Friends Who Cross the Line: Suicidal vs. Drama Junkie

I had a coworker one time who initially seemed to be a ‘normal’ everyday person and LVN (licensed vocational nurse).  I got to know her family, and we worked well together.  She was supportive of me when I had been going through some of the eating disorder stuff.  For several years, the friendship was close and the boundaries weren’t dysfunctional.  We were friends- not mutual ‘therapists’.

Then she started going through some things that I was in no way equipped to deal with. It’s one thing to be supportive, but it’s quite another to be asked to participate in the chaos.  I’d visited her in the hospital when she decided she was going to have an eating disorder and was being tube fed (she had never had a history of eating disorders until her late 30s- possible, but not the usual age for first onset).  I encouraged her during ‘recovery’.  There was an awful lot of work she put into having an eating disorder that was unlike anybody else I’d ever seen in my years of eating disorder treatment; I probably saw a few dozen ED patients during those times…’P’ made it her life’s work.  Not something that was controlling her thoughts. It’s hard to explain- but it was different.  She recovered when she got tired of Slim Fast.  She sort of stablized out, and resumed her life as a nurse, mom, and wife.

Then one day, she called me and asked if she could come over to my apartment.  I told her it was fine, though I was rather preoccupied taking care of a nine day old baby- he’d been adopted by a coworker at my then current place of employment, and I was the designated babysitter while she was working. I wanted to be fully attentive to him, as well as knowing that his mom would be calling to see how he was doing. Because he was adopted she didn’t have the maternity leave of several weeks.  Anyway, ‘P’ came over. She walked in and asked me if I’d tell her kids that she loved them; she was going to kill herself.  I was instantly livid.

I’d dealt with suicidal coworkers and patients before.  Professionally, I knew the resources that were available, and who I needed to contact.  On a friendship level, I was outraged that she even thought that what she was asking was OK.  I had a newborn in my arms, and a crazy person in my living room.  There was no question whose best interest I was looking after. I told ‘P’ “sure, I’ll tell them”, and I escorted her to her car, got her license plate number, and called the police.  I then called her psychiatrist who told me I was the third or fourth person to let him know she was running around telling people she was suicidal.  That made me even more angry- but I’d notified the proper people. She was their problem.

I’m not insensitive to suicidality- not at all.  I’ve been there.  I’ve overdosed to the point of being comatose for three days, waking up in ICU and not knowing what was going on. I still don’t remember wanting to die.  I remember being overwhelmed, but not wanting death to be the outcome.  I know the internal struggle to find some way out of intense emotional pain. But this was different.  I don’t think that the vast majority of suicidal people are ‘crazy’…not by a long shot. This was behavior that is SO indicative of borderline personality disorder, which is an extremely difficult disorder to deal with.  The hot-cold, sick-well, black-white thinking and actions are exhausting.  The person is in legitimate psychological pain- and they spread it around whether they mean to or not.

There is no healthy relationship with someone who is a borderline…other than to back away and leave that part of their life to the professionals.  Folks with BPD create crises in their lives, and involve whoever they deem to be on their ‘good list’ (that week).  If there is some sort of perception of that person not seeing things their way, then they’re on the ‘bad list’.  And it flip-flops all the time.  Working with borderlines was tiring enough when I was getting paid for it; having one outside of work involved in my life wasn’t going to happen when it got to the point of her ‘playing’ with suicidal comments.

I got a message on my answering machine later that night saying that she was sorry to have upset me, and that the police were there when she got home from my apartment.  I never had voluntary contact with her again. She did surface at a nursing home I worked at, but quit after a couple of weeks: no call-no show. I was asked by my employer what I thought about ‘P’… she was a good nurse, but her personal life was a train wreck (she had a LOT of unresolved childhood trauma issues- which I did hope she got help for, but she didn’t need to be responsible for nursing home residents)…. I just said that I’d always thought her penmanship was really good.  I wasn’t going to tell them about the psychological issues   since she wasn’t still working there.  Had she continued to be in charge of elderly patients, I’m not sure I would have had a choice but to report her instability due to the rules of the Texas Board of Nurses. And yet, she had never let her patients suffer… she was a good nurse. It was iffy territory.   It wasn’t fair for her to put me in that position.  I’m a loyal friend until someone plays with crisis situations as if they were games.

