‘Back to back
And a wild attack
Face to face
And it’s finger popping
Twenty-four hour shopping in Rapture’ – Blondie
This one’s going to be tough. But it’s time.
I just watched a documentary called “The Released”, about mentally ill offenders struggling to make it on the outside. To see the pain in their eyes – the hopelessness and helplessness, just broke my heart.
Something an Outreach member said really stuck with me. “People are being released with one to two weeks of medication and being told to follow-up at this time and this date with this agency. Which assumes that they have the judgement that they need to continue their medications as prescribed and it also assumes they have the cognitive capacity to be proactive with phone calls, making appointments, discussing how many days of their medications they have left. It assumes a lot”.
I had never thought of it that way. How does someone mentally ill remember that it’s time for their pills? I occasionally forget to take my heart medicine – and always have had a hard time remembering to take antibiotics three times a day!
I’m digressing. Or avoiding.
Bottom line is I was reminded of a topic I want, or need to share about.
Back to rapture.
Sixth grade, and I’m in a new country, a new school – feeling completely lost and out-of-place. I met someone who would become my best friend for many years.
In the locker room she was singing ‘Rapture’ and she knew all the words. THAT was impressive. There began a friendship that would have more of an impact on me than I could have known.
We had our good times – but even the good times had an undercurrent that I didn’t have the understanding or life experience to identify.
I felt it – always felt it, but couldn’t put my finger on what was ‘off’.
My best friend was cruel. My best friend was a ‘bad influence’. My best friend was a chameleon, because she hid her sickness from parents and peers and saved it all for me.
There were constant threats to keep me in line. And constant verbal, physical and mental abuse. She took me on her wild ride and I so desperately wanted her acceptance that I followed. She was all I had. I didn’t see it at the time, but she was also the reason she was all I had. Why didn’t I end the friendship? I was scared of her and scared to lose her.
She would sing ‘somebody wants to hurt somebody’ as we lay in the dark at her house. She could do a spot on imitation of the Excorsist growl. She effectively isolated me from others at school by embarrassing me and telling me she was my only friend. It got to the point I would drop in the hall when she asked me to tie her shoe – and do it.
She introduced me to lying, to sneaking out, to drugs. I remember thinking when I was scared “I just want to go home”. I didn’t want to be where we were. I didn’t want to do what we were doing. But I was just a kid, scared to say no, and I did as I was told.
I was terrified of my best friend.
There was an atmosphere around her that scared the hell out of me. A darkness. A thickness in the air of almost palpable evil.
Wow this is hard.
Our Freshman year of High School, something shifted. And I’m honestly not really sure what the catalyst was, but she delved deeper into debauchery with a new friend and I found a healthier ‘relationship’. She ended up leaving the school – and town – and getting married then pregnant.
I’m leaving a lot out, I know. Truly, I’m really uncomfortable even thinking about the years we spent together. I didn’t anticipate feeling this.
We’d cross paths now and again. Then our paths didn’t cross for a very long time.
When I had my son, I spoke with her. She revealed something that made a lot of things make a lot of sense.
She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
In conversations over the years following that revelation she shared more. Before she was diagnosed and treated, she had tried to kill her daughter. She didn’t believe it was her daughter at the time. Even on medication the voices never left her.
God, what she must have been going through all those years! My torture a direct result of her inner turmoil. I didn’t know! I didn’t know.
I’m a little ashamed to say this was almost a relief. It wasn’t me! She couldn’t help her behavior. I wasn’t a target because of anything I was.
But I couldn’t forgive her.
While her condition obviously wasn’t contagious – our time together had a profound affect on choices I would come to make and my own mental health. Combined with other life events, her actions left me feeling less than, ugly, worthless, afraid, submissive and unimportant. We’re so impressionable during those formative years! We’re becoming the people we’re going to be as we soak up our immediate environment and draw upon what we experience.
It took years to figure out I could decide who I wanted to be and change my life.
We met again many more years later. This girl who had always put me down and told me how much prettier she was than me was now morbidly obese due to the medications she was diligently taking.
She told me I looked like a model. She looked at me with clear eyes and I was undone.
But, I still couldn’t forgive her.
She sent Christmas cards, tried to contact me – sent me letters. I’d call her occasionally, she’d share what was going on with her and her family.
And I still couldn’t forgive her.
This last Christmas I sent her a card – and didn’t hear back. This was strange, because prior to the holidays she’d called my mom and asked her to have me call her.
I hadn’t called.
I thought about her more and more and eventually did try to reach her. Her phone number was disconnected.
I found her sister on Facebook and sent her a message asking if she was alright? No response.
My gut tells me that she is no longer with us. I can’t explain why – just a feeling. Something has happened.
She was sick – and I wish that girl singing ‘Rapture’ in the locker room in 6th grade had found relief sooner. I wish she had known a peaceful heart and a quiet mind.
I wish I knew where she was, because, I want her to know that I forgive her.