Dear Julie

Dear Julie: Advice About Mental Illness and Too Frugal Friends

DAME’s Friendkeeper helps a woman cope with her friend’s untreated mental illness and handles a wonderful cheapskate with aplomb.

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Dear Julie,

I used to work with a woman who became one of my “inner circle” on the job. She was volatile, but in a good way, and four of us were very close by the time we all started leaving for new positions elsewhere. Eventually she was the last one at the old job, and she was let go after a series of disagreements with her boss. Over the ten or so years that have passed, her behavior has become increasingly erratic, and it’s become apparent that she is suffering from some sort of bi-polar disorder, though she won’t admit it or get the kind of help she quite clearly needs. She has burned through friends with her insistence that a project she has created is of significance, and each friend in turn has tried to help her understand why it’s not what she thinks—only to be thrown to the curb. It has also come to my attention that she has rendered herself practically homeless due to her inability to “work with” people. It tears me up that I can’t help her in any way, because it’s a hard truth that whatever her mental illness is, it’s an impossible situation to remedy. How can I reconcile my need to stay clear of the negative energy that surrounds her, even as she drops email bombs asking if she’s done something wrong? Am I a bad friend for putting the needs of my family and my own projects first?


Friend, Interrupted


Dear Friend,

What a heartbreaking situation to be in. I’m so sorry that you’re going through this and sorrier still that your former friend is unable to get help. Is there any way you can get in touch with her family or people who are closer to her than you? I think it’s certainly worth one last heart to heart. Tell her the situation as you see it and offer your help. I would talk to a professional (therapist or psychologist) and get suggestions on a way to reach out to her before hand. If she is willing, great! If not then unfortunately you’ve done what you can. If someone is not healthy and unwilling to get help (and not in danger of hurting someone or themselves), you need to look out for yourself and your family. It totally sucks. You are not a bad friend if you’ve tried your best.




Dear Julie,

I have a very close friend who has one (in my opinion) terrible quality. He is cheap. Whenever we go to a restaurant he waits forever for me to pick up the check and if I suggest splitting it, he figures out his share to the penny. He frequently comes to my house for drinks before we go out and then eats enough cheese and crackers and wine so that all he wants is a small salad (or nothing). If we’re in a hurry to go somewhere and I say let’s get a cab he refuses to pay half when we could take the subway. And we both make around the same amount of money so it’s not that. I could go on but why bother? You get it.


Tired of being stuck


Dear Tired,

Oy to the vey. I understand. We have all been there at certain times in our lives, dealing with those friends who make you grit your teeth at their cheapitude. I had a friend long ago who was like this and it made me nuts. I think the way people spend money is fundamental in their DNA. God bless my dad but he will buy an $80,000 canoe and yet blow a gasket if you take two trips to town (2 x the gas) in the same day. The thing is, your friend is being very strong about what he is willing to spend money on, so you need to be strong about what rubs you the wrong way. I would make a joke when the check comes. “Wait, I only had two sips of that mai tai, I’m not paying for the rest of it.” Or my favorite, “Who ordered the tax??” Other than that, I’m assuming you are inviting him to your house for drinks and cheese and crackers first, that he’s not putting a gun to your head and saying GET ME BRIE! So you can stop doing that, or say, “I’m going to get some cheese and crackers, please bring the wine.” Or, “Let’s go to your house for cocktails.” Other than that, plan as much as you can for it. My feeling with my own friend was that ultimately her good qualities definitely outweighed this issue. When I had a crisis, she was there in a heartbeat, and she made me laugh till I busted a gut. There are a lot of creative ways to avoid the discomfort if he is a friend that’s worth it. If he weren’t, you wouldn’t be trying to fix it.




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