I am writing to ask for help with a friend. She’s been a friend of mine for as long as I’ve been in Athens, and there have been times when we were super tight, thick as thieves, partners in crime—you name it. I feel like I know her well, and she can say the same about me, because she’s been there for me during some really trying times. I always try to do the same for her. We live right down the street from each other, and before all of this happened we saw each other regularly. I walk my dog past her house, and we like to visit on the porch with her, but of course we don’t do that anymore with the social distancing. We still text a lot and talk a lot on Facebook, but it’s starting to get to be too much for me. Basically, she has lost her mind over coronavirus and only wants to talk about conspiracy theories and death rates and stuff. I can text her about something completely unrelated and she will somehow tie it to coronavirus. She has the worst outlook ever. Very depressing and negative. She has family overseas whose country is in way worse shape than ours right now, and she is always talking about how Americans are stupid and how we’re all going to die.
I’m taking all of this very seriously, but I can’t have someone saying all the worst stuff to me about this all day long. She’s starting to get into the conspiracy theories and stuff, and I’m worried for her. This can’t be good for her health, and it’s certainly not good for mine. I care about her and want to be supportive—this is a really trying time for a lot of us. I don’t want to ditch my friend, but I am this close to walking my dog somewhere else, muting her social media and leaving her texts unread. Please tell me a much better way to handle this!
I’m not dealing with anything or anyone remotely as panicked as your buddy, but I can relate to having a buddy who is unraveling during all this pandemic. I prefer to keep the details private, but back during Y2K I had a similar experience with a friend.
First off, your friend really needs to put her phone down. Encourage her to pull herself out of the news cycle and to update herself maybe once a day instead of staying tuned in all day, like I assume she’s doing. We all know to wash our hands and cover our faces, so what is the real benefit of devouring every little bit of news about this? I find it much more comforting to stay up to date on local news about this pandemic and to avoid think-pieces or news about idiots shirking social distancing measures. That is a tall order right now. I know it is. But the best way to cope with the stress and panic of the present is to make lemonade out of this shit, all right? We can’t change what’s happening or affect the future of COVID-19 by bothering our friends with baseless theories or blind panic. It’s not good for anyone to stay wound up like that, and, as y’all can see, it alienates our friends who want to keep living and making the best of right now.
Me and my buddies have been Skyping while we drink alone at home, and I recommend y’all find a similar way to hang out. The format change alone will inspire conversation, and hopefully she’ll feel less drawn to despair and negativity. You probably just need to tell her straight-up that you don’t wanna talk COVID-19 with her anymore and that she needs to keep her theories and suspicions for conversations with her international family. Tell her that you know what’s going on, you’re fully informed, but that you’d prefer to keep being her friend as opposed to a sounding board. She clearly needs someone to talk to about all of this, but it’s not you.
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