Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

What Friends Do: An Open Letter


Dear Friend Who is Hurting,

I received a comment letting me know that my advice and suggestions were unwanted, with a comment that you need to figure things out on your own.  I’m sorry, but I cannot follow through with that request, not if you are one of my friends.

I hate to see you suffering and in pain.  And unlike cancer or diabetes or a traumatic brain injury, all of which I know nothing about and could only offer the advice of “go to a doctor”, I do know what it is like to suffer the way you are.  And I also know that there is a way to avoid such suffering and pain.

You may want to “figure things out on your own” and if this were a case of finding the right boyfriend or figuring out which outfit to wear or which new technology to buy or how many classes to take in one semester, I would let you make your own decisions and learn from those decisions.  But what is happening now is so much more and comes at a higher price.

See, we’re talking about life and death here, not credit hours or tech toys.  The decisions you are making now impact your health and well-being and, ultimately, your life.  Oh, I know, I sound dramatic.  But remember that I am speaking from the point of view of someone who has lost over ten people to various forms of these illnesses and addiction.  Ten people I called “friend.”  Ten people whom I enjoyed spending time with and laughing with and drinking coffee and tea with.  Ten people who didn’t think they would die.

I know you think “that can’t happen to me” and “what I’m doing is far from being considered dangerous” but I beg to differ.  These illnesses don’t care how long you’ve suffered and they don’t care about the severity of the illness.  I’ve known girls who have died without meeting the “diagnostic criteria” as stated in that *wonderful* DSM guide.  And I’ve known girls and boys who have died within months of starting down this treacherous path as well as those who have struggled for years.

You  may even say “I’m not struggling at all” but your actions tell me otherwise, and other people have come to me wondering how they can help or intervene.  Your actions tell me that you are already obsessed to the point of denying your body the care and rest and love that it needs.  Your actions tell me that you are at war with your body and this war has been increasing lately, not decreasing as you initially promised it would when you “reached a certain point.”  And I’m scared that this war you’ve declared on your body is just going to keep increasing until your body has no choice but to break down.

There’s a reason I can see these patterns in you.  Looking at you is like looking in a mirror of my past.  And that scares me, because multiple doctors have told me there is no reason I should be alive today.  And I don’t’ want you to follow that same path and reach a different outcome.  If there were some way to make you see the potentialities and convince you that the earlier you stop this war against yourself, the easier recovery will be and the shorter it will be.  But right now, all I can see is where you’re headed if you don’t change: the minor obsession you now have will slowly take over your whole life and other things will fall by the wayside and become unimportant; friends will watch helplessly, and some friends will not be able to watch and will leave; your dreams that you are working so hard to make happen, will slip through your fingers.

I could very easily do what you wanted and not say anything; I could “mind my own business.”  But one thing you may not be aware of it how much your actions are affecting those around you.  Friends feel helpless and confused and frustrated and scared and anxious and they are experiencing a pain of their own–the pain of watching someone they care deeply for hurt themselves.  You do not exist in a bubble; your actions and choices affect those around you.

Again, I speak from experience.  In the beginning, I did not know how much my behaviors affected those around me.  I thought that it was “my life” and “my issues” and shouldn’t affect anyone else. But then, my friends got tired–not just ‘frustrated tired’ but also physically and emotionally tired from trying to help and constantly being pushed away.  I couldn’t see the pain my friends were in because they felt so helpless–all because I put up defensive walls and kept up convenient excuses of denial.

I am thankful for the friends who stuck by me through all of this.  The friends who never stopped speaking the truth to me, even if I didn’t want to hear it.  I am thankful for all the times someone took me by the shoulders–sometimes literally–and said, “Stop this!  You are hurting yourself!”  I am glad that I had friends willing to put our friendship on the line and tell me how much my actions–the actions I thought were mine and mine alone–were hurting those around me.  I am alive today because of them, and I am healthy and, most of the time, happy.

I know that you are in pain, great pain.  Please know that there are ways out of this pain, and that these ways do not involve hurting your body.  There is a path to love and acceptance and, ultimately, freedom.

As your friend, my job is not to stand idly by and watch as you self-destruct–and it is a path of self-destruction, and I can counter all of your “logical” arguments with proof and experience.  My job is to help you find the path of freedom, to help you find a way out of your pain.  I will do anything I can to help you on that path, but do not expect me to silently watch as you continue the path you are on.  That is not what friends are here for.

 

Sincerely,

A very concerned and worried friend.

 

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August 27, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

4 Comments »

  1. This is so powerful!

    Comment by Laura | August 27, 2011 | Reply

  2. Agreed, Lexie. If only people listened. What a different world, I guess, we’d be living in.

    Comment by Neesha | August 29, 2011 | Reply

  3. Well said. I’m in the same position.

    Comment by MC | August 31, 2011 | Reply

  4. Concern, worry, and an expression of that are powerful things, especially when they’re really warranted or when they hit you in a huge, personal, emotional place. I hope for your sake and for your friend’s sake that you sat down with him/her and said these very things–face to face–and that you’ve created a serious, caring, honest and open dialogue that is as much rooted in your friend’s experience, motivations, and understandings of his/her actions as it is in your desire to not see your friend journey down a path you consider hurtful, destructive, and unhealthy. I also hope that you’ve been there for your friend, consistently, AS a friend, before you expressed these thoughts–in a letter addressed TO your friend–in your own public blog. Otherwise, if the friend to whom this letter is addressed were to see these thoughts, I have a bit of concern that the intended reader might feel entirely disrespected, dehumanized, and reduced to just an example of the agendas for, themes of, and motivations behind your blog. And to subject your friend to that is to make everything in this letter, I think, *about you and your need to say something and get acknowledgement for your words* than it is about your friend’s need, desire, or searching for help of some sort.

    Perhaps my words will be unpopular with you and your targeted readers, but I am writing from wondering how I would respond if *I* were the friend you were attempting to write to.

    I hope you’re well, and I hope your semester of teaching is a really great experience. I’m sure MACC is an overwhelmingly different place from Mizzou!

    Take care,
    Stephanie

    Comment by SK | November 6, 2011 | Reply


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