Misery Loves Company

I can't help but reflect sometimes, on how my life is different (read: better) this year than last year.

One surprise is how much being a public defender again has improved my friendships. I have more free time and energy, and I've made an effort to dedicate some of it to my friendships that were, unfortunately, neglected last year.

But, there is one friendship that has taken the opposite turn. I have been friends with this one girl on-and-off since elementary school. We'd lose touch for a few months or a year, maybe see each other once a year, usually for Christmas, and she'll email me a forward now and then.

I think part of the reason why we weren't close friends was because... how can I put this... I always felt worse, never better, after talking to her or spending time with her. I wrote about it on this blog once before, years ago, about one particular thing she said that made me unhappy or upset. But what I left out of that post was that it wasn't an isolated incident, that almost every interaction left me less happy than I had been when it began.

So, even before making the switch to the firm, I had decided that I didn't need to dedicate too much time to this friendship that made me feel bad. I've always felt that I don't have enough time for the friends that make me feel good, how could I waste time on a friendship that makes me feel bad?

Then, last year, while I was unhappy and depressed at the firm, I found myself drawing away from most of my friends. I wasn't happy and I didn't want to be a bummer to my friends. But, strangely, this one friend and I became closer. We spoke on the phone a lot more frequently and spent more time together.

Finally, now, I'm a public defender again, happy again. And I can't stand to talk to this friend any more. Suddenly it dawned on me: I could be friends with a downer when I was miserable. But now that I'm happy, I just can't wrap my head around it... How was I friends with her? Was I like her? Did I sound like that? I just couldn't handle it. I guess it goes to show, misery really does love company.

It's not that she's depressed, or sad, or a mopey downer. She's out-and-out hateful. It's hard for me to get into specifics without being specific, but she just has this way of saying something hateful, in a very casual way, as if she's just accidentally slipped it into a conversation. Imagine being friends with someone who continually mentions little embarassing things from junior high or arguments from your freshman year in high school. And maybe we've never moved beyond that because we don't have much in common anymore. She's been through a lot in her life, and it's become more and more obvious to me that she has some serious unresolved issues that she needs to work through, but she won't be able to do that merely by taking out her hostility on me.

And I understand that your friends are supposed to be there for you through good and bad, but I feel like I've only ever seen her through bad since maybe 1995. So I decided that, for my own mental health, I really needed to distance myself from that friendship. In the past few months I've been learning to make the decisions that are best for me, in terms of my own happiness, and that should apply not just to my professional life but also my personal life.

I didn't have a conversation with her, I didn't "break up" with her, I just decided that I wasn't going to call her, and when she called me, I'd keep it short. And there's never been any need for me to respond to her email forwards.

She didn't take it well. First she started sending me these weird passive-aggressive manipulative emails that said, "Lost: My friend. She has blonde hair. If you see her, could you please tell her that I miss her?" I'm sorry, I just don't think that kind of thing warrants a response. Honestly, I think if she had just sent a normal email like, "Hey, I've missed you lately, give me a call when you can chat," I really would've called her, I'm not heartless, I don't have it in me to be mean. But her emails were just weird. (And the weird emails never actually asked me to call her, just if I see myself, I'm supposed to tell myself that she misses me. Done.)

Then one day, a couple of weeks ago, I felt like crap and I stayed home from work sick for a day. I really just needed to take some Nyquil and sleep it off for a day. I had my phone next to my bed, just in case there was some emergency at work that I felt conscious enough to handle. She called as I was drifting off to sleep. I pushed ignore. She called again, I pushed ignore again. Every time I just started to get into a good nap, the phone rang again. I ended up putting the phone on silent. By the end of the day, she had called eight times, and she hadn't left a single message. And, again, I decided I wasn't going to call her back. If she had left a message that said, "It's me, call me back," I would've called her. Again, I'm not heartless.

But who calls someone eight times in a day? (Besides my stalker clients.) What is the point? If I wanted to talk, I would've answered. If you had something you had to say, you could've said it to my voicemail. But, what if I had been in court and accidentally left my phone on my desk (oops, I do that a lot), ringing obnoxiously all day long? What if I had been in court and my phone was vibrating all day? What if I was trying to conserve my battery power for some important reason? What if, worse, I was deathly sick and really needed some sleep? Oh wait, that is what happened. The worse she behaves, the more I feel like I absolutely should not reward her bad behavior with the response she wants.

