world should revolve around him). I feel so sorry for anyone this guy dates. When I was a young woman and modeled abroad, I was a constant target for narcissistic men who wanted a perfect GF. All narcissists think they deserve the very best and most expensive of everything, and get upset when it doesn’t happen.

You can’t fix M, you and DH can only protect yourselves. If enough of M’s friends dump him, he may eventually modify his behavior to a more socially acceptable level, but the core values will never change with him.

Aniki's picture

Oneoffour said it all.

Sweetie, this is indeed a toxic relationship. I walked away from my best friend of 45 years. In part, it was due to his toxic, narcissistic control-freak girlfriend. Upon reflecting, I realized just how toxic HE had become. 

Toxic people are not healthy for us. Stepping back, walking away.... this is the medication WE need to remove the 'toxic flu' from our systems.

strugglingSM's picture

M sounds manipulative and toxic. Those two traits can exist without mental illness, so I wouldn’t give him a pass on his game-playing.

C was totally out of line and overreacted in an extreme way. How were you to know that she had an area of tables? Was she working when she laid into you? How did she not get reprimanded.

Overall, your friend group sounds like a trip. They can’t plan, everyone does their own thing, and then they get offended when people don’t do what they want, even if they didn’t tell those same people what they wanted in the first place. Totally reminds me of DH’s family and it drives me nuts!

I agree with the advice above - maybe it’s time to take a break from all of these people. 

notsurehowtodeal's picture

“delusions of gradniousity” is often a component of a manic phase. It is clear M needs medication in addition to therapy to deal with his bi-polar. The problem with trying to tell him this when he is in a manic phase is that he won't believe it because he is feeling too "good." This "good" feeling is also what causes some people to stop their meds when they are in a manic phase.

Have you ever tried talking to him about medication and other issues when he is in a "down" phase? He may be much more willing to listen to advice when he is feeling bad.

In any case, you should not feel bad for stepping back from him. Maybe try one more serious conversation and then tell him you need a break for awhile. Dealing with someone with mental issues can be exhausting for the person trying to help. You only have so much to give and you need to look after your own mental health too.

Thumper's picture

There is NOTHING you can do to help this person. There is nothing anyone can do. ALL the caring, compassion, tenderness etc will not help him. Only a proper diagnosis can and proper therapies.

Now about feeling guilty....Guilt is when we do something immoral and/or illegal. You have not done either of these.

You may feel sad your loosing a friend, or frustrated he wont seek help. OR angry it has come to this decision. Perhaps all of these feelings.

Sometimes you have to let go of people. Its not a bad thing. Letting go of people also includes bio family who are down right awful to be around.

Sad sorry your going thru this....I know it is very hard to cut ties. YOU will feel better when you do trust me. 



lieutenant_dad's picture

Thanks everyone. I think I just needed someone else to tell me what I already mostly knew to be true. I just didn't want to make a decision without getting an outside perspective.

I really don't care one way or the other about C. She is an acquaintance to me at best, and DH gets tired of her attitude. M will hurt a bit, but there is already relief with having not gotten texts from him today and not reaching out. I have talked to him ad nauseam at various stages of moods regarding treatment, and it has only been in the last few weeks that he has really considered it. He has told me he is scared, but again, he won't do anything to try and get in to see someone faster, or get medicated, or anything. I know he is lonely, but he has moved an hour away from everyone and we just can't see him regularly that far away.

I do think there needs to be some time taken taken away from this group. We have another friend who is part of the core group that is making really stupid life decisions that bleed over into the group, and I am almost equally done with him. J really is the only okay one; he has his own issues, but they are his to deal with. He wants to hang out because it is fun and relaxing. He and I have been friends for nearly 20 years, and he seems to be the only other one in the group who has realized that being an adult requires taking a lot of personal responsibility for yourself. He is M's best friend, but even he is done with it all.

At the very least, I'm taking some time from this. I'll determine later just how final I want that decision to be. I need to get away from the drama and realize that M will figure it out whether I am part of it or not.

jrpartner's picture

You're not wrong for stepping back.  From what I've heard, your friend needs to reach out for help to make good changes for himself- which could and probably should include a combination of therapy, medication, exercise, and other changes in daily routine.  It's good to want to help your friend, but at a certain point you just need to step back and let him bottom out.  Accept you don't control his fate, he does.  You sound like a good friend to me, and I hope he decides to make some changes in his life for the better.