People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist

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randompanda

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People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« on: June 20, 2017, 01:32:38 PM »
I am at my wit's end right now with some very pushy friends in my life.  I come from a PD FOO, and have been "in charge" of fixing all of their self-caused messes since I was a child, including acting as their personal therapist/dumping ground for their problems.  As I've come OOTF, I've realized how many people who aren't in my FOO also use me as their personal therapist/dumping ground, and I've had enough!  One by one, I've either gone NC with PD friends, or told them that I am not available. 

I have a particular friend "S", who I'm starting to think may be PD (covert N), who just isn't taking my (many) hints that I don't have time for her mountain of problems.  This is someone who is married to a good friend of mine, and while I like her, I wouldn't qualify her as even a "good" friend.  We're just friends.  We don't talk on the phone or go shopping together or anything.  We just basically see each other at barbecues and birthday parties and whatnot. 

"S" and my good friend's marriage is imploding, and from my perspective, there's not really anything that can be done to salvage it.  "S" asked me to have dinner with her a few weeks ago under the pretense that she wanted to just get out for a girls' evening, and I told her I was very busy with work (all true), and that I hardly had time to eat dinner and shower at home before I had to go to bed.  "S" persisted.  I felt bad and agreed to meet with her.

So a week later, I drove straight from work to a restaurant to meet her, and she proceeded to spend three hours sobbing and crying about her failing marriage.  Like, right at the table in the middle of the restaurant.  And she started literally begging me to tell her what she should do - over and over.  I was quite taken aback at how intense it got, and tried to be "lightly" supportive, but not take her problems on as my own.  I also made it very clear to her at the end of the evening that I had no free time, and that I really didn't have dinners out because I usually work very late. 

She has friends that she is MUCH closer to than me, so I'm not even sure why she reached out to me to begin with, unless she picked up on the "rescuer" codependent vibe that I must unconsciously throw off.

At the end of the night, I was so glad to be free, I felt like I'd been locked in an emotional closet with her for the past three hours.  It was so draining, and it really triggered my emotions as they relate to my PD FOO.  It took me days to shake it off.  She hasn't sent a text or email to me since then, so I figured she got the hint, and is taking her problems to someone else. 

Surprise!  I got a text from her yesterday asking if I was free for dinner again.

I waited until today to respond, and just said that I was very busy with work for the coming months until my project was finished and am working late every night, and that I just didn't have any free time at all.

She replied immediately and said that while she understands I am busy, she just really, really needs to talk, so can we go to dinner or what? 

My brain just started shouting, "NO!  No.  No.  No.  No. No."  I do not want to do this!  I have already said that I wasn't available - on more than one occasion I have said this!  She is putting me in such an uncomfortable position! 

I don't want for things to get weird, and I do care about her as a person, but she just isn't taking no for an answer and I'm not sure how to proceed from here. 

Any ideas or suggestions on letting her down easy while holding my ground?

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Bloomie

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2017, 02:22:28 PM »
randompanda - I have had this friend oh so many times in my life as a pleaser and fixer and can relate to this so well:

Quote from: randompanda
At the end of the night, I was so glad to be free, I felt like I'd been locked in an emotional closet with her for the past three hours.  It was so draining, and it really triggered my emotions as they relate to my PD FOO.

I think it is our wonderful Woman Interrupted here on the forum who says something like this (paraphrasing here) - you are just one in a long line of people this woman is going to go to for whatever it is she needs. If you do not meet her for dinner she will eventually move on to the next person in line. This type of person who is overwhelming and her behaviors indicate a bottomless, boundary-less pit of need and demands, will go to the most generous, kind, willing person first and when they wear them out, will just move on down the line.

When you say no I am not available you are under no further need to respond. In my own experience....Crickets. Radio silence. She asked. You answered. She is attempting to encroach and is ignoring your stated limits. Exchange over on your terms.

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randompanda

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2017, 12:38:29 PM »
Thanks so much for the advice, Bloomie.  I immediately felt the weight lift off of me after I read your reply.  I had been so upset and nervous trying to figure out how to politely turn her dinner invite down again, that it hadn't reeeally sunk in with me that "Wait a second.  I already said no.  Why do I need to say no again?" 

