Don't go, but don't stay.
December 30, 2012 2:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm obsessed with my friend? (snowflake details inside).

There's this person, I'll call them 'Z' to make this easier. Z an I are online friends, both on our mid twenties, same gender. We write to each other (almost) daily and there really isn't much trouble between us. I love Z as a friend and that's pretty much it. I'm not interested in them romantically and I do not have a crush on them. I'm also an extremely anxious person and have been depressed lately. These are both problems I've been getting help with and though improvement has been slow, things are not exactly looking down either. I have a loving partner who's there for me and know that everything could be so much worse and that I ought to feel good...

However, I feel that I'm too invested in my friendship with Z. Whenever they aren't online and available for chatting, I feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety, that is both mental as well as physical and that leaves me unable of thinking about anything but 'when is Z going to be online' and 'when am I going to be able to talk to them'. It's extremely stressing and it's taken a toll on both my mental, as well as my physical health. I'm not sure how to frame this to my therapist, or even how to deal with it by talking to Z. They are important to me in a way that I don't understand myself. When Z is around, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I don't even want to talk to them all the time,; just knowing that they are on (even without contact) is like an instant stress reliever. To the point that I've taken to 'stalking' them online and trying and getting excessively anxious by trying to figure out whether or not they are ignoring me or really haven't logged in at all.

I haven't, of course, told Z about this and try my best not to act creep/clingy/annoying by forcing myself to withhold contact (or at least, by not establishing it every time). I do have other friends who are there for me but I'm just not as interested in chatting with them, both online or offline. I know this is most likely a result of the depression, but I'm baffled as well as confused my (irrational) interest in Z. Should I cut them off my life? I don't know how to continue coping with the situation and just can't handle the stress and anxiety it brings along.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds to me like you're in a crush in the way you explain it. Maybe you're in a situation like this.

But as someone who has been in such a situation - almost exactly how you describe, I have to advise you that it probably isn't healthy to allow yourself to be so concerned with Z.

Don't cut him/her out your life - you obviously enjoy the friendship or whatever it is, but realize that it makes no sense for you to be concerned with when s/he is online. Just know that when you do chat, it'll be enjoyable. Know that Z cares about you and isn't ignoring you online. If Z is posting dozens of memes to Facebook, don't be pissed because s/he isn't chatting with you - understand that Z is blowing off some stream by posting memes to Facebook and when you talk later it'll be fine.

I don't know if this helps, but I feel your pain.
posted by k8t at 2:33 PM on December 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm also an extremely anxious person and have been depressed lately.

Maybe your time spent with Z is a distraction from your troubles, and stressing about Z's availability is a low-stakes way your anxiety is manifesting.
posted by headnsouth at 2:36 PM on December 30, 2012 [12 favorites]

This happens. It's OK. You do, however, have to deal with it. It's tough, but I think you need to put some space between you and Z.

Think of yourself as a planet in orbit. What you should do is put yourself in a solar system - that is, planets (people) should be orbiting parallel to you, but in their own orbits. What you've done is let another planet, Z, into your personal orbit; now your orbit is crowded and confused. Now in your orbit, you're continually chasing after Z in circles. Not good.

Take a breather from Z; step away from the computer and let Z out of your orbit. Limit yourself to chatting with her every other day; engage yourself in other activities so your time is not spent waiting for her to come online. Distract yourself and find your own path again. Centering your life around one thing, person, or relationship is never particularly healthy.
posted by krakus at 2:41 PM on December 30, 2012

Sounds like your anxiety has attached itself to this person's availability. This sounds quite different from a friend-crush. Before saying anything to Z, talk to your therapist. Print out your question and give it to them if trying to figure out how to frame this is seeming hard.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:06 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I sometimes get the same feeling when I wake up in the morning, check my facebook, twitter, email, metafilter, then run out of stuff to check and then I get overwhelmed thinking "well what do I do now!?!?!?" and I stare down the barrel of a whole day of I don't know what (when I'm on holidays). Then I download lots of TV shows and watch, suddenly the day is over. Of course at the moment there is nothing on, being the holidays and all. As I type I am thinking, thank goodness there's a mefi question I can answer! Once it's over I'll be at a loss, then I'll keep refreshing the page to see if there are new questions being posted, and there aren't really, because it's the holidays.

If this is you (what else are you doing with yourself during the days?) my practical suggestions include:

1. plan your day the night before. Schedule it. Do not schedule in talking with your online friend.
2. write a list of things you like to do, things you normally do that soothe and relax you. When you are anxious, do something on that list. It could be going for a walk, reading a book, buying some flowers, writing in your journal, whatever.
3. start writing a journal. Get those anxious thoughts out on paper rather than constantly looping in your head.

