Friday, 31 October 2008

How do you react to a possible online crisis?

How do you react if you think an online friend is possibly having a crisis? What is the right thing to do?

I made the wrong judgement & lost a very inspirational friend today.

Sometimes I am perhaps guilty of caring too much. I cannot switch off. I have many faults but I care about people. I like to think I am compassionate & empathise with people. My empathy is not always right but I mean well. My natural anxiety can get the better of me. I am vulnerable & still healing. Some days I feel like a human sponge. Sometimes like a monster full of self pity & need. I have enough problems dealing with every day life & perhaps this is a harsh lesson to not care so much about my online friends but I cannot change how I care about people online or not.

I have great admiration for people who survive great crisis & come out the other side stronger. They face their fears, their challenges & when Knocked back they get up, to keep fighting. On this journey you meet a lot of inspirational people & also sadly some tragic situations. It really can be that old cliche of a "rollercoaster of emotion" very easily. I guess Life can be like that for everyone, from all kinds of backgrounds living all kinds of lives.

I have been strongly advised by my counsellor to not attempt to find a career in the caring professions until I am able to cope with my own challenges. If I take on too much too soon it will not do anyone any good. I find myself out of genuine concern becoming anxious about other peoples lives, feelings, situations. This applies to every day life & my on line friends. Things I cannot possibly be responsible for, yet I beat myself up trying.

I learned a very sad lesson today. I caused a great deal of professional embarrassment to an inspirational friend based on concerns for them which were without foundation. My naturally high anxiety during what has been my first very wobbly week health wise in an emotional time for me, resulted in me making a very serious error of judgement.

Sometimes I am guilty of projecting my own insecurities on others. I was afraid my cyber friend was struggling & having noticed they had stopped posting for an extended period & not replied to emails & a couple of phone calls over a period of time I panicked & totally misjudged the situation. It is sometimes difficult to judge from our online lives what the bigger picture is in our real lives. Suicides have touched my life & are sadly often a feature of people with my condition. They had writen nothing to suggest they were in turmoil but sometimes silence can be a sign somethings wrong.

Through anxiety blurred vision because my anxiety got the better of me I managed to track down a possible place of contact just to make sure they were ok & not had a crisis. I tried to emphasise I may have been worrying needlessly when I made contact with the organisation they worked for. I did what I thought was the right thing but got it totally wrong & caused my friend great distress. Out of genuine concern I was afraid for my friend. Rather than do nothing I took a risk stupidly thinking the worst I could do was to do nothing.

When I finally received an email from them this morning I was so relieved that they were just very very busy getting on with there new & successful life. How I wish I could turn back time. How I wish my ex friend could have just sent a quick message to say they were ok which would only have taken a second to do. I was very upset & deeply regret that I had caused them great professional embarrassment & that they no longer wanted me to contact them or be their friend. They have now removed their blog which provided great help to others. I am so pleased they are alive. So sad I have lost them as an inspirational friend.

They probably will not read this but if they do I sincerely apologise for any hurt or distress I caused you. I wish you good health & happiness always. Good luck with your new life.

Perhaps I should never ever work in the caring professions for my own health & for those I would like to have cared for?

My concerns were genuine but without foundation but what if they were right & my friend had been in crisis or dead & I had done nothing?

I have learned a very hard lesson, harmed a friends reputation/career & ruined a friendship.

Peace be with you


alan said...

I have had those same episodes; there are those here who have had an e-mail of concern from me and many more who would have had I an address for them, you included.

The only thing that has saved me from making a phone call like you did is that I am married and would have a very hard time explaining it; after 32 years together I can't imagine starting over!

Had you later found out that something truly had befallen them your guilt would have been even worse to deal with than what you are now going through, because it would have been forever and there would have been no changing it. I know far too much about guilt...

I'm sorry your friend couldn't see that you were only concerned; I hope at some point they will, and that their friendship will be resumed!


Debbie K said...

Dear Alan my friend
I see your kind words appear again & again offering beacons of hope & concern for so many friends here.
Bless your heart.


Josephine said...

My dear Debbie. Sadly such things can happen. You took a risk. You did a brave thing. You weighed it up on the basis of the information you had. You couldn't do more than that.

Think of it this way. You might have lost a friend. But another time, you might have saved a life, and I guess losing a friend - very sad though it is - must be outweighed by the good you could have done. Another time it could have made all the difference.