Since that day, she's called a few times randomly, I've ignored it. Then she emailed a few of my friends. Not HER friends, mind you, not OUR mutual friends, but my friends. I guess she had their email addresses from things like when I sent a mass email for my birthday party or something. She wrote, "Can you check to make sure nothing terrible happened to Blonde Justice?" We've now entered actual stalker territory.

Finally, today I received a card from her. I'm thinking about putting it straight in the shredder without even opening it.

And I know it makes me sound like a bitch. You're thinking, "Hey, if the girl is dying to be your friend so bad, why can't you just give her a few minutes of attention?" And, yeah, I see that. But the further she goes, the less I feel like I could ever be friends with her. And can it be a real friendship if I'm only doing it to get a stalker off my back? And then how long do I have to put up with it before we're back here again?

So, give it to me. What do you think? Am I bitch? What would you do?

34 comments:

  1. I recently had the misfortune of having to "break up" with a friend, though it didn't get to the stalker point. We actually had to have that weird conversation you have when you accidentally run into each other. It was the most awkward 5 minutes of my life. But I lived through it. In the end, some things just don't work out and it's probably not worth trying to make something work if it's not meant to be. Just my 2 cents.

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  2. How did you get into the legal profession? You are an absolute air head.

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  3. Wow, lbbuffy, thanks for stopping by the blog. Every page view counts!

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  4. On the west coast, we have a term for "friends" like that: "psychic vampires."

    Confront her and tell her not to contact you again (or: only in the ways/times you're comfortable with). Do it loud and clear, and let her know you mean it.

    If she doesn't toe the line, consider getting a restraining order. *Many* violent crimes are committed by the victims' "friends who won't take no for an answer."

    Never feel guilty about drawing lines against people like that. Their woes are *not your problem*.
    It's *your* life!

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  5. Counts toward what? Someone having you committed?

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  6. "Psychic Vampire." That really seems to fit. Good term.

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  7. I don't understand why you're completely shutting her out instead of taking her calls but keeping it short like you said. Must be a chick thing.

    Anyway, if that's the way you're going to do it, then it's Stalker 101: You've got to stand firm no matter what she does, otherwise you're just teaching her how extreme she has to be to get your attention. If you give in the first time she threatens to kill herself, you'll get nothing but suicide threats from then on...

    On the other hand, I know other people, nice people, who've had friends just "go dark" on them without explanation, and it's pretty devastating.

    I think you should explain it to her once---that to protect yourself, you have to get away from her. Just be sure to make it absolutely clear that there's no way back. No "maybe when things calm down in my life", no "maybe if you find medication that works". Just no. Then go back to what you're doing.

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  8. buffy: Counts toward my happiness. Thanks again!

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  9. Since she's incapable of taking the hint, you are going to have to set some boundaries. Uncomfortable, but no one ever died from it.

    Call her--or email--and be mostly honest. You appreciate that she was there for you last year. You have a new job that makes you happy. You wish good things for her. And that you may email occasionally, but probably won't be calling any time soon because you and she are really in different places right now.

    If she persists, JDG has a point about restraining orders.

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  10. Ignore her.

    To use a cliche: If you give her an inch, she'll take a yard.

    Though perhaps a strongly worded email isn't such a bad idea.

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  11. I know this monontonous fluff you write about is supposed to be a type of diversion for the legal community. Instead of encouraging capable legal professionals to dwell on this nonsense blogpost on there off time, why don't you encourage them to take on some pro bono work, or to dwell on the crisis in our criminal justice system. Unreal. Let's see some real legal blogging that is selfless and concerned about the public good rather than our own pathetic existences, such as idle gossip.

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  12. What JDG said. And I think you'd want to start documenting stuff (e.g. Don't shred the letter. Write down the dates and times of the calls. Get copies of the emails.)

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  13. Ditto on the "psychic vampire." A book I've found helpful is "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout.

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  14. Hmm. It sounds like she really does miss you, and wonders why you suddenly cut off contact, even though she's expressing it in a way that makes you uncomfortable. I don't think you're a bitch, but I think it can't hurt to send a short email saying, "No, I wasn't hit by a car -- I've just been devoting all my time to work and other things. Hope you're doing well."

    If it seems like she really needs to understand why you're pulling away, then I agree with Butterflyfish.

    P.S. - I always find it funny when people keep coming back to post repeated flames, complaining that you're wasting their time!

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  15. "Let's see some real legal blogging that is selfless and concerned about the public good rather than our own pathetic existences, such as idle gossip."

