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What to do when you can't force someone to live anymore?


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After over a year of constant battling, forcing someone to stay alive... What do you do when you no longer have the ability to?


When you've told someone that it will get better, tried to help them and be there for them, had them hate and blame you most waking hours for the crime of keeping their painful existence going, and finally the support, pleading and exertion of control are no longer enough... what is left?


I can call an ambulance and have her committed, but after all this, I find my belief that I have that right completely empty. Her life has been pain from start to finish, and I believe that she can't be helped. How do I justify keeping her alive, but imprisoned and miserable?


I only wish I wasn't so far away that I can't keep my promise not to let her die alone. I don't know how to fix this.

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I guess the question is really should you force someone to live when there really isn't any hope for any quality of life and that would depend on each individual situation. You can't be there for someone like this really from a long distance. If it was truly your wish to be there for that person, then why aren't you? Money, career, relationships, your life basically as it turns out is more important than being there for her, it sounds like you have let her down frankly. If you truly made that commitment and you are not seeing it through feeling bad about it isn't really helping anyone. Can you put your life on hold to be there for her?

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No one can "force" another to stay alive. That's what you said: "force." Do you see the folly of that? You can't force anyone to do anything, you can only encourage them and be there to the extent that you can.


Do you feel you've done your best? Do you feel you've truly been there for them through thick and thin? Do you feel you have given them as much as you can do, without destroying your entire life as well? If your answers to this checklist come out with "yes's", you need to think about the fact that you can give a person everything of your support and care, but you can never directly give someone the will to live.


You are not a life support machine hooked up to them, and if you pull the plug, they will expire. You are not a machine, and they are not brain dead. They still have a brain that needs to be used for their own self-sustainance.


Is this person in therapy now? Because even if these emergency steps are taken, she really, REALLY needs to be in ONGOING therapy for an abusive past like that. PERIOD. You cannot stand in as a qualified therapist simply by devoting your life to her. That's not help -- that's enabling. It's good that you want to be there as a friend, and you don't have to take that away from her, but she needs to be in a therapeutic relationship with someone who is ONLY there for the purpose of working through her issues with her. As it stands, one of her issues is that she is using her friendships (you) as a crutch, it appears, in place of learning how to walk. So to help her break that vicious loop, the best thing you can do is try to get her into therapy that is more than just an acute life-saving tool. This is going to take a lot of time and work, and no matter how much of a life preserver you've been, this is not ultimately going to get her to a place where she is functioning.


Be very clear about your boundaries, and the reality. It's very hard to watch someone self-destruct, but you are not infinite in your powers. We all have to take responsibility for where we begin and end, and for our own lives. That means you, that means her, that means everyone.


She needs help you can't give her, but as I said, you might facilitate that by contacting whomever you know and talking to her about how important it is. If she refuses, that is not something under your control. You are not "letting her die alone" if she is unwilling to take steps to save her own life.


The words you use -- "forcing her to live", "letting her die" suggest that you really see yourself as some extension of her, as though you have some ability/power/control/governance here that you don't have. You should really look at that mental framework you have because it's not a healthy perspective of your role in a person's life.

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Cheers ToV. I understand it all, even if it's hard to keep mind of when the pain is right in front of my eyes.


The thing that keeps me stuck doing something I know isn't healthy is the perception that she will "happily" exist co-dependently, but end her life the moment she loses that. It's a perception she constantly feeds, so I let it continue, so at least she stays alive, in the hopes that a solution will appear in the mean time.


I have a choice of letting her continue to manipulate me or doing what's required and risking her ending her life. It's not that I can't handle that; I'm almost resigned to it. But no matter how resigned I am, every time I hear someone say that she could be helped by a professional, hope sparks, I try and get her that help, she rejects as hopeless and the cycle starts over.


I know I need to end this, but I think this ends with her dying, and I don't think there's ever going to be a "right time" for that.

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It is a really tough spot, I grant you that.


So then -- you have tried to get her into therapy? Have you actually found someone who could work with her, helped by doing the leg-work to line that up so all she had to do was go in -- and she has refused?


It might help for you to actually (if/when it's possible to be geographically closer) arrange an appointment or two so that you can go together, so you kind of ease the transition by being a familiar presence at the start of it. Also, it would give you a chance to say out loud, in her presence to a therapist, that you feel responsible for her fate and that the threats of her suicide tear you in half. She needs to hear what a therapist will say to that, and in some way, this may make you feel vindicated in an official way that would give you more peace about drawing this line. Sometimes, hearing it validated, and understood by everyone concerned, gives a feeling of resolution that is harder if it's just you trying to convince yourself. I strongly urge you to try to facilitate an arrangement like this, if at all possible. She may be more willing to go if you are willing to be there for a couple of sessions, and be more convinced about the importance of it as well as overcome whatever feels threatening about it by breaking the ice with you, and just seeing it's not that bad. She's probably never been to therapy so seeing may be believing, and it'll be harder to just dismiss sight unseen, with a therapist that puts her at ease.


Outside of that, as you know, this duty of having to keep her alive, as it were, is not sustainable. You'll need to come to peace within yourself that you have not abandoned her, and as such, you've nothing to feel guilty or responsible for. I do think you should explicitly express this to her though, if you haven't already. Very clearly tell her that you are not abandoning her, but that you can't function as her only lifeline to life. You need to tell her straight up that many people feel hopeless and that her journey is just beginning -- but she has to let someone else, someone who knows all about how to help these kinds of wounds, help her.


There's a movie I really love out there called Antoine Fisher. It's a true story. I suggest you watch this and then gauge suggesting she watch it, too. Very inspiring, about someone who has been abused and regained their life (with the help of therapy.)

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