Mental illness stole my friend.
Not only is it impossible to talk to her, but I can’t talk about her to anyone, including family.
I wish the stigma could be erased.
I’ve had nearly a year to come to terms with the reality of the situation. I’m through with my own denial. I’ve moved to a place of acceptance.
The hard part is knowing what to do next. Which in this case, based on the particular circumstances, is not much at all. At best, there is an occasional brief phone call that leaves one or both of us upset. At worst, there is total avoidance.
Is this the way to deal with someone who is sick and in need of help?
If I started this post by saying “my friend has cancer” or “my friend was in a car accident” I know what sort of response I’d get from others. There would be sympathetic nods, pats on the shoulder, maybe a story of something they’d experienced and a spoonful of advice.
But when you say “my friend is mentally ill and self-medicates to the point of mulitiple addictions” you get blank stares or a clipped response. Then you’re on to talking about the local sports team or the weather. So you don’t say anything at all.
Mental illness is a ripoff. I’ve dealt with it in my extended family. I learned young that it is a realm of euphamisms: nervous breakdown, exhaustion, appendicitis (not kidding on this one).
Mental illness is polarizing and isolating and devastating. It tears families and friendships apart.
I can’t visit my friend in the hospital and bring her flowers. I can’t go to her home and take care of her children or water her garden. I can’t hold her hand while she undergoes a medical procedure.
All I can do is think of her and pray and hope and let it go.
I hope someday we can get past this taboo. Would it make a difference?