‘Meg the Muse’ Asked:
Dear Dr. Zoe,
My friend of 17 years behaves in strange, hurtful ways and I don’t know whether these things could indicate some sort of personality disorder or trauma. She gives the silent treatment, pushes her friends away, accuses other people of being out to get her or of disrespecting her boundaries without saying what those boundaries are, love bombs people and then cuts them off, holds grudges, cries and is embarrassed easily, has unrealistic standards and won’t accept criticism. This has been a pattern for many years now.
She still lives with her parents, hasn’t dated in 5 years and refuses to step out of her comfort zone even a little bit. I love her and want her to get the help she needs so she can lead a happier life. What do you suggest?
Dr. Zoe Answered:
You are describing a pervasive pattern that is consistent across social interactions, occurring for many years. Although I certainly can’t diagnose your friend from your question, these behaviors and responses could be a result of trauma, a personality disorder or a host of other organic brain issues.
What is clear is that something is wrong.
It’s painful to watch someone you love live a life that is less than their full potential. It’s painful to watch someone you love hurting themselves and others.
As her friend, you can point out your concerns to her and even your suspicions about her diagnosis. You can direct her towards treatment and support her as she makes that journey.
What you can’t do is make her do anything.
This is the toughest thing about relationships. In order to have health, we have to walk a line of being a support system, yet accepting people as they are.
It’s important that you don’t fall into the trap of trying to save her or allowing your empathy to excuse her bad behavior towards you. This co-dependency realm serves only to endorse and increase her toxic behavior instead of extinguish it.
Establish firm boundaries about how you want to be treated, encourage her towards health in a loving way as you accept her as she is. If you feel you are unable to to these things, then it’s time to consider that this relationship may be jeopardizing your own mental health.
Most relationships in our life are not long term. We connect, our coming together serves its purpose, and our paths diverge. A precious few have the perfect qualities and experiences to become lifelong. It’s hard to let friends go. I’m not saying you need to do this, but if not, you need to accept her as she is.
You’ve got this. It just takes a little grit and grace