I Need Help Navigating a Friendship That Is Weighing Heavily on Me

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my 60s, and I’d like to get advice regarding a friend from my student days.

We weren’t especially close back then, but she began sending me emails after her mother passed away. They were mostly complaints, and even though I often disagreed with her, I found myself just going along with whatever she said.

I couldn’t bring myself to say, “I don’t feel that way,” especially when she was going through tough times. She says I’m the only one who truly understands her.

Recently, her husband passed away, too. I think losing a loved one is truly devastating. Her stories have become increasingly serious, and I don’t know how to console her or handle the intensity of her emotions.

I’ve been troubled as my husband is battling a severe illness, and I’m constantly worried about him having a relapse. I also recently developed facial paralysis. I’m at a loss on how to continue my relationship with her.

R, Kyoto Prefecture

Dear Ms. R:

I’ll be straightforward. You should cut ties with this friend. The reason is that continuing this relationship may harm your mental and physical health — actually, it seems it already has. Moreover, your friend likely has a mental health issue.

Caring for someone with a mental issue isn’t something a layperson can handle. Leave it to the professionals.

A friend of mine had an elderly mother with advanced dementia, which was accompanied by a mental illness. She constantly verbally abused her two sons (my friend and his brother) and their families, along with her own sister, accusing them of things they didn’t do. It pushed all of them to the brink of a mental breakdown. The mother passed away just before things got completely out of hand.

I know several similar tragic stories. Laypeople can’t help mentally ill individuals on their own; doing so poses a significant risk of both parties running into difficulties.

You should tell your friend: “I can’t handle your issues anymore. Please seek professional help or ask your family or a care manager to find a specialist for you.” Don’t respond to her calls or letters. Cut off all communication.

It may sound cruel, but people get what they deserve. If individuals are no longer worthy of status or wealth, those things will leave them.

The same goes for friends. Your friend has changed, and she isn’t the person you once knew.

Eiko Yamaguchi, writer