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The Worst Support Group in the World

Apr14

by

Amalah,

I need your advice. Over a year ago I had a miscarriage and joined a “support group” for …well, support. However, this group turned out to be a bunch of catty women who spent their time hating everyone and wishing ill-will on every pregnant woman they could. I became disgusted with their actions and the negative energy they gave me. I’m the kind of person who absorbs whatever energy is around me. I had hung around with them for almost a year.

After breaking away from the group I became pregnant for the second time. One of the other girls in the group got “exiled”, as I call it, for reasons unknown to me. I remained friends with her because she had never hurt me or been mean to me. I’m now 13 weeks pregnant with this second pregnancy and she seems interested and caring.

However, every time I talk to her she brings up that old support group and informs me about how they are talking about us. Every time she mentions them it gives me anxiety. I broke off with that group because the energy they exuded was mean, nasty and unhealthy. They made me unhappy with all the mean things they would say about people. They would wish miscarriages on women! Having her tell me that they are talking about me sends my mind racing! Are they wishing harm upon my baby? I want nothing to do with them. I just want to be rid of them completely. Every time this friend brings them up, I either change the subject, ignore that she said anything or remind her that I don’t care about what they’re doing or saying. She says she doesn’t either and drops it but then brings them up next time.

I don’t know what to do. Hearing about them and knowing that they still talk about me gives me anxiety and I know that isn’t good for me or my baby. I can’t go the through the rest of my pregnancy (another 6 months) worried they are talking about me, wishing harm on my baby or god-forbid if anything bad did happen know that they would be celebrating my loss. What do I do about this friend? Do I just separate myself from her like I did them, keep reminding her or….what?

-short on friends

Ugh. Ladies — hell, HUMAN BEINGS — of the world, exhibit A on How Not To Be.

Step One: You tell this friend in firm, strong language that you don’t want to hear about That Group. Full Stop. The subject is upsetting to you and therefore, is no longer going to be discussed, mentioned or gossiped about. No changing the subject, no ignoring, and DEFINITELY no “I don’t care about what they’re doing or saying,” because YOU ACTUALLY REALLY STILL DO CARE.

(And that’s okay! A lot of us like to swear up and down that we don’t care about what ex-friends/boyfriends/anonymous-people-saying-mean-things-on-a-message board think of us. And then we wake up at 3 a.m. composing useless, long-winded replies and arguments in our heads to them, because they’ve just got us ALL WRONG and we can CONVINCE THEM!)

Be brutally, bluntly honest with her that, in light of your previous loss, you’re having an understandably high level of anxiety about this pregnancy and hearing any mention of That Group and their toxic gossip is sending it even higher.

If she mentions them again, that’s it. Cut ties. I’m willing to give her one more shot since I suspect you’ve been hiding your true feelings, and maybe been a little overly polite/wishy-washy in your responses to her, but once you make it clear that this subject is officially taboo and over and dunzo, she needs to respect that. It’s a perfectly reasonable request.

Side note: I’m kind of wondering where and how, exactly, she’s getting all this specific intel on That Group and their current discussion topics. Wasn’t she exiled? Am I missing something? Is she still friends with someone else there and getting things second- or third-hand? (She’s not still attending, right? RIGHT?)

It’s possible that you’ve befriended your neighborhood Drama Vampire, who is basically blowing things out of proportion because she’s got that opposite sort of personality to yours: The kind who actually LIKES being gossiped about and paid attention to (even — or especially — when it’s negative). Since it sounds like she didn’t leave the group of her own volition, she could be still really hung up on them. For her, imagining that they’re all still talking about her and being “jelus” or whatever is how she’s processing the rejection.

I’ve met people like this, and they tend to focus on and exaggerate the Many Wrong-y Wrongs and Slings and Arrows that their enemies and the world in general are hurling at them. Talking with them gets exhausting, because they don’t ever let ANYTHING go and they tend to rank low on the ability to take personal responsibility for their problems and unhappiness. Take everything they say with a big heap of salt; it’s possible that all this “gossip” exists 99.9999% in her own mind, because she thinks it’ll bond the two of you together against common foes and haters.

