Why don’t my friends help me?

Dear Suzie, 


I’m 22 years old and I have many people around me but I feel all my friends are extremley unsupportive and so self absorpsed and selfish that I can’t cope.



Five years ago I suffered a traumtic experience which I coped with by turning to self harm and bulima, however this resulted in severe dpression, the breakdown of all my relationships with friends and family and a suicide attempt. I felt I was let dwon by doctors who didnt listen to me but passed me from one tablet to another. After a gap year I started uni feeling I had re begun my life but I eventually went to see a counsler at uni who I worked with for over a year to ovwrcome my problems which I felt kept resurfacing. I felt that I was back on track and although i do not wish to self harm any longer I have trouble with intamcy even on a small level. But whenever I make the huge step of telling one of my friends  a porblem big or small they let me down. For example I recently found out my sister has cancer and when telling my friends they act as though nothing is wrong. It is not just one friend but all of them and not with just big things either but all things, their reactions are not supportive or reassuring, it makes me despair and feel lonley and abandoned as though I have worked through my self harm to confide in people for nothing. I despertaly crave closness and support, why do people always let me down like this?


I’m sorry to hear you’re having such a tough time. Let’s see if we can work something out together that may help.


For a start, I think you may need to consider what it is you’re asking from those around you. Friends are not counsellors. Counsellors are self aware, professional and there for you. Friends are human. They can be terrified of hearing big words like suicide and cancer, and may react to hearing them by back peddling. It’s not that they don’t care but that they haven’t had the preparation to deal with it. And why should they? Have they had the extensive training to understand and cope with your problems? Are they being paid to support and help you? Are they being supported themselves in sustaining you? No.


What friends can do is provide mutual care. That means that a friend will do what they can, and will, in a situation when it’s understood  there will be a “quid pro quo” – an equal exchange. I’ll help and listen to you because I know you’ll do the same for me. That’s not being selfish, it’s being equal.


You’ve had a bad time and I can understand that you feel very needy and fragile. But I can also understand your friends may well feel very put upon by you. You demand and you expect to confide and be helped and when you don’t get what you need you judge and criticise. But I bet you don’t offer to others what you expect they should give them. Oh, I’m sure you’ll defensively insist you do. But think about it; do people come to you with problems or do they know your attitude will be “But, just listen to MY problems, that are sooooooooo much bigger and more important than yours!”


People tend to give what they get. Be a good friend to them and they’ll be a good friend to you. Model what you want and you’ll get it – be supportive and close and they’ll be that too. But stop expecting your friends to give you the specialist support you may need from a counsellor. That’s asking something inappropriate and unfair.

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