I agree with what you said (via Woman Interrupted).  I think "S" wants a warm body to spill her problems onto, and that's all.  I'm sure any warm body will do, so after she doesn't hear back from me, hopefully "S" will just go to the next person on her list.  She has probably a dozen really good friends, and a very tight-knit FOO, so I'm sure her list is pretty long! 

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Bloomie

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2017, 02:21:03 PM »
Quote from: randompanda
I agree with what you said (via Woman Interrupted).  I think "S" wants a warm body to spill her problems onto, and that's all.  I'm sure any warm body will do, so after she doesn't hear back from me, hopefully "S" will just go to the next person on her list.  She has probably a dozen really good friends, and a very tight-knit FOO, so I'm sure her list is pretty long!

You know that list may be getting shorter by the minute as she verbally and emotionally vomits all over people with her problems seemingly without thought for them and blows past their polite decline. Finding appropriate - and in this case maybe professional - support through a devastating loss of a marriage is her responsibility toward herself. Supporting and giving as you have been able already, is more than enough imv.

Part of my own journey in this kind of thing was realizing that I bought into the "you are the only one who I can talk to - I haven't talked to anyone else about this..." line because it felt good to be needed or seen as wise or a good person in another's eyes and I twisted myself into a pretzel more times than I could ever relay here and I am not real proud of that, but fully own that it has been an unhealthy need (wounding from my own life that was at the time unhealed and unaddressed) in me that has ended me in relationships with PDs with relational vampire like behavior - which for me anyway, has NEVER ended well. Me drained dry and them well fed and off to their next source.  :upsidedown:

I also had a really hard time realizing that repeating myself weakened my voice to the person I had set a limit on and also - maybe most importantly - to myself. When I allowed myself to JADE over again with someone who was not listening to me, I was not being loving, kind, affirming, respectful to me. Which was the greater harm in a lot of ways.

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VividImagination

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2017, 05:51:13 PM »
You've said no multiple times. It's a complete sentence with no JADE needed. She doesn't care that you can't...she needs a good dump and you did so well last time she's going to try to force herself on you again.

Block her...it's like finding an out of order sign on a restroom. She'll find another.

There are three solutions to every problem: accept it, change it, or leave it. If you cannot accept it, change it. I f you cannot change it, leave it.

Sometimes you're damned if you don't and damned if you do, so damn well do what's best for you.

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clara

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2017, 11:50:38 PM »
I had a friend--a friend of my husband's who I inherited when I married him--who did this constantly to the point where I really didn't want to be around her.  Every encounter with her turned into a therapy session and if she couldn't talk "therapy" because there were too many other people around, she said almost nothing at all.  It was such a habit with her that she could no longer engage in normal conversation and yes it was so draining.  And the thing was, she complained of the same things over and over, year after year.  The same problems, the same issues.  Nothing got resolved because then she wouldn't have much to talk about.  Her entire focus in life was the focus on her "mental health" and because of that, she really had no intention of getting better.  And because my husband refused to cease contact with her, there was nothing I could do but tolerate the situation which ended only when she died--which I felt bad about because she was an honestly good person but I'd be a liar if I said I missed her.

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Bloomie

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2017, 01:59:54 PM »
Quote from: Vivid Imagination
Block her...it's like finding an out of order sign on a restroom. She'll find another.
:rofl: Well said!

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enufbs

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2017, 01:00:49 AM »
I was once in a situation like this with a "friend" who talked constantly about her physical illness. I know these people go down a line of people to call and complain to because I became acquainted with another friend of hers who she did the same thing to.

I was reading Bloomie's reply about feeling good to be needed. While that's a close explanation, for me, it isn't it exactly. It isn't that I wanted to be needed, in a co-dependent kind of way. It's that I consider myself conscientious, and I felt responsible for her in some way. But I didn't like this feeling. It was definitively burdensome.

But I know what got me into this mess: the fact that I am a good listener! But I don't want to be! Being naturally reticent does not mean I want to hear about other people's bullcrap. I want to be a bad listener. So lately I've been working on being a bad listener. And that would be my advice to you. When this woman talks about her problems, the way to get rid of her may be to just talk about your own. Don't be receptive. Listen less. And talk about your problems. And if you don't want to talk about real ones, make something up to complain about.

