I am part of an activity on my college campus that involves working with a group of people (about 15) extremely closely for many, many hours. As such, whether you like it or not, you get to know everyone very well. There’s a girl in our group who rather annoys me. She doesn’t act maliciously, but tends to try to cling on to people and want friendship right away, which is rather off-putting to me. I have no bad intentions toward her but have chosen to try to limit the amount of time I spend with her during our shared activity as much as reasonably possible, and do not spend time with her outside of it.
She was recently diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I myself have been living with symptoms of a similar illness for more than a quarter of my life. While I don’t advertise my problems, I am honest and candid about my experiences, because I believe that part of the stigma around mental illness is that it is so rarely talked about, which makes things harder for those of us affected to communicate our needs and abilities to others. She has started to seek out my advice whenever we’re together. While I sincerely wish her the best in her recovery, I feel uncomfortable because I don’t wish to be forced into intimate conversations about her personal life when I know that by doing so I am only encouraging her to seek me out more. Additionally, I’m not a counselor and taking the time to talk to her about this is emotionally draining for me. I’m happy to to talk to her about the resources I know of (the school counseling services, her primary caregiver, her family, etc), but I can’t fix her issues. I’m not even completely over my own problems.
I’m in kind of an awkward position, because I certainly don’t want to dismiss her concerns and have her think that her problems are unique to her (aka she’s completely alone), because I do know how that feels and it is scary and unhealthy. On the other hand, I am not her friend or counselor and I don’t want to be forced into either position. I’m trying my best to be firm but supportive, but would appreciate any advice you have for me.
Thank you! 1110-13
I’ve been somewhat in the position the OP describes, i.e. when you realize you lack the qualifications to help someone who truly needs help. To dismiss them would be heartless but at the same time you know you are not equipped to offer true assistance. My suggestion would be to kindly tell her you are not an expert with the training to help her, that this is out of your comfort zone to offer advice and suggest several campus or local support groups that would be a better fit for her. Comments readers?