Thursday, January 29, 2009

Old Friends, Part 2

Sometimes I think my life would be perfect if it weren't for other people.

I should clarify that, shouldn't I?

I don't mean my friends. I depend on my friends for my sanity. If it weren't for Amy and Danielle supporting me these last ten years, I would have sold my children to the gypsies ages ago.

Still, there are those people who make life difficult, the ones we do our best to avoid, the ones who prove to us we're not half as charitable as we thought we were.

Andrew is one of these people.

I met Andrew my senior year in high school. He was a sophomore, a friend of my younger brother's. He thought I was cool. He developed a crush on me. We got to be friends, and over the years stayed friends, but it was always an uneven friendship. I didn't do much to encourage it, Andrew would not be discouraged.

In his late teens, Andrew was diagnosed as being severely bipolar. Over the years, he's made several suicide attempts, has gone through tons of electroshock therapy, and has stayed highly medicated. When he's manic, he takes to the phone. My brother, who shares my wariness when it comes to Andrew's attentions, now screens all his calls. If you pick up when Andrew calls, he will keep calling back every night until you tell him to stop.

I get a call from Andrew every couple of months. Sometimes he's in good shape, sometimes he's not. I keep the calls short, but try to be friendly and sympathetic. He's had a hard life and he needs friends. Nonetheless, after I get a call from him, I tend to screen calls for the next few days, just in case he goes on a bender.

The latest thing: Facebook. A few weeks ago, I signed up on Facebook, on a whim. Andrew found me there. Andrew, it turns out, is one of those people who lives on Facebook. And he is so happy to have me there, so he can send me his poems and deep, philosophical thoughts and maniacal musings. Constantly. Recently, he befriended my mother, who really does not need his mania (some of which can be quite profane) in her life.

I'm thinking about getting off Facebook.

What do you do about the Andrews in your life? I don't know, I honestly don't. I live in fear he's going to show up on my doorstep one day. He wouldn't harm a fly, so it's not that kind of fear. It's more the fear of that much craziness too near to my children, the fear of not being able to get rid of him.

So Andrew is difficult. And I have other difficult people, too, people who my life would be easier without. But they won't go away, and I don't know how to deal with them. Do you? If so, let me know. I'm at a loss.


Heather said...

I wish I could answer your question. I have been a magnet for the hard luck cases, I guess I am kind and that is easily mistaken for sympathy. Meeting new people gives me the same moment of pause as facing a revolving door. Odds are it won't drag you in circles to your death, but stranger things have happened.

Anonymous said...

I worry I'm going to see my name crop up, old friend. :)

We have had a similar problem with several people. I sometimes feel I had to "friend" everyone, to be nice, but it's kind of silly to friend people you really didn't have that much in common with in the first place. Also, Fb has caused a mismash of business and pleasure that's discomfiting.I've started thinking to begin to separate out my pals from my business contacts etc in to separate facebook pages. It's a useful tool, and can be fun, but if you take down your facebook page for a while, you can put it up again and it's exactly the same, as if by magic. We have also considered being pseudonymous and anagramming our names so we can't be found...Good luck.

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Heather, I've become wary of new people over the years, too. My initial impressions are sometimes wrong and I have dived in when it would have been much more prudent to stay on shore.

ATD, your name would never crop up on my list of people to avoid. Quite the opposite--you're needed on the life raft.

I'm learning some fb lessons the hard way--really, I had no idea what I was getting into.

Tracy said...

My MIL told me once that some people will 'take' as much as you allow them to and that boundaries are a perfectly acceptable thing. The best thing we ever did in one case was move. Our phone listing might as well be silent...I certainly can't find it LOL, and so I've lost contact with the person I didn't want any with.

And then there are just other difficult people. I use avoidance as much as possible and then try and keep interaction as superficial as possible. I could never be accused of encouraging those people LOL.

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Tracy, your MIL is so right! Words to live by.

Angela said...

