I feel as if I have failed

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: I feel I’ve failed and I just don’t know what to do… I have a friend who’s been diagnosed with depression. She’s taken therapy, has been given medication, has attempted suicide, and cuts herself. For a while, more like a two years, I tried as best as I could to stop her from doing those things. Yet, most of last year she missed school because she was sent to this place. I thought she was getting better… It seemed like she was. You could honestly see a change. About a month ago she emailed me, well, we had been emailing all over the summer, and then she asked me a question. Well, I answered. Then a couple e-mails after that she sent me one saying, “Kathryn, please don’t be mad at me if I don’t e-mail you again.”

Honestly, my thoughts were she’s going to kill herself, or something along the line. Well, I moved this summer, so I couldn’t actually be THERE to help her. I did go to school with her, but not anymore since I moved out of state. I got words from my friends that they found suicidal plans, and that she was sent away again to the same place.

I just don’t know what to do. I feel like the life drains out of me then comes back to life. Like last night I was watching my favorite music video, one that makes me cry. And then I just went into this breakdown. I went into the bathroom, shut and locked the door. Then just started crying. I was probably in there for about half an hour just sobbing. And it hurt a lot. Well, I cleared up my face. And about another half hour later I got a call from one of my other friend’s, and all the sudden I was happy, laughing. And I was laughing with my mom as well.

I don’t know. My moods have just been hectic, all over the place. Right now I feel really depressed, like there’s something squeezing and building in my stomach. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

A: You are NOT a failure for not being able to do what a hospital and all its professionals apparently haven’t been able to do either. You are one amazing 14 year old! You’ve been trying to hold your friend together for 2 years! That’s much too big a burden for anyone (teen or adult) to handle. It makes absolute sense to me that you are starting to collapse under the pressure. Your friend is in very serious psychiatric trouble. You are probably also feeling sad for her and very, very mad at her for putting you and all your friends through this. It’s a wonder that you didn’t get upset long before this.

What you need to do now is tell your mom or some other trusted adult about what you’ve been trying to do and how you’re feeling. I think it would be very helpful for you to find a therapist — not because I think there is something wrong with you, but because I think you need some help and support for sorting out how to pull back from this situation without feeling enormously guilty. You’ve done everything and more that a friend can do. It’s time to turn her life back over to her and focus on your own life.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Sep 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). I feel as if I have failed. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/09/20/i-feel-as-if-i-have-failed/

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