In the Care of Insanity Part II

I recently posted a guest blog from my friend Lauren in which she talked about being around me when I was at the bottom of my depression.  It prompted several emails, but one stuck out among them.  It was from a woman who talked about being in a situation just like Lauren who eventually came to a decision.

At this point I figured I had two options, to talk to his wife behind his back (which I didn’t want to do and had a feeling would come back on me in some way) or just end the friendship. It was starting to affect me in a really negative way. He is really brilliant and is very effective at making me feel like the problem is all mine…so much so that I had several people I know and trust read our correspondence to tell me if I was imagining things or being unreasonable. They all to a person said he was completely off the deep end and I needed to get away from him. Now. 

The first sentence is the part that caught my attention.  When I was at rock bottom, my friend Amber contacted my parents to tell them she believed I was suicidal.  When she did it, she suspected I’d find out eventually and that it may very well cost us our friendship.  It was a selfless thing Amber did, and it was the right thing.

As I’ve written before, people with mental illness often get attached to their conditions.  Their loved ones need to be in the loop.  They may be the only ones that can get them to get help.  It’s not subversion to talk to someone’s loved ones, it’s care.

Also, even as someone who was unquestionably saved by the dedication of my friends, I can admit there’s only so much a person can handle.  You can’t make your life miserable waiting forever for someone to get better.  There is no guilt if you decide you can’t do it anymore.  You are already a good friend for doing what you’re able.

MENTAL ILLNESS: Time to go be a lab rat.
MENTAL ILLNESS & PERSONAL: Pictures of my brain.
MENTAL ILLNESS: Today's session.
MENTAL ILLNESS: Today's session.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Holland Wilson

    All good points, but I think the last paragraph is what people most need to hear. Too many people avoid being supportive at all because they’re afraid of being committed for the long haul when even a few months of being a good friend before getting burnt out would be helpful.

  • Ryan

    I started reading your blog after watching your Skepticon talk on mental illness after it was posted to Youtube. My father had extremely severe schizophrenia and seasonal effective disorder, and my mom spent 17 years of her life caring for him. The one and only complaint I’ve ever had about your writings on mental illness was addressed by your last paragraph. Thank you for that. In my experience, it’s something no one likes to hear (especially in the first couple of years after a family member or friend’s diagnosis), but it can definitely be one of the healthiest decisions you can make for yourself.

  • becca

    I lost a friend a long time ago, when I was in a deep depression, and then when I got out of it with competent help (finally!) – I admit some of my behavior was bizarre, and I can understand it being off-putting. But the loss came in when I met with him as I was coming out of the depression, to try to explain what was going on, and how I was different now. My ex-friend basically accused me of trying to brush him off by saying “I was crazy then. I’m not now.” I tried to apologize for my behavior, but wanted him to understand the context, but he wasn’t having any of it. I’m still not sure whether he was more offended by my illness or by my getting better.

  • Roving Rockhound, collector of dirt

    As the insane one in my situation, reading these posts hurts. These were all things I knew my then boyfriend, now it’s-complicated friend was going through when I was totally out of my mind, but hearing them so plainly put by someone else makes them somehow more real.

    I’m unsure of what would have happened if my friend had disregarded my requests (commands? pleads?) to keep quiet and gone to my family. I’ve realized that I can’t trust any memories from those years – stupid distorted perception of reality – but I think it might have been the last push. He was the only connection I had with reality, and what for me would have been a betrayal of trust would have been a disaster. My family would not have been particularly supportive – it’s clear even now that I’m (more) rational. But he probably should have done it anyway – maybe not to my family but directly to someone that would have gotten me immediate help.

    I was really a lot more fucked up than I thought.

    I’m not trying to dissuade people from getting others involved. What I did to my friend was not fair, and I feel incredibly guilty about it. Going over my head early on would have been the best thing to do, for both of us. I just can’t imagine what would have happened if he had, but I’m guessing that it would have been overall positive.

  • Allie

    My best friend was there for me when I was depressed and suicidal, and when I was manic. When I went into a mixed mood (all the self-hatred of depression plus all the energy of mania and a shit ton of anger at everything and everyone) she told me that she loved me very much, but I was hurting her and myself, and she couldn’t be around me when I was like this. She wanted me to get help, but I was sure that since I was on meds (which weren’t working well) I would be fine. She and I have been friends for 14 years, and the fact that she left clued me in to how serious it was. It took a few more months of misery and another press of the self-destruct button, but I got into therapy and got my meds sorted and got better, and as soon as I sent her an email, she was right back in my life. I think it helped that she left, and she left knowing that there were other people looking out for me.

  • WMDKitty

    What do you do with someone who refuses to take medication?

    In addition to my own problems (which are many), I had to deal with a violent bi-polar asshole (whom I very nearly married. He was convinced that he was somehow “allergic” to his meds. (He was also equally convinced that he was a lycanthrope and that Jack Chick is infallible, just to give you a good idea of his head-space.)

    At best, I could keep him on meds for a few days.

    At worst? I was his punching bag. Literally.

    I know his head-space was waaaay messed up, but… I don’t understand why anyone would be so adamantly opposed to get– oh. OH. Wait. I think I just figured out what you meant by “attached to [his] condition.” He’d use it as an out for, well, EVERYTHING, including the abuse. (Prime example: “But I have a split personality! It was LOGAN [his alleged "split"] that hit you!” Pretty damn convenient “split”, there…)