My old neighbor, who I'll just call "P" called the other night, and left a long, drawn-out, miserable message full of crying and complaining on my voicemail. I called her back after I listened to the message the next day. "I'm so sick", she said, which is, really, what she always says. She has numerous health problems. The thing is, I have numerous health problems too. It just never occurs to me that maybe I should whine about them endlessly to someone who has no reason to really give a damn about the situation. But "P" apparently thinks it's helpful to talk to me. So she does. And she only talks to me - like several other people I've known in my life - when things are going really badly for her and she has no one else left to call to complain to about things. What "P" and these other people share in common is drug addiction or, at least, APPARENT drug addiction, and mental illness, and needy personalities. I don't mean this as an insult to them, but I'm just stating the facts. And when I say mental illness, I am not referring to everybody I know who has a mental illness. Just about three people I know. And that is not a lot of people compared to the total number of persons with a mental illness who I know.
The thing about "P" is that she has Hepatitis C, and I imagine some things more serious than that, a breast cyst problem, Bipolar Disorder (which I suspect is actually something worse than that), and some personality issues. She takes up with abusive men, user men, ugly men, broke men, and scheming lying men, all the time. She used to have a new one over her place on a regular enough basis that all the other neighbors figured she was prostituting. They were probably right. Now, she doesn't live in my building anymore, but she is miserable at the place where she does live, and she hates it there. Which is why she's calling me. "P", like I think I indicated before, only calls me when she needs/wants something. So she calls me because she has several favors to ask me for and an hour of phone-call-complaining to do to somebody, who, stupidly, will listen (that would be me).
"P" has taken up with yet another in her endless, endless string of asshole men. He has convinced her that he is going to give her enough money to buy a house and he, supposedly, wants nothing in return. P thinks she's just lucky like that. I disagree, but listen anyway. P says that now, finally, she will be able to get her treatment for the Hepatitis C she's had for years, treatment which has been put off numerous times over the past couple of years because she did not have a stable living situation or suitable help. She thinks she has that now, since The Man who is just a natured-Samaritan according to P, and more likely a john or a pimp in reality, is going to help her buy a house. So she's been out looking for houses. Trouble is, P's delusional. She keeps hearing people (her neighbors, she thinks) walk on her roof. She says they've all ganged up on her for the past year that she's been living in her place and they won't leave her alone. She says nobody believes her, including her doctor who told P that nobody was really on the roof. I decide not to share with her the fact that I believe her doctor is right and P is delusional. I listen, instead. That is the kind thing to do, I think. I know that there is no way to talk her out of a delusion which she perceives to be reality. I know because I've been delusional enough myself many times. I tell her that maybe she should get out of her house more often. Then she wouldn't hear the people walking on the roof. I can't think of anything very useful to say, but P doesn't care, since, really, all she wants to do is talk - not listen to me respond.
P tells me again about how hard life is for her, how hard it's always been, as if she hadn't already told me this before on numerous occasions. She feels very sorry for herself, and this is always what annoys me when I talk to her, but, for whatever reason, I feel somehow obligated to let her complain to me. I have my own problems (and I'm pretty sure you do too), which is a fact that P finds hard to grasp, apparently, and I don't really have endless time to spend like this - listening to somebody whine. But I feel that I would be hurtful to say I just did not have the time. Eventually I do hang up, because I'm exhausted, my meds have kicked in, and I need to go to bed. P promises to keep in touch, as if I am going to be bothered if she doesn't.
I feel I'm not my most sincere, true self during these interactions. But I listen to people like P, when I do, for a reason. I feel obligated, and I feel sorry for them. P reminds me of many women I've known in my life who have horribly low self-esteem and who tend to take up with abusive men. Or just mean men. Or just the wrong men. Men, in general, are a real problem for P, and I am basing this on everything I know about her and the men she takes up with. The former boyfriend of P was also a former neighbor of mine, a drug dealer, a liar, a scheming con artist, and an overall disgusting human being. I detest this guy, and I basically told him, at one point to "stay the f--- away from my apartment", after he had sold drugs to my boyfriend (who was a drug addict, and, again a "P" type person himself, only the male version of it).
So, I put an ad up on Craig's List for P, to sell her washer and dryer and get her some money. She doesn't have internet access, and I do, so I don't mind doing this for her. I tell her we'll get together sometime, though we probably won't. She doesn't have a car, and I don't have a lot of patience for dealing with her more than I have to (which would make one wonder, rightfully, why I stayed on the phone with her for an hour), so I probably won't end up doing that, but I might if I start to feel guilty about it. P is the kind of person she is, and I am not going to change that. I know that she'll never care much about what's going on in my life. I know she'll forget to ask about that. I know she'll be completely self-absorbed, even self-obsessed, to the point that she disgusts me. And I know I'll still pick up the phone once in a while when she calls.
The reason I'm writing this post is that I question why, exactly, I come across so many P-type people. I had a good friend, and her name was K. S. She has a drug addiction problem, and after a few years of knowing her and her schemes of lying and stealing and cheating and drugging, I got tired of being her friend and being asked for money and favors like bringing cigarettes to her in rehab when she never did me any favors in all the time I knew her, so I just cut her off. I just stopped talking to her. She is a sick person - physically, mentally, and addiction-wise, and I just don't have the energy to deal with her anymore. I simply do not answer the phone when she calls. I never call her. I never explained why I was going to cut her out of my life. I just did it. I just felt that I had to, for my own survival and sanity. I was sick of her using me, and sick of her manipulative ways. I was sick of how self-absorbed she is. And sick of being asked for favors.
The only problem with this situation is that I feel guilty about it all the time. I don't know why I feel guilty. I've had plenty of people walk right out of my life in the past. Most of the time, they told me point-blank that they wanted nothing to do with me anymore (two close friends did this, a few years back when I was psychotic and my boyfriend walked out a little over a year ago), and sometimes they said nothing (a few acquaintance/friends did that), and I just never heard from them again. I know exactly how crappy it feels to hear a friend say they just don't want you in their life anymore because you have too many problems, and because I know how that feels, I can't bring myself to say those words to K.S. or to P or to anybody else. It is much easier for me to not pick up the phone and leave K.S. to figure it out on her own, however unfair and immature this may be.
In the end, the question I have for the universe is, why do I end up with so many P-type people wanting to be around me? Why did I fall in love with a drug addict, P-type person? Why did I end up friends with KS? Why does P still contact me? I have no real idea of what the answer is. My mom says it means I need to go to Al-Anon, but I disagree. I don't think my parents' alcoholism problems affect me anymore. I don't think that the fact my family has a legacy of drunkenness really rules my life. Maybe we all come across P-type people. Maybe I'm just too nice to them. Maybe it's because my self-esteem is low. I don't know. What do you think? I'd be interested to hear your feedback, as usual.
Added: To explain why I cut K.S. out of my life in a way that may sound cold-hearted to you, let me tell you what KS said to me on the phone, when I called her one night, months before I cut her out of my life, and told her I was thinking a lot about suicide and hearing voices (things she also does herself on ocassion). "I'm busy," she said, "I'm playing a game of cards. I'll have to talk to you later." And she never called me back. Remembering this makes me feel less guilty about cutting her out of my life, because, this was, in fact, the way she always was - cold-hearted, mean, self-absorbed, selfish, and not a good friend at all.