    Awesome idea L.B. Looking forward to your blog already. When do you start?

    Hey Blondie, how how's all that ABA fame working out?

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  16. I'll never understand women. Men could never survive such passive-aggressive drama. Guys just say, "Dude, you're an ass. And being around you makes me an ass. And I don't want to be an ass. So take care."

    Quick. Efficient. Clear!

    Do women also peel off bandages one painful hair folicle at a time?

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  17. You are too nice. On the other hand, its hard to just break off a relationship with someone you've known for so long. However, sounds like you do need to have a talk with her.

    As for lbbuffy... if you don't like it, don't read it. No reason to be so rude.

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  18. I think you should just send her an email "ending things". It kinda sounds like she has decent intentions, just approaching the situation in the wrong way. Don't penalise her for that.

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  19. Ibbuffy takes him/her self VERY seriously. Oh my.


    I like the "No I wasn't hit by a car..." thing. It is not mean, and you do sound like a kind person. But her expectations for your friendship sound suddenly disproportionate to yours.

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  20. Hey, Mom! I left you a message here.

    Good luck.

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  21. I had a similar experience but with my ex.

    I have to agree with Windypundit that you should explain once that you can never, ever talk to her again for your mental health. Personally, I'm a wimp and would likely do it over email. Much more impersonal and easier I think. Also, she might try to break you down if you talk to her in person or on the phone. Give any quarter and she will just continue... It will likely continue for a while after the 'explanation' anyway as she tests your resolve. In my case, I finally had to change my cell phone number after waking up one morning and seeing about 13 or so missed calls and finding 8 or so drunken voicemails that had been left between 1 and 4 in the morning. Fortunately, I had left my phone in the living room and didn't hear the phone blowing up all night long...

    I'm on the west coast too and I've never heard "psychic vampire" before. I like it.

    Good Luck!

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  22. A few years ago I had a friend break up with me and in a some what related but not so very related situation I broke up with a friend. It is very hard to deal with and equally hard to do---I still catch myself thinking, "Maybe I should call ___" because I'm reminded of _____ by something or another and I start thinking of good times. I try to step back and recall what it is that made me break things off and evaluate what is more important for me. The friend that broke it off with me still hurts and I never really got an explanation about it which is difficult. We were both doing some, "going through," but not knowing sort of gives me a lack of closure...and I don't know what I did so I cannot have a great life lesson out of it. I'd send an email to the person and explain how the negativity really puts an emotional drain on you and you just aren't able to deal with it because you care about her/him and want to know about positive aspects of life and it hurts to hear only bad stuff. But then that might be sort of like leading on and if you want a solid break up you might just send a short email, "I don't want to be friends."

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  23. I happened to be someone who had a very good friendship that was hard won with an ex-fiance. We had been involved for 4 years and friends for longer than that beyond our engagement ending. He moved away and we maintained close contact, until one day he stopped replying to emails. I took the hint and stopped contacting him, but it really burned when I had to read in our college magazine that he had gotten married to the woman he once told me in an e-mail was mentally unstable. I wish he would have just sent me an email when she was upset that he maintained a friendship with me that let me know he was working on making something happen with her so that I could have wished him well. Because of the way things "ended" I skipped my 10th college reunion because he was a key-note speaker and I really didn't want any awkward moments for any of us. It just makes me sad to this day that we lost touch, because he was important in my life and I know I was important in his. Anyway, I know your situation perhaps does not run as deep, but I do think that to pay honor to the friendship it merits an email or conversation, just so that she knows where you stand and where she stands. It might make her go away faster and easier than dragging it out. If she doesn't get it then, a restraining order works.

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  24. She clearly can't take a hint, so you will have to "break up" with her. I like "Brad Parker"'s approach best.

    As for Buffy's comments: I'm an attorney too and obviously Buffy doesn't understand that our lives do not revolve entirely around the legal community. We actually stop working sometimes and that makes us better people! Buffy thinks you are an air head, but Buffy is the one STILL READING YOUR BLOG! I have a feeling Buffy has a lot in common with your stalker.

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  25. At least you got what you needed from her when you needed it.

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  26. Am I the only one who doesn't think this girl is being stalkery? A restraining order? For sending you a Christmas card and an email to make sure you were OK? From someone who has known you since kindergarten?

    Hmm. You seem pretty upset about this. Just a suggestion, but since you asked: maybe just talk to her. She probably has no idea how you feel.

