I had been ‘best friends’ with a guy I had feelings for since high school (about 14 years). Finally we meet up, hung out like old times and I wanted to let him know that I had feelings for him. I wrote him an email letting him know that I had liked him but also told him that our friendship may change because I had “crossed the line”. Three weeks passed and I had not heard from him. He finally told me that he was Bipolar (diagnosed at 10 years old) and that I probably would not want to talk to him anyways. As time passed he started to become mean to me, had a nasty behavior, telling me one thing doing something opposite, picking fights, distant.. he would apologize when I would bring up to him but kept doing it. I later found that he started to have a substance abuse problem. I would try to encourage him to go to talk therapy again that maybe he should get back on his meds. I was emotionally drained,not happy, not sleeping well, feeling like I had an obligation to be there for him. It was exhausting and I later found myself questioning our now toxic friendship. I may have said somethings that hurt him and he said things that hurt me but he didn’t even seem to really care or apologize.
I do care dearly about him and his well being because I miss the good times we’ve had but, I don’t want to put myself through that emotional strain again. I feel like he doesn’t even care. Or even care for himself for that matter. I miss him and our friendship together but, feel a slight guilt leaving him alone. I guess my question is: Should I just leave our friendship alone and count it as a loss? I feel like if he’s not taking care of himself I should just stay clear for my own emotional state.
This question seems to be a reoccurring theme in many of the questions we receive, and my answer will always be basically the same. Considering what you’ve told me: yes, you should just leave your friendship alone and count it as a loss. You should always put your own emotional health first. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a relationship with someone who is outwardly cruel and distant, toxic and otherwise unpleasant. While certainly some, if not most, of his negative behavior may be due to his bipolar diagnosis, you cannot change this person’s behavior by imposing guilt, returning the hostility, or by manipulation, or even by showering the individual with unanswered affection. If these tactics work, the result will only be temporary. He must decide he needs to change and take the steps necessary to control his bipolar mood swings as much as possible. Sometimes, as in the case of a parent dealing with a child who is suffering from bipolar disorder, it is not possible to withdraw totally. But even in a parent/child situation, the parent must do whatever they can to take care of their own emotional needs. If they too become “basket cases,” they won’t be available to help their child when help is most needed.
You’ve basically already answered your own question. You’ve showed that you had the ability to walk away and save your emotional health. Although you miss him and your friendship, it seems that there was much more pain than pleasure. You were correct to discontinue contacting him. Taking care of yourself and focusing on other friends are the best things you can be doing. Let the guilt go. You deserve one long and great emotional vacation!