Dear Dr. Date,I ju…

Dear Dr. Date,
I just came out of a three-year relationship about two months ago. I haven’t been sad about my experience, but I am still really angry and bitter about the way we broke up. However, my friend (who we’ll call Carmen) has been going through a painful breakup from a long-term relationship as well. Carmen comes to me with her pain. She calls me late at night crying and asks me for advice on how to go about her healing process. She also asks me to talk to her ex about her. I find all this very painful, and I feel that I am in the middle, so to speak. When she calls me crying, it breaks my heart and makes me cry. Not just because I feel bad for her, but I find myself still missing my ex. I have been getting help with my distress, but Carmen refuses to speak with anyone but me. Carmen says that we see things eye to eye and that I am a great help to her. Since my breakup, I have been feeling free and vibrantly alive. I don’t feel that I can be as much help to her as she thinks that I can. Not having completely healed myself, I find this situation pulling me down. I just don’t know how to help her and myself at the same time!
— In Pieces Over Him

Your friend might have helped you more than you realize. Normally, you’d think I’d say something like “your friend is being selfish and needs a little tough love.” Both are true, but I have a little different perspective on this one. You see, sweet, you and I have a lot in common. I get letters all the time with a story of pain that invariably mirrors my present or an unhealed wound from the past. Just like you, I get a bit weary of it. Where do the advice-givers go for advice?
I’ve found over the last three years that this process of giving hope to people’s sorrow has helped me immensely. You should all have a column! When I get a letter from a reader with a problem, I’m forced to separate what I would instinctively do and what would be the healthiest thing to do. This leads me to question the way I instinctively treat people and react to situations. I end up growing.
I suspect the same thing might be happening to you. The advice you are giving to your friend is probably a bit different (and better) than what you would actually do yourself. This causes you to follow your own advice and be a stronger, more resilient person. You still have a lot of pain to deal with yourself. Stay strong and keep helping other people in order to help yourself.