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This friend and I have a complicated history. We dated off and on, then decided to remain friends. When we talk about positive things, we have a good relationship. We're comfortable with each other, know each other well, and have pleasant conversations. We also have similar hobbies.

They have fallen into a bit of bad luck with their finances and are estranged from their family. They continually complain about their finances and their family. When they start on these topics, I expect to spend the next hour or so saying reflective things like, "You must be terrified because of the chance of not making rent" or "I know it's hard to lose your family" until they wear themselves out and go home or hang up the phone. I get frustrated because they circle around the same topic over and over. They also seem unable or unwilling to listen to problem-solving. I also can't relate because I have a good relationship with my family and am secure financially. Finally, I strongly believe that it's important to never look back and to always look forward - whereas my friend seems to enjoy gnawing on old wounds.

They occasionally allude to suicide, and say things like, "I don't know how I can go on". They have a history of suicide attempts. I read articles about how to talk to suicidal people and apply that advice in our conversations. I've helped them to find a doctor, and have provided them with numbers to suicide hotlines. I don't feel comfortable with this responsibility. They were put on anti-depressants, but have been unable to afford their prescription and are no longer taking them.

I'm losing my patience, and my friend has noticed that I've begun to withdraw. I feel optimistic about my future and this friendship has become a burden. I'd like to maintain the good parts of our friendship, but I don't want to be their psychologist.

How do I stop them from dumping their negative emotions on me, without making them crack?

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Your friend is depressive to the point of being suicidal and cannot afford medication. This is a life-threatening situation and by far more severe than you might realize.

Your friend talks about these negative topics because their whole life and every thought are circling around them. This is one symptom of depression and has nothing to do with their personality.

They are making you their psychologist because they probably cannot afford therapy. They're looking for any kind of help and are turning to their friends. I don't condemn you for not wanting (or being able) to carry that kind of burden, you aren't trained on how to treat depression after all.

In my honest oppinion, your goal of maintaining the good parts of your relationship without the negative thougts and depressed moods is unrealistic in the current situation. The depression is part of your friend now and you cannot be friend with only half of a person while loathing the other part.

The easy way out is to withdraw from this friendship and limit your interactions. Be prepared to one day receive the message that one of your friends suicide attemts finally succeeded. Imagine this situation vividly and analyze your own feelings. Will you accept it as inevitable or will you feel guilty and spiral into depression yourself?

The optimal solution would be to maintain the friendship but step out of the role as psychologist (which you are unsuited to fulfill anyways). This means you need to find a way for your friend to get into therapy and afford their necessary medication.

I know it's not your responsibility to make treatment plans and find different financing options, but your friend is most likely not mentally able to do this right now. All their mental power is exhausted by circling depressed thoughts around in their head. Being estranged from family and friends and not receiving professional treatment for severe depression is basically a death sentence. There's no way a socially isolated person could pull themselves out of this.

  • 4
    Thanks for the perspective. I think I had begun to feel helpless, like things were either going to stay the same or get worse. I've thought about it and decided to redouble my efforts to help my friend. I've found information about medication assistance for low income people and will follow up with them until they're on a program. Their current part time job offers counseling and I'll help them sign up for that. I've also begun to reach out to my network of friends and aquaintances to seek a job opening for them. And I've let my friend know that I can help them pay rent if it comes to that. – user23300 Jan 2 at 22:48

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