Struggling with a longtime friendship

Hello wise BPN parents: I would love some feedback and advice on a struggle I'm having with a longtime friendship. We have known each other for decades and I consider her a close friend. She resides in a different country and we keep in touch via texting, phone calls and visits every few years. During my last visit, she let me have a valuable possession that I promised to return to her when I saw her again in a few months to a year. Of course, due to the pandemic, neither of us have done any travelling. During this past year and a half, she expressed beliefs that were completely opposite to my understanding of the world e.g. conspiracies about COVID being a hoax, the vaccine being a form of mind and government control, opposition to racial justice movements, etc. I validate her emotions and steer conversations to different topics but I feel uneasy about her new beliefs. She recently texted me regarding an odd credit card charge on her statement, asking me what I was doing on the day the charge was made, as she thought she might have given me her card and that I'd used it. This made me feel uncomfortable and anxious that in the future, she might accuse me of misplacing the item I had of hers. I told her I would mail the item back to her, saying I felt anxious about holding onto something that was not mine and she emphatically said to not mail it to her, she would be enraged if I did, and she started swearing and said that I should go to therapy because I was feeling anxious. Feeling like a lot was being lost in text translation, I called her and she declined the call, then said she was going to bed. I feel upset and heartbroken-like what just happened? What should I do next? And how do I conceptualize this friendship given how different our beliefs are and how she just treated me? 

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This sounds really challenging. With just the information you are sharing, my first impulse is to suspect that there is some sort of mental health issue at play. In that case, I think the best you can do in the short term is have compassion for what she is going through and share occasional kind messages that validate her as a person but not the beliefs she espouses -- and to try not to take it personally. It might be a phase, and hopefully she gets help. 

In the longer term, if she continues to hold vastly different beliefs than you, I suppose you will have to decide how important these fundamental beliefs are to your friendships. Is it possible to maintain a new and different kind of relationship with her if she holds those beliefs? I believe it is possible to let a friendship evolve and still demonstrate you care about someone - at least for the past you have shared together - but not hold them in the same kind of regard or status of friendship as before.

No matter what, it is okay to acknowledge that you have some grieving to do, at least for the friendship that you thought you had. I think finding space to process the feelings around that will help you accept that whatever things look like going forward, it will be different.

Finally, with regard to the item you have in your possession, as long as it remains unlikely that you misplace it, there is nothing you can do that would put you in trouble legally, because if she really asked for it back, you would give it back. I suggest if it is giving you stress to tuck it deep in your closet, so you don't have to think about it constantly (assuming it's more like a ring and less like a car).

I'm sorry to hear this -- friendships are so important to our mental health and it is sad to lose one. It sounds like your friend might be experiencing some mental instability given the angry outburst with swearing. I would try not to take it personally (easier said than done, I know). Do you have a relationship with her partner or family? Is it possible to check in with them to see if they've noticed changes in her personality? It is really hard to know what's going on through texts -- maybe you could set up a video call with her as well? I hope this helps and that you get some other advice. It seems like a tough situation!

COVID and lockdown has driven a lot of people off the deepend— maybe you should pause communication until vaccines are widespread in her country any the crisis has abated. Your friend’s paranoia may be less of a problem at that point. 

I have two good friends and two family members who believe the same stuff.  When presented with the facts they call me crazy and stupid.  One took many months, but he finally realized he was only being told half- or quarter-truths.  Not sure who is behind all of the lies, but they appear to be very well organized and very well funded.  And what's really interesting is the well educated people are believing this stuff far more so than those who are not as well educated.  There's nothing you can do but wait to see if your friend realizes she's been duped.  I've been told best way to deal with people who believe this is a hoax is to agree with them and subtly question some of the things they tell you.

Good luck

Relationship questions on this forum are so absorbing to consider. My two cents, based on what you have written:

Let's consider three aspects of your communication with her.

Your longtime friend now lives in a different part of the country. Based on some of the ideas she has expressed, she may be in the Fox news bubble, and right wing ideology or groupthink may have become her frame of reference.  If she were in the Bay Area and you two had regular social contact, it is likely that some of these rough edges would wear away, through exposure to more progressive thinking. But it seems that is not something you have the power to help her with at a distance.

You are concerned that she will be upset with you over the difficulty in returning her valuable item. You offered to mail it, but she declined that offer. IMHO you have made it clear that you are being mindful that this item is important to her; it isn't as if you had forgotten about it. I think there is no need for you do take further action unless she either comes to visit or else instructs you how to get the item to her.  When she wants the item back, she can raise the subject, or you can remind her in a year or so.

Reading between the lines, it seems that you are hurt/upset because this friend is not being warm and, well, friendly to you. The pandemic has been stressful for many people - making some people crazy - and now we must transition into resuming social contact with each other. Perhaps we can forgive each other for a certain amount of craziness, or maybe just overlook it, when warranted.

Having been an only child myself, I have always valued the my friendships and tried to nurture them. Yet there have been situations where a friendship ceased to be viable for one reason or another.  It was hard for me to get my heard around the idea that a friendship could run its course, but it does seem that this is sometimes the case, and the only thing to do is to accept it.

Some people can talk thru friendship problems of this nature, but many can't.  Add long distance to the problem, and it becomes less tractable.

Wishing you the best.