But even if her gossip comes from the most reliable of sources and these women are bitching about you all the livelong day, it’s time for Step Two: Learning to block out that negative energy and deal with your anxiety.

From this moment forward, That Group has no power over you. They are beyond irrelevant. Their hatred and jealousy and callous bitterness will only circle back on itself, onto them, an ouroboros of unhappiness and broken friendships. (I mean, a “support” group of [I assume quite a few] TTC women that systematically turns on anyone who successfully conceives is going to fully cannibalize itself and collapse eventually, you know?) The negative energy cannot and will not touch you or your baby. Their words vanish into the vastness of the universe mere seconds after they say them, because those words are just stupid hot air from sad people.

Anxiety levels often shoot sky high during pregnancy, so I really want you to focus on dealing with yours. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, visualization, putting down the pregnancy books and picking up something about — I don’t know — karma, the evil eye, religion, philosophy, happiness, whatever will help you understand how to turn your deep sensitivity to the energy of others into something more powerful and superhero-like. (Or maybe just some trashy novels about vampires, blasting workout songs about kicking ass and not giving a f*&#… mixed a little talk therapy.)

Recognize and accept that you do, in fact, care what other people think, and that you’re giving those people’s thoughts an incredible amount of power. So maybe there are some women who wish miscarriages on pregnant women. One time, I blew out some birthday candles and wished for a pony. GUESS WHAT. SAME RESULT.

Pregnancy is scary. So many things can go wrong and so many of those things are completely out of our control, so we focus on what we can control — sometimes to an excessive level, just trying to do everything super-duper perfect and “right.” That Group and it’s dumb opinions definitely fall in the category of things outside your control. Your reaction to it — the low-level buzz you’ve got going on, imagining what they’re saying, what they’d say if something went wrong — IS something you can control, though it’s admittedly a little tougher than just flipping off a light switch, when you’re a deeply sensitive person.

And thus we circle allllll the way back to step one, which is to stand up for yourself to your friend. And making a clean, clear break if need be, rather than a vague “distancing” or dodging her texts and phone calls. You are DONE talking, hearing and thinking about That Group. Not because they will hold any power over you otherwise, but because you’ve cut ties and moved on. If your friend insists on staying tangled up in their web, that’s sadly her problem to deal with. Maybe you guys don’t have that much in common after all, once you remove your shared experience with this circle of crazy people. You’ve got better, happier things to focus on.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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9 Responses to “The Worst Support Group in the World”

  1. Kat Apr 15 at 1:42 am Reply Reply

    I have found group prenatal yoga to be a wonderful experience as a way to deal with anxiety. I’ve had several friends that just used prenatal yoga videos, but I really benefitted from going to a class. Classes may vary from region to region, but the ones I attended had gentle exercise, meditation, positive thinking, and experienced instructors that helped me realize how powerful our mind and bodies are. Perhaps it could be a place of positive community for you as well.

  2. Helen Apr 15 at 11:01 am Reply Reply

    Yes, tell her you don’t want to talk about that group ever again, they’re too crummy. Then if she can’t stop, tell her you can’t hang out, her conversation is too crummy. 

  3. Eiko Apr 15 at 12:21 pm Reply Reply

    Totally agree; it’s fully possible that it’s not as bad as your friend is saying. Some people just love the drama.

    But it’s still hard not to dwell on it, I’m sure. I know this sounds weird and hippy-dippy, but when you do think about them, try taking a deep breath and sending them love and forgiveness (I find that forgiving someone helps to dissolve my anger). If nothing else, it might be a healthy path for your thoughts to take, instead of the anxiety/anger cycle that’s easy to get caught in. In short, being the bigger person can actually be an effective cognitive exercise. (I suffered from a cognitive disorder at one time, and changing my thinking patterns really helped.)