This is SO hard - as a Pastor's Wife, I am aware of the folk who can latch on to you and try to suck out all your energy. Our family code for them is VDP [very draining people] I've avoided Facebook for that reason, and just stick to blogging.
Maybe it feels unkind - but sometimes you MUST be firm and set boundaries. Enlist the help of reliable friends and family to get in between and protect you.
It occurs to me that the Good Samaritan LEFT the wounded traveller at the inn, along with theresources to pay for his bed and breakfast - he did NOT stop the night and nurse him!!
You HAVE been a help to this guy - but there are limits [and other people to whom you have responsibility]

Nanny said...

I wish I had words of wisdom for you! You would think I've lived long enough to have ALL the answers in life. I have family like this and I still hide..... I'll be sure to check back for THE answer, though! Love your blog!

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Thanks, Angela--I've been thinking a lot about what you wrote, especially the Good Samaritan story. It made me ponder the fact that I (and my brother) have been supportive of this man for almost thirty years now. Maybe we've done our time? Maybe we could stop now?

Nanny, I promise to let you know if I find the answer! Thanks for stopping by.

Susan said...

Nothing good can come from Facebook. Benign things, maybe, but nothing good. It's way too intrusive in your life and you have so very little control over it. It puts you in a position of vulnerablity. It brings all kinds of people into your life and puts things out there on cyberspace about you of which you rather maintain control.

My take on Andrew may be a little different. While I completely understand your concern, I worry about what it means as a society if we all push away the "crazies" in our lives. Mental illness is a part of who we are a society. It's scary b/c so much can be unkown. Where exactly is it that we want these people to go? What are we teaching our children if we push everyone who's a little different from us out of our life? Is it possilble that our kids could learn something about compassion and differences if we allow people like Andrew to be a part of our lives in very limited ways? Or are we better off to teach them about boundaries by cutting people like Andrew out? You don't seem to fear that he will harm you or your family, so what exactly is that that you fear? Maybe when you can name that and think about what kind of society and community you want your kids to live in, you'll know what to do. In having some clear firm boundaries with someone who's different, you may find that you have a great opportunity to teach your kids about who you are and who you want them to be.

Feel free to argue with me...I don't have all the answers. I just pretend to sometimes and it's a lot easier when my phone is not ringing with Andrew on the other end.

Left-Handed Housewife said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Left-Handed Housewife said...

Susan, thanks for your thought-provoking comment (by the way, is this Danielle's Susan?). I agree with much of what you say, and the good news seems to be, there are so many mentally ill folks out there, if you drop one from your social calendar, plenty seem ready to pop up and take their place.

I would be happy to give Andrew your number, however, if you are worried about his being pushed to the outskirts of society by the likes of me.

Angela said...

Glad the earlier comment was of help. I shall be praying for you as you seek the wisdom to work out a course of action.
As I am always saying to people
"Refer continually to James 1:5"
blessings - ang xx

Dulce Domum said...

I'm so sorry this is happening to you Frances. I too have been in this kind of position with an old school-friend, and it was really troubling.

I echo Angela's comments. You've helped and supported him and been a friend to him for a good many years, but it is wrong of him to overwhelm you so. And, obviously, because of his illness he isn't entirely sure how his actions effect other people. I shan't give any advice, but I can give you my sympathies and I can empathise.

God Bless.

The Vintage Rose said...

I think you are handling the situation well. Giving a little support, from time to time, but then not picking up so that you have control over how intrusive it could become. instead of feeling guilty about screening the calls, pray "Lord I hand Andrew over to you, please be with him at this time...(and whatever else seems right at the time)" Your Heavenly Father knows how to care for him.

Anonymous said...

Oh man...been there too, in fact we had someone exactly like Andrew come stay with us for a few days. I really wanted to help this person and I almost drove myself into therapy doing it, but quite often they will just latch on to the next person, rather than try to get themselves straightened out or be helped in any way. Don't compromise your own wellbeing, give it to God. xx