Ok, first off I have to say this is an alt, names are changed, and I'm going to try and keep things somewhat vague as I don't know if this friend is on the forums/has other people on these forums, and I don't want to air out someone else's private business. That said, I will try and be clear about the situation as well. This is a winding road to get to my current issues, so thanks in advance for anyone who sticks it out--because I need some help!
Too long, didn't read: My friend is maybe not a good friend. How can I come to terms with leaving behind a person who thinks they need me, when I need the exact opposite?
Some background first. I have been friends with Mary for ages and ages--we grew up together. She's always had difficulties in life. Her parents, relationships, focusing in school, ect. She is bipolar (and depressed/ADHD depending on the doctor), and is better on medication, which she does not always take. I have always supported her, with the very rare fight, and the problem is that it is not actually good for either of us. Once we didn't live near each other anymore, we would still talk every day, sometimes a few times. Advice about ANYTHING was my specialty. It was probably about 3-4 years ago that this began to feel pretty overwhelming for me, and I began to find her more draining than usual. She has always been a stressful friend to have, I won't lie, but she was also like a sister to me. I'm not perfect either, and I kind of just felt like supporting a friend through hard times is what you did. Her hard times never end, though, sometimes very directly or of her own making (and she admits this). One issue she has is committing to things, and sometimes I felt like I was the only thing she could actually stay committed to, which is extraordinary amount of pressure. (We are both married ladies, by the way, and not to each other)
Basically, I was her therapist. This is something that was brought up to me by other concerned-for-me people, and even her very emotionally obtuse husband brought up independently. 'Don't you feel like your friendship is really one-sided?' I don't know how to convey how big a deal it is that her husband both noticed and took the initiative to bring that up, but it's a Big Deal. Basically, everyone knew it was a very one-sided, and frequently unhealthily dependent relationship.
I had tried a few times, some more serious than others, to basically say 'I can't talk about this right now', or 'I'm uncomfortable talking about that'. Without going into detail about the issues, she would speak to me about some things that should really only be talked about with a therapist. I have always believed that good friends should be able to tell each other anything, and I don't know how to say how upsetting I find it that I'm not sure I believe that anymore.
Regardless, the worst part of that all to me was the fact that it didn't ever seem to stick/matter if I didn't want to talk about something. I felt railroaded, and unimportant. And honestly, I took it for a really long time without too many complaints (I should have spoken up for myself more) because she ALWAYS had it worse than I did. We had a lot of the same conversations over and over again over a span of years, which I asked more than once to stop. I told her I felt mean shooting her down all the time, and basically that I didn't like the way I'd been feeling about things. I don't even know when it started, but I was very tense every time I heard the phone ring. I had no other social energy. Other friendships suffered. I'm not a social butterfly by any means, but I straight up entered hermit-state, and while I of course can't attribute it all to one souring friendship, I do feel it was a large factor.
I feel that way for a large part because we haven't been talking lately, and I've been doing so much better. The reason we have not been talking is probably the biggest fight we've ever had. I think so, anyway, but I don't really know if she understands how hurt I was and how deep this issue runs for me. I'd been getting more and more aggravated with her, as nothing in our friendship changed, I wasn't having any fun talking to her, and it's absolutely impossible to dodge calls from someone who is used to you being available all day every day and knows your schedule. I should have been more direct, but I do want to remind everyone that I had tried talking about these issues many times in the past, spanning years at this point. To this day, I literally don't think she ever even understood I'd been having issues, or that I meant it when I brought these things up. That I was serious. Eventually we both agreed that I needed some space. (Thank god, said my brain)
Current issues begin here, for those that want to skip:
The having some space thing was convenient, since I was going on a trip in a couple of weeks. We went on our trip, and I had I think 3 whole weeks of not talking with Mary, Mary's new hobby, Mary's new issues, Mary's new job (which she will not manage to keep) Mary anything. I loooooooved it. I felt guilty how relieved and happy I was. I felt weightless, in that way that you didn't realize how much something was weighing you down til it was gone. I'm not trying to be dramatic, but that is how I feel.
