Not In Kansas Anymore...

Click your heels, and see if home is where you hang your hat, or somewhere else inside yourself as this simple, postmodern girl takes on L.A.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So, where were we? Ah, yes, "I Hate to Be A Bitch, BUT....."


This section isn't about Annie at all. It's about a friend I have who has really pushed me to the limits of my patience, and so, to bitchitude. Read on..

I've written a number of times about my lovely friend Lori and her great husband, Nate. I do adore them, and they have been there for me countless times over the years. However, it hasn't been without its bumps, mostly because Lori, when she's starting a manic episode (she's Bipolar I, and is usually really responsible about it), she gets irritable and for reasons I have yet to fully understand, gets pissed at me and won't let it go til she's well again (I don't think she fully realizes this is a pattern, actually). Or such is my experience; maybe she gets mad on her own and then starts to get sick, and then cannot let it go. I'm not totally sure. At any rate, I have been pretty patient about it, even though in the past it hurt me a lot (I didn't get invited to her wedding two years ago, for example). I have been patient because I felt very strongly that she was doing her best to keep herself well, and I know what it's like to have a disease you cannot control.

Lately, however, it's become apparently how much she DOESN'T do to keep herself well, and how for whatever reason THAT is, our friendship has begun to suffer. As far as I know, she takes her meds regularly, and is someone who frequents the therapy couch-- both things she needs to do whether she likes it or not. It's the lifestyle changes that I think she's unwilling to make that continually appear to be setting her off in episodes and/or pushing her friends away.

See, here's the secret deal with mood disorders that not many people tell you (including your doctor, scarily enough): two things can be real problem areas and you MUST keep them under scrutiny at all times, and those things are 1.) sleep habits and 2.) stress levels. Meaning: it's probably NOT a good thing to only average about 5 hours of sleep a night, working at a high-stress job that makes your stomach boil. It's not a good thing to work 3rd shift and stay up during the day watching tv and then drinking to fall asleep. It's not a good thing to have a high-stress relationship with a needy partner that requires constant long discussions about The State of Things. In other words: don't get a job in the Stock Market on the trading floor married to a bitch who only wants your money and expect to be able to float it. It's just not gonna work.

In the smaller realm of day-to-day, though, it can creep up on you when you least expect it. I'll use myself as an example, even: last Summer, when I fell into an episode, I didn't really see where I'd gone wrong. But the seeds of that episode were planted well before it started in earnest and I started feeling shitty. I now look back and see I was in a very jacked-up situation with my now-ex, and it was becoming apparent to me when I went to visit him, and I was wickedly stressed to the breaking point before I even got home from the trip. I also spent a fair amount of that trip taking OTC allergy meds, which also fuck with my personal equilibrium, and not sleeping properly. I changed two time zones to visit him (studies have shown that crossing more than one time zone can screw with the sensitive circadian rhythms and in a mood disorderd person, send them into an episode. Believe it or not!). When I GOT home, I should have, in all honesty, told him it was over, or I at least needed a break, and spent some time getting my feet back under me. But I didn't listen to myself, my body and my gut, and I paid dearly for it, didn't I?

And you always will. ALWAYS.

In Lori's case, she does things like travels overseas frequently, overbooks her personal schedule with plans and events, (and then cancels the last minute), throws parties and shindigs at the drop of a hat, and commits herself to crazy schedules with volunteering, charity social events, school, etc.

Here's the lowdown on the past two years:

She got married in November. Then Nate got invited to China to speak for his job, and she went. Then she came home and started school in January of last year. BOOM: episode. So bad that she was hallucinating. After some time, she manages to pull it together with the patient help of Nate, family and friends, and of course, her doc. Later that summer, she decides, "I wanna have a baby." Okay....not where I'd go first after having a major breakdown only about 4 months prior, but, it's not my life, right? Uh....well, yeah, except to HAVE a baby, she's got to stop all of her psych meds (something ELSE the docs fail to tell women in particular).....and that would be bad enough, but fertility problems require her to take loads of hormones. About 3 months of that, and she just cannot hack it mentally (who could? Jesus.), so she stops and resumes her regular psych treatment. Not shortly thereafter, though, she decides she wants to buy a house and throws herself into it full force.

