Failing to Support Friends?

Hi all,

Back again with a peculiar discussion topic. The topic being, trying to support your friends that are stubborn about prioritizing their own health, and them constantly providing reasons as to why they cannot do so. As someone that chooses to prioritize their health, it can be difficult for me to see it from the perspective of those who I am trying to support. I would love to hear from both sides. Because for me, it is frustrating when you want someone to take care of themselves, but they refuse to do so because they believe they can’t or don’t have time to. But then they also constantly complain about not feeling well, being tired, feeling like shit etc. And as someone who is a fairly logical person, I take that scenario and go…ok…if you don’t want to feel like shit…maybe you should get some sleep and not pull all nighters all the time. My head says that, but my heart says i’m sure there’s a reason. Then i try to get the details, like ok well why do you feel like you can’t take time to sleep? And the reasons they give honestly just sound like lame excuses. And it’s a constant battle. So for those of you who are trying to support those types of friends, what do you do? And for those of you who are THAT friend that refuses to prioritize your health and for whatever reason make your friends concerned…why do you do that?? And what can we do as the support to help?

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Wow I love that you’ve brought this up. I was literally having a discussion with someone last night about the very same thing.
As someone who has gone from being miserable and comfortable to more proactive, I have come to find many things. So I’ll start from the friend’s POV (well from my own being in that position).

The comfortable pessimist: that’s who I was. Complacent and sad. I’d get to a point I needed to vent it all out and do so (I didn’t have very good friends mind, they were also in a terrible place in life).
There’s this comfortability which doesn’t truely make sense. It’s almost like if you don’t know any different, then you don’t believe it can be different and so you get sucked into this cycle and you don’t realise that people aren’t trying to hang up on you or minimise your feelings, they love you too much to let you sit in that space.
Unfortunately for your friend and perhaps you, they really do need to be the one to take the first step.
For them it seems like all the excuses they let themselves think are going to materialise keep them from moving, but most of those concerns aren’t even real. It’s like your mind comes up with every single scenario that could go wrong instead of being able to focus on all the right things.

From the supportive friend: it’s hard to see someone you care about stuck in that rut, but sometimes boundaries have to take place. I think initially the tough love bit makes them feel a bit of a sting and perhaps sends them into a sulk, but it can also be the motivation they need.
So to prevent yourself from the burn out and from being weighed down with the excuses, what boundaries are you going to set yourself?
The conversation I had last night was with someone who let themselves get too involved with peoples every day feelings. I personally have to draw lines, even with people I love.
Sometimes it’s “I’ll get back to you about this, I am busy right now”. Sometimes it’s “I have given you some advice and resources to help you, but I can’t put them into action for you.”
And sometimes it’s just plain “sorry, you know I care about you, but right now I can’t handle someone else’s burdens. I need to look after myself”.

They can either be reactive or proactive and maybe it’ll take a little while or initial reactions. Maybe they’ll even feel like “great now not even my friend wants to listen”, but friendship and support have to be a two way street. You’re not their therapist and at the end of the day this kind of dynamic never lasts. It can’t.

TLDR- provide the resources, but put it to them that they have to take action for it.
They’ll feel a bit like they’ve been rejected, but that’s not on you how they respond.

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i just wish i could do more. i really feel helpless. And i don’t want to push them away either by being harsh. It seems like an impossible solution. And time and time again i keep thinking: “what’s the point anymore” If all of my suggestions and support are going to get rejected, what am i even doing trying to support them. I have nothing of value to offer anymore. Shoot down all of my advice and my suggestions, and you shoot down my friendship.

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I totally empathise to that. It does feel uncomfortable having those conversations. Perhaps starting off with smaller boundaries will help. Even just simple “I’m not really in the mindset for this conversation right now, I’ll get back to you”.
It’s a good place to start for them to begin to understand they aren’t the only one who has struggles or needs to work through things.
I’ve now surrounded myself with such wonderful friends who have helped me be the person who understands and implements boundaries.

I mean, I know I don’t know your friend, but I do know that cycle. Until they start to recognise that it’s up to them to make the change, it’s a repeated cycle. Do they currently see a therapist or professional? Because even mentioning “that’s a great point to bring up to your therapist” is a good boundary.

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I don’t believe they see a therapist. Hell they’d prob say: I don’t have time. I just want them to put down the work for one second. They overwork themselves to the point where they have been hospitalized on multiple occasions. It’s really bad. And they refuse to change things up.

