Crossing the Line

Today is likely to be a very short entry, mostly because I am not sure there is much I can say. Last night, I managed to overstep my bounds with not one, but two friends. As I have asked for, they both called me on it, and there’s not much more I can say about it while respecting their privacy. I’m feeling kinda lousy today, for a combination of several reasons, but a large part of that is that I feel like I let my friends down through my actions. This is one of the worst parts of knowing you’re overprotective, but never quite knowing exactly where the line is – when you cross it, as you almost certainly will, you feel pretty crappy when you realize it.

As much as I wish I had someone or something else to blame, this one – well, both of them – are all on me. There are things I could have done better, and I know that now. At the moment, though, barring a time machine, all I can do is apologize, hope my apologies are accepted, and try not to make the same mistakes in the future. Not an exceptionally fun moment for me. That’s what’s been on my mind since last night, and I’ve apologized to both of them; now I just have to wait for this really unpleasant feeling to go away. 

If you’re a friend and you feel like I have overstepped a boundary or crossed the line with you in the past, or am doing so now, I want you to tell me. I can’t easily see where that line is, which is a crap excuse but a true one, and if you don’t tell me, I can’t work to not do that again. It may make me feel lousy for a bit, but I would prefer that to once day having a friend tell me they can’t be around me because I keep crossing a line.

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Over-Protectiveness

I’ve commented here a lot about how close I am with my friends, and that there is very little I would not do for them. It’s true, which is why I keep saying it, but sometimes my feelings for my friends can get a little annoying. Thus the title of this entry. I have also mentioned how protective I am of my friends; in some cases I am literally acting like a bodyguard, even when I have no good reason to think they need one and they never asked for it. This is the story of how I take that too far.

Recently I have mentioned that I have a friend who has been contemplating suicide. I have mentioned that it makes me feel powerless, but I also have been trying to talk to her every day just to make sure she’s still around. The degree to which I have thrown myself into this in an attempt, however futile from this far away, to keep her around has been noted by several people around me – like my therapist and one of my close friends. She has taken it upon herself (my friend, not my therapist) to try to act as a reality check to keep me from getting so involved in my other friend’s life that if she goes, I go too. Now, I haven’t contemplated suicide since January, but I can see why people would be concerned.

I also tend to get very worried when my friends are clearly upset and yet don’t feel like talking. Now, I know that I can’t make my friends talk to me; even as close as we are, sometimes people just want to digest things by themselves and not have to share. But when I know a friend is upset, my protective impulses kick in and I start trying to imagine what is wrong and how I can fix it. At least now I’ve become a little better at noticing it, so when a friend does decide to come to me and talk to me, I can think to myself “Dammit, you idiot, your friend wants you to listen, not try to fix things! If they want you to try to fix things, they’ll ask! Shut that crap down, tell them you understand, and just listen!”

This goes into overdrive when I haven’t talked to a friend in a while and I can’t figure out how to reach them. I start wondering if something has gone wrong, I check newspapers online for mentions of their name, and start trying to figure out how I can get to where they are to see if they need help. Crazy, right? I have a friend who I met at Menninger; she got there only a few weeks before I left, but we became good friends. She’s out now, and though I’ve tried to get in touch with her, I haven’t been able to get her to respond to me. Part of me is screaming that I need to go see if she’s alright, while the rest of me is yelling back that if I do that, I stop being a friend and start being a stalker. Not like John Cusack in Say Anything, either, just the regular old creepy kind of stalker.

I think a lot of this is that I am just terrified to face the possibility of people who are such an important part of my life leaving. So, in a frantic effort to keep them from having to have anything happen which might make them leave me, I try to do anything for them that I can; my therapist actually said to me earlier that when he looks at me, knowing how I feel about my friends, he says “Man, he would carry them through life if he could.” That’s probably not far from the truth. Obviously, there’s a large potential for this behavior to backfire, because even if I could carry my friends through life, I can’t be everywhere for everyone, and protecting friends from things they can handle themselves, rather than just helping them work through it without standing in the way of the metaphorical bullet, is bad for both them and me. It takes a lot of effort for me to back off from those impulses, and I know I probably don’t do as well as I should. It’s a work in progress. 

To those of my friends who are reading this, you’ve probably noticed this; I am more than willing to throw myself into harm’s way for a friend, metaphorical or not. If you think I’m going overboard, let me know. I am trying to notice when it happens, but I am far from perfect, and my self-awareness only goes so far. I don’t want to get in the way of you living your life, but however well-meaning I am, this behavior will probably end up with everyone being hurt. I’m making an effort, but I could use your help.