I was going to go into details about all of this. It’s not really my story to tell on either one, but I’ll be vague about it. In the last couple weeks, I have had two friends spinning off the rails. The long-story short about it for both of them is one I put some boundaries into place. One I walked away from for good. The other I am heavily considering doing the same. It has been hard to listen to repeating, rambling stories about how they are making sad choices to consciously fuck up their lives. One was a friend for a short time, and the other has been my friend for 20 years.
Both are self-medicating. Both are thrashing and ruining their lives. And with both of them when we have visited, I have this almost prickly feeling in the back of my head. It’s a voice that says “You know what you are listening to, right? You are listening to someone destroying themselves. This is slow suicide. This is madness.”
There is something to be said for someone who will be there for someone no matter what, and I have had my share of friends who have sat with me in the pain and listened and we’ve worked our way through some serious moments in each other’s lives. The big difference being that when they have been going through some stuff, or I have, we wanted to get through these things. I’m learning that some people just want to live there. If you can call it living. They don’t want to get better. They are killing themselves slowly and I have a front row seat.
Boundaries are important, and I know I have brought this up a number of times. When you have been raised in an environment where boundaries are either not acceptable or treated as betrayal, you are reluctant to put up boundaries. You get the brunt of their anger, you are told you are the mean one, you are told you have abandoned them (even if they are the ones who detonated their lives and for some reason you are responsible for their happiness–you have to save them!) They might actually be the one knocking out three bricks for every two you are trying to put in place for their freaking foundation! You feel guilty when your tanks run empty. And the calls keep coming. The next wave of drama. The next catastrophe. The next time they light their hair on fire and look at you like you didn’t bring the right fire extinguisher. Quit lighting yourself on fire!
For someone who has felt the heavy hand of abandoment issues, there are times when walking away has left me feeling completely guilty. I have a hard time saying “I have a boundary against someone acting like a complete shitshow.” You feel so cold and detatched. But there is a difference between seeing someone who is fighting for the next day, someone who genuinely loves life but is having a hard time and is simply overwhelmed, and someone who looks at you dead in the eye as they do the next stupid thing, expecting you to rescue them. And then throwing guilt at you for putting your ringer on silent or simply not answering their texts anymore. But the burden of guilt is on you, because you were their only friend.
I didn’t ask to be someone’s ONLY friend.
As if that isn’t manipulative. You feel guilty too for wondering how that could possibly be? I mean doesn’t everyone enjoy being someone’s emergency contact for someone continually hurting themselves? Yet, you get to be the asshole when you walk away.
Good people are used by trainwrecks all the time. I’m not saying that sometimes I’m not a little bit of work, but what I am saying is that when some people slather themselves up in bacon grease, they shouldn’t be surprised when they get bit jumping into a pool of pirannahs. So, I’m not even saying I’m all that good if I’m willing to just call it and say, naw, I’ve seen enough. I hate funerals, so why should I hang on to people who seem in such a rush to make it to their own? It might sound cold, but I have my own foundations to build, my own fires to fight, and I can pretty much tell when the Return of Investment is just going to be me having to buy a dark suit one of these days.
I’m a white knight in retirement. It’s a fine line to be there for someone when they are in need, and when their source of attention is making sad choices that ripple out to hurt others and themselves. It brings me no pleasure turning my back on some people, which is why I reserve it for a worst case scenario. But sometimes you have to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.
Boundaries are not fun. They aren’t easy. And sometimes you feel like a son of a bitch when you set them. It hurts because maybe it would just take one more time listening to them or just reaching out to help them…but some people will attach themselves to you and all that compassion and optimism and hope for them just turns bitter. Like an infection it can reach into your heart and ruin everything good you have inside. And they just don’t even care, because like a drowning person, they will take you under with them.
There has been some rough, stressful moments in my life, and looking at these situations, I have perspective. You see, I actually love my life, in spite of the hard turns and knocks it has given me. I love watching sunsets and visiting with friends and writing and petting my dog and a good joke. I like that hit of cold water in the face you get sometimes when you are on a whitewater raft. I like so many things about this world. So I’m not sure why it’s my responsibility to answer a call from someone who prefers the mess they are in to things like roasting a hot-dog on a willow stick over a campfire or looking at a beautiful piece of artwork in a museum. Some people are artists in chaos.
That boundary will hurt like a bitch. But I have always asked for help with the desire to pull myself out of the darkness and move onto better things, so I can learn about more things I don’t ever want to miss out on. I guess that makes me a little selfish. But really, the truth of it is, when someone uses you up, they don’t give a damn. And they will do it without remorse. They might even blame you for not sticking around long enough to fix their problems. They might even say you were the problem.
I guess what I’m saying is I need to be better at boundaries, and making the call as to whether I should help or not. Because this sucks.
I’m doing okay, in spite of the challenges and worries. The big reason for this is because I want a better tomorrow. I might beat myself up a little bit, but in the end, I know that things are going to turn out however they are going to turn out. It’s never my goal to make them worse to prolong my suffering for just a little bit longer. Jeez, no thanks. I can think of a hundred other things I would rather be doing. Letting myself become as bitter as they are isn’t on the agenda. But it is good to remind yourself that boundaries are important.
Tonight I am tired. Exhausted. But I am resolved to putting my resources where they matter. Not just with others, but also myself.