BFMA is diagnosed bi-polar. This is actually something that I don’t share often because I hate the looks or comments I’m liable to get for being her friend. For example, once I let her diagnosis slip after mentioning she watches my son for me at a dirt cheap price. “Are you sure that’s safe?” No, I thought it up for convenience’s sake because I’m a shit mom who doesn’t care for the welfare of my child*. In reality, my response was an exceptionally dark look that discouraged any further discussion on the topic after an extremely snide, “No. He’s fine with her.” That’s only happened to me once; I can only imagine how many times that’s happened to BFMA. Of course, the reason it’s only happened to me once is because I’ve only let it slip the once.
(* In reality, I never once worried about BFMA watching my child. TS is her nephew. She would never bring harm to him or allow him to be harmed.)
I’ve been friends with BFMA since 2006. In the grand scheme of things, that’s probably not a long time. However, timing really has no bounds when it comes to experiences we’ve shared. Honestly, the only reason we became friends was because MEH was best friends and “band mates” with MEH’s BF. We were thrown together, in all reality. I think I talked to her a total of once when we had to evacuate for Hurricane Rita and that was a brief conversation. (She gave me advice on how to keep my books safe from disaster should the hurricane hit the island.) Prior to that, all I had heard was MEH’s BF bitching about living with his girlfriend and how she “cramped his style.” For all I know, she heard similarly about me in regards to my past relationship with MEH’s BF, and probably a bunch of horrible shit about how I had “stolen” his best friend. Anyway. She’s said it (and so have I), neither one of us was really sure if we wanted to be friends with the other. We had heard the dirt about each other via MEH’s BF time and time again. But, for good or worse, we became friends. And it’s been a long road.
The two of us lived together (with MEH) after MEH’s BF callously tossed her out of her own home. She had the option of either moving back in with her mother (disaster) or living on the street. I was friendly enough with her then that I mentioned how the only way MEH and I could get out of our slummy situation was if we had a roommate. And an extreme friendship was born from there. She and I went apartment hunting while MEH worked until we found the place in Easthampton. We were excited and thrilled. She was worried about living with us since she had lived with the EM and her husband before. She said living with a married couple was pretty hard. She also mentioned that she wasn’t the easiest person to live with. I told her not to worry about it.
All of this, mind you, was before we knew that she was bi-polar.
I won’t sugar coat it: living with her was difficult. However, the problem was that she had these extreme ups and downs that we didn’t understand. We thought it was depression coupled with ADHD since she had been diagnosed with both before. She had been put on medication for both before. It seemed to work out. However, her manic periods were filled with endless, sleepless nights on the computer and frenetic conversations about a thousand things.
She was always worried, I remember, that I wouldn’t be able to follow her conversational segue ways. If you’ve ever lived with someone with ADHD, then you know what I mean: it can be hard to figure out how a conversation moves from robotic arms to curtain patterns. Sometimes, she’d stop in the middle of a conversation and, fearfully, ask me if I knew how we had gotten on the subject. By that point, after having lived with my kid brother and with MEH’s little brother, I knew how to get from subject to subject. I think in the entire time I’ve known her I’ve only been able to honestly say that I wasn’t sure how we got on topic once.
I don’t know if anyone understands how much that means to someone who is either ADHD or bi-polar: the fact that someone who doesn’t have those diagnoses can follow along. It’s actually a lot more than anyone could possibly understand if you’re not friendly with someone who is diagnosed thusly or you happen to be diagnosed with these disorders. Think of it this way: it’s like learning that you fit into a size six jeans after wearing a ten for years. Any girl who has made that accomplishment should instantly understand the rush and joy of knowing that someone can understand your thought processes.
The other issue was, of course, her depressive phases. She was actually really good at keeping these either hidden or at bay, I’m not sure which. A few depressive phases ended with her being in bed for a day or two. Another ended with her being rushed to the hospital on a psychiatric hold after trying to kill herself (and subsequently, trying to run away from the ambulance and hospital). A lot of nights, especially those that had to do with depressive phases, ended with the two of us drinking well into the night. (We drank a lot when we lived together, actually.)
But, to be honest, these things were minor concerns. We never really had any major conflicts between the two of us. I think we fought a grand total of once and never about the bathroom. (This was mostly due to the fact that we had two.) In fact, it was really more like the two of us against MEH a lot of the time. Or, if MEH and I were really going at it, she did her best to the diffuse the heat behind MEH’s words and eyes*. She was so worried that moving in with us was a bad idea because she had watched the denigration of EM’s relationship with her husband after she had moved in with them. And yes, MEH and I fought about BFMA but it was silly things, small things, and never anything that I was worried about. She was a good roommate.
