A friend of mine tried to kill herself today. It’s the second time this week, and she was much closer to success this time. I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain, to any who care to read, exactly what my views on friendship are.
Most people seem to have a lot of friends. Whenever I talk to someone who has a lot of friends, I ask them about how well they know each other. The vast majority of the time, it turns out that what they consider a friend is something that I like to call "an aquaintance." For me, a friend is someone close enough to be family, and trusted absolutely. A friend is someone you can rely on regardless of the situation, and someone you are willing to drop everything to help. What I consider to be a friend is more akin to best friends or blood brothers (or whatever term you prefer).
I have never had a lot of friends. It is a strong emotional commitment that takes a lot of time and energy. I tend to very rarely have any more than two people I consider a friend at any given time. If I make a new friend, either it is because I have room in my life due to another friend moving on, or one of the other friends moves on soon after. The point is that the presence of a third friend seems to make life tumultuous for at least one of the three, until the number naturally goes back down to two.
For the last thirty years, one of my friends has been Clint. We met in first grade, hit it off, and have been close ever since. The second friend slot has been filled with other people who have come and gone. For most of the last fifteen years it has been the woman I married 8 1/2 years ago. The third friend position has been occupied by people who have moved on through unplanned pregnancy, cross country job relocation, suicide, jealous boyfriend, and mass lay offs at work. I made a conscious decision several years ago to keep my number of friends limited to two. I would save a lot of heartbreak.
As some of you must know, I have been having maritial problems since last October. My wife is so filled with anger at my betrayal of trust that we are having a difficult time moving on. Communication is rare. I am treated more like a room mate than a husband. Her pain and anger colors her view of anything I say and do, so that she mentally catalogs my action with the worst possible interpretation. In an attempt to mend things, I have been actively involved with a therapist, and been undergoing drug treatment for severe depression. It has been very stressful, and the person I would usually open myself up to is the person who is pissed at me. I still love her dearly, but she is in no mood to be my friend.
We know a couple who lives in Houston, and have known them for quite a few years.. I’ll call them D and R. My wife went to school with D, and he met R in the military. They are married and have a son together. We like them both a great deal. D has been through a lot of emotional turmoil in his life, and R is his second wife. R has been severely depressed for a long time, and attempted suicide near the end of last year.
As part of my therapy, my counsellor suggested I find someone I can talk to openly, that is available more easily and readily than she is. I reached out to R as someone who is going through similar problems, with the belief that we could understand and help each other. We engaged in a great deal of communication, mostly through e-mails, but often through phone calls. We gave each other what advice we could for how to cope with our crippling low self-esteem and sense of worthlessness. I tried to talk to her about her having a husband that loved her, but whom she was no longer really interested in. She tried to help me with having a wife I desperately love, but who seems completely emotionally detatched from me (at least when she isn’t simply furious). There were a lot of tears and reassurances, and a lot of hope from each of us that the other could pull through. I found myself on the verge of considering her an actual friend, rather than a very close aquaintance.
She took herself off of her drug treatment because she didn’t like the side effects. She felt she was treating her depression with exercise alone. It wasn’t enough. She spiralled down, and got on cymbalta, which only made her worse, and heightened her suicidal feelings.
She had enough sense to talk to her doctor, who immediately took her off of cymbalta, and put her on the maximum dosage of lexapro. I happen to be on lexapro, and honestly feel that its effects kicked in for me just in time to save my own life. I hoped it would be as effective for her. Her doctor also gave her a scrip for ambien, but only after she promised to not abuse it.
A few days ago she sent me a message that simply said, "goodbye jeff." I immediately called her, but her phone was off. I called her husband and told him. He went home and woke her. She seemed dazed and irritated, insisting that when she was telling everyone "goodbye," she was just going to bed. I talked to her and she insisted that she only took the prescribed dosage of ambien, and that she was sorry for scaring me.
I didn’t hear from her for a couple of days.
This morning, I log on to Depression Tribe, and her account has been deleted. I wonder what is up, but I have finals to prepare for, so I go to school. After school I take my son to karate, while my wife and daughter go to our daughter’s hockey. Soon after my son and I return home from karate, my cellphone rings. It is R, sounding a bit woozy, asking me to join her on Chat. She has created a new account (her third), called "tick_tock." I tell her that I can’t at the moment, because I am making dinner for my son, but that I would be happy to log on as soon as I can. In the meantime, I can talk on the phone. She reveals to me that she got two bottles of ambien, a large bottle of Grey Goose vodka, her laptop computer, and a room at a nice hotel, and that she was in chat saying goodbye to everyone.
I asked why she had two bottles of ambien.
She said it was because the single bottle she took the other day hadn’t been enough to get the job done. I spent ten minutes trying to convince her that suicide was a terrible idea, and to get her to tell me the name of the hotel where she was staying. Eventually she hung up on me. I immediately called her husband, who had no idea where she was, but said he’d call the sheriff.
I logged on to the chat and she was there. I spent over an hour trying to talk sense into her, eventually talking to her on the phone several more times, while frantically trying to get ahold of her brother, the psychiatrist (psychologist? I’m not sure which), so he could talk some sense into her. Some others in chat were a great deal of help.
Eventually she turned off her computer and hung up her phone, and there was nothing more I could do. Fortunately, the sheriff’s department managed to find her through a cell phone ping and a search through hotel parking lots for her car. The most recent news I had was that she was in an emergency room having her stomach pumped.
I’m glad they found her. I hope she gets better. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to give her more help.
My wife’s reaction, as with all of her reactions lately, surprised me. She was saddened that it had happened, for she loved R, and wants the best for her. She was also irritated and annoyed. First, her medical training says that people who honestly want to die do not let people know that they are doing it, or where they are. They simply do it. If they make a big production out of the act, they don’t want to die, they just want attention and reassurance. Second, she already did consider R to be a friend (her definition is not quite as strict as mine), and was a little hurt that R never bothered to call or talk to her about anything that might be bothering her. She never got any goodbye messages or phone calls. She never got opened up to, and I think it hurt her a little bit that R never tried to get help from her.
I would like to say that my wife does not have the commonality of crippling depression to form that kind of link, and that perhaps R felt that I was the person best equipped to understand her own viewpoint. However, I’m pretty sure my wife is going through her own depression, and is in need of her own therapy.