Then, sadly, her father dies unexpectedly. This is a huge blow to her family, especially her mother, with whom she is quite close. It's a big stressor, and it was terrible.

But at Christmas, she decides she wants to go to Spain. Spain? Okay. Well, who knows how she's dealing with her grief, right? Right. She comes home, and decides she's going to start graduate school. So she does. Right around March, she decides she's got a house she likes, and manages to buy it. She does so, and the mayhem begins with decorators, and this and that. Finally things seem to die down a bit, school stops, and....she goes to Boston to visit family. After she comes back from that, she goes on this weird raw food diet and stays at a spa in Santa Rosa that advocates all of this bizarre health changes to lose weight. When she gets home--on a WHIM, mind you-- she gets involved in some church mission to go to Brazil, via floating down the AMAZON for a week. She comes back, and promptly goes out of town again. And again. Last I checked, she'd just gotten back from Burning Man. That brings us to now.

Does this sound normal to you? Or at least....normal in terms for a girl who has a severe mental illness that needs to be monitored? Even her other friends --some of which don't know she HAS an illness (yes; hardly anyone knows about it and those of us that do are NEVER to tell. She has such shame, she remains secretive about it to this day. That's her choice, but it's a lot of work when you can't even tell your friends)--said, "Gosh, it seems kinda weird that Lori is running off to Brazil all of the sudden this summer. Wasnt she just in Boston or at that health retreat?"

Well, in my opinion, and in context of the last few years, YES, it, at the very least, wasn't a good idea. I don't know WHY she decides that it's all okay to run around the world and back in the midst of huge life changes and losses, but if I had to guess, I would say this: she so desperately wants to be "normal" that she doesn't want to think about the long-term effects of her choices. I think THAT comes from growing up in a very affluent family well-placed in society, and from having some early experiences in humilation-because-of-crazy behavior and shunning-via-stigma that is so common with people like us. Eventually, hopefully, you learn to accept yourself as you are, and understand that embarrassing, terrible stories may be a part of your history, but they aren't YOU. That people who love you for you will accept it, and anyone else can step off, because you're valuable in spite of the disease. And you learn to live your life how it WORKS for you with this illness, not how everyone expects you to. It sorts itself out, believe me, and it's not so bad.

I don't think that she's gotten that far, yet, though.

Up til now, I felt it wasn't my place to judge her, or her choices, or to tell her how to deal with that "normal" question. That's such a personal and painful struggle for anyone, no matter what the illness. I felt she'd eventually get there, and with the exception of one argument I had with her about it, it didn't affect our friendship. Untill it did.

But to these mutual friends, I just said, "I don't have any idea what's up with her. We're not speaking."

Which brings us to this OTHER thing she does, that pretty much has pushed me to the limit of my patient friendship: She lives life on the wave of her whims, and thinks very little of how it affects other people. She makes big plans and cancels them on a whim. She says she'll do something and gets all excited about it and then forgets because she's become distracted with something else. She makes big life decisions and then changes her mind in medias res. Anyone else who might be involved or affected is just screwed. (These plans tend to involve her spending a ton of money, too, and offering to do for others, and give large gifts that she will then attempt to take back.) Then when you confront her about it, she just won't have it. Throws a fit, gets irrationally mad and refuses to admit a thing.

