We’ve all had those friends before — the ones who need us more than we need them. The ones who are always having some sort of crisis. They’re especially abundant on Facebook, where they’re bound to get all kinds of attention.
I call them emovamps — emotional vampires.
Emovamps are not necessarily bad people. They can even start out as good friends. But they’ll suck the life out of you if you let them. It begins innocently enough. It’s a friend (usually not a best friend, sometimes more of an acquaintance) who needs your help. And like a good, compassionate friend, you step up, you help out. But then they need you again for issues and problems that sound much more serious than they are. And again. And again. Until you realize you’re emotionally exhausted and you’re spending more time helping this friend than living your own life.
But what do you do? You can’t just cut them off. After all, they need you. And isn’t that what good friends do — step up when they’re needed? How far do you let it go? How do you know when to let go?
There are a few things to consider: Are they taking more than they’re giving, emotionally? Even friends who are in rough situations and really need your help try to give back in some way. Emovamps will grovel and beg and show you how desperately they need you; then they will flatter you incessantly for your help. Friends will ask but not beg and will express genuine gratitude. Emovamps will have an unending cycle of crises — every event becomes a crisis of some kind requiring your immediate attention. Friends won’t ask unless they really need it.
It’s hard to get out of an emovamp’s grip — they’re fantastic at latching on. They appeal to your compassion, your sense of responsibility. It feels like your spiritual duty to take care of them. But you’re important too. Your emotional health needs to be a priority too. And there’s a difference between being a good friend and being a sacrificial lamb.
So how do you get away? It’s similar to a doctor with a patient — refer. And I don’t mean shuffle them off onto another friend. I mean refer them to a professional organization. If they’re having emotional problems, suggest they see a counselor. If it’s physical problems, point them to a doctor. You don’t need to be their savior. In fact, in some cases, the best thing you can do is save yourself.
Emovamps leave a long trail of emotionally drained souls behind them. Don’t let yourself become one of them.