General Question

ubersiren's avatar

Should I stop trying to help and contact a good friend?

Asked by ubersiren (15140points) November 12th, 2009

I apologize for the length in advance, but I’d greatly appreciate any advice on this matter- it’s really hurting me.

I am in a triumvirate of best friendship. The other two of us live in my hometown which is about 2.5 hours away. They live next to each other in a double house. I don’t see them nearly as much as I’d like to. I don’t know how to express to you how close we all are, but I can honestly say that both of them are on my list of 5 people I’d give my life for. We always said whichever of us would die first, the other two would make a cake out of our ashes and eat it… we’re also kind of gross.

Now, the friend in question, Matt, is in “retreat” mode which he slips into once in a while. He will not answer phone calls or emails and will not talk to anyone until he’s ready, including me and our other best friend, even though he lives right next door. The last time I talked to him was in July when we all went to the beach together. The only interaction we’ve had since is a text message that he sent. It said “I miss you.” I called him immediately after I got it and he didn’t pick up.

I know that his depression is a big part of this and it gets worse when he’s in financial trouble. He has an excellent job, but most of his wages are garnished for his massive- I mean massive debt. There are other reasons for his depression, but mostly it’s money, I think.

The friend who lives next door to Matt just says, “Well, you know how he is…” He says he hears him coming and going so he knows he’s alive when he hasn’t talked to us in a while.

My question, I guess, is should I continue to try to contact him, and what, if anything, should I do to help him? Maybe he needs the space, but maybe space is hurting him more. I love him so much, and I know he doesn’t intend to hurt me, but it’s becoming painful to be his friend. It’s painful to watch him hurting, it’s painful to keep being rejected by him, and it’s painful to miss him all the time.

Just to be clear, it’s not just me that he’s not in contact with, though I fear I get it even worse since I live so far away. He doesn’t talk to any of our friends. Family is out of the question in terms of help. He has none, to speak of.

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14 Answers

gemiwing's avatar

Perhaps you can send him something that doesn’t intrude on his space, yet will let him know you’re there for him. Something that is an inside joke or a picture of all of you together. Even something you find out while shopping one day and just makes you think of him.

When I’m depressed my friends talk to me through texts and it helps. Email is more iffy. Talking on the phone is all the way out. Yet when one of them mails me something it warms my heart. Just to know that they’re still there.

Skippy's avatar

Never stop reaching out. If you all are that close, your complete stopping could be more than he could handle. As @gemiwing said, sending a momento, card, just something that says “hi buddy, love ya etc” will help.

As people go into depression, little things along the way help that person’s outlook on life and all situations. So many times that little sign is HUGE.

If he has no family, then you and you other friend might be all he truly has, and you must tap that with small contacts. Send a text. Even if he doesn’t respond, you’ve done it, and he knows he’s in your thoughts. Don’t stop but don’t go overboard. Once daily until he responds, and keep checking in with your other friend to be sure he’s still moving around.

Good Luck.

Supacase's avatar

You don’t want him to think you gave up on him, so continue the contact even if it is one-sided. Not an annoying amount, but enough for him to know you are still there if he needs you. Don’t pressure or guilt him into contact, just reassure him that you are there for him when he is ready.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Hello…I can answer this with some experience because I have been in the past (in some ways) like your friend and I had a friend attempt to contact me and I did not respond for a while.

I will tell you what goes through our heads….when going through a hard time or when we are feeling low.

1. If we have been super achievers…we feel like failures when we have lost a job, partner, wages, stocks, parents. (Fill in the blank.) And it goes deeper…much deeper…there is a true sense of shame. And this is something people don’t quite understand, especially if they did not have some huge expectations placed on them by parents and community. This may be going on with your friend…only you can determine that.

2. If we are the “life of the party” or the ones who are there to help everyone else, we have a tendency to feel that we are imposing when our own lives are falling apart. I always had a “Well, I’ll call them when I get it together….because I don’t want to impose or evoke pity.” I felt this way, because I was the “strong” one that everyone else would run to. Usually this is an “eldest child” or “only child” thought, but not always.

3. What I wanted was for someone to just say, “I am here for you…when you are ready to come out and play.” “You mean a lot to me, just wanted to let you know that I’m here always because I think you are a wonderful person.” That’s all. A note, a little card in the mail.

