When Helping Is Stressful

Lynne Taetzsch Health Guide
  • I have a number of bipolar friends now that I attend support group meetings with regularly. It’s great to be able to share our stories and to be there for each other in times of need. But sometimes, when my friends aren’t doing well, I find it very stressful trying to help them.

    Recently a friend of mine I’ll call “Jane” was having a lot of trouble with the people she was living with, and called me one day saying she wanted to kill herself. I normally would tell a friend to talk to her doctor immediately when she was in such bad shape, but I knew that Jane had no faith in doctors. Instead, I gave Jane the kind of advice I would have taken myself when I was in a situation I found intolerable. I suggested she leave.
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    What I have done throughout my life when things were bad was to change them. Move away. Find a new job. Change schools. Whatever it took to get me out of a depression. But that advice wasn’t necessarily good for Jane. Once she decided to actually take it and leave, I then felt responsible for this turn of events.

    I may have helped Jane put herself in a precarious situation, financially and emotionally. She of course made her own decision in the end, and I’m not really responsible for her, but I regret the part I may have played.

    I was talking to Jane every couple of days until a week ago, when I left town to travel. It was a relief to have a break from her, but now I need to call and find out how she is. Part of me doesn’t want to because it will be stressful. But I think I have to do it anyway.

    How do you deal with the stress of helping friends in need? Share your advice on the message boards.
Published On: July 28, 2006