Friends with Shannon

The Scenario

You’ve recently met a new co-worker named Shannon who is very kind, caring, and compassionate. You find yourself drawn to her charismatic, charming, and energetic personality. And although you don’t agree with many of her opinions, you find her humor controversial yet hilarious. Shannon always seems to be in the know–the new fashion trends, the latest gossip, and the most trendy places to socialize. She hosts the best parties at her enormous home which is nothing shy of gorgeous. From the couches to the wine glasses to the small antique pieces arranged around her home, everything seems so intentional and thoughtful. You haven’t met her close friends but your opinion of them isn’t positive. Everyday, Shannon has stories about how “awful” her friends are and how mean they can be.

One day, Shannon comes into work and you immediately notice something is off. She is quiet, withdrawn, and doesn’t even acknowledge your existence. You grow concerned so you approach her to say hello. She gives you a forced smile and appears to be on the verge of tears. You ask her if everything is okay. At this point she begins crying. You can feel her pain so you sit down and ask her what’s going on.

“No one gives a shit about anyone but themselves. I can’t believe I thought I had friends.”

You recognize her statements as being a bit extreme but you can tell she is suffering emotionally. You really want to be there for her. Shannon goes into a long story about her friends and how they treat her.

“I feel so used.”

She tells you how her friends only contact her or reach out to her when they need something or want something from her.

“If I didn’t know the bouncers at the best nightclubs or I didn’t have my beautiful home, they wouldn’t have anything to do with me.”

You sit down next to Shannon and offer her a supportive ear. She tells you all the things her friends have done to hurt her and reject her. You try to build up her self esteem because you don’t want to see her hurting. You offer reassuring statements. Shannon immediately cheers up and tells you how amazing you are–how you’re the only person who truly understands her and listens to her.

She then offers to have you over for a cocktail next weekend. 

For the next few weeks you are excited about your friendship with Shannon. She buys you incredible gifts, takes you on fun experiences, and seems to idolize you. Shannon constantly tells you how much you have changed her life and how special you are–how you were meant to meet and how you are the one person she needed in her life during this difficult time.

You feel good about how you’ve changed her life in a positive way–but there is also a feeling of discomfort that is hard to describe. Something is off. You start to wonder how you became the most important person in Shannon’s life. Despite your growing suspicions, you go with it.

Soon you find yourself spending more and more time with Shannon. Your family and other close friends take notice. While you want to make the time for your family and close friends, Shannon makes you feel so special and important that saying no to her becomes increasingly more difficult. The last thing you want to do is let her down or disappoint her. She has idolized you to the point where you feel trapped on a pedestal so tall that the thought of falling off scares the shit out of you. It doesn’t help that Shannon has a way of asking for things. You recall a recent text message exchange:

It doesn’t take long before you begin to feel responsible for Shannon’s feelings. When you can’t be there 24/7 or whenever she needs you, you feel guilty. You start questioning your own loyalty as a friend and you feel really mad at yourself for not being a good enough friend to her.

Resentment starts to build as you try endlessly to be the friend you think Shannon needs. But it never seems to be enough. You begin feeling helpless, frustrated, and inadequate. But those feelings are nothing compared to the guilt that infects your soul.

Shannon’s birthday is approaching, which happens to be on the same day as the music festival you look forward to all year because you get to reunite with your closest childhood friends who you rarely get to see. You plan on inviting Shannon once you have the details because you know she will want to know all the logistics. You panic when you receive a voicemail from Shannon:

“My life is falling apart, but at least I have you. I am so grateful I get to spend my birthday with you. What do you think about having a spa day at that place you’ve always wanted to go to? I know the owner and she is giving us the deal of a lifetime!”

You begin obsessing about how you should respond. You love spa days and you have wanted to go to this place for years and you finally have the opportunity to go. You can’t believe she is picking the place YOU love. 

You feel stuck, but you think maybe she will enjoy the music festival. A few minutes pass and you see your phone light up. Shannon is calling you. You don’t pick up. An hour later you receive a text message:

Shannon: If you don’t want to go with me you can just say so. Honesty goes a long way.

You bite. You respond with a long message about how grateful you are for the invitation and then you tell Shannon about the music festival and how you were waiting for the details before officially inviting her. She responds:

Shannon: I hate crowds. I thought you knew me better than that. I feel like you are inviting me out of pity. I can’t believe you would do this after all I have done for you. I went out of my way to get this spa day organized. Thanks for ruining my birthday. I really thought you were real. Have fun at the concert. 

You feel terrible. Shannon did go out of her way for you. She has given you so much over the past month and you feel embarrassed and stupid that you didn’t know she doesn’t like crowds (even though she loves nightclubs and other events she plans).  Either way, you feel like you should have known better. The pit in your stomach grows as your favorite concert approaches. You decide to go, but all you can think about is Shannon and how she is alone on her birthday. You can’t stop thinking about it. 

The guilt you feel prevents you from having a good time. You try not to take photos because you don’t want Shannon to see you having a good time on social media. But really, you feel like you don’t deserve to have fun unless Shannon is having fun too.

While at the concert you get messages from Shannon:

Shannon: The fact that you can go and have fun while I am in so much emotional pain proves to me that you don’t have a heart. You are incredibly selfish and I want nothing to do with you anymore.

That hits deep. So many emotions begin to surface. You love Shannon and wish she was having fun with you but you are angry and frustrated because you feel responsible for her pain. You vacillate between anger and guilt to the point where you start questioning things.

Maybe Shannon is right. Maybe you are selfish. Maybe you aren’t good enough.

And you start to feel depressed and lost. Shannon blames you for all her problems and you feel terrible. You do everything to console her and gain her trust back and finally  Shannon accepts your apology. But the cycle continues…

Soon, you learn that being happy without Shannon creates conflict. Doing anything or feeling anything that isn’t acceptable to Shannon creates conflict. Before you know it, you don’t even know who you are anymore because you have worked so hard at becoming someone you aren’t just to avoid conflict with Shannon. 

Now you know how people with prominent cluster B personality traits can affect those around them.

To learn more about Borderline Personality Disorder, click here.

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