Strong people and stress

I have a close friend who up until recently has the uncanny ability to stay stalwart in the most stressful of times. In the three years I’ve known this friend, she has never wavered, never shown any sign of personal stress or depression, nor gave any inication of it in the past.

She had always been that strong person that always seems to be very ‘level’ when everyone else is unbalanced down. Whenever I would ask how she would get through tough emotional times she simply would tell me that she would really try to not dwell on it. She wouldn’t let herself be in denial about the situation, but she would also not let herself wallow in it.

Well, she’s having some kind of crisis. She works with abused children for a living, and the nature of her job means she is not inclined to go into details about why she had a bad day. I guess she had a REALLY bad day recently, but because I know she doesn’t like to dwell on it, I tried to cheer her up by talking about other things.

I guess it backfired. She got very angry at me for one reason or another, got super drunk (I’ve NEVER seen/heard her intoxicated in three years and talked to her on the phone tonight and she sounded drunk out of her gourd) and basically told me off for being a horrible friend and not helping her in her time of need. I’m understandably baffled and upset/confused.

My guess is she’s so used to being the ‘strong’ person she’s been overwhelmed by something she herself could not handle, and possibly wants me to be the role she played when I had a (much more insignificant) little crisis that I wanted to talk to her about. But I don’t know. I want to help her, but she just seems upset and incredibly antisocial which is also extremely unlike her. In short, this remarkably sane, competent friend of mine has gone completely off the rails and I am at a loss at what to do to help her.

Anyone have similar experiences?


Suck. Is there a way you guys could meet in person, say over coffee? Or is there someone closer to her that you could recruit to help? Provided she hasn’t been lying to you this whole time about her coping mechanisms, then whatever is going on is really serious and someone needs to get enough details out of her to help her. If it’s a work thing, you might have to alert her boss to get around the confidentiality issue, but hold off on that until you know for sure. No point getting her in trouble at work for something unrelated.

She is in one of those ‘depressed hermit’ type states. I’m familar, I’ve been there. Basically she feels down, so she’s too depressed to hang out with anyone, she just wants to be alone. But I think this makes a person feel worse. At the same time, I can’t force myself in to help her feel better, she’s really gotta be open to it. So its kind of a dilemma for me.

While intoxicated she abruptly cancelled all the get-togethers we had planned this month. I tried not to overreact but its just painful knowing someone close to you is suffering yet they push you away! I’m crossing my fingers that the pedulum swings back the other direction tomorrow morning.

Friends should try to help out our friends when they need help. However, friends should also let friends know when they need help. It’s a two-way deal.

Some people are very proud of being strong, but unfortunately their pride can backfire when they actually need to lean on other people.

You aren’t psychic and you didn’t realise your friend needed to lean on you. That’s as much her fault as yours and she needs to realise that.

What is your normal method of communicating with each other? Do you send emails? I’m thinking this might be a good case for an email, because it gives you the chance to say what you want to say without being interrupted by her.

You can tell her that you’re sorry you didn’t realise she needed help, but also tell her that it’s hard to know when she needs help because she is such a strong person. She really needs to let you know when she needs help rather than assuming you’ll figure it out on your own. Perhaps offer to get together at your or her house for a good old chat?

Chances are she may now be regretting her outburst and feeling quite embarassed about it and wanting to brush the whole thing under the carpet. But I suspect there’s still an underlying need for help and you shouldn’t ignore that.

We had two phone conversations today. One earlier in the evening when I got off work. That was when she said she had a really bad day, so I tried to steer the conversation toward lighthearted things. She seemed somewhat ok at the time, we talked and she told me she was eating some popcorn and pouring herself a glass of wine. I mentioned the sound of her munching on popcorn was making me hungry, and I was going to go because I wanted to go pick up some dinner myself, and settle down to a netflix movie I got in the mail. She kind of abruptly said “finegoodbye” but I thought nothing of it.

Then later in the evening I was checking facebook and noted that she left an entry in her blog mentioning feeling really stressed and compulsively cleaning her room/excersising. She has some obsessive-compulsive tendencies so I called her to make sure everything was ok. That was when she was EXTREMELY drunk sounding, incoherent, depressed, angry at me, etc. Just not the same person. What is weird also is that she normally has a really high alcohol tolerance- normally a social drinker (on the weekends) and when she drinks she can drink everyone under the table. Its unusual for her to drink on a weeknight and even more unusual to be so drunk off ‘a few glasses of wine’ as she put it.

The more I acted all white knight-y about trying to help her the more agitated and hostile she got toward me, so I changed tactics and just got her to talk to me, hoping she would sober up. But after an hour and a half of talking she was still upset and angry at me for not…I dunno? Pressing her to share her work drama the one time she wanted to share it? (in 3 years) Saying X instead of Y? I started to get kind of irritated but didn’t want to make her more upset so I just encouraged her to talk and share. But it was pretty clear she was quite drunk and incoherent, and just repeating the same things every 20 minutes so we said good night.

I messaged some of her closer friends and told them I was a little worried about her. She normally doesn’t like it when I drag other people into situations like this but I was worried enough that if she hated me for trying to help her I was fine with it.

I believe you have correctly analyzed your friend’s reaction in your last paragraph. Perhaps in her mind, whenever you faced a crisis, she offered advice and assistance, albeit limited. Now, she may feel that during her emotional crisis, she received no support as you wanted to change the subject. Her misinterpretations of your true intent to cheer her up and not dwell (which is her philosophy) may have caused her to overreact and feel as if you discounted her emotional situation.

Just a guess based on your description of the situation. I agree that meeting with her may be the best course to judge her current frame of mind and actually determine if she continues to dwell on the incident or is in a mood to discuss it.

I think she may feel exposed because she wants to be thought of as strong. She blew up at you because you saw her down. I used to be a lot like that but I eventually found out it’s ok to be human and learn healthy ways to deal with stress. Holding things inside only works for so long. It isn’t good for us in the long run. If you want to help her let her know that you are there for her and then give her some time alone.

Man, that’s hard. Does she have any legal restrictions on not being able to talk about stuff? My sister has had to deal with that being a Tech at a school counseling program. It took her a while to figure out exactly what she could and couldn’t talk about.

So while my sister is not the uber strong type, she has to spend a lot of time NOT telling people what is wrong. And that does build up. When she has a really bad day, though, she can get really upset at even the smallest sleight, and misinterpret genuinely well-meaning gestures. But she still wants people to help her feel better, and will say that those gestures still made her feel better.

So, I’d say, don’t sweat it. Be the good friend you know you need to be. Communicate that you were trying to help, just in case she doesn’t know, but, other than that, just do what you know she needs. In my opinion, you’re actually a bit lucky that she flat told you what that was, so you don’t have to guess.