Back is August I told you about a friend of mine who had died from Cancer a few years before. How I was heartbroken because it was only 6 weeks from diagnosis to death, how me and my other friend did everything we could to help him out, how it crushed us. August would have been his 53rd birthday.
Today would have been the 53rd birthday of another friend of mine, M. The death and situation around it were vastly different. Part of me regrets the situation with M. Part of me knows it was the only way I could survive.
M was my closest friend in High School. We met the first day of 9th grade- she sat behind me in homeroom. I had just moved to a new town and new school. For an incredibly shy kid, this was akin to torture. M was outgoing and friendly and fun. She also only lived a few blocks away from me, so I would have someone to go to and from school with.
Now, back in high school M was a little crazy. She was famous for prank calling boys. Repeatedly. She had no censor. If we told her she was acting a little strange, she would stop speaking to us. She was the poster child for teenage drama.
I was a shy, quiet withdrawn kid who really never even stepped a little over the line. It was exciting to have a friend that was a little crazy. Her wildness was tamed by having a good heart- inside she was a nice person. Well, when she wasn’t getting mad at you because you told her she had to calm down.
We remained friends for years. Now, the level of friendship changed. We saw each other on college breaks, hung out a lot after college ended. But we both had crazy jobs, and I moved off of Long Island, and was dating the asshole who would become my first husband. The relationship shifted focus. We saw one another every few months. I no longer wanted to hang in bars trying to meet guys. In truth, this had become our bonding experience- hanging in bars and clubs. So every few months turned into dinner twice a year.
Now, it was one of those relationships where even though we hadn’t been in communication, we could pick right back up with where we left off. She always had a crazy guy story to tell me. Always a variation of this guy was so bad so I had no choice but to….. Not unlike prank calling in 9th grade, or figuring out a guys locker combination and leaving things inside. it didn’t seem quite as funny anymore though.
She had always been an excellent worker- highly intelligent and hard working and capable. She tended to switch jobs a lot. She got promoted quickly, but something always happened, someone was always not treating her respectfully so she would get another job. When you produce results in your given field, this is easy. At the end of the day, results count.
About 14 years ago, I noticed a slight change in her behavior. Her behavior seemed way more erratic than it had ever before- spiraling from dizzying highs to swampy lows. Now, 14 years ago, I had a 2 year old. A typical 2 year old and a husband who worked a lot of hours. I was typically exhausted and covered in some sort of young child thing- dirt, food, paint- you get the idea of mothering a toddler. I didn’t have the time or inclination to hang out in bars and say stupid things to men. My focus had changed. And honestly, the only thing we ever did together was go to dinner at cool places. I noticed how much she actually drank when we were out. These outings weren’t fun for me. I didn’t have the time or patience to do things that didn’t make me feel good. These outings made me sad- she talked about fighting with her parents, her brother, whoever she was dating, whoever she was working for or working with. Her life seemed to be a constant battle. She was switching jobs about once a year, she was switching partners about once every two months.
We began seeing one another less, maybe every 18 months.
But about 8 years ago I began to get the texts and the calls. She would contact me, drunk, and just yell about anyone and everyone. Just incoherent rants about how the world was against her. She would leave me multiple texts of just jumbled letters- some code that I could not decipher.
I began not picking up the phone when she called.
After a few months of trying to figure out message she was leaving on my voicemail, I called her during the day. I told her she needed help, help that I was unable to give. I didn’t know if she had a mental disorder. I didn’t know how dependent she was on alcohol and drugs. I didn’t know. I did know that I was not qualified to actually help her. I told her I would support her, but she needed to seek professional assistance.
She cut me out.
But every year, the rambling texts and calls would resume. I would repeat the same thing- I couldn’t deal with her in the state she was in, I couldn’t give her the help she needed, but I would support her while she got proper attention.
This went on till she died 3 years ago.
My Mother got the call from a mutual friend. At one point, my Mom worked for my friend M, so there were mutual friends.
I sighed. I didn’t actually cry. I was relieved. I hoped she was finally at peace. I was the one who contacted our little high school clique. I didn’t have much to tell them. We didn’t know if it was suicide or an accidental overdose. In the end, that’s just semantics. I reached out to her brother. They hadn’t spoken for the last 8 years of her life. Apparently, he received the same treatment as me, and said the same things to her as I did. She responded to him the same way she had responded to me. He apologized for not contacting me directly- he said he didn’t know who she hadn’t pissed off. It seems no one wanted to be around her anymore- she chased away anyone who wanted to help.
There would be no memorial or burial or any sort of service.
Now, I’ve often thought about what I could have done. How could I have helped. Was there more that I could have done? Should I have dragged her to a hospital? Was I selfish, only taking care of myself and my family? Or was I surviving, knowing I could not help someone who didn’t want to be helped.
I talked about M with another friend. We were saying that even back in High School we should have realized that something was off- that there was probably some sort of issue rattling around in her brain. In hindsight, the signs were there. We just didn’t know to look for them. We just thought she was wild.
So, if you were to ask me about regrets, I’d say this situation might be a regret. I don’t know how I should have handled it. I console myself by saying everyone tried and failed to assist her, so nothing would have worked. But that’s only rationalization.
So today, I silently nod and think about M. And I truly hope she is at peace.