I’ve thought about ‘P’ over the years, and hope she found some peace and was able to work through the things in her early life that were genuinely horrible.  She was in a lot of pain, and had some tragic things happen with one of her three kids.  I’ve wished the best for her and her family. The last I heard, she and her husband that I knew divorced (a borderline wife would have been really hard), and she’d remarried.  That was at least 20 years ago.  I hope she found some sort of calm in her life, and a realization that she didn’t need to create chaos for people to care about her. She had some wonderful qualities.  But she was in so much pain…it was more than a friend could handle with any sort of healthy boundaries.

A Summary Of High School

I’ve been thinking about this on and off, and I’m sure there’s more rattling around in my thick skull than I can fit in one ‘basic’ length blog, so I’ll start with the basics !  I went to a school that was, at the time, a school where over %70 of the kids went on to college. (Now it’s a pit, from what I’ve heard). There were many opportunities for advanced placement classes, and because of the number of kids in school, a very long 10-period day to ensure all kids had the chance to get the minimum 5 classes in each day- at least during my first two years- then I think it dropped to 8 periods in a day and I was expected to keep busy in all of them to get ahead. My dad was the principal of that high school. That wasn’t so bad on some levels (ride to school each day, didn’t have to carry my books home on foot, there if I needed lunch money), but on the other hand, I never knew who actually wanted to be my friend, or just wanted to get some message to my dad. I’ve got yearbook signings that tell me to “tell your dad….”.  That was never received well. My suggestion to those folks was to go talk to him themselves.

My freshmen year, a couple of things stand out.  I started that year when I was 13 years old. I was always younger, as my birthday is in November. I was used to that. The second thing that happened that year was the murder of my figure skating coaches’ six children by her husband on January 7, 1978 (Google: Simon Peter Nelson).  I had no way of knowing how to cope, and the overall message of that whole thing was if parents get mad at each other, kids can die.  I’ve never stopped wondering how my coach managed to carry on with life. I saw her a few times after that when she returned to the rink; then she sort of disappeared months later. Word had it that she’d changed her name and moved away.  I could understand her needing to leave, but I was a young teenager, and really felt connected to this coach. She’d call me when I was babysitting one of my ‘regular’ kids to see if I was ok. On the ice, she’d joke around and show me adult attention that my mom wasn’t capable of doing. She was a role model. I missed her deeply. I had absolutely no life skills to help me cope with all of that, and didn’t know where to go for help.

Another part of my freshmen year involved the residual effects of a couple of bad concussions I’d gotten in eighth grade. I’d fallen off of the uneven parallel bars early in the year, and in the spring, during rehearsal for a skating show, I landed hard on the ice…that one was bad. I’d landed directly on my head- no ‘butt’ hitting first, from what I was told. My folks were in Brazil, and I refused to give the people at the rink my grandparents’ phone number (grandma would have been hysterical worrying).  Anyway, I’d begun having some nasty headaches, and what have since been diagnosed as complex partial seizures. But at the time, the testing available didn’t show anything wrong, so I was told to quit complaining. So I just shut up, but still hurt, and I was still having times when I felt spacey.  I felt completely misunderstood. And alone.

My sophomore year was relatively mellow.  I did meet the first guy I dated for any length of time, and had a lot of fun when I was out with him. We spent time on the phone in the evenings, and most of our dates involved doing outdoor sports. He also taught me to drive his Audi Fox in his church parking lot.  We’re still in contact, thanks to reconnecting on FaceBook. My grades that year weren’t too bad.  I had started dabbling with over the counter cold medications to numb the pain from the murders, and my chronic headaches.  If I looked spacey, chances are I was taking very legal, unsuspected drugs. I had also been told  I no longer liked skating…really?  I LOVED skating- but that was the way I was told that lessons were over.  I later found out that my coach and another person at the rink had approached my mom about intensifying training to get into the national competition circuit.  I would have moved into the rink if someone would have allowed it.  Another loss.