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randompanda

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2017, 11:08:00 AM »
Update - and thanks!  I have not responded to "S" at all, and as each day has gone by, I feel less and less bad about it.  What a relief!  And get this - two days ago "S" actually sent a message to MY husband wanting to know if they could get together and talk about the problems she's having with her marriage.   :blink:

So it's just like you wise folks here on OOTF said.  When I responded with radio silence, "S" simply saw me as an "out of order" restroom and knocked on the next door - which just so happened to be my husband!  Talk about pushing boundaries.  Luckily, my husband wants nooooo part of getting in the middle of someone's marital problems, so he has just completely ignored her message and gone radio silent as well!

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Pantomeme

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2017, 05:37:48 PM »
Glad it is getting better for you!

Another thing I try to do is say something like "wow, that seems like alot to deal with. I'd tell you what to do but I feel really unqualified. I think you should try to find a therapist to help you. "

If they really want to work through their problems, they will do so without relying solely on you!



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all4peace

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2017, 06:37:17 PM »
This is a good thread for me to read. I've been in danger of becoming this person, including with helpful and kind people on this forum. I worry about exhausting my friends. One perspective is that dealing with a PD is so exhausting and overwhelming that when I find someone who actually understands, it's really challenging to not reach out for help when things get really bad.

I've had kind friends who have said things like "I don't know what to say. Can you ask your T about that?"

I've also been on the receiving end of this behavior. I have a friend fighting cancer and once had a 5-hr nonstop session with her. I was glad to do it, but I was like a limp washrag by the end. If she tried to do this too often, I'd have to set a boundary.

It sounds like this friendship is too challenging for you to want to deal with it at this time, but I do wonder if in future situations open communication could work well. It's something I aim for with friends, and they with me--"Thanks so much for your support, but please let me know if I'm burning you out." And vice versa. As long as everyone knows it's ok to sometimes be able to say "I'm so sorry, but my own life is really draining me right now and I just can't be a good listener today." And it does seem important that overall people are trying to improve, doing something about the things that ARE in their control, and overall moving towards a healthier place.

Hope that helps, and I'm thankful for the good reminders for my own tendency to over-rely on the good listening of others.

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randompanda

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2017, 01:53:27 PM »
I think the situation with "S" wouldn't bother me so much if she were someone I even considered a "good" friend who needed a listening ear.  We're not much more than acquaintances who see each other at parties a handful of times a year.  I feel bad that she's heading for divorce, but even beyond wanting a listening ear, she was demanding solutions from me.  When I had dinner with her, she kept begging me to tell her what to do.  Literally begging - while sobbing at the table in public.  The best I could do was tell her that she and her husband should talk to a marriage counselor, or she could go to a therapist by herself.  She wasn't interested.  Then the begging would start again.  She made me feel so uncomfortable, like I was somehow failing her because I couldn't give her some magic recipe to save her marriage.  It was such a stressful position to be put into. 

She's still persisting, too.  After I posted my update three days ago that she had moved on, lo and behold she messaged me AGAIN last night, asking when we can go out to dinner.  I've told her several times in the past few weeks that I'm not available and am completely overloaded with my job, and she just simply doesn't care.  I ignored her previous message entirely, and my husband ignored her message from last week.  She just doesn't seem to care.  She wants a warm body to solve her problems, whether we want to or not!  I blocked her as of this morning.

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VividImagination

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2017, 03:27:44 PM »
Good call. She's a user.
There are three solutions to every problem: accept it, change it, or leave it. If you cannot accept it, change it. I f you cannot change it, leave it.

Sometimes you're damned if you don't and damned if you do, so damn well do what's best for you.

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all4peace

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2017, 03:47:54 PM »
That clarifies it quite a lot. This is really odd behavior (demanding you tell her what to do) from someone you're not close friends with or anyone at all, for that matter. And to then try to latch onto your husband? Sounds like she could use a counselor.

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Bloomie

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2017, 01:34:32 AM »
Quote from: randompanda
I blocked her as of this morning.
Well done.

