• Keeping Friends

Sensing a depressed friend is pushing you away

Published: September 6, 2015 | By | 5 Replies Continue Reading
A woman worries that her longtime friend is pushing her away—saying she doesn’t want her in her life.


Hi Irene,

I am hoping to get some advice. I have been best friends with my friend “Annie” for over 35 years. We have been through many ups and downs during this time.

My friend had a very abusive childhood, which still to this day affects her greatly in her adult life, and she suffers from depression. We have been there to support each other through difficult times, and there have been times when we drifted apart.

Recently my friend messaged me online and told me she doesn’t want me in her life, I am better off without her etc., etc.

I understand a lot of this is the depression talking but this time she is really pushing me away. She has become vindictive and recently went behind my back and repeated something that I told her; it was like she was deliberately trying to cause trouble between myself and another friend.

I am finding it heard coping with the possibility it might be truly the end of our friendship. We both referred to each other as our true sisters. How do I cope with this if she truly does want to end our friendship?

Signed, Marissa


Hi Marissa,

It sounds like you really don’t know what happened between you and your friend but suspect she is feeling depressed. Don’t jump to the worst case scenario in terms of your friendship.

Since you’ve known her for so long, you probably are familiar with the subtle and not-so-subtle changes in her behavior when she feels this way. Sometimes, anger can be one manifestation of depression.

My intuition would be to write your friend a short note (snail mail) making several points.

  • As you’ve written in your note, remind her that you’ve cherished this friendship through its ups and downs.
  • Tell her that if she is feeling depressed, you hope that she will be comfortable talking to you about it. You are ready to listen.
  • Explain that if she wants to take a break from your friendship, you also want to respect her need for space.
  • Ask her to contact you when she’s feeling up to it.

If you don’t hear from her after several weeks, reach out again. I suspect that this is a “blip” in your relationship, which probably has more to do with the way she’s feeling than with your friendship, per se.

Best, Irene

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Comments (5)

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  1. Jessabel says:

    Hi. I had a similar experience where my friend was grieving of a good friend that died in the last three months and she said to me she was depressed. I could sense her pulling away but she didn’t seem to want to talk about it or acknowledge it. I kept saying I would be there for her I wanted her to open up. She is my soulmate and we considered our selves as sisters. We were inseperable and couldn’t imagine a life without her until three weeks ago she broke… She went off at me in the most hurtful, spiteful way. Said I was abusive in the friendship, always took and never was there for her. I was always there for her and I gave so much to that friendship. She called me the most inappropriate, hurtful names and said she had nothing left in her heart for me. I don’t understand why she went so bitterly resentful to me and with everyone else she is being overly lovely?! She had told me not a week before hand she was suffering depression and wasn’t happy etc then when we fought she said the complete opposite. Can someone have that much hate so quickly for someone?

  2. Meorge says:

    I’m not sure if this will be helpful to you but I knew someone who had to leave their job because of their depression. A coworker told me she had been emailing and calling our friend, but got no response. The friend who had to leave work told me, “Why does she keep me emailing me? I just want her to leave me alone, I’m sick.” My point is when people who are depressed are at a low, it’s too much to maintain relationships sometimes. I have also dealt with my own depression since childhood, and sometimes you just have no energy, or you feel angry and misunderstood. You don’t want to talk to anyone or you feel like you’re just tired of putting on a face for the world, even your friends. Sometimes I just want to stare at the wall all day and be with my cat. In fact, that sounds pretty good to me most days. Maybe your friend is going through a high stress point and she is lashing out at you because you have been so close for so long. She wants to feel better and is frustrated because she can’t. I don’t know if any of this was helpful, but as Ben said, sometimes life is just disappointing and we have to do the best we can.

  3. Lisa Ledig says:

    Hi Irene,

    I am sorry you are dealing with this. I know it is painful for you, but, people with depression are in pain on a daily basis and please don’t take this as it’s your fault. Give her space and time and if after several weeks you have bot heard from her, send her an email. Keep it short just let her know you are here if she needs to talk, and leave it at that.
    This will let her know you are there and do care about her as a friend. I wish you nothing but the best.

  4. Ben says:

    Unfortunately depression is an all consuming ailment. If you break a leg it will give you plenty of pain but it will not consume your life. I went through a bout of major depression from 1993-2003. My life has not been the same since. There is no ability to count the number of relationships affected. People who I thought were very good friends did not stand the test of time. Instead of assigning blame either way it may be better to frame the disappointment as a function of life on life’s terms. I had a friend who suffers with Borderline Personality Disorder. As hard as I tried I could not separate the disease from that person. It got to a place that I could not go on in the friendship. I have another friend who I recently found out is still alive after hearing stories he had died. His ailment made him into a recluse and he is unwilling in having any meaningful contact. We used to be friends and even vacationed together in the 80’s. I guess what I am trying to convey is life is full of disappointments. Some people (even famous people) never get relieved of their symptoms and do incredible things ie.. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Chuchill, Bill Wilson (founder of AA,) Mike Wallace (60 Minutes.) I am sorry for the loss of your friendship. I am also sorry that your friend suffers with depression.

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