From the forums:
I have a diagnosed mental illness that I take prescribed medication for in order to help manage my symptoms. It took years for me to accept that my diagnosis was a real thing (I was given the same diagnosis twice by two different doctors a few years apart) and then a while longer before I came to terms with how medication was an option that might provide me with actual relief from the worst parts of said mental illness. And then again, I spent a couple more years trying to find the right kind/combination/dosages that worked best for me. I wasn’t given the keys to the pharmacy and told to go nuts. It was a long process that I went through with medical professionals. I struggled a lot during that time period and I don’t like to talk about it with people I know because I am afraid of being judged and also because there are a lot of unhappy memories associated with it for me. It was generally just a very dark time in my life that I would like to put behind me.
My friend was there for me when I was first going through this long process, and now I feel embarrassed that this person I thought I could trust maybe didn’t think of me in the way I thought he did. I am always afraid that if people like coworkers or neighbors find out that I regularly see a psychiatrist and take medication for a non-physical ailment, they will think less of me or judge me harshly for it. This friend who was around during some of the worst of it, when I was regularly contemplating suicide, just told me that he thinks those feelings I had weren’t real. I’m afraid someone who used to be one of my best friends thinks of me in the same way I am afraid strangers or coworkers might.
Shortly after sending me those messages he sent another one saying: “I shouldn’t have said that. I woke up angry today. Are you offended by me? I am sorry I had to call you out directly like that. That was wrong of me. I’ve just been in a bad mood over everything going on in the world. I think I am a little stir crazy. Can we talk about this?” I haven’t replied to anything he has sent since that first message at all. Should I bother saying anything at all? Part of me just wants to ignore this whole thing because it has made me so uncomfortable, but I also think I have the right to ask him what inspired him to say those things to me and ask how long he has thought of me that way. — Mistreated
It’s always painful to learn that someone you thought was a friend is not someone you can trust and continue being friends with. It happens to many of us at some point, regardless of mental health or any other circumstances beyond or even within our control. Some people just suck, and your friend – ex-friend – is one of those people. That’s not to say he doesn’t have redeeming qualities or is incapable of being decent. Clearly, there was something about him that endeared him to you. But none of his positive traits can make up for the deficit where you are concerned. He was not only wholly inappropriate, mean, and WRONG; he was all those things in a pre-meditated, calculated way. He had thought out and pre-written his nasty rant to you. He chose YOU to unleash whatever frustrations he’d been feeling that had nothing directly to do with you. And he did it in a way that illustrated his true character, which you cannot unsee now and that you must walk away from.
Your friend is not alone in his thinking, sadly. There is still, very unfairly, a stigma against mental illness. This stigma persists because of miseducation, a lack of empathy, and enablement. It might be easier for you to walk away from your friend without addressing him at all, or to invite a discussion with him by asking what inspired his rant, but to do that is to contribute to the enablement of bad behavior or to send a message that there are rightly two sides to this issue. There aren’t. He was wrong, period. You don’t have to take responsibility here by telling him just how wrong he was; it’s not your job or burden to school anyone. But doing so takes one step toward lowering the stigma against mental illness AND empowers you at the same time. It takes what is a painful experience and gives you some agency and control.
This is how I would school your friend before walking away and blocking him for good:
“I AM offended, and rightfully so. What do you think you’re calling me out on? Having a mental illness that medication helps to treat so that I can function the way people without mental illness are able to without assistance? Would you call out someone with a physical ailment for seeking medical treatment? If not, you’re a hypocrite at best, and at worst, you are a terrible friend whom I am sorry I ever trusted. Your rant was wholly uncalled for and inappropriate. It was hurtful and wrong, and it shocked and saddened me. If it left any doubt in my mind about your character and the kind of person you really are, your “apology” wiped that out and only underscored the depth of your emotional deficits. I feel sorry for you, but I cannot have someone I now have so little respect for and zero trust in as a friend. I’ve come way too far — as you are well aware – on my road to living and functioning well with my illness to let someone else’s bigotry, ignorance, and profound lack of empathy mess that up. This will be my last contact with you. Please do not respond. I will be blocking you, and I ask you to respect my wishes.”
After you hit send, do block him. And congratulate yourself for taking this painful step in honoring your health and well-being. Setting clear boundaries can be an incredibly challenging thing to do, but the benefits are so worth it. YOU are worth it. Don’t let this “friend” set you back after coming so far.
At first, I thought it was just me being cautious as it was my idea for us to social distance from each other, but now I’ve started to think he’s scared of me and probably will be for a long time. I take all the necessary precautions at work wearing PPE as directed and have never actually contracted Covid or had any symptoms. Many of my coworkers have been Covid positive and I’m sure this must have scared him. I’ve asked him if he is scared of me, and he laughs and always says no. His birthday is coming up so I suggested getting a hotel room downtown to get away, but he said his friends were already planning on doing that with him and that there’s no point in doing it twice.
I find it offensive that he’s okay with hanging out in close proximity with his friends on his birthday but not with me. I feel like I’ve gone through a lot of trouble in social distancing and yet he could just as easily get Covid from his friends if they were to have gotten it in the community. I understand completely that times are scary and that Covid can easily spread, but what am I to do then with my relationship as I’m likely going to be on a Covid floor for months to come? Any suggestions? — On the Frontline
A discussion with your boyfriend about how to navigate your relationship while protecting yourselves and each other is long overdue. I wouldn’t take it personally that your boyfriend has maintained social distance from you; it’s just a fact that you are far more likely to contract and give him Covid than someone not working on the front lines. It’s also a fact that he could, as you pointed out, contract the virus in a multitude of other ways. This is true for all of us and why it’s so important to take social distancing precautions seriously and to continue making smart decisions that help slow the spread of the virus while also maintaining friendships and relationships and mental health. I’m not sure getting a hotel room with a group of friends in a major city where the daily death toll from Covid is on the rise — I know, from your IP address, what city you’re writing from — effectively meets that balance. A virtual party on a video platform or meeting outdoors with plenty of distance between people would make more sense.
Your boyfriend, in short, is putting YOU at risk with his behavior. He’s not doing it because he has a frontline job or because he is saving lives like you are. He’s not even doing it because it’s the only way he can maintain friendships or prioritize his well-being. You have to think about what his behavior and his thought-process not only say about his feelings for you and how he prioritizes your health, but also what they say about his character in general. You’re risking your health to help others and to keep your job. He is risking his health and the health of his whole community because he thinks he deserves a little party.
As you talk with your boyfriend about your relationship and how to continue it during the pandemic, you need to ask yourself whether your boyfriend’s current behavior is consistent with the values you’ve believed him to have and the behavior he’s shown in the past. Is he generally a selfish person? Does he generally place his needs and desires above your own? Is he usually dismissive of you and your time together? This period in our lives is asking so much of all of us and it is uncovering truths about people and their character that have previously been hidden. It also pushes some of us to act in ways that are inconsistent with who we are. We can’t be expected to necessarily be our best selves right now, especially consistently. We are all human and we’re going to make mistakes and say and do things we will regret or think better of later. Your boyfriend’s behavior may fall in the latter camp. But it may also be indicative of character flaws you can’t overlook. You need to look at the wider picture of your entire relationship, what you know of him and his behavior before and during this pandemic and how he reassures you – or doesn’t – that you and your well-being and the future of your relationship are important to him. You may find, in doing all this, that you are better off without him.