Am I Crazy?
September 19, 2010 11:33 AM   Subscribe

A close friend gave me what amounts to a psychiatric intervention. How seriously should I take this and how should it impact our friendship?

In the course of a mundane conversation with a very close friend, we had a minor dispute/misunderstanding. I took it a little bit personally and was not as generous or polite as I could have been.

When I called the friend back the next day to apologize, said friend told me that he could not continue our friendship unless I agreed to go into therapy. Among other extremely unsettling accusations, "My other friends are concerned and have recommended that I not associate with you anymore" being the most concerning to me*. Words like "toxic" and "unstable" were used.

He refused to give any examples of problematic behaviors, acting out, or red flags that had especially concerned him, and kept it purely in general terms. He wouldn't tell me which of his friends were so concerned about my sanity level, either. The whole experience felt extremely bullying to me, and hearkened back to junior high emotional abuse. Which, to an extent, is affecting my ability to read the situation.

Now, there are some caveats here. This is a friend who I trust enough to be extremely open with about my emotions. I recently broke down in front of him and admitted that I'm really unhappy and feel lost and out of control in my life. This did not come out of nowhere, and he was already aware of most of what I told him. He was supportive and gave absolutely no impression that he thought this might be some sort of red flag. He also did not mention this at all in the course of his intervention.

I have, in fact, been considering therapy lately, and his insistence did inspire me to move forward with that. Not so much because I thought, "Omigod, you're right, I'm mentally unstable!" but because I don't want to lose his friendship and it was already on the table. Going into therapy is not a huge deal for me. It was more the accusatory tone and bullying tactics.

I've asked a few other friends whether they've been getting any "crazy" vibes from me lately, or whether they're concerned about my mental stability at all. This one friend is the ONLY friend who is concerned about this. Granted, I'm more open with him about my unhappiness than I am with other people. But usually, even when someone isn't confiding in you, you can tell if they're a little bit not OK.

The whole encounter really tempts me not to trust this guy anymore. I'm also not entirely unconcerned about his mental health, and wondering if he's maybe projecting? What should I do? Should I assume he is acting in good faith and is totally 100% right? Should I stop confiding in him? Confront him in some way and try to hash this out? Cut him out of my life? For now I've left it as, "OK, I'll look into therapy." Which is true, though it has nothing to do with his little stunt.

Throwaway Email: possiblyinsane123 at gmail dot com

* Especially since we have few friends in common, and the friends of his who also know me don't know me well enough to make an honest psychiatric evaluation.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
He might be acting in good faith, but he is 100% wrong to be giving you this "intervention." You sound rightfully hurt and indignant about the things he said and the way he went about it, and that's understandable given that he's someone you trusted. Why do you need to know that his friends think you're "toxic"? That's so junior high. I don't think anyone has ever seriously gone into therapy with the intent of seriously changing their behavior based on what someone's friends said.

It sounds like you do have things going on in your life that you could go over with a therapist, but to me the point of therapy is to make things better for yourself, not to prove something to someone else or their friends.

Ack, drop this guy, take care of yourself, lose the drama.
posted by sweetkid at 11:40 AM on September 19, 2010 [17 favorites]

I've asked a few other friends whether they've been getting any "crazy" vibes from me lately, or whether they're concerned about my mental stability at all.

That seems like the best thing you can do --- check with other friends. Urge them to be honest with you.

The whole encounter really tempts me not to trust this guy anymore. I'm also not entirely unconcerned about his mental health, and wondering if he's maybe projecting?

Projection seems like a possibility. I wish we had more details about what makes you concerned about his mental health --- I do think that it's common for the mentally ill to accuse others of being mentally ill.
posted by jayder at 11:41 AM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

He refused to give any examples of problematic behaviors, acting out, or red flags that had especially concerned him

This is no good. You might give the friendship a last shot, if you feel like it, by saying something like, "I take your advice seriously because I consider you a good friend, but you gave me an ultimatum, seek therapy or our friendship is over, without any clue as to what events or behaviors led you to take that step. I want to understand where you're coming from, so can we talk this over with specifics?" But otherwise, your friend is being weird and some distance could be a good thing.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:43 AM on September 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

"My other friends are concerned and have recommended that I not associate with you anymore"....He refused to give any examples of problematic behaviors

There's a word for this; it starts with "chicken" and ends with "it." If he had a genuine and sincere concern for you, he wouldn't have dragged "other people think you're toxic" into it (so apparently he's complaining to his friends about you behind your back?) and he would have laid out some specific examples for you to take to therapy. It's impossible to know exactly what he was thinking, but this may just have been his way of breaking up with you as a friend.

