How can I help my friend?

I have a friend. An internet and RL friend for 15 years. We see each other in RL rarely, but online every day. She suffers from depression, she’s desperately unhappy in her job, but blames management - no one else does any work besides her in her opinion. And all she does is post about how rotten her life is, how her day is going to suck, how her day did suck, and how tomorrow will suck, too. I’ve suggested she look for a new job, but she can’t work up the motivation to do so. And, quite frankly, she’s burned out of every job that she’s had. It’s always that she cares too much about doing a good job, you see, and no one can live up to her expectations.

I love this friend, I really do. She’s a caring person and kind. She’s a pre-op TS. But I’m getting so tired of her constant negativism. It’s so hard to be empathetic - I’ve had awful, soul-killing jobs, then I found something else. And being sympathetic seems to be to be feeding into her depressive loop. But telling her to buck up is pointless and cruel. Trying to guide her towards doing something, anything, positive doesn’t seem to be working. And I’m afraid that if I were to really withdraw, she might actually commit suicide - she has very few friends left.

How can I be the friend she needs while not getting sucked into the vortex of her despair?


Is she seeing a therapist? It sounds like the root of her unhappiness is based in how she views the world (the constant negativity and perfectionism), and a professional therapist is the best qualified person to try to help her change that.

I think the role of a friend in this kind of situation is to show you care, try to provide some happiness in her life, but don’t dwell on trying to “fix” her problems. It’s not your job as a friend to carry the weight of all her psychopathology. I know it’s natural to want to try to help and make things better, but that’s too much of a burden for someone who isn’t trained to deal with these problems (and, equally important, someone who is experienced in how to carry these burdens for other people without becoming overwhelmed by it). I would say let her talk about the problems to you if that seems to be helpful, but I wouldn’t worry about trying to “fix” it for her or being overly sympathetic. Acknowledge what she’s saying, acknowledge her feelings, but don’t go all “you poor dear” over it.

If you do have a concern she might be suicidal, it’s okay to ask her about it and let her know you care about her. If you think she is an imminent danger to herself, call the police. If she’s not imminently in danger, but does have any suicidal thoughts, then again this would be a situation that a professional should be involved. A person who isn’t professionally trained shouldn’t be trying to manage a suicidal person on their own any more than a person without medical training should be trying to manage cancer on their own.

what is it about you that attracted her to you?

lavenderviolet - I am by nature a problem-solver, so when people tell me their problems, I usually try to suggest a solution. I know that’s often not what people are looking for, but it is who I am. She isn’t going to a therapist, or even seeking anti-depressants at this time. Part of that may be because she’s not seeing the problem as within herself, but with everyone else. I will try to suggest counseling, although I don’t know if she has the money for long-term therapy.

stoplight - We met as members of the Bronze, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer posting board.


if you are good with her rejecting your problem solving suggestions then proceed. If that rejection gets in your kitchen, avoid offering your suggestions.

If you were in a similar situation how would you want your friends to proceed?

Maybe you could tell her that her constant negativity is leaving you feeling inadequate, since you want to help her but you never know what to say. She may get defensive and deny that she’s a constant complainer. Try not to argue with her and just say, “I’m just telling you how you come across and how it makes me feel. If you care about me, you’ll at least think about what I’m saying. Now let’s talk about something else. Something happy.”

Then the next time she starts complaining about something, this is when you say, “See, this is what I’m talking about. Let’s talk about something else or I’m going to have to hang up the phone.”

This will maybe train her to censor herself more.

Visit her and do some fun things together.

If you can, get her to change things in her life. Sounds like someone stuck in a destructive pattern. Easier said than done though. Maybe you need to just withdraw from the relationship.

I have friends like this. I finally just have to say, “I don’t know how to be a friend to you right now because there doesn’t seem to be anything I can say that helps. What do you need from me that might be helpful?” If she just wants to vent and bitch, then you can listen and commiserate. If she wants actual advice, then she will be acknowledging that up front and should expect to hear it.
It’s a drag to deal with this…don’t let it wear you out or bring you down.