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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5821
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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What do I do with friends who are constantly draining me by

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Hi, what do I do with friends who are constantly draining me by squabbling with each other if not almost injure each other? He gets violent and she screams like a banshee, so drive each other more crazy. So I either have to come keep the peace (and almost get injured myself) or ride them around to shops or banks if they get really desperate. I have a newish job and getting busier by the day. Also have some outside interests that have me involved on weekends and some weekday evenings. Then I have a husband who is house-bound to a certain extent and is insistent that I just leave these folk and not worry about them at all. I am now weary of running to the rescue too many times. Both really need better health care and probably separate living but possibly keep contact. Their finances aren't that great.
I have known her for over 20 years since we worked togetehr at my first job (in IT). She was boarded soon thereafter due to epilepsy onset. They are a 'common law couple' who have been together for over 20 years but not officially married because he is Jewish and she Catholic although neither very religous. They met at a 'halfway-house' (assisted living). They have managed on their own for years with her brains and his braun. Both are bipolar now but she is also epileptic and starting to get Parkinsons at 68 and he is 60. She gets more pension than his income from a family trust and had a fair amount of capital until she landed up in hospital for a month last year and he spent much of it trying to make friends with a bunch of louts. She has 2 married daughters (from a previous marriage) that don't want to help and just slam the phone down on me. He has never been married and has few friends but can be quite charming (if not violent) when manic. Neither drive and spend a fortune on taxifare to get anywhere. I don't mind the odd trip if I am close by (I do only live about 6 blocks away anyway) and have a remote control for their complex's gate since their landline phone was stopped a while ago. Both have cellphones. That is if they haven't been wrecked/flung about/hidden away....
She has helped me deal with my husband's issues so I feel I can't leave them alone too much. They have the same psychiatrist that my husband goes to, so I have been texting him to help too (no response - yet). Have not seen them since last episode on Monday night when he locked her out the house and she chose to sit on the steps by the front door, waiting for a chance to get in again. I called a locksmith but they refused to open up as it is his house. The cops came and went too (with no effect).
Any wise suggestions?

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

It is probably a good idea to limit your contact with your friends. They have numerous issues that need professional intervention. But unless they intend on getting help themselves, there is not much you can do beyond what you are already doing.

It is very tempting to help people in need. And this couple certainly does sound like they could use help. But there are different kinds of help. One kind is where you can make a difference. Those are people who are stuck and just need some assistance to get back to being self sufficient. Other people who need help are permanently stuck in a cycle of causing their own problems. Your friends are an example of this. They do have legitimate problems, but they are not interested in solving them, only making them worse. So you can help, but the type help that you can provide is not enough to solve their problems, because they do not want them solved.

If you back off, they will find a way to compensate. People who create some of their own problems either get better when help is withdrawn, or they find new ways to cope.

Try offering to help once a week at a scheduled time. That way, you can feel better about being there but you can also have your life too.

I hope this helps you,


TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Hi again,

I can't believe it is 2 months since I asked about my friends. As you said, they seem to cope (barely). I just phone them every 3 days or so to check on them. I haven't been there in weeks.

But my husband is the one I am now worried about. My family all think I am crazy hanging on to him. But I shudder at what would become of him if I ran way (to do what and to where? - My life is here with him church, choir(s), work, friends, family) He is not well (in mind body and spirit) and my family think he is just dragging me down. He can't handle them anymore either. His driving has become atrocious and I am nervous to let him drive himself further than a km or two from home. So prefer to drive him to appointments further afield, it just might upset the office powers sooner than later if it becomes too often.

I think I have to start asking his doctors (psychiatrist, psychologist and GP/family practioner) what I should be doing. What are they allowed to tell me? They seem to keep in contact together to discuss him. When I ask him he just says not to fuss and let him sort things himself. But sends me on a guilt trip when I am never at home doing choir or work stuff. I think he has been forgetting when he has taken meds, and then takes more, which makes him giddy and falls about the house. I found him lying on the kitchen floor last night when I got home. Maybe I need to agree to let the doctors book him into hospital for some intensive observation/ treatment. I just need him to wait for the new year so that the medical aid can cover it all.... Our finances have gone downhill this year. My job does pay reasonably including some medical aid (that got used up in 6 mths!) His mother's estate has still not been wound up after 4 years! The story is that some investigation is not over yet due to some funds that went missing... I know the estate lawyer but feel like I am prying if I ask questions there too. I keep telling/asking myself if this is why I am still around waiting for this fortune? I think have enough to keep myself going. But won't have if I have to keep having to finance medical and property issues.

Any suggestions as to what to do or who to approach? I don't need to lose this job (of 9 months only) too.....



Hi Janice, it's good to hear from you!

I am glad to hear that you were able to back off caring for your friends and have less stress in your life over the situation.

I think it is a great idea to have your husband admitted to the hospital when the insurance starts up again at the beginning of the year. It sounds like he needs a full evaluation to straighten out his medication and his physical condition. It would also give you a much needed break from caregiving.

Until then, you may want to work with his treatment team. Ask them about your access to your husband's medical records and if they are able to share information with you. I am not sure of the law in South Africa, but I would imagine it is the same or at least similar as it is here in the U.S. You can tell them anything about your husband and as long as your husband has signed a confidentiality release, they can share with you. As primary caregiver, you need to have this free and open communication with them so you can have the information you need.

The financial and medical issues are causing you a lot of stress. To help that stress, you need information about your husband's estate. As your husband is not able to handle these things himself, you may want to ask him if you can look into it. Then talk to the lawyer as your husband's representative. There is nothing wrong with doing that and it will relieve your stress some to know the status of the situation.

If you can, try to find someone who can help you care for your husband. He is putting demands on you physically and emotionally. Taking breaks is very important. Also, let him know you are coping the best you can and that if he needs more help, he can let you know without the guilt. You can do this in a kind yet firm way. Boundaries need set between you and your husband's situation so you don't feel constantly invaded upon. Lack of personal space and the caregiver's guilt you feel both can cause a lot of stress. It is a common situation among people who are caregivers. You may even want to consider time away if you can arrange it. You need a breather and a chance to enjoy yourself.

Here is a link to help you:

Let me know if you have more questions. I am glad to help.