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.

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Being Adopted

I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time, but haven’t really known where to start.  I still don’t, but I just got done watching the movie “October Baby”. The storyline isn’t anywhere close to the circumstances of me being put up for adoption, and yet there are things that I think go through the heads of most adoptees. At least while we’re young.

For clarification purposes, let me throw this out there: I differentiate between my families in the following way- my ‘real’ mom and dad (parents) are my adoptive parents- the parents I grew up with and knew from the beginning. This also applies to the rest of my family- my adoptive family is my real family. But, my biological family is just as important in different ways. My birthmother (who I address by her first name) is very dear to me. We had written contact in the mid 80s, and then first talked on the telephone on October 30, 2010.  We’ve talked regularly since then, and she has visited several times; we’ve both been amazed at our common likes/dislikes and interests. I’ve had various forms of contact with many biological relatives. One of my bio-mom’s cousins (I think that makes her my first cousin once removed) has been a very close friend (as well as my cousin) since we met during my first Christmas after moving to Texas in 1985.  

I ‘always’ knew that I was adopted. My parents never hid that fact, and it was essentially a non-issue. My mom used to read a book to me called “The Chosen Baby” that explained adoption to young children in a very positive way. My family never made an issue about me being adopted; I was just one of the kids. (On my dad’s side, I was the only grandchild; on my mom’s side, I am one of twelve grandkids- I’m # 7).  Several of my parents’ friends had also adopted kids, so adoption was just a ‘normal’ part of my life, and the lives of many people I grew up around.

First Birthday !

When I got older (teens) my mom and dad told me that if I ever wanted to find my biological mom, they’d be supportive. When I was 19, in the midst of some intense emotional stuff, it was recommended that I make contact. Through the adoption agency that handled my adoption, contact was made after just two phone calls by the guy at the agency. My birthmom and I wrote for quite a while, and then life was happening, and we didn’t have contact for many years. I understood that she had other things and people to consider, and while she NEVER cut me off completely, she needed some time  to sort through stuff that was stirred up.  While I missed having contact, I absolutely understood that things were much more complicated on her end of things. I  respected the need for time and space. In some strange way, I  ‘got it’.  And, I was also going through some things and needed some time to sort through those things, and to grow up a bit.  I now think that the time without contact allowed for us both to be ‘ready’ when we first talked and then met. 

When I was a young kid and into my teens, I did wonder about my birthmother.  All I knew is that she had gotten pregnant while she was in high school. Pretty standard story (at least from my end of things). I knew that she’d gone on to college, and that was about it.  I always wondered about siblings. I grew up an only child, and dreamed about having brothers and sisters.  I wondered if my bio-mom was OK.  I wondered about that a lot. I wondered if she was happy. I wondered about my biological father as well, but I think the maternal bond is stronger, regardless of any actual personal knowledge of the birthmother.  I  sometimes wondered  why I’d been given up, even though I knew she was still in high school.  I wondered if she’d wanted me, or just thought of me as a major inconvenience that just happened to come along before abortion was legal. I wondered if she cared about my biological father.  Since meeting her, I’ve had these questions answered, and I’m relieved with what she’s told me.

As far as anything ‘deeper’, there were times when I felt like I wasn’t meant to be, though my parents wanted a baby very badly. They’d lost two newborns within two weeks of their births during the 4-5 years before they got me. When I’d see happy scenes on TV, when someone had just had a baby, I imagined the day I was born as something that was a relief when it was over.  When I was going through rough times, I sometimes wondered why I hadn’t been aborted (legal or not, people were still having them).  I did have dark things go through my mind, but in the end, I know I’m around for a reason…I’ve survived way too much to have been a fluke.  🙂

I’ve been asked if I ‘hated’ my birthmother for giving me up for adoption. I’ve talked to pregnant teens who were relinquishing their babies, and also to people who were just curious, and the answer is an absolute “NO”.   I could never hate her.  I could never be ashamed of her. I could never think that she was ‘bad’ for getting pregnant. I could never imagine what it was like for her, going through a pregnancy knowing she was going to have to give the baby away. I could never judge her for the decision to put me up for adoption…sometimes people just don’t have any other choice- for whatever reasons.  Those involved in that decision thought it was the best thing to do- and since I wasn’t in their situation at that time, I have no frame of reference to judge my birthmother. Being an unwed pregnant teen in the early 1960s was judgement enough. Even when I was in junior high and high school in the late 70s and early 80s, I remember people sort of gasping when they heard about someone being pregnant and unmarried. The message was clear- and I can’t even imagine how hard that had to be to live through.

There were times when I wondered where she was.  When I was at the University of Illinois, I did wonder if she was any one of the thirty-somethings I saw walking around town. Or if she was even in that city; I knew I’d been born there.  I wondered if I’d know her if I saw her. Or if she’d know me. Sometimes I wondered if she were alive, or if something had happened to her. I wondered if she’d ever seen my birthfather again. I wondered if she’d like me.  I wondered if I looked like her.  I wondered a lot of stuff.  There was a ‘hole’ from not knowing her, and ultimately about myself, and who I was …where I came from.

I understand why I was given up for adoption. I feel much more badly for my biological parents than I ever did myself.  I grew up in a ‘good’ home, and was given a ‘normal’ life.  They had to give part of themselves away.  I ended up with two families; they lost their child- though they both went on to marry other people and have their own families.  I’ve been able to talk to my birthmom about anything related to my birth and adoption, and that makes me incredibly fortunate.  I don’t have any other frame of reference than being an adoptee.  That’s my ‘normal’.  There are many things I won’t write about, out of respect for privacy for my birthmom.  But I’m lucky. While we don’t have a traditional mother-dauther relationship, I can’t imagine my life without knowing her.  🙂