Here's how it has shown its face in our friendship:

Last summer she was bored and wanted to go to Santa Fe. She invited me to tag along. I told her flat out, "I don't think I can afford to pay for much more than X amount of $. How much is this gonna cost?" She came back to me with some numbers and I said, "No, I'm sorry. Maybe another time." Mind you, I was wrestling with my meds and such at the time, and didn't really want to worry about my finances when I was feeling so poorly. She piped up and offered to pay for the part of it I couldn't, to be kind and generous and get a depressed friend out of town. I was bowled over by that gesture. I rearranged my schedule and said yes. About two days before we're to leave, she changes her mind and says she doesn't feel like going. Okay, well, that's her perogative. I let it go.

Later on that year, she wants to go to a spa. She invites me along, saying the room is covered. I say okay. She says, "I'll treat you to a massage or something, too." I say, that's very nice, but I can pay for that part. She insists, and so I allow it. Again, I clear my schedule, and again, about two days before, she backs out.

Repeat this a couple of times THIS year, and you'll see why I said what I said next, which was:

"Lori, I appreciate your generosity in wanting to bring me along on your adventures, but I cannot keep throwing my schedule and my life into disarray when you decide to back out. Just because you are paying doesn't mean you can expect everyone's life to screech to a stop and not be affected by your choices. That's rude."

She got INCREDIBLY offended at that. "I'm one of the most generous and helpful friends you'll ever have! How can you say that to me?"

In the interest of our friendship, we agreed to let it go. And I did.

And everything was fine. Or so I thought. What I didn't see coming was a wicked combination of ALLLLLLLLL of the above , those two factors ( the illness AND the cavalier choice-making, that is), coming into play, with her doing something REALLY, really awful (which resulted in the aforementioned Not Speaking).

This is how it went down:

1.) Earlier this year, a friend of ours and I were on Facebook talking about how Muse was coming to LA in September and oh, how we wish we could afford tickets (GD ticket prices are outrageous these days! For reals, yo! When did this happen!?!?). We were just talking amongst ourselves, she wasn't even involved. Lori got wind of it and just up and bought 4 tickets--to a band she had not even heard of before she saw me and Friend talking on Facebook. She said it just sounded like fun from what we had said and thought she'd go ahead and get tickets. She invited me and Friend to go as her guests. We were over the moon excited.

2.) About a month after that, my car got impounded (long, terrible story-- but remember those liscence plates I needed to pay for? Yeah. I got pulled over. Anyway...). The officer was nice about it and said he'd allow me to have my car back in two days instead of keeping it for the mandatory 30 days, but he was taking my liscence. I was so thrilled not to have to come up with the cost of a 30 impoundment (usually $75 a day) and be without my car for a month, that I said "Whatever you say". But I didn't have the $320 it was going to cost me anyway, so I went to Lori and asked for her help. I made arrangements to pay her back, and she did indeed help me.
I got my car back, and it was all good.

Right? Well. Maybe not. Here comes the kick....

3.) This June, I'm sitting on the couch, watching tv, when I get this call from her. She's sitting in an airport in Boston, and she says, "Athina (her cousin) told me she wanted you to housesit for her and care for her dogs while she goes on vacation. I want to know that you'll do a good job." I was taken aback; she'd recommended me to Athina herself last Christmas for a similar arrangement (that didn't pan out) and Athina had been thrilled with finding someone, AND introduced me to her 3 year old son, Rowan. Rowan adored me and Athina had hired me for childcare a few times since. All had gone well as far as I understood. Thusly, I was confused that Athina would be doubtful as to my skills or reliability, and was concerned. I said, "Did Athina talk to you or something?" I was searching my mind for ANYTHING that had ever gone wrong between Athina and I. Nothing came to mind. Lori snapped, "She's my COUSIN. We talk all the TIME, Jessica!". I said, "Well, of course I'll do a good job. No worries. " She asked the question AGAIN, this time more snippily. I said, "What are you looking for here, Lori? " "Well, I just need to know you won't back out. You WON'T. Right?"

