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Friend problems

  • 24-07-2020 1:46pm
    Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭

    I have been best friends with my cousin since we were babies. We lived down the road from each other, went to school in the same class, went to the same college, and eventually ended up renting together when we both ended up with jobs in Dublin. I am honestly closer to her than I am with my own siblings.

    However, over the past few years there has been issues, fights over miscommunications etc.
    I realised a few years ago after moving in together that she has an eating disorder that she is up and down with. Sometimes she will go through good phases and be eating healthy and will even say that she wasn't well before and was so glad she is better now. But, she will slip back into it and get very angry and defensive if ask if she is okay. She has been going through one of the bad patches for close to a year now. She will storm off if anyone tries to say anything and will decline all offers of food (e.g. I made dinner and made extra by mistake, do you want a bit? I am ordering Thai food - do you want some? My treat. etc.)

    She will regularly misinterpret innocent things I say (and sometimes I am at fault and should have been clearer) and then take this out on me for weeks by refusing to speak to me or tell me why. I had no idea she had misinterpreted something. She has said some very hurtful personal insults about me that have extremely upset me. She has told me that I am not a good person and that I never do anything for her while she will go out of her way to help me. Her only examples are that she drove us to go to the cinema a few times, that she has collected me from the bus station - which I am always grateful for, and that a few times she suggested we go for walks in the evening. I don't have a car and other than collecting me from the station (the last time she did this was well over a year ago) I have never asked her to drive me anywhere. She goes on about how isn't it awful that she can't think of anytime where I have done nice things for her, only her doing nice things for me.

    It is selfish of me as I know she has issues, but I just feel so hurt that she thinks so low of me. If it was just a comment out of anger and she later apologised, I wouldn't feel so bad, but she genuinely feels that I am a horrible person. I am constantly walking on egg shells worrying that I will upset her if I say the wrong thing (other family members have said the same thing about her to me). I do all the cleaning of the common areas of our home. Her room is usually disgustingly dirty, but she will do a big tidy every few months. I am constantly buying the foods I know she likes pretending that I bought too much and saying I won't have time to eat it all before it goes off and telling her to help herself to anything.

    I worry so much about her, but I can't take the insults and putdowns from her anymore. I don't want to cut her out of my life, she is my family. However, I am so upset all of the time.
    She needs help and won't accept any. I need to step away for myself, but I feel so guilty.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,409 Mod ✭✭✭✭woodchuck

    She obviously has major issues, presumably linked to the eating disorder. Is she getting any help for that? Unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do, it’s up to her to get the help she needs and let her know that you’re there for her if she needs to talk etc. But she still shouldn’t take her frustrations out on you.

    However a couple of things I suspect might help… in relation to the following things quoted, it sounds like you’re trying to be nice, but they don’t sound like wise things to do/say to someone with an eating disorder:
    She will storm off if anyone tries to say anything and will decline all offers of food (e.g. I made dinner and made extra by mistake, do you want a bit? I am ordering Thai food - do you want some? My treat. etc.)
    I am constantly buying the foods I know she likes pretending that I bought too much and saying I won't have time to eat it all before it goes off and telling her to help herself to anything.

    It’s possible that these comments around food act as a trigger for her bad moods.

    Sometimes the best solution to repair a relationship is a little time apart though. Would you consider moving out and living somewhere else? This might seem extreme, but it could be the best thing for your relationship with your cousin in the long term.

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 3,022 Mod ✭✭✭✭wiggle16

    You can't help someone who won't help themselves.

    That's a cliche but it's true in this instance. You sound like a very thoughtful and caring person and I've no doubt you'd do anything to help her but she won't see it that way, because in her head she doesn't need helping. A big part of the mentality of a person with an eating disorder is the control they have over their body and their food. When you offer her food, she is going to take this the wrong way no matter what way it's done. She doesn't have a normal relationship with food. Each time you offer her food it complicates her control over her diet.

    Its kind of like smoking. If a person is quitting smoking and their housemate kept offering them cigarettes they would get very frustrated - except in her case, she can't tell you WHY this frustrates her, she can't tell you that she's starving herself (and she won't have admitted that to herself in those words anyway). So she takes it up the wrong way and lashes out about other things. You're "undermining" her and what she's trying to do and you remind her that what she's doing isn't healthy, because she knows that on some level.

    You're not doing anything wrong but as woodchuck said your approach in trying to be helpful is backfiring on you. In her mind she doesn't need help, she doesn't need feeding, she doesn't need her cousin interfering.

