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DEAR HARRIETTE: Lately, my friend has really been struggling with her mental health. She often confides in me about her panic attacks and depres- sive episodes. Although I am sympathetic to her cause and try my best to be present, it’s starting to affect my mental health as well. I deeply care for her, but I am trying to deal with my own problems, and I don’t know if I have the energy to be there for her as well as myself. At the same time, I don’t want to drop her. What should I tell her? What should I do? — Burdened by Friendship
DEAR BURDENED BY FRIENDSHIP: It can be excruciatingly difficult to draw the line in a friendship when you experience rough times, but sometimes it is necessary. You are not a therapist or a mental health professional; you have to remember that. You can encourage your friend to seek professional help. If she has a therapist, suggest that she schedule an appointment right away. If she does not, prompt her to find one. If you think her parents should be alerted, speak to them — even if there’s a chance she might get angry. True friendship sometimes calls for such action.
In order to take care of yourself, let your friend know that you have to step back for a bit. You don’t have to tell her that it is because she is making you feel bad. Instead, enroll in a class, get a job, volunteer to help your parents do something, seek therapy for yourself. Make yourself busy. She won’t like it, but it will be for your own good.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My parents and friends have expressed concern about my weight. After some soul searching, I’ve decided to start my weight loss journey, and I have a long way to go. Right now, I’m in a caloric deficit and committing to cardio each day — a 40-minute walk, 20-minute run, etc.
The more I progress into my journey, the more I feel guilty about the food I’m eating. Yesterday, my friends wanted to get ice cream, and there was something in my head saying, “No, you can’t eat that. It’s not good for you.” I’m struggling with how to eat without feeling guilty and to remember the scale is just a number. How do I develop a healthy lifestyle that isn’t toxic? — Disordered Eating
DEAR DISORDERED THINKING: Invite your close friends and family to support you on your weight loss journey. That means maybe not going for ice cream right now but choos- ing healthier snacks. That means encouraging you to keep up the good work. Figure out which friends may want to walk or run with you, and ask them to join you at specific times.
If you can get one or more people in your friend group to align with your journey, it will be much easier for you to stay the course. If that doesn’t work out, you may want to identify someone who can be an accountability buddy to help you stay the course during these early days.
If you continue to feel guilty about what you’re eating or develop a negative relationship with food, don’t be afraid to talk to a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. Having a good relationship with food is an important step in staying healthy.