Take that as a kindness, albeit a very hurtful one. Go ahead and get therapy, but do it for yourself, not for this thoughtless "friend." You can bring this whole unfortunate mess up with a therapist, too, and talk about how to better handle relationships with other people in general.
posted by Gator at 11:47 AM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

All you can do in situations like this is do exactly what you did: Ask your friend for data, and if none is forthcoming, ask other friends for corroborating data. And if there is none, thank you friend for his suggestion of therapy, and for caring about you. If he asks if you're going to pursue therapy, just say no.

If he decides not to be your friend, because that's a deal-breaker for him, then respect his wishes and let him go.

I am always skeptical of folks who presume to know ''the answer" for their friends, in this case: Therapy, stat!, without being able to articulate the problem with concrete examples. I'm also skeptical of those same folks who try to blackmail friends, or put ultimatums on them. Particularly without that ability to articulate the problem.

In this case, therapy is a tool, not an outcome. He hasn't explained exactly what he thinks therapy will do you, or what he wants to see differently. So really, you could do to therapy, and he still wouldn't be happy, because he might not see the outcome he's supposedly looking for. What's he going to say then "I'm leaving our friendship unless you do more therapy, or work harder in therapy?". You're out all of the money that therapy costs, and he's still leaving your friendship. That's just silly.

So what to do. First: If you want to explore therapy because you have personal development goals or think you have something to explore, go to therapy. Whatever the answer is for you at this time, yes or no, do that.

Second, as for your friend - thank him for his concern, and tell him your decision, even if that decision is to defer making a decision on therapy at this time - if he balks, or drops you, or whatever, let him do it and let him go. Either way, in the short term, I'd stop confiding in anyone i didn't feel was being supportive, so decide if is actions are supportive or not.
posted by anitanita at 11:56 AM on September 19, 2010

First, I'm sure that this hurts. A lot. I'm sorry that you are experiencing this. I have had something similar happen to me and it was a huge blow. I learned a lot from it, though, and I think I'm a better person as a result. I've also been in the place of cutting off friendships that were really toxic, even though I could tell the person was doing the best they could at that moment.

Just from what you've told us, I can sorta see his point.

You took a disagreement over something mundane personally, and you were rude about it. That is not healthy interaction. It seems like you didn't realize or admit at the time that you were over the line, which means that:

a) you could tell that you were out of line, but at that point you were unwilling or unable to change up your behavior and apologize, or;
b) you had no idea you were out of line until the next day, or;
c) you don't really, truly think you did anything that wrong but wanted to smooth things over anyway

If this is an ongoing pattern for you, it will take its toll on a friendship. This differs sometimes based on cultural or personality factors--something that wouldn't even register for one person might be a really unpleasant and upsetting fight for someone else.

You also seem to be using him as a sort of therapist already. It's possible to rely on someone too much, tell them things that are too upsetting for them, and generally overwhelm them with your problems. Especially if they're the only person. It's a lot of pressure. It can be very frustrating, especially, when someone has the means to get therapy or help elsewhere and doesn't do so.

It also makes me think he's not a bully, unless you have an ongoing pattern of being very vulnerable and open with people who are mean to you or bully you. If that is the case, it's something to talk about in therapy and you're better off without the relationship anyway.

Why do your friends disagree with him? People will often avoid telling people things in order to prevent conflict; especially if those people aren't close friends. It's not worth the stress. It's also true that if you have shown yourself to take minor things badly, people will avoid telling you the truth about bigger things. I have an acquaintance who is really defensive about little things. It really discourages me from telling him ANYTHING that could come off as critical. Think about that.

When it comes to his friends, they don't need to know you to evaluate his friendship with you.They can tell that the friendship is having a toxic effect on him just by how he feels, how he's behaving, and what he tells them about it. It doesn't need to be an objective psychiatric evaluation. They don't have to know you inside and out to dislike the effect your behavior is having on their friend.