    That said, these women sound awful. Good for you for knowing you need them out of your life completely. Sending you lots of positive energy for a wonderful pregnancy!

  4. Jess Apr 15 at 2:15 pm Reply Reply

    I just wanted to add that your statement about stress not being good for your baby stuck out to me. Stress during pregnancy is one of those things that turns into a nasty cycle because you start stressing about how you shouldn’t be stressed, and that just adds to the problem. But I wanted to say, your baby is fine, and your stress isn’t going to hurt it–stress in pregnancy isn’t very well understood, and what evidence does exist about its impact on the fetus is sort of conflicting–there is some thought that there could be vague negative impacts but other studies seem to show an actual positive impact via development of the central nervous system. But either way, I think it comes down to, any impact of your own stress on your baby will be minimal to nonexistent, and stress is among those things that we all put pressure on ourselves about because we feel like it’s our job to deny our own needs, desires, and emotions to achieve the mythical perfect gestational state for the baby’s sake.

    My point is just, this situation sounds stressful, and that sucks and I’m sorry, and I think Amy provided some great advice on how to deal with the stress, but I hope you don’t beat yourself up further over the fact of being stressed to begin with. Being pregnant is hard, and you’re doing a great job, and your baby will be fine even if you are stressed sometimes. Good luck!

  5. Cary Apr 15 at 4:03 pm Reply Reply

    See if you can find something else to focus on when those stressful thoughts arise. Memorize world capitals, native wildflowers, the human skeletal system. Whatever way you can break that cycle of anxiety and give your brain something else to refocus on. Babies at whatever stage can make Moms super anxiety ridden. Keep a check on this and speak to your doctors about it if does not go away.

    Also, this is good training for when that little one is finally with you. You may have to deal with potential nasty moms/dads in playgroups, little league, school, etc. Build a support team of others you can trust and who had joy to your life. Do the same for them, and don’t let the “others” waste your time and energy. Best of luck to you and your sweet family!!

  6. DontBlameTheKids Apr 16 at 10:46 am Reply Reply

    Amy and the other ladies already gave great advice, so I will just say congratulations on the sure to be lovely darling baby coming your way! I’m so happy for you and your family. 

    (In other words, definitely cut toxic people out, but I know that you know they will continue to talk. Please remember that for every one of them, there are at least five people who wish you nothing but joy, love, and laughter, with this baby and life in general. All those people you pass on the street, who see your growing belly and smile in your direction? Yes, that’s who I’m talking about.)

  7. Lindsay Apr 16 at 5:06 pm Reply Reply

    Amy’s reply as usual is spot on. I also think that maybe, the OPs pain at the thought of her former friends talking about her isn’t just fear that somehow their bad wishes will matter to her now, but also the hurt of having been betrayed in the first place. These aren’t just some strangers. These were people you wanted to trust, and broken trust hurts. Losing friends, even bad ones, can hurt. But it happens to everybody, and you can move on with better relationships. You don’t have to pretend to be over the hurt if you’re really not. Maybe talk to your husband, a real friend, family member, whoever. And congratulations on being preg and into your second trimester!

  8. bmused Apr 17 at 12:48 am Reply Reply

    This whole group reminded me of an old Joni Mitchell song, Roses Blue:

    The song is about a psychic, but it fits…………In sorrow she can lure you where she wants you
    Inside your own self-pity, there you swim
    In sinking down to drown, her voice still haunts you
    And only with your laughter, can you win
    Can you win, can you win

    You win the lasting laurels with your laughter

    It reaches like an arm before you sink
    To win the solitary truth you’re after

    You dare not ask the priestess how to think
    How to think, how to think…

  9. OP Apr 23 at 9:03 pm Reply Reply

    As usual Amy gave great advice. Thank you. And thank you to all the ladies on here who also gave me support. I need to stop being subtle with her and remember that their words cannot touch my baby. 

    Good news, I’m 16 weeks now and just found out my baby is a boy. :)

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