My dear friend J called me this past weekend to check in. She is my crazy friend. Not crazy as in “ha ha” but crazy as in living with a mental illness. I am not making fun of her. She occasionally calls herself crazy.
We have been friends since we were in our twenties. We worked for the same company and in the same department. We were the same age and single so we became fast friends – lifelong friends, through thick and thin friends.
J was always a little different. I thought of her as eccentric. As the years went by, her eccentricity became pronounced. Sometimes I didn’t understand her logic or her paranoia. As an example, she was traveling to a field office with our department head. He lived about five blocks from her apartment complex. He was driving. She had him pick her up about six blocks from her apartment in the other direction.
If you think about it, it made no sense. She had to walk there at 7 a.m. in the morning and she had him drive out of his way to pick her up. When I asked her why, she said she didn’t want him to know where she lived.
Aside from the fact that he wasn’t that kind of guy, he was her boss and he had access to her personnel file which contained…yes, you guessed it…her address! He was married with kids and not interested in affairs with younger subordinates (or anyone else for that matter). It would have been shorter to walk to his house.
She had a thing about locking doors. I know you are saying that’s a good thing but not always. We were on my back yard patio which was small. She kept locking the door even though we were within 15 feet of it all the time. She almost locked us out. At the time I slept with the windows open! (It was the ’70s! I don’t do that now unless I’m on the second floor.)
I have a lot of stories like this. Ultimately, when she was in her early 30s she became very ill. The kind of ill where you can’t get out of bed for days and weeks at a time. I thought it was depression but she had manic periods too. Her doctors tried every psychotic drug there was even electric shock treatments. I thought that was outlawed but it is still used for severe cases. Nothing helped and some of the drugs had nasty side effects.
She became very isolated with few friends. It was hard to be her friend. She didn’t answer her phone and you never were sure how she was doing. Her mother lived an hour away and sometimes I checked in with her. All of us felt inadequate.
After eight years, she did find a treatment that helped to some extent. She was part of a clinical trial. The drug moderated her moods and she was able to function. She would never be able to manage a full-time job. She dabbled in part-time jobs as a child care worker, at flea markets and selling craft work. Not enough to earn a living but enough to contribute.
What never came back was my old friend. She has a masters’ degree in journalism but cannot read books. She has an extremely short attention span. She doesn’t watch movies. She has no interest in computers which would help her be less isolated. When she does something, it has to be perfect so she accomplishes very little and very slowly. She can’t let go.
In recent years she has had a lot of physical health issues. Both hips have been replaced and the doctors are talking about knees and shoulders. I sometimes wonder if thirty years of the wonder drug caused this. She needs a walker to get around. She is 65 years old.
What I remember most are the good times. We spent a week in California and for the entire week I drove her crazy singing, “Do you know the way to San Jose?” Yes, we got lost on our way to San Jose and I was driving!
I remember the beach trips, mending broken hearts (mostly mine!), singing karaoke off-key (mostly her), drinking margaritas and clothes shopping. I really miss my old friend.
Photo courtesy of Sparrow Girl via Flickr