Hello, all! This is my first post. I have joined this forum because I do need advice.
I have had a friend for ten years who I always thought was a bit over-dramatic, but she is a good person. She has four children and went through a terrible divorce, and for some of the past two years her psycho husband had full custody of the kids. (Yes, he is a terrible human being. We can't even go there right now.)
During these past couple of years her behavior has graduated from being dramatic to downright bizarre. I chalked most of it up to stress, because she endured a great wrong at the hands of the court system. Recently her case was vindicated for the most part, and she will be getting her children back, so I am happy for her. On the other hand, I am at a genuine crossroads as to how to proceed next. I will be as brief as I can be:
She had to undergo a complete clinical psychiatric evaluation last fall. The only part of the evaluation I disagreed with was that the licensed evaluator said she was paranoid about being wronged. She was definitely wronged. Other than that, the evaluator says my friend is self-centered, has delusions of grandeur, and suffers from impulse control. One paragraph of the evaluation is decent, where the evaluator says that she is a good mother and should have the children. She is a good mother, and I think she thrives with her children.
Since she received the eval, she can't stop bringing it up. She obsesses on it. I think this is because the eval is right on the nose. My opinion is that my friend suffers a bit from narcissism and histrionic personality disorder. She has serious traits of both -- promiscuity, melodrama, self-centeredness, alcohol abuse and denial, an absolute inability to not only deny by to forcefully deny that she does the things she does, no ability to confront her bad behavior, and she is not able to talk about anything that doesn't refer to her.
I have sat on the phone with her for hours while she goes on and on, and now I feel guilty for the past two years. I feel as if I enabled her to spiral deeper into mental illness. She has lost a second job recently, and I am now suspecting that she was fired for any reason. She always deems the martyr approach -- that she was fired for acting correctly -- but I suspect her behavior might be a problem.
She will call at all hours of the day and night, from 2 a.m., to 6 a.m., to midnight. If I don't answer, then she has been known to call four and five times in a row. When her life was going very well for the past two months I didn't hear from her once, which hurt me a bit; she only seems to call when she needs to talk to someone.
Here is my conundrum, in consideration of all of this:
I do not call her if I need to talk, because I have felt that her life has been too stressful to put more onto it. I did, however, call once nine months ago very depressed about the recent death of my father. He died after a painful and tragic illness. When I began to talk about it, she interrupted and went on about how her parents hate her (her mother does, and her father is an alcoholic), and she went on, and on, and on, leaving me on the other end of the phone, near tears and out of the conversation altogether. I just said I had to go, hung up, and I cried by myself. Then, I got over it and moved on.
I tried to talk to her this weekend as well. This, mind you, is nine months after the last time I asked for help. I do not ask for help much. I called and told her I was feeling a bit down, seeing as it was Father's Day and all, and I just needed someone to listen. I was missing my dad.
"Oh, tell me about it, girl. I haven't talked to my dad in years. I know how it is. ... blah blah blah..."
This was her response, again. I ended up listening to her go on aimlessly, talking about her life, while I sat on the other end of the phone for two minutes, and then I just hung up, defeated. She called back (probably because she was all wound up now and had no audience), and I told my husband to just hang up. He is tired of her, and he says she uses me, so he picked up the phone and slammed it down. She later left some message that sounded flippant, like I had done something wrong. I could not tell if she knew she had been insensitive or not.
So, here is my issue -- I know about the DSMIV and wrote a seventeen-page paper on histrionic two quarters ago. I am now positive that she has some personality disorder or different groupings of a few. Her behavior is pervasive, constant, and it defeats her needs. It is not effective. Therefore, I think she really needs help. The problem I have is that I am unsure where to put up boundaries, when she can be expected to be act normal, and when her behavior is excusable.
I know I have to accept her for who she is, but when I can't even tell her that she is being self-centered without receiving a litany of reasons of why she is -- she has been wronged, she is tired, no one has walked a mile in her shoes -- I see that I am dealing with a probably hopeless case. I do not believe that she will ever be able to give what she demands now in our friendship.
I'm taking the Dear Abby approach right now to backing off, which is be gradual. I do not put as much effort into our friendship as I used to, and I gradually put in less. But, I don't want to be that person who stops being someone's friend because that friend is mentally ill. Most people don't understand that mental illness is not fun to deal with. People who have personality disorders can be maddening, especially when the particular disorder involves the trait of subconscious behavior or behavior that is denied by the doer. Meaning, I get nowhere with telling her what she does. Here is a great example: She went on for a year that her husband assaulted one of her children. I agree that it was awful. However, two Christmases ago I got to listen, via the phone, to her yell and rage at her kids, drunk as hell. Then, she strangled the one kid who her ex-husband assaulted. When I brought this up to her, she refused to talk about. She still does. And yet, she has no trouble calling foul to every single person who wrongs her.
I am tired, and I don't know where to expect her to behave. I must stress, too, that she will go on for weeks after I say something to her, passive aggressively fighting my opinion. For example, I told her it was time to let the eval go, and she brings it up all the time. When she does, she uses my words "Get over it", but she does so in such a snide tone that I want to punch her. I asked her if that is how I sounded, and she will change the subject back to the eval. So, taking all of this into consideration, especially her stalwart denial to accept responsibility for any behavior or to even acknowledge it at time, and especially that she uses me as her biggest dumping ground, when do you think I get off the ride, and how?
I can use all the help and advice I can get from you all. Except for trying to reason with her, of course; there is no possible way to talk over her. She interrupts constantly and talks 85% of the time we talk because she just will not shut up.
Thank you all so much.