This is topic A question of guilt in forum Rants, Raves, Rumors! at The Geek Culture Forums!.
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Posted by ubergeekprincess (Member # 4428) on November 20, 2005, 01:03:
Ok, I have a friend. She's my best friend, we've been best friends since junior high. In high school we had an accident that left me disabled(not horribly disabled, just screwed up one of my legs and hip.) She was driving, and she was unhurt. I have never held her responsible...I was in a hospital bed for a little over a year afterwards, in a wheelchair for a bit longer, and even through the worst of it, I sincerely did not blame her. The problem is that she blames herself. It's now 10 yrs later and about once a month she'll go on a rant, saying that she's ruined my life, that she knows she shortened my life, that she doesn't deserve any happiness, etc. I'm not the type to wallow in the past, I'm more of a lets work with what we have now type of person, and quite frankly I don't think my life is all that bad. This accident was very significant in my life, but its not something I'm bitter about, but I find myself tip-toeing around it when I'm around her because I don't want to upset her. I swear sometimes I feel like throwing my hands in the air and giving up on trying to comfort her. Maybe its selfish, but sometimes I want to just shake her and remind her that this didn't happen just to her.
Yeah, yeah...I know, kind of a selfish attitude, I -do- sympathize with her and I love her, heck, I'm closer to her than some of my own family. This accident wasn't an issue for me, but it seems like she's trying to force it into being one.
So, any ideas on how to gently get her to maybe lighten up about it?
Posted by Grummash (Member # 4289) on November 20, 2005, 02:08:
quote:Sounds like a plan. No, seriously, it is her behaviour that is selfish and if you don't tell her, who will? Good luck.
Maybe its selfish, but sometimes I want to just shake her and remind her that this didn't happen just to her.
Posted by magefile (Member # 2918) on November 20, 2005, 06:52:
I'll be the token disabled person here and piss everyone off by asking a totally different question. Have you really come to terms with it? Or are you still in that "[sigh] I'm resigned to the suckiness of it all" stage? I've been disabled all my life, and I have friends and relatives who still see disability - in general and in my particular case - as a negative thing. They're never going to let go of that assumption, but we can at least agree to leave the issue behind. In other cases, though, it is worth the attempt to educate someone, particularly someone you're close to.
Posted by garlicguy (Member # 3166) on November 20, 2005, 08:38:
It seems your friend, for whatever reason, struggles with this "question of guilt" and has been unable to come to a peaceable reconciliation with herself about her part in your resultant disability. Obviously, magefile's question is posed to reach to the heart of the matter from your perspective, in case that is not completely settled.
But perspective does seem to be the real issue here. Our personal perspectives influence every aspect of our lives. That said, your friend's perspective influence's how she deals with the circumstances of your relationship. As Grummash suggests, if you don't tell her how her behaviour affects you, who will?
Best wishes for a good outcome to this dilemma.
Posted by YaYawoman (Member # 4505) on November 20, 2005, 08:41:
Maybe you just need to sit her down and have it out so she can get over it and move on and then you can both enjoy each other without tiptoeing around.
You might have to be firm. I think you will be able to find the right words to help your friend understand that even though you have a disability it does not define you or your life, and that you are still yourself, disability or not. Some people sometimes have a rough time seeing the person, they get distracted by the outside--whether it is race, disability or appearance etc.
It is not selfish to hope that your best friend will be able to move on. Good luck
Posted by FireSnake (Member # 1181) on November 20, 2005, 09:05:
I can understand where the friend is coming from. I've always been one of those people that would rather have whatever bad thing happen to me than someone I care about. It's hard enough watching them suffer for something I had nothing to do with, I can't imagine how awful and terrible it must be to watch someone you love and care about be hurt that badly and feel that you were the cause, even if it was an accident. I agree with Yaya, you should sit her down and really talk to her about it. You didn't describe the circumstances of the accident, so I don't know if alcohol was involved, or bad weather, or just inexperience driving. I think making very clear to her that it was an accident, and the whole point of an accident is that it wasn't on purpose. Until she can forgive herself, it's probably not going to stop. I don't know if there is anything you can do to really help her with that. I think it may have to be something she finds in herself.
Posted by csk (Member # 1941) on November 20, 2005, 17:38:
You know, it's an interesting one. The fact that you don't feel you can comfort her over this is a key one, and there could be a number of reasons for that. Maybe you feel she doesn't deserve the pity, or that if you start talking about it you'll start feeling emotional about it too. Or it could be that your coping mechanism is avoidance, and she's getting in the way of that?