I know it might seem unfair, but try to look at this as a learning experience--even if he's not 100% objectively correct about everything.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:18 PM on September 19, 2010 [8 favorites]

It sounds to me like the issue isn't that he thinks you're insane. It's that he's not comfortable being the person with whom you share your most intense emotions. He'd like you to find someone else to share that stuff with. It sounds to me like it's upsetting to him to hear that stuff, and he thinks it would be better if shared it with a therapist, rather than him.

That may or may not make him a shitty friend. But it sounds to me like it's a comment on his comfort level, rather than your sanity level.
posted by craichead at 12:21 PM on September 19, 2010 [9 favorites]

There are ways to bring information to your friends about the impact that their behaviors have on you. This is not it. It's up to you whether you want to remain friends, knowing that he's not good at compassionately explaining what's bothering him and that he'll do things like label you "toxic."

If I really, really valued the friendship, I'd counter-propose that we go see a therapist together. If I valued it but not that much, I'd explain that what he'd said was really hard for me. I don't understand what was bothering him specifically, that therefore I had little hope that I'd be able to address the problems even if I did go into therapy, and that I'd like him to find a better way of explaining himself. I feel ganged up on by people I can't see or explain myself to and would prefer for him to speak for himself and let those people speak to me directly if they'd like to. I might even say that I'd encourage him to work on either taking me as I am (knowing that it'd take me a long time to "fix myself" if I even knew what that would mean to him) or honestly, if the relationship is bad for him, then he should do what he needs to do. I need supportive people in my life. These sweeping generalizations are very hard for me, and if he chose to bring up issues in that way again, I'd have to really start distancing myself. If I didn't value it that much, I'd do what sweetkid said: "drop this guy, take care of yourself, lose the drama."

Regardless of whatever "toxic" things you may have done, this is not the way for someone to handle this. I would feel really undermined. Ultimately, friends will come and go, so do the work that you do on your own emotional and psychological development for yourself.
posted by salvia at 12:25 PM on September 19, 2010

The one thing about offering constructive criticism is being specific about what the problem behavior is. He did not do this...not very helpful.

In any case, emotions are running high. You guys had a fight...both of you need to calm down and be in position to talk with one another without defensiveness or vindictiveness. I'm guessing your friend was probably hurt about however your conversation ended with him. You say it was not as polite as it could have been...hopefully you did not threaten him with death or insults, right?

Anyways, sounds like neither of you are in that position right now to speak to one another. So I think yes, stop confiding in him until you decide whether YOU are ready to trust him again. Neither of you seem to feel the relationship is worth continuing as is.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:27 PM on September 19, 2010

I can just picture how this happened - you opened up to him, admitting that you're unhappy, and feeling lost. He gets weirded out by this, and over beer describes the incident to other friends of his, people who don't know you at all, and don't have any context of you-as-a-nice-norrmal-person to offset the dramatic story that's being told. They say, wow, crazy, you shouldn't hang out with that guy, which then freaks your friend out more, which is where you get the "my other friends are concerned..." So, yea, I would find it hard to trust him again, because it certainly seems like he's been telling other people stuff you've told him in confidence. It's kind of shitty, but there are some people who have a hard time talking about their or their friends' feelings, and this guy might be one of those. He does want to help, but is really going about it the wrong way. If you were considering therapy, then good for you, totally do it, but do it for yourself, not for him. And also consider that he may just be one of those people who doesn't deal well with too much emotional openness, but that's his problem, not yours.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:28 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Look, if the dude could not give you concrete examples of what he considered problematic behaviour he doesn't get to make these wild hair accusations.

Go ahead and get the therapy-but not because this friend said so. Frankly I would tell this person either he come up with concrete specifics or shut his piehole that his friendship was no longer needed.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:33 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't usually contribute to these "Psycho-assess this situation over the Internet using my one-sided recap" questions, but I will suggest that as you think more about the situation, consider this: If he "refused to give any examples of problematic behaviors," then you did not experience "what amounts to [an] intervention." Citing specific examples is a necessary component of an intervention. Therefore, this was something else.
posted by cribcage at 12:48 PM on September 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

Your friend needs therapy. Not you.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:00 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

He refused to give any examples of problematic behaviors, acting out, or red flags that had especially concerned him

This is no good. You might give the friendship a last shot, if you feel like it, by saying something like, "I take your advice seriously because I consider you a good friend, but you gave me an ultimatum, seek therapy or our friendship is over, without any clue as to what events or behaviors led you to take that step. I want to understand where you're coming from, so can we talk this over with specifics?"
I have, on occasion, given people feedback they did not want to hear. This has been in situations where giving such feedback was more socially acceptable, and expected from the people (e.g., boss-employee relationships, support groups).

