Jackie asks :
I don't know what to do. I’m 24 and I have been diagnosed with depression, and believe I have two very toxic friends in my life.
My first friend Sally and her boyfriend of six years split recently; it was an abusive relationship and I helped her through this difficult time, and devoted a lot of energy to her.
I would stay in with her whenever she needed me, not going to other social occasions so she wouldn't be alone. For example I missed a friend’s visit from America for her and the wrap party for my debut play because she needed me. I would be with her at the drop of a hat, sometimes at 2am in the morning (despite having work the next day - I work at a special needs school and it can be very difficult on little sleep).
Shortly after their split she was diagnosed with depression and began drinking and smoking and doing drugs a lot. I still tried to be the best friend I could, but her life became increasingly erratic and chaotic. After many problems and confrontations, she deleted me as a friend on facebook.
Another friend accused me of not supporting Sally, even though she hadn’t been supportive at all. All of this led to suicidal thoughts and I was diagnosed with depression and sought counselling.
This has been very helpful in dealing with issues from my childhood - including my father’s 14-year affair with one of my teachers. The outcome of my therapy was that I distanced myself from both Sally and Jane, but two months later, I heard that Sally’s father had been unwell and I got back in touch with her saying I was thinking of her.
We spent more time together again, then yesterday, I saw her out and about with her new friends and she completely ignored me.
It turned out, Jane had been in touch with her and had told her she was the reason I was having counselling - then she told me I was far too self-absorbed at the moment. She suggested I have a counselling session with our friend Jane instead, but she has behaved inappropriately with my boyfriend in the past and can be manipulative.
She has a nasty temper and can turn very nasty. She would often descend in to breaking down my character if I ever raised a problem with her. Thanks to her, I now feel like 2 months of working on building myself esteem has been totally undone, I feel Jane has undermined a positive thing in my life - counselling.
I am sick of feeling always in the wrong and as though my feelings do not matter. I feel trapped and as though my life isn't my own anymore. I’m 24 years old, yet I am watching a scared unassertive child live it. These two cannot seriously be friends, can they?
You have really been surrounding yourself with negative influences haven’t you? Firstly, if you have had suicidal thoughts recently, you must contact your GP or your counsellor as a matter of urgency. There are ways of coping with these feelings and you need to access them in case they come back to you.
As you suggest, I think it’s fair to say these friendships have been somewhat toxic for you. It sounds as if the counselling was really working for you, so perhaps you can go back to see the same therapist and try to un-do the recent damage?
Try not to focus on things like being deleted as a friend from facebook - that happens to plenty of people and usually for silly reasons that people regret later.
It sounds like you’re boring him. Even if he does still like you as he used to, he won’t for long if you carry on quizzing him about his daily habits. Ease off a bit and be a bit less available.
Remember life before social media, what would have happened here? You’d have just seen less of the girl - which would have been good. She couldn’t have ‘deleted’ you from some imaginary list of friends in those days.
Pity her for being so lacking in self-esteem that she felt this move was significant in some way. Try to take a step back from people who tell you negative things about yourself. Make an effort, as you had done, to create space between you and these people.
It will make you feel much better, after a short time of not having any involvement with them and in future, learn from your mistake of giving them a second chance. Not everyone deserves a second chance, not if they’re manipulative and you know they’re no good for your emotional wellbeing.
Although you might feel like scared, unassertive child, you have taken the decision to distance yourself from these people once before and sought counselling, and it started to work.
So take confidence from that and accept that you can’t change these people and that they are not positive influences in your life. Accept that, take ownership of the fact that you are choosing to move on from them and only then will you start to recover and do very well without them.
When you say they can’t be friends, can they, I’m not sure what you mean - they obviously both have issues and feel the need to criticize other people, probably because of their own insecurities.
You walked away and then invited these people back in to your life. Major error. Un-do this now and keep away from them. What were you thinking of? I suggest you have a nice character, you’re an optimist - you try to see the good in people.
This isn’t a fault or a deficiency in your character but sometimes this will lead to you getting hurt. Accept that people will let you down because of their own issues rather than it being something you have done or caused (whatever they might tell you).
You need rules, girl! Rules for yourself about what level of involvement you will allow these people to have in your life. You need some rules, like someone on a diet needs rules to help keep them focused.
Otherwise you might stray back in to the path of these friends and you’ll be vulnerable every time - until you’ve had sufficient counselling sessions and can finally accept that the problem isn’t you.
Depression affects 1 in 3 adults in the UK - and judging by the sound of it, your depression has been caused by external influences rather than it being internal, and so hopefully you can find a way of distancing yourself in order to make your recovery.