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Hi Lee. Good question. I will try to answer your question to the best of my ability. People in general are not logical creatures. Yes we use logic but we are still animals and there are much stronger impulses then logic that shape our behaviour. Emotions being one of them but they are not the only ones. Here are a couple of tips that have worked for me at least somewhat.

  1. Try to ask the right questions rather then give solutions. Why you might ask. Well. I Know why but that’s a bit too complicated to explain. Let’s just say it works better and go with it. Example: Instead of saying “Go to sleep sooner” say “What do you think would help you feel more refreshed?” People can oftentimes find their own solutions to their problems and they feel better about solving them if the idea comes from their own head.

  2. Dont force your advice on people, rather then that offer guidance. Pretty similar to the first one. People can find solutions to their problems but sometimes they need a little guidance. Offer that guidance if you can but don’t force it. Let them take it at their own pace.

  3. Dont show your frustration or annoyance. I know it can be hard but by showing that it will only make matters worse. The best defence is to not get frustrated in the first place. It is hard but with enough patience and practice it is doable. It’s kind of like with children.

  4. Dont force help. Offer it. If it is refused, respect that. It can be a hard rule to follow but it is necessary.

  5. Sometimes people want emotional support rather then actual advice. That person might already know what they need to do but they just want to express their frustration. Just being with them and saying “yeah that sucks man, I am sorry” is enough.

  6. Share your experience. When you have had to deal with a similar problem and succeeded, it can motivate that person. It also makes them feel like you understand them.

Ok these are my tips. I hope you will find at least some of them helpful. Bye :slightly_smiling_face:

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My wife and I are going through this as we face the reality that we need to lose weight. I won’t speak to her experience except to say that she, her therapist, and general marriage advice state that it’s a bad idea for me to be her accountability partner. She needs home to beat safe place, somewhere to rest and retreat from accountability partners. If I’m providing “tough love” to “inspire” her, it breeds resentment and makes the home environment unsafe.

As for my experience, I can tell my body is degrading as weight creeps on. I know I need to lose some, but I don’t have a determined attitude about it. Part of me feels down because I’m letting myself go. Part of it seems insurmountable, even though I only need to lose a few pounds. I tell myself I’m tired, stressed, busy, and I’ll worry about it next week. I pat myself on the back for little things like eating a salad or having reasonable portions. I struggle with the fact that the food in the house could be healthier–it’s not terrible, but not the best–but I’m not going to throw away perfectly good meals. So, next round of grocery shopping eat healthier? Sure, why not? I put it off knowing that if I clean up my diet I can drop 20 lbs quickly, because it’s happened before, so why start now when conditions are “less than ideal”? I know these are all excuses, but there is validity to my reasons and counterpoints for putting off self care, and that’s more immediately compelling than just doing it. All that to say, my situation isn’t unique, and those might be the inner thoughts your friends have. I hope that can illuminate your quandary a bit.

Thanks for the topic. This is a really great discussion about excuses and accountability that I think we can all take something from!

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I don’t think that people are intentionally trying to make you concerned. You are probably not even in the equation at all. I think people like me that don’t take very good care of ourselves have valid reasons and some of us can’t just go, “oh shit, my friend is concerned I better straighten up and take care of myself.” It just doesn’t work that way.

You’re passing judgement and I really don’t think that is an effective way to help someone. Compassion and understanding go a long way. I have major depression disorder (MDD) and it’s debilitating and very hard to deal with. Logic doesn’t work here, sometimes I can’t even brush my teeth or take a shower even tho I know I should and if you don’t get that then perhaps educating yourself on depression or whatever you need to would be a good idea.

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After reading some responses I feel I should perhaps clarify my viewing in my original response.
I can only speak from my own experience and I have been someone who has been so plagued by depression and anxiety I literally couldn’t move from
The floor for days.

My point of view was more directed at someone who has expressed that they want the support to take the steps to find help and make better changes.
I know for me personally, I did need someone to give me the tough love or else I would have continued to think of reasons I couldn’t. The anxiety does creep up and literally every scenario that could go wrong does occur in those moments.

I was also speaking from the point of view of someone who has had someone else in their life be in that situation and I needed to set boundaries for my own mental health.

I whole heartedly appreciate the words shared by everyone else here and I do apologise if my words struck a chord with anyone or caused harm.

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May I ask, what would you appreciate from your supporters/friends? Or what would you like them to say? What would you like to hear? What is the best way for people to support those struggling?

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I think what @Ashwell posted for you says it all.

Whatever “lame” reason they have is valid and real to them. Instead of judging and being logical, have compassion and understanding. Sometimes, just having someone to listen is support enough.

Thank you for asking for ideas and being open.

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