In my experience, sometimes people will throw "Well give me an example!" back in your face to "prove" that you're wrong. Then, if you try to name an example, they'll use minor details of that example to pull apart the point you're trying to make or make excuses. Maybe your friend has run into this type of avoidance behavior before, and opted not to engage you on your demands for an example.

I'm not sure what conclusions we can gather from what you've described. Your description is very one-sided. You didn't even tell us what your friend said, other than some vagueries. You also didn't post any specifics of the situation that he was reacting to. I don't know if this is your friend being crazy and weird, or if this is you trying to minimize your negative behavior so that you can get reactions in this thread that make you feel better about yourself without having to change anything.

If this is a friend you trust, and who generally has been a good friend to you, you should consider talking to a therapist. Hell, it almost never hurts to talk to a therapist, provided you can find a good one. On the other hand, if your friend has a history of being controlling and overstepping bounds, you should sever ties (and then go to therapy anyway.) Unfortunately, you haven't given us enough information to help you decide which option is right.
posted by !Jim at 1:20 PM on September 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

It's still one thing to say "I don't want to be your sounding board for your problems anymore. Do what you need to do (therapy, whatever), but I can't/don't want to hear it. It's tedious/sucking me dry, whatever"......


"You need therapy or I'm not going to be your friend anymore".

If his goal is to protect himself, then he's done it badly. For all he knows the OP will just talk to their therapist and STILL talk to him, which will still agitate him. No one wins.

I suppose OP, you could ask him if he just wants you to stop talking to him about your issues. Perhaps that's the boundary he's trying to set with you. Maybe he doesn't want you confiding in him, maybe he's overwhelmed, whatever. But he needs to set that boundary by stating it. Maybe rather than getting into the 'go to therapy/don't go to therapy' argument, you can just have a: Regardless of what I do, would you prefer it if I didn't make you my primary confidant? You sound overwhelmed. Maybe we can just talk about other things...." conversation.
posted by anitanita at 1:26 PM on September 19, 2010

the friends of his who also know me don't know me well enough to make an honest psychiatric evaluation

usually, even when someone isn't confiding in you, you can tell if they're a little bit not OK.

I doubt that anyone you know who is not a mental health profession can make an honest psychiatric evaluation.

In my early twenties, my crowd was quite comfortable with dispersing judgements that sounded like they were for the benefit of the person being judged, but really, it was all about, I'm fine but I don't like/understand/approve of the way X behaves. There was drama, oh, P drinks to much, M weightlifts too much for his health, B should leave home, G is all dramatic and sulky when he doesn't get his way, S tells J that she loves her because of their longterm friendship but doesn't lik her at all.

However, liking or not liking someone's behaviour doesn't mean anyone is mentally ill. Really. Also, being unhappy doesn't mean you're mentally ill. Sometimes being unhappy is the most realistic response to a situation.

I wonder, I'm sorry, if there's some gender issues here. If you are male, I know that some males think that it's inappropriate or unmanly to cry or show weakness. In my opinion that's absolute bullshit. If you're a female and crying on a bloke's shoulder, he may be uncomfortable with this.

Therapy is not a bad idea if you are concerned about how you are coping with life, and the direction it's taking. I've used it myself when I had to approach an estranged family member and I wanted unbiased advice. There's nothing to be ashamed about with therapy.
posted by b33j at 1:27 PM on September 19, 2010

Stop thinking about this in terms of "crazy". Just because you need therapy or might be emotionally unstable doesn't make you crazy.

I recently broke down in front of him and admitted that I'm really unhappy and feel lost and out of control in my life.

I can see how this might be a lot for someone to hear if they feel totally unable to help you. It can actually be a pretty painful position to put someone else in, especially if you do it often.

I This did not come out of nowhere, and he was already aware of most of what I told him.