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  27. Hello,

    Some Girl has a very good point. I don't think your friend is necessarily stalking you. And she likely has no idea how you feel. Eight calls in one day is definitely inappropriate, no two ways about it. On the other hand, if I understood your post it was just for that one day.

    Giving your friend the benefit of the doubt, she may just not have grasped what you're trying to do, and she might be worried about you. I've been in her situation myself and I've had friends get back in touch with me after extended absences.

    I agree with multiple commenters here: You do have every right to break off the friendship permanently if you see fit. In fact, if you don't want to talk to her again I think it would be a favor to her to let her know that. With a clean break, hopefully she'll be able to move on with her life.

    Probably an email or letter would be best. That way you can compose your thoughts, make clear what you want to say, avoid possibly being momentarily swayed/guilted/bullied by her into backing down...and most importantly keep a copy.

    Just say in so many words something like "It's very kind of you to want to be there for me. I really appreciate your having been around when life was the blahs. However, I've found that I expect things of you which you can't give, and vice versa. Therefore, I've decided to terminate our friendship permanently, effective immediately.

    "Please never contact me again - not by email, phone, mail, blog post/comment, not through my friends (or anyone else), not by carrier pigeon...no way, no how, no further discussion. It should go without saying that if we ever happen to be in the same space, I will pretend I didn't see you and you need to do the same. I sincerely wish you the best for the remainder of your years on Earth."

    If you get any contact whatsoever from her, however indirect, you can either give her a "final warning" that any further contact will result in criminal charges (and you need to be prepared to follow through), or you can just go ahead and call the cops.

    Good luck!

    Jeff Deutsch

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  28. Ignoring her calls only makes her more determined to talk to you. So…go on the principal of “The best defense is a good offense.”
    Answer cheerfully, “Hi. How are you doing.” Don’t wait for an answer. Or. If she does get a chance to answer, ignore what she says, and continue…. “I just bought a new…(something or other)…. what do you think?” Again ignore her or her answer.
    “What do you think of this weather?”…or Sarah Palin or Obama or anyone and anything you can think of. Don’t wait for an answer. Just keep talking, if you can. Like this… “Isn’t this weather great? How’s the weather by you? By the way, I just bought a new..(something) I can’t wait to - do something with it - (you know what I mean.)
    In other words, push your “Cheerful” nature down her throat, while basically ignoring her negative responses.
    Maybe- an occasional, “That’s terrible…” Or “You poor thing.” IE fake sympathy, as you then continue to talk. ( That’s terrible, did I tell you I just bought a beautiful new…whatever.” All said in one continuous string of words.)

    Be abrupt …Maybe when you hang up, “Thanks for calling, I’ve got to go. Bye.”

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  29. Congrats on making the ABA Blog 100 list! That should add some hits.

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  30. I have had a friend abandon the relationship, and I always wondered exactly what when wrong. If you could find a way to talk honestly to her about where she has gone wrong in the relationship, it would help her. Probably save her money on counseling. It really hurt me when my friend baled, but I moved on. It would have been good to get her perspective on why she felt she had to diss me so bad.

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  31. Hi. I just found your blog through the ABA Journal. I love it. I am a lawstudent & want to become a public defender as well.

    If it were me, I would tell your friend straight up that you think she is always negative & you can't really be her friend. I had a "break up" with my most cynical & unhappy friends once because she & I were both in the cynical unhappy phase and couldn't be good friends to eachother. Then, later, when we both realized we were in a better position to be better friends, we were able to get through it--because we both really wanted to be eachothers' friend.

    Good luck!

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  32. I want to respond to Ibbuffy who obviously is NOT a member of the legal profession, but has an awful lot of advice for those of us who actually are. Ibbyfffy..we deal with pro bono cases daily, and fight the good fight against injustice every day. Certainly these blogs are therapeutal and serve a deeper purpose. Without some sort of avenue to vent we in the legal profession seeing all of the misery we do every day would become useless to ourselves and to our clients. You on the otherhand must be a member of one society's many "happy" professions where you have little or no contact with the general public or if you do your contact is limited to the phrase.."do you want fries with that order?" For the rest of us trying to actually do some good in society...give us a break if we need to talk nonsense anonymously or otherwise...we are the good guys.

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  33. I think one should have the courtesy to let people know. This way one can fix. If they refuse to change, then you can ignore.

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  34. Why not telle her and try to change? This way if she can't/won't, she knows what happened

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