‘They Sucked Me Dry”

When Supporting Friends Becomes Too Much

There was a time last year when I realised I had to let go of some friendships that were affecting my mental health.  I would come home grumpy because I was providing therapy sessions for my friends, that didn’t want to get professional help.  I was so wrapped up in taking care of others, that I wasn’t taking myself into account. 

I think my friends sucked the energy out of me and I started withdrawing because I had nothing left.  I felt numb.  I used to spend lots of time gaming and not sleeping.  I first noticed numbness appearing in Year 5 when girls started turning into teenage girls.  It got worse in Year 6 and 7 when everyone was questioning their sexuality and gender.  I was coaching a friend who thought they were trans.  They didn’t have the skills to deal with their own problems.  I had to cut off these people because they had no sense of boundaries and they sucked me dry.

Numbness is an affect of depression.  You lose motivation for everything. Numbness made me not care to shower.  I used to not shower for weeks.  I would feel depressed at the thought of having a shower.  Numbness helped me not to think too much.  It made me too lazy to move forward into despair.  Numbness also made me not sleep.  If I sleep too much, it made me more sad and I might fall into despair.

I realised my friends were dragging me down.  I ended up getting rid of those people.  I just started by not talking to them and then later blocking them.  If it was bad enough, I had to cut them off completely.  There were ones that were extremely attached.  I had to slowly detach them from me.  I told them to go and seek professional help.  I started to find where the line is, and my mental health nurse helped me learn about boundaries.  I noticed they slowly started coming to me less for their problems and I didn’t have to coach them through every single step.  If it got really bad, I would go to their parents.

It can be a scarey thing to get outside help.  Kids attitudes to accessing professionals can differ depending on the school culture.  At my old school, the whole counselling thing was not set out well.  There was no privacy and kids didn’t feel secure, teachers had access to notes, parents would know about it, and it was less about mental health and more about religion.  I did my own research looking at headspace online and realised there was a better way.  I told my friends about it.  Some said thanks but others wanted to continue to talk to me.  I couldn’t keep them as friends anymore.

There are some problems that are bigger than what teenagers can deal with.  I didn’t want to be their only support person.  Mum told me that if there was ever a problem too far out of my reach, that they should go to a trusted adult.  And that’s what I did.  I told them it was way out of my hands.  If you tell them enough, they will realise what they are doing is unhealthy.  I did this to make them stop relying on me.

I think we need to find a balance; having a balance of professional help and being able to help yourself.  Friendships turn into relationships of dependence if friends don’t help themselves.  You need to find other ways to help yourself, if your support systems are failing. 

When I moved schools I realised I was just a support person that was giving advice to friends, and they were not healthy friendships.  But even when I left, I gave each of my friends a book about what I appreciated about our friendship.  I have held onto relationships with friends that are more open to getting help for themselves. 

Opportunity to be an Outsider Witness to this story

After reading this story, we invite you to write a message to send back to the author.  Here are some questions to guide your response.

  1. As you read this story, were there any words or phrases that caught your attention?  Which ones?
  2. When you read these words, what pictures came to your mind about the authors hopes for their life and what is important to them (ie. dreams, values and beliefs)?  Can you describe that picture?
  3. Is there something about your own life that helps you connect with this part of the story?  Can you share a story from your own experience that shows why this part of the story meant something to you?
  4. So what does it mean for you now, having read this story?  How have you been moved?  Where has this experience taken you to?

Please contact us with your response and we will forward your message to the author of this story.