Yeah, see? That. He is your friend, not your therapist. And maybe he should have told you sooner how uncomfortable it made him to become a sounding board for all your problems, so that he wouldn't become miserable or resentful, but there's nothing you can do about that now. Except for seek counseling, and maybe give him some distance, so that in the future if you have things figured out a little better you can approach that relationship from a healthier state of mind and see if you still even want it.
posted by hermitosis at 1:34 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need examples and he needs to give them, BUT asking for examples can be taken lots of different ways, including defensive issue-dodging. Try: "I understand you're trying to help me and I promise to consider seriously consider your concerns, but in order to do so I need to have some concrete examples with which to associate your concerns." Then listen. Then thank the person and go away to do your evaluation. If you don't agree, fine, you can say that to them, but don't start trying to find some 'out' from every example, otherwise the person will just think you're a sociopath.
posted by beerbajay at 1:35 PM on September 19, 2010

Not all people who are in therapy are crazy and not all crazy people are in therapy.

Also, it's possible that this was a defense mechanism on his part to get you to stop trusting him so much with information about your life that he's uncomfortable telling you that he's uncomfortable hearing about.
posted by kirstk at 1:48 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

This sounds totally absurd. Did he recommend a specific therapist? Does he have a preference for how often you should go? What if he had said you need to go on Zoloft as a condition of being friends with him? It's completely appropriate for him to say "Here are my boundaries, here's where you crossed them and you need to stop doing that if you want to be my friend." If he's extremely tactful and respectful, he might suggest therapy. But when he starts dictating to you what methods you're going use to do that, that's crosses the line. He's entitled to demand certain treatment from you, but he has no business forcing you into therapy. To me this is yet more evidence of how the "toxic" label is mainly used to control and shame people.

I think what happened was similar to what was already said: he vented to his friends about you without context, and they overreacted and told him you're toxic. Now he's concerned about how he will look in their eyes if he lets this go. He wonders if they will think he's codependent, self-abusive or even toxic himself. But if you go into therapy and they ask him if he's still hanging out with you, he can say "Oh, yeah, but he/she's getting help now, so it's cool." So he's not primarily concerned about the fact that you crossed a boundary, but how that makes him look to others. This situation has some distant similarities to a friend who is embarrassed to be seen in your 10 year old car, and tells you to buy a new car or you can't be friends. It's a kind of controlling, but it's about controlling appearances, making you go through the motions, which means it's not a sadistic enjoyment he gets out of telling you what to do. If anything, he is in the position of being controlled rather than controller: he's obsessed with his appearance in the eyes of the other, and living up to their exacting standards.

Beyond that, this conflict makes it clear that you two have very different ideas of how much you can rely on a friend, so I would definitely stop confiding in him. He obviously can't handle you leaning on him, so I would stop doing that.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:57 PM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wasn't there, but:

Your friend is feeling overwhelmed by the amount of deep personal stuff you share with him.

I'm guessing, based on your descriptions of his behavior, that he doesn't, in fact, think that you're sharing so much as dumping. Furthermore, he doesn't feel qualified to help you with your internal life, and wants you to do your 'dumping' (as he sees it) on someone who actually went to school for it.

His method of telling you all this was awkward and weird (probably because he was nervous and stressed and afraid of messing up (and quite possibly aware that he's not very good at such kinds of communication)) and it hurt your feelings.You can either forgive him for that or not, but the message is in order for the friendship to continue, he needs you to do your processing in ways other than the ones you've been pursuing with him. Hence the therapist ultimatum.

Since you were going to see a therapist anyway: no harm, no foul. His tantrum was simply the impetus you needed.

Let it all sit for a bit, talk it out with your therapist, and then invite your friend for coffee and tell him that his method of setting boundaries for himself was awkward and hurtful and that you hope, should the need arise in his future life, that he does it more gracefully next time.

Best of luck to you.
posted by goblinbox at 2:14 PM on September 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, and: no, you're not crazy. Crazy people know they're crazy. You just need help dealing with your internal landscape, just like the rest of us.
posted by goblinbox at 2:17 PM on September 19, 2010

No examples means he's "the crazy one." I've gleaned at times like these it makes sense to check who's on more solid footing, and here we see a well-formed post, you're asking questions, looking for knowledge, and he's vague and inarticulate.

Another thing I've gleaned at times like this is that maybe my idea of trust is a little wonky and that I confuse it with "receptive." Not everyone is good at hearing about other peoples' problems, and I think you've found a good reason why we have psych workers who train themselves to be able to avoid these things. I'm not saying that you need to see a therapist, I'm saying that maybe you think you need to see a therapist because you're confiding in the wrong people, who are bad with dealing with (theirs? yours?) problems, thus making you feel crazy and in need of a therapist. Just, y'know, f'rinstance.
posted by rhizome at 2:24 PM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

While you might benefit from therapy, this isn't a healthy relationship. I don't think this is someone that's good for YOU to associate with. I think he's toxic for YOU.