I will say this, though. Even though she had a lot of ups and downs. Even though she had a lot of problems. When we were living together, she was a lot more together, I feel, than she was later on. And that includes after having been diagnosed and been put on medications. She was more together and more with it; she was more aware of things going on around her. She had her paranoid delusions and her occasional flare-ups of severe agoraphobia, but she was aware of these things. She still is, even on medication, but I think the reason she was more even-keel back then was because she had magic to fall back on and she believed in it. This isn’t something I’m willing to discuss in more detail at the present, but I think with her meditations and her rituals and her ability to believe in something, she made her life that much easier to get through. Anyway.
After my marriage fell apart, I moved to Texas and BFMA moved to Florida.
I remember the day she found out that she was bi-polar. She called me afterward and told me the news. And I think my response was, “Huh. Well, you know, that makes sense.” And then I went on to tell her that just because she had a diagnosis that didn’t mean she could go out and buy a bagpipe during a manic phase. (This is a direct reference to a scene from Where The Heart Is, which we both love.) She said, “Things are going to be harder now.” And she was right. Of course, she was right.
When something is wrong with you and no one professional is willing to listen, you get to the point where you either give up or you would do anything for a diagnosis. Most people saw BFMA’s medical jacket and just shook their heads at the repeated suicide attempts, the times in respite and on psychiatric holds, the diagnosis of ADHD and mommy issues coupled with depression. Yes, it’s a sad testament to the fact that the girl has had a shitty life. However, the doctors just saw all of this and thought, “Another statistic,” or maybe they just didn’t care anymore because they had seen it all before. It was only when she reached Florida that someone actually listened to what her problems were. She was given a test and you know what? She was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, coupled with ADHD.
And that’s when things changed.
I’m not going to sit here and say that things drastically changed for me because they didn’t. I wasn’t the one with the diagnosis, but our friendship changed. I don’t know how or why, and I’d like to think it wasn’t on this end that things changed. I was still me and I still understood her thought processes. I was still me and I still could deal with the fact that she wasn’t always wise with her money. I was still me and I still understood that she could get suicidally depressed in a matter of minutes. But, it was like because I didn’t have the diagnosis or because we now had a definitive answer, she changed something inside of herself and things became harder between us.
I don’t know if anyone who reads this (if anyone reads this) understands what it’s like to live with a diagnosis like this. I started this blog entry with an instance of mine that was related to her. When people find out about her diagnosis, they pull away or they ignore it. It’s either something that’s big and important and life-shattering or it’s something that can’t be changed. (To me, it can’t be changed.) A lot of people put up with her ups and downs for a while before they move on. She’s gone through a lot of boyfriends because of this and a lot of friends, too. They couldn’t stand to deal with the changes in her mood. It was like the moment she got a diagnosis, she had a scarlet letter sewn into her clothes, but it’s only one, I feel, that she can see.
Sometimes, I think she sabotages those relationships because she doesn’t think anyone should have to put up with it.
Sometimes, I think that those people are just weak assholes who should be roasted over a slow fire for being unable to love her unconditionally.
Recently, BFMA got a boyfriend again. Prior to meeting this guy, she asked her patron to give her someone who would understand her ups and her downs, who could just deal with it right alongside her. And you know what? Her boyfriend is also bi-polar. But, in this instance I’m not happy for her. I’m worried, in fact. I think this is a case of “you get what you wish for” and I’m more than a thousand times scared that it’s going to end badly. When I mentioned my fears, recently, to TH, he said, “They’re like two halves of a person and not a complete set. They’re just going to feed off of each other. It’s going to get bad; it’s going to get ugly.” And you know what? I think he’s right.
It’s at this juncture that I find myself in our relationship. I haven’t heard from her since the blow up between OF and I. I miss her. She is, after all, my only friend. But, I’m not going to call her. I’m not going to go and smile and say, “Everything’s okay. I’m better now. I’m sorry.” The thing is… I’m not sorry. I’m worried and scared and fearful that she’s going to wind up on a level of hurt that I, as a friend, can’t deal with.
But more than all of that, I’m hurt. I’m hurt because I could understand her ups and downs and I could understand her thought processes and I could hold her hand through all of the bullshit, medications and not medicated, and it wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t enough.