At that point, I'd gone from confused to insulted. I said, "Of course not. What's this about,exactly? I mean, I can only reassure you so much. And frankly, it's kind of insulting that you're this worried." She reiterated the same question. I said, "Lori, is this really about Athina's arrangement with me, or something else?" She said, "I just WORRY." I said, "You WORRY too much. And you need to either TRUST me, or you need to confront me over whatever is REALLY bothering you. I will do the job. Please, this is enough." She huffed a quick goodbye and got off of the phone.


I opened my email later and there was a note from Athina, saying, "Jessica....I'm not sure what's going on, but, I want you to know what Lori is saying,... it has me concerned.....I'm not sure what to do...." and went on to detail that Lori had come to her ON HER OWN, after seeing a few posts on our respective Facebook walls discussing details of the arrangements, and deluged her with a character assasination never heretofore seen by the likes of either of us. She said, in essence, ( Athina was fair enough and loyal enough to Lori not to divulge the entire confidence, and only insinuating that much, much more was said that she felt was entirely inappropriate. I have nothing but admiration for her for making such a wise and compassionate choice for both of us.), I was untrustworthy, and that I shouldn't be allowed to care for Athina's dogs, or her home; that Lori herself wouldn't EVER let me do something so personal, and then went into some diatribe about money I owed her! Luckily, after some discussion with me, Athina herself noted that "it didn't seem to be coming from a balanced place" and that "I don't agree with her; I've already trusted you with my kid, you know?!?!" I was relieved that it was still all good with Athina, since I really like her, and Rowan, and appreciate the work she tries to throw my way.

However, I was incensed at Lori. Who DOES that kind of thing to a friend? And why? So I confronted her. Her answer was that she was "Angry. Reallly, really angry and especially about money. I'm sorry I did it, because I should have come to you, but I was ANGRY."


Since this came out of the blue and I was pretty gutted (to say the least), I wasn't in a good place about it, and I didn't want to deal with her about it, either. I was just TOO mad. I was arguing a lot with my mother at the time and stressed out about a number of things, and just didn't feel like I could add dealing with a list of excuses why this behavior was okay right then. So I told her that I needed a bit of time to chill and come at it without so much anger. She took that well, and we exchanged a few emails about other things. I had hope that the friendship could be saved.
Then she went off to the spas and Brazil and all the rest.

At the end of the summer, I repeatedly tried to contact her to sit down and talk. She demurred, saying she was feeling depressed. I told her that I'd be willing to help her in any way I could, since I felt friendship came before conflict in a crisis. She set up a few things, but cancelled them. She wanted me to go to Vegas with her-- her treat. I turned her down, saying I was busy (I really just didn't feel comfortable with accepting those invitations anymore, understandably, and not when there was a money issue on the table). Then she kind of disappeared. I tried a few more times to get her to call me or meet me, but no answer.

Last week, I emailed her and said, "Hey, are we still going to Muse?" I was thinking, "If we're not cool by then, I need to make other arrangements." She emailed back that she didn't want to go, so she wanted $100 for the tickets.

That's when I cracked.

I was going to go ahead and pay her $100 I didn't have, if not just for me, then also for Friend, whom she so cavalierly is also screwing over. But I was pissed as hell, and in discussing it with my friend Amelia, realized I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to play her game, owe her anything, or deal with it at all. Amelia said, "Just tell her no. Let her sit there with $157 worth of tickets to a band she doesn't even know, and deal with what her little whim cost her. If you want to go, you can probably get a cheap ticket just for you. As far as Friend goes, that's her bitch with Lori, so let her take care of her own business with her. Just stop this little merry go round, and owe her nothing. She's obviously got some sort of issue."

And so I just said, "No, Lori, I don't want them. Maybe you can sell them on ebay. Or talk to Friend. You'd promised one to her, too." She emailed back, "Okay." And NOTHING MORE. I got the feeling she was totally hacked, and was being so terse with me since she'd done me a "favor" (that I didn't ask for) and now she had nothing. I also got the feeling that she was angry with me again, for.....what? For taking a break? For attempting to get a hold of her repeatedly? It felt like I was the being made The Villian of The Entire Summer.

