I have suffered with mental health and I have known many other people around me suffer. Some have been classed as "severe" and complex, but it wasn't until the last few days that I saw someone truly on the brink. I have seen and experienced debilitating symptoms, breakdowns in communications and relationships, lack of interest and energy in anything and an acute feeling of helplessness and no future but now I've seen the next step when it gets worse. And it is chilling and sobering.
One of my closest friends has had complex depression for as long as I have known her and over the last six or more years has bounced from psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, medication and various forms of therapy. Somewhere she lost her footing and the last few weeks, and in particular, since last weekend had been very bleak. On Tuesday things reached a head and also information was uncovered about the extent of what has been going on, the depths of concealment so she didn't worry her loved ones and the ritualistic obsessions which have defined her existence and either accidentally or intentionally endangered her. Eventually she turned herself to the Crisis Team. It was expected she would be admitted to a psychiatric unit or similar care for a temporary period. Whatever she said to the doctor, she was released for the night and her parents decided to come and take her home. The next day was fraught with meetings and then the act of her leaving. It feels very disloyal thinking how she veered in and out of being herself and would flip within minutes to being full of clarity and understanding to being consumed with pure emotion and reaction and would become almost violent and child-like again. It took a long time to get her to leave her sanctuary of her bedroom, which although was understandable from her point of view, was also necessary for her to move forward. It took sedatives to calm her down and be released from panic attacks, before she was driven off down South.
Those of us close to her feel numb to the level of hurt she has felt and that we have not been able to wave a magic wand for her, and this must only be a fraction of what she has been dealing with in her own mind. To be tortured and imprisoned by thoughts is very sobering, especially when they impact on your physical actions and decisions and cloud your judgement from tiny things to much bigger things. It feels almost very surreal when the situation is real, but half of what the things someone says are not "real" except in the briefest of moments. It is very sad to see someone so vivacious, intelligent and talented felled by essentially thoughts.
It is scary to have a glimpse of what things could have been like for anyone who has suffered from depression or anxiety. I held Wriggles so much tighter the day it all came to light and have done each day since, and been so grateful I turned a corner. And then wept a little inside, that my friend had not reached out for help or let herself lean on us, the way she has supported me. It is such a strange situation; we all felt so guilty for not realising sooner, not delving, not putting two and two together...but were two and two there? Hindsight is so clear but also mixes up the elements and clouds the reality. And whatever hindsight can throw up, the important thing is the here and now: this has happened, it is what happens next that is now important.
I miss her.
I miss meeting up with her. I miss sitting in coffee shops with her. I miss her coming round and playing with Wriggles. I miss the way Wriggles' face lit up when she was allowed to play with my friend's copious bracelet collection. I miss her gentle demeanour. I miss her humour and our funny jokes and memories together.
I so badly want her to recover and yet I don't know how to help her.
I'm not afraid to put my hands up and say I probably don't have a brilliant understanding of how and what she is feeling. I know how I felt but it isn't the same because my experiences were directly related to very specific experiences. I don't have experience of sedatives being used or the particular problems she has, I don't necessarily understand self-harming and even in my blackest times, I can't imagine being that close to the edge, because I have Wriggles. Who knows if I didn't? That thought conjures up an empty void that frightens me.
It was also a very strange split to see as a parent: partly, I was shielded from a lot of things that our other friends dealt with and saw as Wriggles needed me and partly it was a small leap to be in her parents' shoes. It would break my heart if Wriggles was that poorly and I was that helpless. It was really quite terrifying to even contemplate that her perfect, innocent and beautiful little mind might be sullied by other voices muddying it and planting vicious thoughts.
I have felt very redundant as a friend. In the old days, I would have been in the thick of helping and doing everything I could; now Wriggles is my priority and that means that both practically and physically I cannot always do everything I would ideally like to. I am doing what I can and sadly, that is not a lot. We have been told she needs space and also time with her family who will for the time being be her primary carers again like when she was a little sick child. Their baby. Hopefully they will be enough so that she will not have to be sectioned, something I know frightens her hugely. I know they will do everything in their power and more and that is a relief to know that finally she is being looked after by the people who love her the best. I know as a parent that there is no stone you will leave unturned in the quest to make your child better, whether it be from tonsillitis or depression!
It won't be an easy journey but one that needs to be taken. This is one where you can't just get off.