When Mental Illness Ends a Friendship
We went to the same church. I did not know her well. Until one Sunday we both announced that we were pregnant. This made us fast friends. We did not have much in common. She was an upper middle class, straight white woman. She has a husband. I am Black, queer and middle class. I am single and was having my daughter through donor insemination. She was having twins.
After our babies were born, we were inseparable. We had mothering in common and it was a bond like none other. We talked about everything that had to do with mothering and our babies. Then I began struggling with my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and dissociative identity disorder (DID). She was there for me. She called the pastor for me one night when I was suicidal. She knew when I was in over my head, and she would offer to come get my daughter (sometimes I took her up on this offer). As time went on, I was not getting any better. She recommended I send my daughter to stay with another fellow church member. I was reluctant, but I took her advice.
I finally ended up in the hospital. I was calling my friend every day. She finally told the hospital therapist to ask me to stop calling so much, she was having nightmares about all that had happened to me and she was stressed out about my situation. A year and a half past with many more ups and downs and she was pulling away for a while and then coming back.
I was in the hospital and called to tell her I was considering creating an adoption plan for my daughter. She reacted so negatively. She told the social worker on the phone with us that it was not her idea, and she did not want to be blamed for this. I was stunned by her tone, and we hung up. I placed my daughter for adoption in September 2010. She was formally adopted December 2010.
I never heard another word from my friend. She stopped responding to my text messages. She would not return a phone call. I could not understand what was happening. What had I done wrong? Why did she not want to be my friend anymore? I could not figure what was going on. I wish I could speak to her about how hurt I was and still am.
This is what I would say to her.
I have not heard from you in 10 years now. You just disappeared from my life. I missed you so much that I would try to run into you out in the community (at grocery stores, church, on the road). I was desperate to reconnect with you somehow.
I did grow angry. How could you do this to me with no explanation? How unconscionable it was that a best friend could not turn her back when I was going through the most horrible experience in my life. I had just lost my daughter, my house, my church, my job, my livelihood and now my best friend without a word of explanation.
You were not being the person I knew you to be.
The only thing I can guess why you left is because you were tired. Tired of all my ups and downs. Tired of me not being well and you not being able to cure me. It must be hard to have a friend that is always suicidal. Always having problems and you not being able to help.
But cutting me off the way you did just does not seem fair. We could have talked about what was going on. We could have set up better boundaries and set some limits on contact and what kind of help you were offering. We could have made this work. You did not have to give in and leave.
It is true I was needy at that point in my life and that I really needed you. It took about four years before I stopped looking for you in familiar stores. Actually, I still do this from time to time. I planned our conversations and how I would approach you. I would think about taking you back no questions asked. No apology needed.
I know I hurt you. I know you blame me. I take the blame. I could have done better, but I did not know how. I have learned my lesson now. I have healthy relationships now. I set good boundaries and I take my issues to therapy instead of bringing them to my friends.
I miss you. And watch you on Facebook and wonder if you will ever take me back. When you had that recent health scare, I wished I could have been there for you, but you clearly had other friends who you called on.
I will always reserve a place for you in my heart. I will always count you as a friend.
I love you. Please take care.
Today I went into our favorite bakery. I looked for her. She was not there. God knows how much I miss her.
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