Junior year was a train wreck.  I was taking over the counter medications fairly regularly. Babysitting money bought them, and since they were legal, nobody thought to ask about them. Plus, I was known as a ‘good’ kid.  I was still not doing well in dealing with the murders, and then my grandmother died in October. She’d been sick for about nine months, and happened to die when my folks were in Florida looking for a winter condo. My other grandparents were staying with me when I got the call at school  to call my uncle at my grandfather’s house before I left school. That was kind of weird, but I complied, and was given the news over the phone in my dad’s office. The assistant principal (and a friend of dad’s) saw me, and drove me home.  I got on my bike and took off for a while. I just wanted to be away from pretty much everyone. This was the grandma that I’d stayed with for 1-2 weekend nights each month since I was a baby, and most Christmas and Easter vacations when my folks travelled during elementary and junior high school years.  My grades weren’t good after that, and since dad got my report cards before I did, there was no minimizing the damage. I was miserable.

That year, I’d started with 8 full periods of classes because of drivers’ ed (no lunch break- my mom always thought that missing meals wouldn’t kill me).  One of the English teachers who had hall patrol on the hall where my locker was knew I didn’t look good, and did a depression screening. I flunked. She went to my guidance counsellor, who went to dad.   I was allowed to drop physics, since I had to get my drivers’ license, and had my science requirements done.  I got in trouble for complaining to the teacher… I hadn’t approached her. She had approached me.  I knew to keep my mouth shut about how I felt about anything. That had been made very clear.  I didn’t have anything dreadful to say, but  I was told that because of dad’s job, things could be taken out of context, and that could be bad. So, I shut up as best I could. The depression didn’t really go away, but at least having a lunch break helped with the exhaustion, which did help overall.  Since I had to drop physics in order to be able to function that year, the plan to graduate a year early was screwed up. I’d taken US History (gag) during summer school to get it out of the way- now it was just a wasted summer.

Senior ‘year’ was just more time to be served before getting released early for good behavior.  I finally got out of there at the end of that first semester.  A week later, I was sitting in classes at the community college.  They were basically time-killing classes- philosophy and more of the hated US History. I was headed to the University of Illinois in the fall; the credits would transfer.   I also worked part time at a dollhouse and gift store- that was fun.  I’d given up the over the counter medications. They hadn’t done anything for me, and I was too chicken to try the ‘real’ stuff. I was doing better, but not enjoying much.

During the time in high school, I’d been involved in various clubs- creative writing, American Field Services (foreign exchange student sponsors), track for a brief time until I was asked to run during a meet- I was afraid I’d fail, so quit, and I think that’s it.  I was involved in any foreign language trips that were offered (usually to the Milwaukee -Wisconsin- annual ethnic festival…those were fun)…otherwise, my time was spent babysitting, and going to church activities and choir practices.  I did have a few friends from school with whom I did some things outside of school, but most of my ‘social’ friends were from church.

I did NOT want to go to the graduation ceremony, but wasn’t given a choice. I hadn’t been in class for 4 1/2 months, and life had moved on, but I had to go. My dad handed me my diploma, which was sweet, and there were a lot of cheers and clapping during that moment (now, I appreciate that much more than I did then). At the time, I was just glad it was over.  I think that the murders and my grandma’s death probably had a whole lot to do with why I was so NOT amused by high school.  Nobody really gave me a bad time about being the principal’s kid (aside from the message requests, and those were from people who wrote them in my  yearbook, not talking to me face-to-face). The teachers were OK- nobody treated me any differently, which would have been a nightmare.  I’m still in contact with my Algebra and Geometry teacher.  We’ve stayed in contact over the years.

I hear about how high school is supposed to be the best years of someone’s life.  I hated it.  I’m liking each ‘new’ decade much more than the last one. I’m so glad there isn’t some high school equivalent later in life. I’d drop out.  I’m not a social person. I hate the fake interactions.  I much preferred working my butt off as an RN for the 20 years I was able to work.  Doing something for someone who is going through a rotten time is much more fulfilling than anything in high school was. At least in my experience. I’m glad there are folks out there who enjoyed their high school years.  God blessed you 🙂