Ask Amy: I Can’t Be There For Others Because I Have My Own Problems

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dear Amy: I’m the kind of person who always puts on a brave face, no matter what I’m going through.

The last two years have been very difficult for me. I suffered financially, physically and emotionally. Through it all, I’m always there for others, encouraging them and offering a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on.

I am currently going through something very difficult and I just don’t have the strength to smile.

I also don’t have the strength for people to unload their traumas on me or continually want to know what’s wrong with me since I don’t make myself available to help them through their issues.

How can I politely tell people to leave me alone while I work on this problem?

Exhausted: It is quite natural that you want to withdraw. And if privacy is what you need, then this is what you should have.

However, I hope you can imagine the possibility of receiving support from some of the people you seek to avoid.

If they are traumatized vampires, then definitely back off. But some of the people in your life who have taken you might be grateful to be offered the opportunity to give back. You will never know their abilities until you reveal your own vulnerability.

Any statement you make should be clear and concise – and you should be prepared to repeat it.

Something like, “I’m going through a tough time right now and I need some privacy while I work things out. I’ll contact you down the road. I appreciate your patience.”

People – even those who care a lot about you – will be uncomfortable with this, because if you change the way you relate to them, they may need to change.

I hope you are lucky enough to have at least one person in your life who doesn’t expect you to be Merry Sunshine.

My hope for you would be to recognize that exposing your own broken places – even if only to yourself – can lead to a liberating revelation: you can put your smile in your pocket for a while, as you access your own messy humanity.

You should also seek professional advice. A good therapist will offer you validation and support as you discover what life is like without pretending to be brave.

dear Amy: “Stella” and I have been friends for over 25 years.

We were both pregnant with our first children when we met, and since then we have been through the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood together.

One of the things that tied us together early in our relationship was that we both went through very traumatic childhoods. Over the years, however, I have received many treatments and am no longer ruled by my past. Stella, however, is still not well.

She really wants to spend more (and more and more) time with me, but I find being with her these days both boring and painful.

We are in a group of moms who have known each other for all these years, our children grew up together, and she lives nearby, so there is no question of letting her go.

I don’t want to hurt her, but I also can’t think of anything I could say to explain my withdrawal that wouldn’t really hurt her.

Concerned: Give your friend love with limits.

You’ve known each other for a quarter of a century. Your lives are both likely entering a period of transition as your children enter adulthood.

Be kind, firm, and honest: “I wish I could be there for you the way you need to, but I can’t. You and I both had such steep hills to climb. My therapy has helped me a lot. I wish you the same thing.”

Understand that due to her extreme need, even the sweetest truth might be difficult for her to accept.

dear Amy: Responding to “Nervous“, who had planned and then canceled his wedding (due to the pandemic), my husband and I canceled the big wedding planned, we got married in a small ceremony, then sent out invitations to our family for a ” I’m barbecuing.”

On the invitation we had a photo of us from the small wedding with the announcement that we had decided to elope and were inviting others to celebrate with us in our garden the following weekend.

I have absolutely no regrets.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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