Powerless to Help

Friday morning, I woke up and saw that my roommate was putting on makeup.
“Hey, you going out?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she replied, “Dory* [our mutual friend] has a hangover so we’re getting food.”
“She went out? On a Thursday night before finals?”
“Yep. She’s been out every night this week.”

She had been out every night of the week. Immediately, I was worried, because I recognize that behavior. The partying every night – which from what I could gather meant drinking, drugs (weed and more worryingly, Adderall), and tattooing herself – is a clear sign that she has some form of anxiety and/or depression.

Then I started thinking back and realized that I should have seen this coming. I realized that she had been slowly isolating herself from her old crowd of friends – my roommate and I included – choosing instead to hang out with people who partied often. But I only realized this when my roommate mentioned that she hadn’t seen Dory in a while, and by then, Dory was already partying most nights of the week.

Theoretically, as a person who has suffered from depression and anxiety, I should be the perfect person to help her, or at least listen to her. But I have no clue how to help. Dory doesn’t trust me enough to tell me anything, and if I say anything that relates to her anxiety or depression, even indirectly, she immediately gets defensive. So I’ve had to sit back and watch as my roommate tries to help her.

Being sidelined and feeling powerless to help has been hard enough, but I’m also seeing the toll this is taking on my roommate. My roommate has also struggled with anxiety and depression, so she understands what Dory is going through. But on more than several occasions, my roommate has come back on the verge of a panic attack after talking with Dory. Now, these being private conversations, I obviously don’t know what they talk about. But I do see the aftermath. I’ve stayed up until three in the morning trying to help my roommate through a panic attack because trying to talk to Dory has pushed her there.

And so I am caught in a bit of a tricky situation: I desperately want to help both of my friends, but helping my roommate would mean urging her to stop letting Dory dump all her problems on her. Obviously, my roommate’s not going to do that, even though it is abundantly clear that she’s stressed about this. The only way for her to stop being as stressed would be for me to talk to Dory – but Dory won’t talk to me.

Which means, at the end of the day, I’m watching two of my close friends struggle, and I feel powerless to help.

*Names have been changed

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