Dear Rachel,

I have a friend whom I have known for years. However, since I moved to another city over a year ago, I have not seen her in person, and we have only spoken over the phone or through email.

I have never found her to be the easiest person to get along with. She will be great and easygoing one minute, and then suddenly shift and be impossible to deal with. More recently, however, she has been really depressed and non-responsive, and seems to blame everyone else for her problems.

It might be possible for someone who has only recently met her to believe that others are responsible for her situation. But knowing her for some time, I know that she really has created many of her own circumstances. I am concerned for her and fear that her recent behavior will really create major problems for her. But she is not open to any advice. If anything, she has completely turned against me and has really caused me a lot of pain with her irresponsible behavior. What should I do?



Dear E.S.,

You want your friend to know that she is loved I hear your pain and your desire to help, but unfortunately, it is quite difficult to help someone who doesn't recognize her problem, and even harder to help someone who doesn't want to help herself.

Being that you have known your friend for some time, you probably do know better than others who is really responsible for her pain. But often situations are not so clear cut. A person who is not stable emotionally is much more likely to become involved with people who are likely to cause her legitimate pain and further her unfortunate situation. I would bet that her current situation came about as a result of her own issues and skewed perception of reality along with circumstances caused by others..

The question of what you can do is tricky. And the fact that you live far away increases the difficulty.

I would suggest trying to track down other family members or friends that are care about her and are involved in her life. If possible, speak to them and see if they share your concerns. Let them know of the decisions she has made that worry you and see if they likewise feel that she is in a troubled state and doing things against her own best interest.

If they do agree with you, perhaps they are in a situation to actually do something about it. If there is any concern that she is an actual danger to herself or others, then even if she is not interested in the help, it might need to be forced upon her. If enough people who are concerned do an intervention — which would mean literally sitting with her and explaining that she is not stable and needs help (either medical, psychological, or even being institutionalized in extreme cases) — that could force her to at least start proper treatment, even if she doesn't yet recognize that she needs help.

If her situation is not so extreme and she is merely making poor decisions and turning away her friends and those who care about her, unfortunately, she might really need to get even worse before she will recognize the problems she is causing.

Chassidic philosophy teaches us that we have two arms for a reason. One arm we use to draw others close, and one we use to push away. You want your friend to know that she is loved and that you are always willing to help her and welcome her if she wants. And yet, there is the other arm that might need to be pushing her away right now to let her know that you will not accept destructive behavior or poor treatment from her.

Let her know that you will not accept destructive behavior or poor treatmentYou sound like a good friend who has done everything you can to be there for her and offer her help. Right now it does not seem she is willing to take it and rather will most likely continue to hurt you.

So for now, I would first and foremost try to determine how severe her situation is. If she is really in an unsafe situation, see who can get involved to get her the help she needs. If she is stable but merely in a bad place, you might just need to wait this out. Let her know that you are more than willing to help and be there for her, but first she must recognize that she is in a bad place and needs help. And until she is willing to do that, perhaps you need to take a step back. You can try to help her behind the scenes, but not in a way that you allow her to continue to hurt you.

I wish you much strength in what is clearly a difficult situation, and I hope your friend soon recognizes that she needs to get help and take care of herself, because ultimately no one can help her if she absolutely refuses.

Take care,