Welcome to Dear Jane, Jezebel’s new advice column.
I recently got out of what I can only describe as a terribly abusive friendship with a person I will call “Jerry.” Over the course of about six years, I was gaslit, abused, had my mental illness encouraged/fetishized, and basically informed that he was the only person who was qualified to be my best friend. When everything fell apart, I had no idea who I even was, but luckily I’ve gotten much better.
Not too long ago, Jerry decided to insert himself into the rather tumultuous relationship between one of his best friends (Derek) and said best friend’s girlfriend (Mary). Mary has an extreme case of borderline personality disorder, and it wasn’t hard for Jerry to convince Mary that not only is Derek obviously abusive, but also that Jerry was the only person uniquely qualified to save her from her abuser...and he would only really do if it she slept with him. This imploded into a spectacular hate-filled fallout between Jerry and...well, everyone, and now Jerry and Mary are together.
Jane, I know that this has nothing to do with me, but Jerry’s actions legitimately terrify me. On top of him going around and claiming that Derek is horribly abusive (which isn’t true, as Facebook messages between Jerry and Mary making sure to get their lies straight have also surfaced), while also setting things up so that she feels as though no one understands their “love.” He also has romanticized her borderline personality disorder to the point where I do not believe she is seeking therapy for it anymore.
Like I said, I know that this has nothing to do with me, but he has managed to slander a friend and made sure that a mentally ill girl is isolated and dependent on me. I feel an almost moral obligation to help at this point, but I don’t believe that anything I say will be listened to (she is pretty convinced that I have something against her, although I just feel bad for her). Is there anything for me to do? If not, how do I learn to let go of the anger that springs from a person doing horrible things but not receiving a single repercussion for their actions?
Thank you for taking the time to read this insanely long letter.
Powerless in Paramus
You’re right: this has nothing to do with you. Also it is all very gross and I don’t understand why you’re entangling yourself in it. Oh, wait, yes I do! It’s for one of two reasons:
- You love the drama/schadenfreude of it all. Just like the drama of reality television can make us all feel a little less crazy, watching this go down between your “friends” brings excitement to your life while also affording you the opportunity to feel like the least insane person in the room, which is a great feeling! But it’s incorrect. What well-balanced person would care this much about an abusive ex-friend who fucked some lady in order to mind-control her, let alone what those two people are saying in private messages exchanged on Facebook? It’s interesting for maybe like five minutes during a conversation among girlfriends over Korean BBQ but then drop it and let’s talk about something else that is less gross. You mentioned you have a mental illness, but not which type. I think bringing it up in therapy should be the first thing you do.
- You are lonely.
So, aside from talking to your mental health provider, what can you do? First, block them all on Facebook (or delete your account if you wanna go all in). Cut these people completely out of your mind and life. To misquote Dirk Calloway, “With friends like these, who needs friends?” Which brings me to my second idea:
Stop worrying about having friends by both embracing solitude and picking up a hobby that gets you out in the world in a way that allows for human interaction but not necessarily enmeshment with other people. You’re sitting at a distance right now from a place where you can establish healthy boundaries with other people, so until that gets sorted in therapy let’s focus our efforts elsewhere. Do you love your home? Make it a place you love so that when you are there alone you can enjoy your surroundings. Now think of things you like to do there—cooking, reading, knitting, jerking off, whatever—and indulge yourself in those activities. Then think of things you like to do out in the real world and do the same. And keep working on you. You’re clearly a caring person with loads of empathy and emotional depth. Doesn’t that person sound like a way better friends than these garbage clowns?
I need to see a shrink. I’ve gone through depression before and I know I’ve sunk back into it. But my problem is that I’m 40, and I’ve been seeing therapists intermittently for almost 30 fucking years now, and I think I’ve become immune to them. I’ve moved a lot in my life, so I’ve never kept a shrink for more than a year or so. I know exactly how the first session is going to go, exactly the story of my life that I’ll tell, exactly what behaviors of mine they’ll want more explanation of, etc.—because I’ve had this exact interaction over a dozen times. I’m so burned out on seeing a shrink. I don’t know if it can work for me anymore. There’s a point where each successive therapist diagnoses me or explains what’s up with me and I’m like “Yup.” I’ve seen the occasional sad face because they hadn’t provided me with a breakthrough.
