It’s a Fine Line

There are times in life when I walk a tightrope.

Sometimes it is by choice yet on occasions it is because I am drawn into a situation or life of another person. Part of the problem is that I am more of a listener than a talker. I have always loved voices and accents. Give me Anthony Hopkins or Richard Burton and the knees go a wobbling!

Being a people person, I love back stories and learning what brings people to the place in life they now inhabit. For some it is pure happenstance, while for others it is a series of unfortunate or unexpected events. Sometimes the road seems level, coloured by flowers of joy and contentment, yet for others the path is rocky and rough causing many a stumble or fall along the way.

I don’t like to see any of my friends struggling and the ‘mother’ in me wants to help. Of course my idea of help may seem like interference to somebody else. Removed from a situation we all see things differently. It is a privilege to be asked for advice and it is all the more rewarding when it is accepted, and the person is able to deal with and move on from the problem.

There is one thing sure and that is I will not be bribed. Any information entrusted to me in confidence will not be passed on.

I have no professional training, yet over the years I have listened and talked to many people from different walks of life. Only once have I failed, and failed badly in my book. The person in question at times phoned me two and three times a day. I made myself available whenever they wanted to talk. They wanted to talk and asked my advice, but for every suggestion I made they found an obstacle. These conversations went on over two years. At times they heard but didn’t listen, eventually I realised that the depressed mood was affecting me and the person in question had become so used to wallowing that it had become a way of life. They refused to seek professional help.

I stepped back. I had to. If I let the birds of depression land on my shoulders who would be there to help me? Was I selfish? Did I do wrong?

What would you do?

24 thoughts on “It’s a Fine Line

  1. Beautifully written post, GM

    Is it any wonder so many come flocking to Grannymar for ‘mothering’?

    You definitely weren’t selfish, quite the opposite in fact.

    I think the only thing I’d have done differently is to set some boundaries for that person to obey. They stepped out of line, NOT you!

    Now Grannymar… about this problem I was having 😉

  2. Hey Grannymar, I’m reminded of the airline thing when they ask parnets to make sure they have their own life jacket on before they assist their children or anyone else. Translation: its impossible to help someone else if you risk being in danger yourself, even if that danger is caused by the helpee or mere circumstances. And there are times when the helpee (sometimes for reasons they may not even be aware of) isnt open to help so you might as well sit back, wish them well, and turn your attenton elsewhere. Hope ‘m making sense here.

    Now, at the risk of sounding like a ditsy teen, did ya see/hear the stage version of the The War of the Worlds where they had Richard Burton doing the narrator, ooooooooohhhh.

  3. Only so much you can do and at some point you have to think of yourself. You did the right thing. Dylan Thomas now there was a voice.

  4. i was told many times that we have to protect and help ourselves before we can do it to others. even on airplanes we are told to put our oxygen mask on first before helping children, right? so i think you did the right thing. i have done the same in the past. i also found that when i need to be heard there aren’t many people i can count on – even more reason to protect myself!

  5. Morning Girls!

    @Steph – Your only problem is in managing me 🙄

    @Charmed – Alas I didn’t hear Richard Burton narrate The War of the Worlds, but I do have Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas – the full cast dramatisation with Richard Rurton reading the role that Thomas himself was originally to have played.

    @Laura – I think with all this miserable weather it is a day to play the above CD and lose myself in the dark chocolate voice of Richard Burton!

    @tatoca – Welcome on board and thanks for your thoughts.

  6. I’ve got to a stage where if I know people don’t listen to me I don’t bother communicating with them. Why waste the effort and time. There’s lots of people that sound just like who you described Grannymar and it’ll take a long time and lots of professional help before they can move on. They need professional help in encouraging them to help themselves.

  7. Absolutely not GM. Some people are just born to moan and complain. They don’t want help they just like to hear themselves go on about how awful their lot is. It’s an attitude problem on their part and all they achieve is to make people avoid them or drag others down with them.

  8. @Dave – I was one of about half a dozen telling tht particular person to seek professional help. In their eyes family, GP, me – indeed EVERYONE was nagging! That was why I stepped back.

    @Lottie – Nobody, but nobody, will ever get me down! I have Toyboys to think about! 😉

  9. Sounds like they didn’t want help really, just to moan. Some people need to be dramaticly put upon. The temptation to wallow in ones own self pity under those circumstances is very strong, the only way to get out of it is to gather the gumption (on your own or with help) to make the choices that will bring you to a better place. Wallowing makes you find the obsticals that block those paths.

    At the end of the day wallowing in shit aint going to get you clean no matter how long you do it.

  10. You did absolutely the right thing. It sounds like the best form of help was to back away – so that this person didn’t have that emotional crutch/safety blanket any more and maybe had to consider seeking that professional help option they’d ignored in the first place.

    Does that make sense?