I guess the thing is, she feels upset about it, no question. Feelings just are, whether she has a reason to feel a certain way or not is irrelevant. Whether you can do anything to help her feel better? Not sure. If she has never heard that you have never blamed her, and you're happy just getting on with life, then she needs to hear it now. If she already has, and it's had no effect, that's another story. In that case, I would very carefully and gently point out that her not letting it go is actually harder for you to deal with than what happened itself. But that you understand that she needs some time to grieve over it too.
Hope that helps somewhat. I've never come across this sort of situation before, so good luck with that...
Posted by ubergeekprincess (Member # 4428) on November 20, 2005, 20:53:
csk, its not that I don't -want- to comfort her over it, its that I -have- comforted her over, and over, and over, and...well, you get the point. It's been 10 yrs, I've told her repeatedly that I don't blame her. The problem is when she's apologizing and telling me how much my life sucks, it starts sounding degrading...like I have no purpose now or something. I know she doesn't do it on purpose, but she really makes me feel worse by constantly saying she's sorry my life is over(when, as I said in the last post, I don't think my life is all that bad.)
It's kind of like someone accidentally tripping you, making you skin your knee...then constantly poking it, saying "I'm so incredibly sorry! *poke* I never meant to do that! *poke* I would die if it would make your knee better! *poke*"
I'm not bitter about anything she did as far as the accident itself, but it would be nice if she would talk to me like I'm a person...not a charity case. It's not like I'm horribly disabled from it anyways. I mean I walk with a cane and sometimes use a wheelchair...there are so many things to be thankful for about the night of the accident. The fact that we didn't both get killed was a miracle in itself, after seeing what was left of the car no one could believe that only one person was injured(there were 3 of us in there, and no, there was no alcohol or drugs involved..just a slippery road.)
Posted by Steen (Member # 170) on November 20, 2005, 20:59:
I'm going to preface this with a disclaimer: I had someone doing something similar to me while I was in a hospital bed recovering from nearly dying. The English language doesn't have words to convey just how much it pissed me off that I was made to feel guilty and obligated to waste my energy constantly comforting someone else as I lay there half dead. As a result, I may be completely misinterpreting the situation you're in and everything I'm about to say is completely wrong (wouldn't be the first time).
So, without further ado, here is what could be the worst advice you'll get.
Right now, when your friend feels guilty, she's dumping that on you and she feels better for doing so. She either doesn't realize or doesn't care what affect it has on you. As a result, she's not going to stop ranting every time she feels guilty until it becomes more unpleasant for her to try to unload all that on you than to resolve her guilt on her own.
Some people won't let go of guilt and if it's been ten years and your friend still loses it like that on a monthly basis, she's probably one of them. You can try the gentle approaches suggested so far, but you're probably going to have to do something a lot less nice before anything will change.
When she goes on one of these rants, tell her that you have a life you enjoy very much and you cannot understand or deal with her prolonged guilt. Tell her you'd appreciate it if she would go get herself straightened out on her own and give you a call when she's done so you can do something fun together. Then you have to be firm about refusing to deal with her until she does get off the rant. You'll have to consistently do this every time she starts ranting.
Understand that doing this will upset her. Maybe a lot. Maybe enough to cause your friendship to come to an end, but hopefully not. Eventually she'll either stop ranting because she doesn't want you to push her away or she'll stop because she won't have you to rant to. Either way, the rants will have stopped.
Posted by csk (Member # 1941) on November 20, 2005, 21:02:
Sorry, didn't mean to offend, just needed clarification.
In that case, what I said before would be my advice. It seems that her apologising etc is bothering you much more than what happened itself. I would tell her that, and that the best thing that she can do if she wants to make amends is to forgive herself for her (imagined) misdoing. If it's not going too far, you could ask her if she wants you to stop her talking about it every time she starts.
Edit: What Steen said
Another option might be for her to get some counselling. In fact, I think it would be healthy for her to have someone to talk to other than you about this. Is that a possibility?
Posted by ubergeekprincess (Member # 4428) on November 21, 2005, 01:14:
No need to apologize csk..no offense was taken . I was just answering the questions that you brought up(I realize I wasn't clear on everything in my original post.) As for her getting counseling, I would love for her to, but I doubt she would go.
Steen, you didn't misinterpret anything. You basically said the exact same things I'm thinking and feeling...you just said it better than I did.
She actually seems to be getting worse as the years pass. This latest rant was triggered when I mentioned in passing that I couldn't believe it had been 10 yrs(the anniversary of the accident was this month.)
Anyway, thank you all for your responses, seems the best way to go is to just be blunt with her, will try it, wish me luck!
Posted by Steen (Member # 170) on November 21, 2005, 18:05:
/me crosses his fingers for you.... then his eyes too, since he doesn't believe in luck as much as he believes in laughter.
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