Woe Is Me! “I’m Tired of My Friend’s Constant Sulking. How Do I Deal With His Pity Party?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“My best friend is always at his low ebb and depressed lately. I try to cheer him up and say the right things, but I feel it’s useless as whatever I say, he doesn’t want to come out of his little pity pool. I have anxiety issues of my own to deal with too and he often pulls a “my shit is bigger than yours” monologue on me. I often feel like taking time off from this toxic friendship, but he’s my only best friend. Should I keep myself in the toxic loop and not give myself the time to heal (because apparently, my shit is not “bigger”), or keep some space for my own issues/problems to be dealt with?”
— It’s not a competition
AP: I’m so sorry you’re facing these issues. We mostly rely on our friends to keep us sane, so when the equation with them becomes rocky it is extremely stressful. When we are going through something traumatic, it is often difficult to be empathetic. While I can see why your friend doesn’t understand your pain, it doesn’t justify him invalidating your feelings. A person drowning in 3 feet of water is the same as a person drowning in 23 feet of water, and comparing traumas is simply not okay.
I’ll of course recommend opening frank communication with your friend as a first step. Let him know that while you’re here for him, you need the same from him. The friendship can’t be sustained if it is skewed on one side. With this not only will you be working on healthy communication, you are also helping him grow as a person. Since you’re best friends I’m sure he will eventually understand. And if he doesn’t, then you are perhaps better off finding new friends. I understand the fear of being lonely, and being an introvert myself I have stayed in relationships and friendships longer than I should have. But a little distance can give you both time to think, to realize each other’s importance, and to try to understand each other. Good luck, and don’t be afraid to put your mental health first.
DR: “I didn’t realize it was a trauma competition,” is what you should tell him. Then, while he’s recovering from the shock of that statement, tell him you empathize with whatever he has been dealing with, but that you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to be his support system right now. Let him know you’re there for him in spirit, and value his friendship, but that your hands are tied here. Have a conversation with him. Then, you can, maybe, suggest to him therapy if he needs to work through any issues in his life; that’s not a role you can play for him.
If you are an extremely non-confrontational person, though, and worry you wouldn’t really be able to tell him this in person, I’d suggest you write him a text explaining how you feel.
BG: Friendship is kinda like a socket and a plug, you need both to light it up. It’s cringe but it’s true. You both are on the same side here, you are fighting against your mind not each other, talk it out and help each other. Clearly, the way things are, it’s only making you both distant as it’s not helping either of you. Before spreading yourself too thin, get some time to yourself and tell your friend about it. You are struggling too. Play the “my shit may not be bigger than yours, but it is my biggest shit at the moment and I need some time to get through it.” Honestly, if you can’t talk about your feelings and your needs, you might want to take some space to think about what makes you happy. Also, try to get your friend some help with therapy. You are not his therapist, there is a very thin line i.e. boundaries – that you need to set before friendship turn’s into half-assed therapy.
RN: I don’t think that’s a friendship you have going on there at the moment so much as it is free therapy — for him. It’s not just that he’s dumping much of his pain on you but also, he isn’t being the friend to you that he expects you to be for him. Tell him he must have missed the memo on friendship being a mutual relationship that people cultivate in their own ways; also how can he expect you to be his support system without addressing your own issues first? You’re right in assessing that it’s toxic and you definitely need a break from him. You’re afraid that he’s your only best friend but I’m sorry to break it to you: you don’t have a best friend right now. Getting some space from him won’t change that — it’ll only allow you to grow as a person and deal with your shit rather than his. He’s holding you back and nobody is ever allowed to do that, least of all anyone without even an ounce of self-awareness or empathy for your pain.