I spoke with Friend privately and explained my drama and financial dillemma . She was gracious, and really pissed at Lori. I went and looked, and I can get a $50 ticket in a much better spot if I indeed want to go. It turned out just like Amelia had predicted.

So. So.

I'm not talking to her, still. It makes me sad, because she and Nate WERE my good friends, and I would love to see her thrive and be well. I miss them both.

(A brief caveat before the summary: I cannot be sure that her choice to unload to Athina and run all over the globe and so forth is a result of her disease. I mean, if it were, I think that either Nate or her mother would have--should have-noticed it. Nonetheless:)

I just don't have the energy to keep up with her changing characterizations of me in her mind, and I don't have the heart to suffer the slings and arrows of that hurt anymore. It's been too many times now. I'm a firm believer that at the end of the day, you still gotta take responsibility for The Shit You Did When You Were Crazy. I guess I kind of see it like they do in AA- you take responsibility, you make amends, you hope the person forgives you, but you don't demand forgiveness. After all, The Shit You Did still hurt them, and while the illness wasn't your fault, it still has consequences. Trust needs to be re-earned, and sometimes, relationships rebuilt. Hopefully the person will understand that you have an illness you can't always control and give you that chance. But making the effort to say something is so appreciated, nonetheless.

I actually thought that this summer, with the gallavanting all over and the bizarre blowup with Athina that she was starting to be manic again, and it all would fall back into place when she hit rock bottom and had to pick herself up. (The fact that she was depressed recently supports that argument; what goes up must come down, and usually comes down hard.). It hasn't really sunk in, though, I guess...or I could be entirely off base (see caveat, above.). All I know is this looks suspsciously like other things she's done before, when she was ill. And I can't help but think that I don't wanna watch her cycle in and out of this illness if she isn't going to take care of herself, because it's not easy dealing with someone who won't deal with it first. I'm thinking that maybe the way she's treating her illness isn't the best way to handle it, and maybe it's time to sort out what IS, because it's starting to cost her. And ME.

I'm tired of being sucked into her whims and her whirlwind, too. I can't live the way she does-- I can't afford it! I have to work, and I have a house to take care of, with pets and bills due and a budget to attempt to manage. And I don't want to set myself up for a.) disappointment when she inevitably changes her mind, b.) feeling indebted to her for something I can never offer in return (I could never pay for a spa trip for my friends!) or c.)resentment from her when I'm not the super-fun friend she thought I was, in the same social strata she is, with as much freedom and disposable income (I do think she's looking for that, even if she isn't aware of it. I can't be that.). I feel, given the events of this year, that there are strings attached to everything she's ever given me materially, and I DON'T DO that. I have plenty of that with my mother; I don't need someone else doing it. Maybe I'm misreading her meanings, it's true. But all together.....I'm tired of it all.

In the end, I feel totally fucked over. Not just because of the stupid concert-- they'll be back. But because of the way she's handled everything in the last two years. Right now I feel like I'M the bad friend in her mind for not forgiving her right away for doing something truly ugly, and sticking her with tickets I was never supposed to pay for to begin with. But if that's true, she's failed to see how much bigger her lifestyle/her illness has cost her: that maybe this life-on-a-whim is not working the way she wants, that trying to be "normal" for everyone else's admiration isn't going to make her happy, that like it or not, fair or not, you DO have to slow down a bit more than the average person, that you cannot use money and gifts as a string to yank on people when you want them to do what you want.

In the end, I think she needs to sort it all out and take some responsbility for all of it. That's just my perspective, and.....

I hate to be a bitch, but, hey.....if you're going to live life by the seat of your pants, that's your perogative. Just know that it has its price, and sometimes, its price is losing people to your own selfish whims and inability to face your failings...especially when you hurt them in the bargain . Not cool. That's just not cool at all.



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