Without knowing a lot more than we're going to learn in one AskMe post, there are so many things that could be going on here. Mostly I think he's moved on or grown out of your friendship and wants a way to cut off contact without feeling guilty about it. So he issues an ultimatum so he has an easy out for himself.

Personally, I'd just take care of my own stuff and not worry about debating or hashing it out with him. You're not going to get the answers that you want.
posted by micawber at 4:02 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

This person doesn't respect you.

Using words like, "Toxic" & "Unstable" PLUS telling you his friends think poorly of you? FUCK THAT.

I agree he's overwhelmed by your level of sharing lately. I'm sorry you trusted the wrong person. I know that hurts a lot when you are already feeling down and vulnerable.

A few pointers:

- Go to therapy because you already wanted to. Forget his input, he's playing on your insecurities and ultimately only said it to undermine you for some reason only known to him. Do it for yourself when you are ready. It's a cool thing to do and most folks benefit from it when they want to.

- Don't go checking with friends to get their opinions of you. This guy dumped drama on you, and asking other friends (especially in the context of, "Gary said I'm crazy - am I?") is spreading this unnecessary drama throughout your social life. Cut it off where it started - with HIM.

- I'd do a fade on anyone he's close with, unless and until they pursued further friendship with me. YMMV, but when folks start gossiping (about me or about other people to me, etc.) I lose respect and trust. Life is short, spend it with quality people...

Which brings me to my last thought. We can't know what is going on in your life right now, but I've found that at least 75% of the crap I've put myself through was due to my inability walk away from dynamics and situations that weren't working for me. For example: no paycheck is worth putting up with an abusive boss, dishonest people will never be honest towards you, etc.

So if you are repeating interactions (friends, family, work) that are problematic, make it your business to clear out the problems. Clean the slate and work to improve your end of things. This could include changing jobs, changing social circles - whatever. Always look for the win-win, find others who demonstrably operate in the same fashion.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 4:50 PM on September 19, 2010 [7 favorites]

Looking at your chosen throwaway email address sparked another thought for me...

In the world of Professional Domination, what this guy perpetrated against you is a technique known as MindFuck.

I know this to be double true because you also wrote, "...because I don't want to lose his friendship..."

See the emotion he sparked in you? It's a common unconscious response we all have to criticism until we get wise to the ploy and stop falling for it.

When you are independent of both the positive and negative opinions of others, and instead look within yourself for your opinions, you'll stop falling for stuff like that. You'll be magically immune.
posted by jbenben at 6:01 PM on September 19, 2010

The only acceptable finish to "My friends think you are. . . " is "awesome."
The only acceptable finish to "A bunch of us were talking about you, and were saying" is "that you're AWESOME."

Telling someone what you think of them while disclaiming it by citing a third, absent party is pure juvenile behavior. Either he thinks you're toxic, or he doesn't. If he does, his friends' opinions are irrelevant (except to "boost" his opinion, and put you in a rhetorical bind where the people you are "really" arguing with aren't there, and aren't named.) If he doesn't, his friends' opinions are irrelevant.

I have no idea what your character is like. But this kind of reverse gossip really, really gets under my skin.

I suspect a good therapist would help you reconcile this relationship. Or, you could just start playing the "my therapist thinks you're toxic" game. That's always a party.
posted by endless_forms at 7:06 PM on September 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


Even if he's sincere (he doesn't sound it) and he's right (doubtful) and therapy works miracles on you (dubious), your relationship with him will never be the same. He has already terminated your friendship. You'll never know what motivated him and I'm not sure there's any point in figuring it out.
posted by chairface at 9:02 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

He sounds like he's carrying over the fight from the day before. In my experience name calling fights are usually a sign that a relationship/friendship is on the way out anyway, but it does take two to tango... I would think hard about the behaviours you were calling to apologize about. (And maybe seek someone who has training in how to listen and help you evaluate things.)
posted by anaelith at 11:45 PM on September 19, 2010

The whole encounter really tempts me not to trust this guy anymore. I'm also not entirely unconcerned about his mental health, and wondering if he's maybe projecting? What should I do? Should I assume he is acting in good faith and is totally 100% right? Should I stop confiding in him? Confront him in some way and try to hash this out? Cut him out of my life? For now I've left it as, "OK, I'll look into therapy." Which is true, though it has nothing to do with his little stunt.

