Friday, December 12, 2008

Help me, help you?

In situations like the Virginia Tech shooting or Columbine, you always hear stories from people who knew the shooter and said things like “well, I knew he had problems”. After the event people come out of the woodwork saying that they saw the signs, saw it coming, yet no one did anything about it. Are they just saying that to look good or are they telling the truth? And if they are telling the truth, why on earth didn’t someone do something about it? Do we, as a society, just try to look in the other direction because we see someone who’s obviously crying out for help, but we have no idea how to help them? Instead, we just try to ignore it until it’s too late or goes away? We think, well, I’m glad its not me?

I was really thinking about this on a much smaller scale—not because of horrific events like school shootings—but in regular everyday situations that are very serious, but not necessarily life or death. For example, when someone close to you is in a bad relationship. As a friend you want to tell your best friend to dump the guy, he’s not good enough for you, etc. But if you did, it could hurt your relationship with your friend. So you do nothing, sit around, worry, and watch someone continuously hurt your best friend. Or do something, and risk losing the person as a friend. In my mind, if they are a true friend, it will be ok. But on the other hand, it is their life, and their decision to stay in the relationship, so who am I to judge? As long as it not life or death, why does it matter?

What about a friend with an eating disorder? What about a friend with an alcohol problem? What about someone who’s depressed and possibly even suicidal? Is the best thing to do to let them make their own decisions? What if its not a friend but a family member, does that make a difference? Most of the time, we don't know what to do, so we do nothing--even when things get more serious. Or, the person simply refuses to be helped, in which case, they have to help themselves.

A friend of mine seemed to be exhibiting patterns consistent with what's called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The problem is, we are no longer friends as a result of these patterns. No, I'm not a doctor, and I shouldn't run around diagnosing my friends with things that I googled (although I do it to myself all the time and it works). But, it fits, and I knew the person well, and I cared about their well-being. Yet, I can't do anything about it. So I sat back and watched the suffering, and suffered myself because their behavior towards me was hard to deal with. I also realized that because I had no idea what was going on I did all of the wrong things in an attempt to make things better. I wish I could take those actions back.

Although I can't solve this problem, it has helped to learn about the situation and I hope over time it will make things better. Now I understand the actions of the other person much better and am better able to accept it. But it still kills me that I can't help. This is probably my own disorder in some way...but trying to help someone isn't exactly a destructive pattern that should be avoided. However, it is not my responsibility to help someone who no longer wants my help!

I hope that they can help themselves over time. Or that someone else who is close to them will be able to reach out when I couldn't. I know now that my relationship with the person can never be fixed, but it would mean a lot to me to find out that they eventually found happiness. We can't do anything when it is simply out of our control.

And, for those of you who are interested, I learned a lot about BPD from this site:
It is not the same a bi-polar disorder which is what many people seem to jump to first because its mentioned more often. BPD is a serious problem, so awareness is important. It is also vey difficult to treat.

The human mind is an interesting thing. If only we knew the secret to making it work for us, and not against us.

Now...who the heck is going to diagnose me?!

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