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BunnyLover

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2017, 09:40:39 PM »
Also, since it sounds like you are a closer friend to her husband then to her, she might want you to "fix things" by going to her husband and taking her side in the conflict. Good thing you blocked her; best to stay far away from that hot mess!

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MidnightOwl

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #16 on: July 17, 2017, 09:07:39 PM »
This is a great thread, thanks for starting it RandomPanda, it's been really helpful for me to read up on. I struggle with this a lot as I'm a massage therapist and it feels like 60% of the job is listening to others vent. I don't mind it terribly, but it can be draining and it's not my level of expertise. I'm trying to get better at being a bad listener, wise words from enufbs :)

I recently left a job where one of my coworkers exhibited a LOT of similar behavior. She would basically make friends with everyone she could around the office then proceed to use each one as a dumping ground for her many, many problems. BF issues, family drama, health issues, nothing was off limits at work. And she would frequently lie about having 'no one' in her life to talk to, making whoever (me at the time) she was engaging with feel responsible to help her. But it struck me as sociopathic because I've witnessed her talking to literally everyone in the office that exact same way AND making plans with them outside of work. But she'd lie to get her needs met by any means necessary. I quit for a variety of reasons but I knew I couldn't work with someone like that. Boundaries aren't respected and the office was already dysfunctional.

So yea I guess my solution was total NC and it has been a journey to get here...but I'm finally here and it's so relieving :)

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Klorange

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2017, 03:51:41 PM »
Wow... yes. Such a familiar scenario. I have come to realize that often PDs, who cannot accept responsibility for their own life choices and ultimate happiness, will do anything - anything! - to find someone else to make responsible for their happiness (and unhappiness). And since they are a bottomless pit, they will never be happy, and everyone who takes them on will fail ultimately them (in their eyes). Lots of situational ethics when it comes to lying in order to hook potential caretakers. Depending on circumstances and individual characteristics, sometimes it's like a revolving door and you get hit up multiple times, like this thread, and sometimes it's like a long hallway of doors and they just go along knocking until someone lets them in. And then they move on. But the cycle continues because they can manipulate emotions to induce FOG. I have learned to see it coming (most of the time), and am so grateful to have found this site that gave me tools not to JADE. It has been hugely helpful. Medium chill. Not engaging. It can be done, and life is better for it.

Courage and fortitude to all who are dealing with this right now... the discomfort it causes is real! But avoiding becoming their caretaker is the kindest thing you can do for yourself as well as them.

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Is This Normal

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #18 on: August 07, 2017, 05:26:19 PM »
Boy, can I relate!

Every other person I meet wants to tell me their life story, even if we've only known each other for five minutes. I used to pride myself on being a good listener. Not anymore. I've been told I have a kind face, but some days I think I should have a pair of horns tattooed on my forehead. Maybe that would give people a little more pause.

Now, when I suspect someone is trying to move into client-therapist mode with me, I have no problem asking them if they're seeing a counselor or have thought about it. It's sort of like the last call at the bar. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. You don't have to get professional help, but you can't dump your mountain of unsolvable problems on me.

I'm so glad you recognized what was going on with this person, Random. You'll have saved yourself a world of trouble that, while gratifying, would not have helped her one bit, ultimately.

-ITN-

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clara

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Re: People Expecting Me to Be Their Therapist
« Reply #19 on: August 11, 2017, 01:56:45 PM »
I actually had an individual from my group therapy sessions call me on a weekly basis to dump on me then say goodbye, nice talking to you (when she was really just talking at me!)  It got really intense after our therapist died unexpectedly, and while I understood her desperation and pain, I couldn't do anything to help her because I was something of a mess back then as well.  In retrospect, she fit the profile for NPD, but at the time I had no knowledge of PDs so was at a complete loss for how to deal with her!  I finally got her off my back after I moved and got a different phone number.  Wish I'd had a forum like to to help me out because I dreaded her calls yet I'd feel compelled to answer them because, after all, we were "friends" (according to her.  Actually, I never saw her except at the group therapy and when those ended, not at all--just got the calls, she never suggested we socialize).