Your heart was in the right place, as it always is. Don't beat yourself up honey.

I'd add, also, just maybe, that upon reflection, rather than dwelling on the embarrassment, she might be able to forgive and forget? If she doesn't, well, you did what you thought best. No-one can do more.

(I have been in exactly this situation too...and I too had to contact someone's work...they had in fact taken an overdose)

Anji said...

Just think how you would have felt if you didn't act and the worst had happened?

You have done what a good friend should have done. I expect that after some reflection your friend will get in touch again.

I wish I had a friend like you!

I think that you have a way to go yet before you take a job in the caring professions.

What a week this one has been for you. I hope you have a restful weekend.


Debbie K said...

My guilt & shame are overflowing. She was a very good friend doing a brilliant job of an important volunteer role at a vital organisation. A role that my well meant but misguided concern may have ruined for her.

The most important thing & only saving grace in this awful mess is that she is alive & well.

I may well take a break from here for a little while. I have done enough damage. I need to concentrate on my family & get my head right. This has been with one special exception a truly awful week & the worst I have felt mentally since I transitioned. This has nothing to do with my T stuff it is all about my anxiety issues & fear of losing people I love & care about. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the suicide of my Auntie. A tragic death that my Mum has never found closure on after 30 years.
I promise you I will be ok. Please do not worry about me.

Bless you all.

alan said...

I promise not to worry if you promise to write if you need to talk?




julia barber said...

Do not underestimate the good that you are doing for others but there are times you must think of yourself.You are good,you are strong,you are worthy,you belong.
Your guardian angel does not go away and is here for you whenever you want her.

Anji said...

I understand. Look after yourself.

Kate Phizackerley said...


You did the right thing. It is the only thing you could have done and what, I hope, you'd do again. If you are worried about someone taking her life then you have to act. Whatever happens they may not thank you but her life, whoever she is, is more valuable than any friendship you give up by acting.

Warning that I'll be away soon - if you need me, txt will reach me quickest.


Doris said...

Ouch, ouch, ouch!

How coincidental!! I hate it when I fuck-up (no other word for it in this case) and from what I can see the only thing you could have done better is perhaps even more diplomacy at the point of contact at the other end. But as Jo says, she had followed up someone else, and if she hadn't have been quick then the outcome whould have been different.

And please don't add worrying about the professional outcome to your friend. Whatever trials she now has to deal with perhaps you were instrumental in causing those experiences she needed to have - no matter how painful or desperate it may or may not seem to her just now.

Draw a line under it Debbie! It is done. You did what you thought was best at the time. One day you may have to do that again at which time you'll be guided by your heart and mind and situation, don't let this put you off.

And don't let this situation say you'd be useless in the caring professions. But you certainly need to feel stronger in yourself and get some separation in life! So that you are not so entwined in other people and can stand back and use all that wonderful care and love and energy that you have to help people who will apreciate it.


Anonymous said...

Your heart was in the right place even though you may have come off as meddlesome to your friend. To be honest I don't think enquiring about a friends or aquaintances status with their employers is ever a good idea. Seems you've learned a lesson the hard way.

I can so relate to such well meaning blunders. Someone once told me when you "assume" things of me you make and "ass of u and me". Ouch.

Of course I still make wrong assumptions and have to be careful not to project my troubles on others.

I assume some back off the internet when they no longer need the support it offers, but there I go assuming again.

Usually you can tell when someone is in crisis because they tend to reach out for help. Then there's people like me who tend to be over dramatic too often and are in danger of seeming like the tranny who is always calling "wolf".

Oh well keep following your heart and you'll be OK. Hugs.

Debbie K said...

Thank you so much dear Alan, Julia, Anji, Kate, Doris & Teri for your kind comments.

We still have no news about my Dads results. I tried to chase up the results on Friday & discovered why we had heard nothing. Having spoken to the secretary for all the ENT consultants at the hospital. The consultant Dad got to see was a locum bought in to reduce their waiting figures. Before he was able to see my Dads scan results come back he was taken off the ENT team & put onto another project. As all the other consultants are very busy it is now in the hands on the management to decide how to delegate all the work started by the locum. Mean while we all get more & more anxious.

I have spent quite some time beating myself up over the situation with my friend but although I have learned a hard lesson it is a difficult call but I would probably do the same again only emphasise even more clearly/diplomaticaly that I was concerned for my friend as I had not heard from them & just making sure they were ok.