Q: “This girl from my class and I became great friends. She told me about her life and depression and panic attacks and tragic family life. I pitied her so I kept playing therapist, but I started to dread having conversations. I’m tired of being nice.” - Anonymous
A: This is a tough one. The teen years are ROUGH, even more now with Covid and we really are all going through a lot. I know many of you are extremely sympathetic and go the extra mile to check in with your friends to make sure everyone is doing all right. However, it gets tricky once you have apparently assumed the role of ‘therapist’ and always find the conversations making their way back to your friend’s issues. This post works hand in hand with last Wednesday’s Ask Sophia about Clingy People. It’s a lot of pressure to know that if you ghost someone, especially when you are their one confidant, that could cause their mental health situation to plummet. Your friend is relying on you more than you can handle and there’s no way to escape this responsibility.
The issue is that every teenage girl is going through road bumps and you are in no position to be a therapist. No matter the friendship, check-ins on mental health are essential and often a regular occurrence in your daily Facetimes so it’s expected that you are supportive (of course to an extent) but becoming their punching bag and having no air for a happy, fun friendship will not be sustainable for the long run.
What you CAN do is be a good listener and don’t talk about yourself or make judgy comments. You know your friend well so try to assess if she’s just being a bit dramatic because of some added stress from a temporary issue or if she needs some serious attention from a professional or trusted adult. While you may be hesitant to let your friend know that you are concerned, suggesting she reach out to someone who can help her more than you can HAS to happen. You can’t put your friends' issues above your own because you feel bad about the situation. If you really cared about your friend, you would make sure they get help.
If this seems like a dramatized, small issue then say something along the lines of “you know you can be your truest, most open self around me but I also want to keep our friendship positive and uplifting. I also have my own stuff going on and I wish I had more space to rant too. Let’s go have a fun picnic and talk through everything.”
Use ‘I’ statements and try not to be accusatory! Repairing friendships can be hard but the effort you put into clearing the air shows just how close you guys are to each other. HUGE REMINDER: Don’t do this over text!!!!!!!! Make sure it’s a facetime or in person thing only! Trust.