    In all likelihood she doesnt really think you're a horrible person. Berating you and pointing out all of the great things she does for you (literally all of them, cos she's done feck all more than what friends typically do for one another) is done to make her feel better about herself. She's not really thinking about how it makes you feel. It's all about her. And it shows how skewed her thinking is, because there is a background mental health issue going on here.

    I agree with woodchuck, you probably need to put some distance between yous at least for a while. You can't help her if she wont help herself but you cant even begin to if she's wearing you down like this. But you need to remember you've done nothing wrong. Her thinking is skewed and she's taking her frustrations out on you.

    Maybe she isn't a very nice person after all but since yous were so close and its only got so bad in the last year it does sound more like her mental health issues are fuelling her behaviour towards you. Or has she been behaving this way towards you since before then?

    Do her family know about her eating disorder?

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,419 ✭✭✭antix80

    anon0409 wrote: »
    I am constantly buying the foods I know she likes pretending that I bought too much and saying I won't have time to eat it all before it goes off and telling her to help herself to anything.

    It must be awful when you want to help her but do things like this that make her feel worse. She's not a fool - she knows what you're doing and she doesn't appreciate it.

    Familiarly breeds contempt. She has her issues, you're allowing her to project them onto you then you get upset when she does.

    Best thing for you is to move in with someone else rather than someone who grew to resent you.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,208 ✭✭✭Batgurl

    Being honest, I just see two people who are different.

    Just because you are related doesn’t mean you need to get along and doesn’t mean you should get along.

    I see instances where you are wrong and I see instances where she was wrong.

    I reckon ye both need a break from each other before ye destroy any stable relationship between ye. If it’s not already too late.

  • Registered Users Posts: 798 ✭✭✭Midnight Sundance

    I think you might need a break from each other for a while.
    She doesn't sound like she's in the right head space to appreciate your friendship. Perhaps she might do from afar.
    It woukd give you a chance to work on your other friendships too. Maybe not be so dependent on her. I was very dependent on my best friend for a long time. Its not good.
    Ye can still make arrangements to be out together and meet up but there's no point in ruining your friendship by staying in the same house as her.
    In regards her eating, you can't force her to and staying there in the same house isn't going to mak a difference to that.
    Shes in a bad heads pace right now. I'd get out

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  • Registered Users Posts: 6 claire!!!

    this relationship seems to be taking its toal on you, maybe you should take a stepback to give yourself a break...

    you cant help her much with her eating disorder if she doesnt want the sounds like she gets very defensive and angry if the topic is broached.

    you sound very kind by looking out for her but it must be very difficult if you are constantly wary of saying the wrong thing for fear of being put down or ignored

    i would be looking for an alternative living situation, dont feel guilty for looking out for you own wellbeing

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,294 ✭✭✭santana75

    Op when someone has an eating disorder their brain is not working correctly due to nutritional issues. There was a famous study done in the 1940s called the Minnesota starvation experiment which you should look into. It will tell you a lot about the way in which your friend is acting. You'll see that who your friend is while under the influence of the eating disorder is not who she really is, its like another person completely. So I know its hard to see beyond someones erratic and crazy behavior, but just keep in mind that she is not herself. Thats not to say you should take any crap from her, absolutely dont allow yourself to be manipulated or guilt tripped or abused in any way. But theres no way you can have a healthy functioning realtionship with her so long as shes in the grip of this condition. Like I said, her brain is loco due to nutrition issues and first and foremost she'll need to go through the "re-feeding" phase before her brain will still to correct itself and she returns to who she really is.
    She needs to see a therapist who knows eating disorders, a doctor who is likewise and an informed dietitian.

  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,159 Mod ✭✭✭✭HildaOgdenx

    You're better off out of that situation, you have to look after yourself, and your own health. There's being a friend, and there's being a punchbag, albeit verbal punching. It's damaging to you.

    If someone else was in your situation, and asked your advice, what would you say to them? You don't have to answer that, I'm just putting it to you as a means of thinking about the situation, from an outside perspective.

    This scenario is not sustainable longterm, and you cannot be responsible for another adult, be it friend, cousin or anything else.

    Look around for another place to live and get out asap.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,272 ✭✭✭qwerty13

    You clearly meant really well, but I can see that your words were inflaming the difficulty this person is having with food. With the best intentions, you are highlighting her issues to her, which she can’t deal with - and her response is to get angry with you.

    Her response is not logically correct, but you cant fix this. I really think you should move out.