Do we need to step back, and if so, how?

Hello, I’m new on here, but I’ve been reading and really appreciating all the posts from before - so thank you everyone. It’s amazing to have such a supportive community, and has really helped me.
I feel a bit of a fraud here because I guess I’m more of a supporter than a carer as such, but basically one of my best friends has been having an increasingly terrible time over the past 6/7 months with her MH - severe depression and now also diagnosed with aspergers and BPD. She self harms incredibly badly (always needing at least 6 stitches, sometimes double layers of stitches), so there’s an A&E visit at least once a week. Then just over a week ago she took an overdose and cut an artery, but called for help to get to hosp. After a week in and out of hosp, she ended up on a MH ward and is intensely suicidal. She is very angry and extremely irritable. Amazingly she was managing to carry on working until the last few weeks, but has now lost her job and also her home because of her problems. She has no family who can support her.
Over this time, me and a friend have progressively been doing everything for her. I guess looking back on it, we’ve basically been taking her to all her appointments, buying and often cooking her food (otherwise she just has toast), taking her on days out or whatever when we can, etc. Our whole lives are revolving around her. We’ve both taken a massive hit to work, family time etc. I’m supposed to be finishing my PhD and juggling a second job, but I am only just keeping that afloat - but I keep thinking her problems are life and death, whereas that’s just a project.
When I write it like that I feel really stupid. It wasn’t a good idea to do so much for her - it seemed like she wouldn’t do anything herself, but maybe she would have. I don’t know. Maybe it’s not surprising she’s got worse rather than better. The Home Treatment team were telling us to give her more and more support - even 24/7 watching at one stage (though she still managed to self harm even with that). Because of the BPD, she pushes everyone away and I guess we’ve been doing everything we can to show her how much she really does mean to us.
This sounds totally ridiculous written down. I suppose the thing I’m asking is - clearly we need to step back. We both love her dearly and (clearly) would do anything for her, but we aren’t helping her like this. But she takes everything incredibly personally (because of the BPD) so will just shut us out if she thinks we are letting her down. I don’t know.
I feel like an idiot and that I’ve created more problems than I’ve solved. Does anyone have advice for how to manage this?
Thank you for reading my essay.

Hello Gertie
You are finding the hard way that there is no right way and no wrong way to support someone with such severe MH issues. What works one day may not the next, what works with one person may not with the next etc etc
What is true is that it will drag you down and under if you let it. Of course the Home team want you to do everything, because it means they don’t have to use their scarce resources, and they are probably aware little works anyway.

While she is in hospital they can get medication sorted and hopefully start getting to the root of her problems, but it is down to her and the professionals, you cannot cure her.

Use this time to work out how much you want/can be involved and get ready to set kind limits, that’s limits that are kind to both of you. A sudden full withdrawal is probably not on the cards, as you seem to realise, but you do need to be able to get on with your own life as well.

There’s hints and tips for carers under each diagnosis section of the Mind website. I suggest you read them all from a-z as they are all useful

Any time she seems suicidal get her to contact Samartians, ensure she always has the phone numebr and contact details and encourage her to use them

but try to steer clear of always talking her down yourself, get her in the habit of going to professionals

DO NOT EVER beat yourself up with guilt feelings, whatever happens. Even though she has MH issues she has choices and it is not your fault if she makes bad ones, or if her past is interfering in her present. None of this was your doing. If at sometime she blocks you out, so be it, she has the choice and can chose to pick up the friendship again when she is ready.

You may find some assertiveness training useful, there’s loads on line and you will have to become a broken record repeating the same things over and over in an even tone

Remember you can be no help to her if you yourself break either emotionally, financially or physically. Looking after yourself and your wellbeing is paramount as it will be a long long haul. It also models good healthy behaviours to her.

You might also benefit from counselling to help you understand your role and how far you want to go with this. Just Google CBT and your area and you can self refer.

Keep reading the threads in here and further afield. What you are doing is admirable but no one wants you to be a martyr


You sound very kind.
Remember that on an aircraft, when the oxygen masks come down you put your OWN mask on first, before helping anyone else.
Your top priority must be your own life, especially your PhD, so that you can feel proud at the end of such a fantastic achievement. If you don’t, you will always regret it.
Work out how much really “free” time you have, then decide if you have any time at all to help this friend, and how much that is.
Then you have to be really firm with yourself, and her.

Hi Gertie_1902. I am really sorry to hear about your friend. It seems as though she is going through a very difficult time but I commend you for the incredible support and selflessness you have shown towards her. It’s reassuring to hear that your friend is already connected to key support services where she will be provided with the support she needs. Hopefully she will take up offers of help such as counselling.

Do you know whether your friend has been referred to her local safeguarding team (sometimes called MASH OR Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs)? They exist to enable the sharing of information so that vulnerable and at risk adults and children are identified. It might be worth checking this with the hospital staff.

Like Mrs Average said, Samaritans have a helpline that is available 24/7 which you can recommend to your friend when she’s feeling suicidal. You can also call Samaritans for yourself if you ever want a listening ear. You can call them for free on 116 123.

I hope both you and your friend get the support that you need. All the best with everything and your PhD.