We came back home, the calls started again, and this is where things start to really deteriorate. I wish I could say I had the balls to just break things off, because in my heart of hearts that is what I wanted. Instead I dodged calls, I wanted more time, I wanted some space to see if basically any friendship could be rekindled. I said some of that to her, but I don't think I was so bleak about it, because I didn't want to hurt her feelings. Mary's feelings had almost always been more important than mine, and that behavior is still with me.
It basically amounted to 'I still need some space'. She still called me every day, I just wasn't picking up. She sent me cute stuff on hangouts, and I felt harassed, but also I thought she was just trying to... you know, send me cute things, do the 'I'm ready when you want to talk' thing. I thought she was being way too pushy considering the situation, but I also didn't want to make a big deal about it. After another couple weeks, she made a facebook post (I don't have facebook) about me cutting off all contact with no warning, and basically how hurt she was and how awful I was being. There was a nod in the beginning of the post that I had always been there for her, and that maybe she hadn't been there for me, but then the rest of it was basically how middle school I was being. It's like none of our previous conversations, either short or long, a year ago, two years ago, or a month ago, had even made it into her head. Reaffirming to me that my wants didn't really factor in.
We have so many mutual friends, and I have always tried to keep my issues with Mary largely to myself, and not share her personal details with anyone. I had to find out about it from one of our friends since I don't have facebook, and I had a few people basically be like 'I can't believe it', to me. My sister was pretty vocal about how shitty it was, which felt nice. Actually no one was horrible about it, which is a relief. Most people who didn't know me were asking if I could be depressed, and only one person talked about how I sounded like a bitch, which is... nice.
I don't really understand how Mary could think she was just the only victim in all of this, and that it was my fault. Should I have talked to her more about my feelings? Treated her more like an adult? Probably, I'm not blameless, and I'm not a saint or anything. But I was just so angry that I can support someone for something like 15 years, and then if I need anything out of our friendship, I get a MONTH. I felt belittled, and so furious, and I finally called her for the first time in ages.
I wish I had just cut things off, once again, but I didn't want to end an important relationship in my life over a facebook post (talk about middle school), so we had a talk (oh the weeping. 'IT'S BEEN THREE WEEKS!') about how if our friendship was going to survive I needed to not be her therapist, and all that good stuff. She said she had been doing well, and we agreed she needed to not rely on me so much.
She still messaged me all the time, but she also wasn't so hurt when I was not interested in responding. Eventually I think she got the hint that things needed to slow down and not be an everyday thing, because things petered off. I got happy again, which still made me feel bad.
This is when things in her life started to go really sour, which is probably the worst timing ever for losing a support system. Her marriage had some big issues/divorce was discussed, and her behavior in response... was not good. I still feel bad admitting this, but I lost whatever respect I had for her. I talked to her once or twice, and I tried to just give the advice that I would to a stranger. 'Be a person you would want to be friends with' and things. 'Be able to respect yourself.' 'Don't do anything you would be ashamed of'. My husband knows a little bit of it, and was similarly not impressed. I just want to be clear that my issues with that whole situation were about her behavior, not springing off of my OWN issues with her.
Then she did something bad at her job, and has now lost it. This is the only job she's liked/managed to keep for longer than a week or two since maybe college? (We're 28) There was a death in her (not immediate, but still) family. I sent her my condolences, but I know she wants to talk to me. It just keeps piling on her right now. I DO know she wants to talk to me, and to my shame, I mostly just am afraid if I do I'm going to open a door to being her eternal support system again. I don't want to say she was never there for me, or a bad friend all the time, because that is not true. I really don't want to misrepresent things as if she is the devil. She's just a person who is very oblivious, a little meaner than she thinks she is, and maybe a little prone to Solipsism.
My husband has asked me what my advice would be to anyone else in my shoes, and I think I would tell them to look out for themselves, and to cut out an unhealthy relationship. But I still feel so twisted up and guilty about leaving her to deal with all this new stuff on her own. But equally, maybe more so, I'm just afraid for myself if I open up communication again. I've been making new friends, and participating in my hobby more, I'm less stressed in general, all sorts of things. What this amounts to is that my life is better without her, but I'm having a lot of trouble accepting it.