  11. Agree with everyone else Grannymar, you totally did the right thing.

    I was in a similar situation. One of my best friend’s was anorexic/bulimic and generally screwed up (drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, you name it), but as much as I tried for three years, I couldn’t help her. Eventually I pulled away. She did sort herself out for awhile and we became friends again, but a year after I moved to Ireland she took her own life. Never know if I did right. My only solace is that she finally has the peace she could never get on this earth.

  12. Best for you at the time and hopefully for the subject.

    Having been on both ends of this sort of situation I have a bit of knowledge (not the same as wisdom note) I spent years bottling things up until it burst like a flood onto my life and everyone elses…then I found I could talk and boy did I talk?

    In that period the best friends were those who saw that I needed help before I did. They’re still my friends.
    The people I find it hardest to listen to are my own children…but they don’t listen to me it seems.

    tatoca…the ones who are there will be those few true friends that can be “counted on the fingers of one hand”….my Grannie told me that one….

  13. I want to echo what others are saying: you did what you could, you went beyond where many people would go, and when you realized that the help was not helping, you stopped. Self-preservation is an important skill, and it means you’ll be able to go on helping. :^)

    In more youthful days, I found myself as girlfriend cum psychologist quite a few times. The worst breakup included a letter detailing a failed suicide attempt. I refused to accept guilt for that; I know darn well he’d have felt that way sometimes regardless of my involvement. Very sad, but as of a few years ago he was still alive and arrogant, so sanity must have prevailed.

  14. When you try to help a friend and they refuse to listen you have done all that you can. I had a friend like you describe and I truly believe she wallowed in her unhappiness to get attention. She didn’t really want help, she just wanted a listening ear to vent to. After so long you become the enabler (like the wife of an alcoholic who makes excuses for him). At that point you have to realize that you can’t help them because they really don’t want help.

    When I discovered that my friend was so depressing to be around I dumped her. Was I cruel? I don’t have any guilt because you have to save yourself.

  15. @Thrifty – I began to feel that I was wasting energy for nothing when there were others who wanted help, were willing to listen and accept help.

    @Jen – I understand what you are saying.

    @Deborah – I listened to those threats at one point and not being near the person I phoned family and told them to take over. It was a threat for attention and the wallowing still goes on.

    @Magpie – Thank you for sharing your story. If the person seeks professional help then I will be prepared to resume friendship once more.

    @stwidgie – I agree with you. Had I kept going then it would have spoiled all hope of me ever offering help again.

    @Darlene – You hit the nail on the head. The person was in denial just like an alcoholic who refuses to admit they have a problem.

  16. You did exactly the right thing! I had a similar situation many years ago, with a neighbor who was the most unhappy person I’d ever known. I thought I could help her by being a sounding board, but my family called her the psychic vampire, because she dragged me down into her mire. They could tell when I had been with her during the day. After we moved to this home, she stopped calling me (others think it was jealousy on her part) and I finally realized I was lucky to be rid of her. Self-preservation is or should be foremost in our minds – at least with someone like this. You were right to step back.

  17. So this is why I get this message when I try to ring you…

    Hello. Welcome to the Grannymar Psychiatric Hotline

    If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press 1 repeatedly.

    If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2.

    If you have multiple personalities, please press 3, 4, 5, and 6.

    If you are paranoid-delusional, we know who you are and what you want. Just stay on the line so we can trace the call.

    If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press.

    If you are manic-depressive, it doesn’t matter which number you press. No one will answer.

    If you are anxious, just start pressing numbers at random.

    If you are phobic, don’t press anything.

    If you are anal retentive, please hold.

    Not making fun of anyone, GM. Just a little joke to lighten the mood….

    You were right, Of course, to sever your ties to someone who depressed not only herself but the people who were trying to help. You can only go so far and then you begin to damage yourself. Remember, self preservation is the first rule of nature…….

  18. @Judy – Thanks, it seems like we all come across a wallower at some time along lifes journey.

    @Nancy – So it was it you put that recording on my phone!

  19. Jenny and I have met a number of people like that – people who don’t really want help, they just want to tell you how miserable and unfortunate they are. You were quite right to step back because they were just abusing your goodwill. You weren’t selfish, you were just protecting your own wellbeing.

  20. Sorry Grannymar, I missed this one. Absolutely, you did the right thing. I have had a similar experience and it was essential for my own sanity to end it. I’m a similar soul in terms of being a bit of an Agony Aunt and am happy to lend an empathetic ear, although I have no problem talking either! Some people don’t want help, they want to vent but when it gets to the point where it makes you depressed, it is counterproductive. You just have to say, “I can’t help you any more and I don’t want to be a part of your path to self destruction”. Some people just want to moan! If they really need therapy, give ’em the white pages!

  21. @Roy – Thanks.

    @Baino – This person has walked around for months with the phone number for professional help in a pocket. That was why I stepped back. I did say to contact me only when the phonecall and appointment were made!

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