As an added bonus, I don’t emote around anybody except family or very close friends. So I can explain to a shrink that I spent the whole weekend in bed crying and pissed off at myself for crying, but I’ll be explaining it calmly and pleasantly. I’ve never cried or been angry in front of a therapist. It’s just the same calm conversation over and over with different people for three decades.
What do I do?
Before I show you tons of love, I have to scold you: Stop calling therapists “shrinks.” This reframing will help, I promise. Words have meaning and shrink is a slur; these are highly trained individuals who want you to GROW, not shrink.
Okay, where was I? Oh yeah: I’m so, so sorry you’re depressed. Me too. It’s the worst. One thing that might help is to rethink your story. Your story can’t possibly have remained unchanged for 30 years, right? Have you grown to see any of your major life events differently? Be open to talking about how your story has evolved rather than listing the same old “facts.”
And now, I have some very clear marching orders for you. Just four things I know you can do, even if you’re feeling super blue. Listen to me:
1. Find a therapist that describes their style as “psychoanalysis” or “psychodynamic.” I think the fact that you never emote in therapy is major and it may serve you well to experience transference, which psychoanalysts are skilled at using to your advantage. It takes a while to get there, longer than you’ve ever been with a single therapist (so hang in there!) but basically it’s when you form a bond with your therapist that allows you to redirect your feelings toward your parents/partner/self toward the therapist. You end up getting mad at them, crying at them, yelling at them, hugging them. And only then do you get to do some real, serious work on yourself.
I want you to contact three psychoanalysts today and set up consultations. (Lots of people will do short consults for free.) Then, out of those three, choose one who you find pleasing in some way. Maybe they dress cool? Maybe they smell great? Maybe they have a nice voice or their office is decorated just perfectly? (My therapist ticks all three boxes, not to brag.) If none of those three people please you in any way, keep calling and doing this bullshit until you find one who does.
2. At your first appointment, show them this post. It’s okay if they laugh or say I’m wrong.
3. This is the last step and you must take it very seriously: keep going to this somehow-pleasing therapist until you cry in front of them more than once. Do it for me. Do it for us. And then keep seeing them after that. And then keep seeing them. And then things will start to get better.
My husband and I are basically the definition of smug, contented coupledom, except when it comes to one thing: his snoring. It’s fucking awful. I’ve set up a white noise machine. I’ve tried every brand of ear plugs—my ear canals are actually starting to get these painful crusts. I’ve attempted meditation. I’ve tapped him on the shoulder. I’ve made him roll onto his left side and also his right side. Nothing works and I can’t ignore it and I’m not sleeping well.
Before you start in about getting him tested for sleep apnea, please don’t. I know I need to somehow propel him to the doctor, despite the fact that we do not have any real control over the actions of other people, and get him tested for sleep apnea. Death! and Doom! await if he’s not tested for sleep apnea. I get it. I’m getting an ulcer from the guilt of not being able to convince him to go to the doctor.
As I’ve scoured forums looking for a solution, I inevitably run across comment after comment where people say that they too are suffering from a snoring spouse, but that they refuse to get a separate bedroom. That way leads to LOWERED INTIMACY! ESTRANGEMENT! D-I-V-O-R-C-E!!!
Are they right? Am I dooming my otherwise happy marriage if I abscond to a guest room? I feel like not sleeping is a much bigger strain on things than being unconscious in different places for 7-9 hours. I feel so guilty and anxious about it all. Please help.
—Sleepless in Hell
Nah, it’s fine to sleep in different bedrooms. I know happy couples who sleep in different countries. I also know more than one person who’s had surgery to stop snoring only to get dumped later on for some other reason. Life is long and complicated! And relationships come in all shapes. Just do what you can to get through the day. And fuck right before breakfast or dinner.
PS: How are you going to decorate your new room? EXCITING!
Have a question for Jane? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please change names and identifying info; this advice column unfortunately is not aimed at destroying lives.