Imagine this: Two people following vastly different paths. One gets more and more into the MH system, more treatment, the other, who was previously entrenched in it, leaves.
We were friends, good friends, at the point where those paths met, very long ago, but now, she’s in the System, and whether she knows it or not, stuck in it, and I am doing fine completely out of it. Our worlds are vastly different.
Sounds like a great topic for a novel, doesn’t it? I think I’ll write it. A YA novel.
I’ve made so much effort but nothing works. We used to be much closer. Now, I have to twist her arm for a conversation. I don’t like doing that, because I feel like an imposition in her not-very-busy life. She won’t open up anymore, and we never share like we used to. I’m well aware of the distancing and ridiculous boundaries.
She’ll only discuss neutral topics. Some people cannot discuss certain things, and that’s fine, but now it’s down to “How’s the weather?” and not much else. I feel insulted because she acts like I don’t notice.
She does call sometimes, or states that she’d like me to call. I notice that she only talks to me when she’s lonely. I know she’s bored with her life. She has other people to chat with and I know I’m on the bottom of her call list. Does she realized I’m aware of this? She dumps me when the going gets rough, and comes back when I’m okay. When I noticed the pattern, I made a point of only calling her when I felt terrific and everything was fine. However, I’d call or write and let her know I was concerned every time bad luck came her way, if she let on.
I feel I’m banging against a door that’ll never open again. I told myself this two years ago. I even told my minister, who suggested maybe I shouldn’t be friends with this person whom I call “my on-again, off-again friend.” But I told him if I laugh at her rather predictable pattern, I’ll put up with it. He didn’t think it was a good idea to stay in a friendship that wasn’t working anymore.
Then there’s the credibility bit. She’s always seen me as delusional and paranoid. Every time I say something I hear that skepticism. “I see….” like a shrink who is listening to a patient talking about hearing aliens.
However, when you’ve been through the mass exodus of friends like I did, you put up with unsatisfactory relationships. I spoke with one guy who told me his solution was to “hang out with oddballs.” I feel that this is all part of the lowering of standards that happens due to psych labeling. After years of being told we have a brain disease, we think we don’t deserve quality relationships anymore. So we settle for anyone. Often, we put up with abuse longer than an undiagnosed person would, because we think, “This is all I deserve.”
Sadly, people like me might appear to be abuse magnets, but that’s not true. I was convinced by therapy that I deserved superficial, limited relationships, and had no chance at ever meeting anyone I could really talk to and enjoy hanging out with. This is yet another way that diagnosis does serious harm.
My friend is in therapy herself. I remember when she started, I was all for it. Now, I see the changes and I’m saddened. Some therapists will encourage their clients to label their friends. They will say, “Your friend is off meds so do you really think she’s credible?” Therapists, and especially psychiatrists, will compare psych meds to insulin.
Hint: In medical school they learn that the analogy is completely false. However, they learn in psychiatry rotation that this lie will convince most patients to take their pills and stop questioning.
Sadly, Big Pharma has us all convinced that anything but their drugs isn’t strong enough to control severe depression, severe psychosis, ADHD, or many other things like that. I have been depressed, too, horribly depressed, and was also convinced that the only solution was drugs. I thought, rather incorrectly, that if it was a drug, it would work better than a “natural” cure. The mentality of drugs being the cure-all had me convinced that I needed a complete arsenal daily, that my shrinks prescribed.
What if you learned there were methods that worked better? Wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity? Sadly, we tend to get so defensive about the drugs, that we insist that this is the only way. Of course, I was a true believer myself for decades till I realized the lie. Now, I look back, remembering how pissed off I’d get any time anyone suggested an alternative, or even, “Maybe you can get along with fewer pills.” Of course, I was just like anyone else, convinced that my life would be miserable without drugs.
It saddens me that my friend used to tell me, years ago, “You are so much more than a diagnosis.” That was before. Now, she only sees me through the lens of this invented diagnosis she’s concocted for me. Sadly, she probably discussed it with her therapist, too, who undoubtedly reinforced the idea that I am sick and there’s nothing she can do. So my friend decodes everything I say to fit the diagnosis she made for me.
No matter what I say, it goes through a set of filters now. Automatically, she assumes everything I say is delusional. But if by rare chance she believes me, I feel validated. I tell myself maybe the friendship can be saved. This doesn’t last long because she reverts to her usual disbelief once more. I hate feeling like this, like I am gasping for air in this relationship.
I’m in a much better situation now. I have quality friendships, people who want to spend time with me. I need to let the old stuff that’s so damaging out of my life. I think I’ll be happier. When something’s staring you in the face, you can’t keep pretending you don’t notice. I try to act polite on the phone but it’s sometimes so obvious I just want to hang up.
Personally, I think anytime a person diagnoses another with a psych diagnosis, it’s a way of gaining power over that person, belittling her, and excusing your own actions.
“I act distant because she’s crazy. Why believe her? What she says is ridiculous. She needs treatment. I’ve tried, but there’s nothing I can do.”
Whenever I heard that disbelief of everything I said, my reaction was to feel an intense need to “prove myself.” No one should ever have to prove themselves like that in ordinary conversation. I kept backing up everything I said, just to make sure I didn’t get that obvious “I see,” that roll of the eyes on the other end of the phone. Why do I bother? I have been asking this for a long time.
I can hear that “Julie is crazy but I will hold my tongue” from her when we speak. I hate to inform her, but her silence has been giving her away all this time. I have to face up to this because I’m tired of yet another fake friendship.
I hesitate to publish this but I know she’s disgusted with my blogging and never reads what I write. That figures, huh? If by chance she reads this, I’m not ashamed of my opinion on the topic, and have no need to hide how I feel. I say all this because I feel others might benefit.