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TLDR; I’ve had a lot going on recently so forgot about my friend’s birthday until the following day and now she won’t speak to me. How do I fix it?

TW for talk of depression So, the base of it is that I have been struggling a lot with my mental health over the last few weeks to the point where I was nearly hospitalised on multiple occasions and my friend has been aware of this. I nearly killed myself a few days before her birthday so to be quite honest it just wasn’t at the top of my list. Anyway, I completely forgot about her birthday because of all this. The next day I contacted her and apologised for forgetting (as soon as I remembered). I offered to take her out for lunch at some point but her response was merely “you’re a day too late”. I have tried to reach out to her since but she won’t respond (and I know that she is at least reading the messages thanks to read receipts). I really value her as a friend and don’t want to lose her over something like this so any help would be much appreciated. Edit: to clarify, by “nearly hospitalised” I mean I was talking to professionals who were on the verge of admitting me. Also, my friend has been like this with other people in the past. This is the first time she’s been like it with me.

  • What has her friendship been like otherwise? Is she this demanding in other areas of your friendship? – baldPrussian Feb 9 at 13:09
  • Hey Wolfe. Like some people said, this person may not be as much of a friend as you think. But we could use more details to better answer your question. What did your apology look like? Like baldPrussian asked, has she done anything like this in your friendship before, and if so, how did the recovery that time go? – Tinkeringbell Feb 10 at 17:38
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    Does she know what you've faced? Not that you owe her an explanation (it's personal business), but if she DOES know, I'd cut her off completely if I'm being honest. – eurieka Feb 26 at 19:07
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I'd like to try a small "frame challenge" with you. Try to help me answer this imaginary question:


How can I tell my friend I was wrong to over-react when they forgot my birthday?

I have a friend who has been struggling a lot with mental health over the last few weeks and was nearly hospitalised on multiple occasions. A few days before my birthday, they nearly killed themself. Not surprisingly, they didn't wish me Happy Birthday - I'm sure they completely forgot about my birthday. The next day they contacted me and apologised for forgetting, even offered to take me out for lunch but I just said “you’re a day too late”. They keep texting me, but I haven't replied.


I'm sure you could tell that asker how to fix things: just answer some of the texts, arrange to get together, ask how the mental health challenges are going, that sort of thing. That's what should be happening here. Your friend is centering herself and her birthday as more important than what you are going through. And here you are feeling bad about it and wanting to fix things. She needs to fix things.

It's possible she can't. The world has its share of shallow and unempathetic people. She may have her own issues to deal with that leave her no energy for anyone other than herself, and make small things like a friend missing a birthday into big giant things that are very upsetting. Also, the word "nearly" covers a lot of ground. To me, "nearly hospitalized" means you were talking to a professional who was trying to decide whether to admit you or not. It's possible you mean you were home feeling terrible and wondering if this meant you were going to end up hospitalized. I say this just to include the possibility that she does not really know how bad things are for you.

Anyway, what to do about it? When I was going through very bad times, some friends were there for me and some friends were not. They were more irritated by the inconvenience to them of the things I was going through. As part of surviving those bad times and rising up as my better self, I learned that I don't need to take care of those people. I need to take care of me. If you want to celebrate your friend's birthday, but she feels that invitations after the birthday are not acceptable, then ok, birthday is over, move on.

Contact her the ways you usually do (texts, whatever) but don't meta talk like "are we ok? have you forgiven me? I am so sorry I forgot" and so on. Invite her to something. Share a joke or funny picture with her. Do the friend things you did before. Perhaps she will return to your old ways of interacting, in which case: problem solved. Perhaps she will not. But that will be on her. You had a very good reason for being one day late, and if she can't handle that, she is not the kind of friend you need right now. Right?

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    Very good answer, I just want to add that she may have a lot of things on her plate too - her outburst may be just a symptom of other problems. We don't know. Not having the mental capacity left to care for other peoples problems, because it is used up by your own and needing care from others yourself (for example the attention that goes with your birthday), doesn't make you necessarily shallow or unempathetic. I agree fully with the rest of this answer. – Rhayene Feb 12 at 14:31
  • @Rhayene I made a slight edit – Kate Gregory Feb 25 at 16:48

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