The Vine: March 19, 2014
I have an old friend who is having some pretty serious mental health problems. We were close in the K-12 years and have drifted apart over the last decade-plus, but we still keep in touch.
Several years ago, she started telling some pretty terrible stories about herself; that she'd had a miscarriage, which then became two miscarriages, then three. At the time I believed her (though I don't anymore, for reasons that will become clear). Then the stories began about her uncle molesting her as a child. Then the stories about her father raping her. Then it culminated with her entire family being ritual Satanic abusers who continually impregnated her and murdered her babies after they were born.
At some point along the way I realized, Oh, these stories are a manifestation of her mental illness. I know she is seeing many counselors and occasionally becomes a psychiatric in-patient at a particular facility.
My question is this: Do you think it is of any value for me to write to her occasional in-patient facility to let them know what I remember about her childhood? She was a not-well-loved child in a cold, strictly religious household; her family refused her medical care for most of her life; and she used to show up to school with mysterious bruises. I can also say for certain that she was never pregnant during those years.
Would it be a valuable window for her psychiatrists, or should I trust that these professionals know what they're doing without old acquaintances' recollections? If it would be better for me to write in, how should I address the envelope? Should I include contact information for myself, or are they not allowed to email you about these sorts of things?
Thank you kindly,
Good Girl Grown Up
It's not completely without value, in the sense that you want to help your friend by furnishing her doctors with information, and help them separate fact from fiction in order to treat her more effectively. The instinct to support her is what is worthwhile here, I would say.
The intel itself: probably not all that helpful. Not harmful, either, but you have to assume her doctors understand that some or all of Friend's stories are delusions, and that abuse that may in fact have occurred could have shattered her personality to the degree that she's now taking refuge in reports of ritual Satanism.
The other thing is, too, that it's not necessarily about getting to an objective truth about her childhood. It's about finding a combination of medication and therapy that lets her function in the world. So, while her doctors may find it of interest that an outside observer can confirm some of what she says about her past, ratifying it doesn't necessarily help her deal with it. Behavioral therapy, practical exits from situations that might trigger her — this is what her doctors should be focused on, because again, it's not what did or didn't happen. It's how she's going to handle it and move on.
Helping your friend in this case means staying in touch with her, and believing her — not about the more outrageous particulars, maybe, but that something bad happened, is happening, to her. She feels betrayed and sad; you can believe that and comfort her about it without having to swear to the specifics.
Tags: friendships health and beauty