It's really hard to tell from the information you have how unreasonable you or he have been acting. He's not giving you much to work on. Maybe he is delusional, maybe you are. At any rate he sounds frustrated and like he's got enough of you.
Looking into therapy is definitely a good idea. But I think that, therapy or not, this friendship is over (at least for now).

Once someone defines you as "toxic" it means the way you are makes them feel like crap. You'd have to behave a hell of a lot differently to not have that effect on him, and who knows? After therapy, maybe you decide that he is the toxic one and not you and that it is not up to you to change. So take his words as an expression of "I do not want you in my life the way you are", look into the way you are but do not immediately assume that you are the only one to blame or that there is any blame at all.

Maybe you two are just a really bad fit.

I can tell you the example of me and my ex-friend. I am not saying that you are the same as my ex-friend, just offering perspective on why I behaved similarly to your friend.

My ex-friend, too, kept asking for examples of what she had "done wrong". Every time I supplied an example she would say, "But that just happened because your husband said blablabla first!" She had a reason for every argument we ever had, but seemed unable to see the underlying pattern.
What was wrong with her? Well, she needs a very close friend who shows her the boundaries clearly and all the time. I am someone who likes distance and can't stand being constantly provoked. I don't want to have to tell someone "hey, stop giving me the silent treatment, that sucks." It was also impossible to increase our emotional distance because she would complain if I did. It got so bad our relationship was toxic. I'd have a belly ache whenever we were supposed to meet, and was full of guilt whenever we didn't. I couldn't stand her anymore but felt chained to her because of her neediness.
When I told her I did not want to speak to her ever again because I could not handle the way she was, she said "but I need you! You are the only person I can really be myself with!" (which reminded me of you a little).
If I had been a little crueller than I was, I would have said "but I don't want you to really be yourself around me, because I don't like the needy, tempestuous person you are. I would by far prefer you to be a polite acquaintance instead."
As it was, I told her that the very fact that she needed me that much was the problem for me and that what she needed was therapy. And also, that when she was being herself, I could not be myself.

Our relationship was toxic. Maybe your relationship is toxic, too, but that does not necessarily mean YOU are toxic. Your friend doesn't want you to be the way you are to him, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the way you are is a problem to anyone but him.

I think you should just let him be and focus on becoming happier without him.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:57 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Crazy people know they're crazy.

This is not true. There are many mental illnesses where lack of insight is a part of the mental illness.

I don't have more or better advice to give to the OP than has already been given, but I wanted to pull that out and contradict it, as it's explicitly false.
posted by saveyoursanity at 6:54 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

If I had been present at the time of the original conversation in which, as you say, you were not as generous or as polite as you might have been, or even if I had a transcript of it, I could then make an accurate assessment of exactly how serious your discourtesy may have been, and what kind of response would be appropriate. As it is, it's hard to say. It is possible that you were actually so unpleasant that your friend had to act in his own self-defense. Even so, I do not consider it to be appropriate for him to effectively order you into therapy. That decision is up to you. Calling you "toxic" is extreme. So I agree with the general consensus that this friendship is not good for you. It may be possible to salvage it if both of you wanted to clear the air and resolve the problems, but that is a tricky process and there is no guarantee of success.
posted by grizzled at 9:00 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

He refused to give any examples of problematic behaviors, acting out, or red flags that had especially concerned him

Is he my ex-girlfriend? Oh, wait...

Run, don't walk, away from this ex-friend. Sane people with geniune concerns are able to conjure concrete examples of problematic behaviors, by the time the behaviors are overwhelming your interactions with others. This person is pathetically forcing a negative self-image on you, for some internal reason of their own.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:51 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some people want drama in their lives and don't realize it's better to get it from The Young & the Restless than by claiming they need distance from you unless you change in some way.

Something similar happened to me not long ago. It was with a friend who I'd mistakenly felt comfortable sharing my angst with. It hurt, but I realized "you are not qualified to be my friend." She later changed her mind about the situation, but being flippant about friendships didn't make me think she was any more qualified. Based on what you know of this guy, is he qualified to be your friend now?
posted by oreofuchi at 11:05 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

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