Good luck. This friend obsession might be a symptom of depression rather than an actual obsession with your friend. Think about what you are avoiding when you are with this friend.
posted by mooza at 3:07 PM on December 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

Well, I've experienced similar types of emotional reactions to some friends (though for me they were accompanied by romantic feelings and fantasies). What I've learned is that the feelings don't really seem to be about the individual people involved but are often feelings from previous relationships that I've displaced onto the current people. (In my case, I trace this back to a pretty dysfunctional family of origin--I let myself feel all the feelings it was unsafe to feel as a kid with new people who I can trust.)

Whether or not that's true in the same way for you, I think that cutting Z out of your life is unlikely to really help in the long run. Think of it this way: the problem isn't Z or anything they're doing, but your emotional response to Z. And your responses to that response. For example, it sounds from your question like you aren't talking to anyone about this. That's likely to increase the stress and "I'm-crazy" feelings you seem to be having.

You mention other friends. Would you be comfortable talking with any of them about the situation with Z? You can, as you do here, keep Z's name out of it. I think that talking with other people about how you feel about Z will help in a few ways. One, it will get you talking and connecting with other people. Two, I've often found that simply saying things out loud (or typing them, as the case may be) will shift things for me, or at least help me think of them in a different way. Three, you might get some valuable outside perspective.
posted by overglow at 3:09 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

You know, for some weird reason we don't talk about this much in our culture, but I don't think it's unusual to experience a non-sexual version of limerence when we encounter particular new friends. I certainly have. My first "best friend" friendship at 13 remains one of the most intense relationships of my life. There was another when I was in my late 20's. I have zero issue with gay people and never rejected the possibility that I could be gay, but but these relationships just plain did not have a sexual element. The experience mirrors falling in love but without the horny part.

So anyway that's a really long way of trying to reassure you that what you are experiencing is normal and that I suspect reading about limerence will help you put some of your anxieties in context: "oh yeah, this anxiety is the Fear of Rejection phase, so I need to remember this will calm down if I don't let it drive me to Crazy Town."

I think you should discuss this with your therapist, by the way. I would just tell her that you're having some anxiety about an intense friendship and need some help managing that healthily. That's what your therapist is there for.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:12 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Online chatting (which doesn't give the same reassurance as in-person encounters but still has the same sense of immediacy) is like kryptonite for my social anxiety. If I ever get like this with anyone I chat with (and I almost never chat), I immediately block them and find other ways to interact with them, because it's not a mentally healthy or sustainable way to live.

Sorry if that's not helpful, it's just the only way I've found to deal with this particular kind of obsessive/anxiety-related behavior. Cold turkey.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:54 PM on December 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yes, definitely talk to your therapist. I'd do this before I talk to Z or anybody else.

If it makes you feel better, I've (and other people I know have) experienced this (or something similar) to a certain degree, as a function of some social anxiety and depression. One of the ways I began "weaning" myself off of that dependence was to spend less time on my computer and forcing myself to interact with other people (online and offline) more; I found that the amount of time-wasting I did on the internet was partly fueling the depression, and reaching out to others (who I might not have, prior) reminded me that there were other people who were interesting, fun, and available that I'd been pushing aside.
posted by sm1tten at 4:05 PM on December 30, 2012

It sounds to me like you're having a hard time dealing with your depression and anxiety, and chatting with Z has become a pacifier of sorts, something that makes you feel better. Definitely take steps to deal with your depression and anxiety, but in the meantime, as a short-term solution, perhaps you could come up with several other activities that give you a comparable boost, and then doing those instead when Z is not available.
posted by orange swan at 4:44 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

It would be great if your life would be better because of this person's presence, but what if they disappear, what if they go away, what if they...? It's all an illusion since your own brain is the one making up this movie. As long as you see your happiness being dependent on someone else you are going to suffer about it. You are the one that generates happiness, it's your brain making up the story and filling in the characters. Make up a new story, one that doesn't have people in it who outshine your own natural ability to feel and experience joy and wellbeing.
posted by diode at 4:57 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think it's normal to want to have your friends around, especially when you're anxious, you may very well just need a lot of company.

Try spending some more time interacting with your other friends too. This may turn out to be a blip that doesn't signify much.
posted by tel3path at 5:24 PM on December 30, 2012

I am a therapist, though, of course, I'm not *your* therapist. This is totally appropriate for you to bring up with your therapist, and you should do that, as this is likely to be part of a pattern of behavior/issues that fit into the total picture of who you are.

If I was listening to a client tell me something like this, I would start thinking about insecure attachment kind of issues. It would spur me to form theories and ask more questions about relationships in your past. In short, it could help us form a better understanding about relationships and anxiety in your life and how to move your treatment along.
posted by jasper411 at 7:44 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

« Older Self-Employment 101   |   West Elm Beds and Bedframes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.