For myself, I have always been the strong friend, the person who left ‘em laughing as she exited, the literal and figurative cheerleader for everyone. And when I was hit with something that was very devastating, I retreated and withdrew. I didn’t know how to handle myself and did not want to appear weak and vulnerable. What happens when the “Homecoming Queen” hits the skids? And quite unexpectedly? If she doesn’t have good coping skills and/or a strong sense of self…she implodes. The thing that saved me was that I had developed a sense of spirituality that carried me through…and my friends just gave me the space to heal…they know when I disappear, I am working through something. Those that have not known me as long…take it personally.

In this case, it’s not about you….and don’t give up or stop…it’s not about you. Send that little card or note…send one once a month…send a Christmas card…leave a box of chocolates in the postbox or a favorite CD “Thought you might like this”’s okay to just leave a little reminder of your love and support. The little head will pop out of the turtle shell to eat a little bit and then go back in….but eventually, it will have to move to into a new space in the sunshine. It just takes time, trust me on this.

But above all, don’t judge….don’t get angry….it’s absolutely devastating to be in a position like that. It really is…and I know you may be hurt, but I promise you, your friend is hurting a lot more.

I hope this helps…..they will return… Odysseus, he is simply on a journey…maybe an inner one…but a journey, nevertheless….and it is one that needs to be undertaken alone.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Have you tried telling him that you want to be there for him when he “retreats” but you aren’t sure what he wants. You love him as a friend and he wants his space you are willing to give it to him but if he just doesn’t know how to reach out to you then you are happy to reach out to him. See what he says. You can’t be expected to just know what he wants.

I would not however say that his depression hurts you.

Does he have a counselor or therapist? You may be able to give him some resources on how to find a good one.

It seems as if he has found a routine that works well for him. He is not rejecting you or shunning you. It is just what he needs. It is okay to feel hurt but perhaps attempt to logically tell yourself that it has nothing to do with you. You are still best friends even when you are hurt and he is hurt. Soon enough you’ll be able to enjoy each other’s company again. I wouldn’t give up the friendship because he has problems with depression.

MacBean's avatar

As someone who behaves the way your friend does, I say these are some great answers so far. (Especially @Supacase,‘s because it’s so concise but still complete.) Lurve all around!

cinddmel's avatar

Just keep trying to get in contact – like some already said not too much, but maybe once a week text him saying you’re there for him and waiting for when he’s ready to talk.
Also the suggestion of sending him something ( a memento, or something that made you think of him while shopping) sounds like a great idea. It’s always nice to get something in the mail (not electronic) and it shows that you took the time and effort to reach out to him.

wundayatta's avatar

As much as you can, keep trying to contact him. Do what you can do. Don’t burn yourself out. He’ll know you care, even if you don’t talk to him. That will mean something positive to him. Maybe not as positive as you’d like, but still, something.

If he’s depressed, he may not feel he deserves friends. So he’ll shut you out to make it true. Or he may just want his own space. A lot of depressed people will hole up in their rooms until whatever it is passes. I’m not like that. I need people. I’m the kind that needs constant attention. There is another kind that simply can’t get out of their room or contact anyone. For those two types, keep trying. If he’s the hole up type, then keep trying, but from a respectful distance, if that makes any sense.

marinelife's avatar

I agree with all of the “keep contacting” answers. One further question: does your friend get treatment (medication? therapy?) for his depression?

If not, you might ask him directly if he needs to seek help because this particular “retreat” seems more severe. Send it in a letter so you can say what you need to.

ubersiren's avatar

Hi everyone. Thanks for reading about someone else’s problems and for your very thoughtful answers. You’ve given me some valuable insight and great suggestions. I appreciate every one. Thank you so much, fluther, for being the best advice givers I’ve ever encountered.

ubersiren's avatar

@Marina : Yeah, I think I’ll try sending him a note every few weeks or once a month to keep some contact without making him feel that he has to reciprocate. He does not get professional help, and I don’t think he ever would. I would love to be able to sit down with him and talk to him about it. I’m afraid if I write it in a letter he won’t read it. As soon as he senses that I’m writing something serious, he would probably throw it away. Or, even if he gets a long letter from me, he may suspect something and not read it at all.

nmac's avatar

I absolutely think it is worth it to keep in touch. It sounds like you get it. And that is good. it is sort of selfish on their end, but you’re a good friend for keeping up. do keep up.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I agree with what others have said about dropping the occasional text or email, I’m sure he appreciates it, probably thinks about answering many times and by the time he decides to (Matt time) he feels too much time (other people time) has passed and so does nothing at all.

augustlan's avatar

Just poking in to say I agree with all of the above. A little card, note, or text every so often will keep the tenuous tether between the two of you alive and give him a little happiness during a bleak time.

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