A troubled friend wants to visit with me for a couple of weeks, and is obviously very serious about it. I don't really have the time or energy to take him in, but I know his reaction won't be pretty if I say "no," and I don't know if I can handle worrying about him. (Long.)
Hi. I'm a male college student in my early 20's. I have a seriously mentally ill friend with whom I have a pretty complicated relationship. He has borderline Asperger's, is intermittently severely depressed and often displays borderline-like behavior, where he will do or threaten self-destructive things for attention or to get what he wants (consciously or not). We live on opposite coasts, but we've had extended in-person visits a few times in the past, events which he puts a great deal of weight on, because he sees it as a rare opportunity to hang out with someone like-minded and supportive and discharge the stress of his troubled family life, etc. He is about to enter a new stage of his career, which will be quite time-consuming, but over winter break he'll have an opportunity to fly out here and hang out for a couple of weeks, which he thinks may be the last opportunity for years. Of course, he really, really wants to come.
The problem is, I don't really want him to. I'm in the middle of a bunch of stressful changes in my own family life and a relatively tough school year, and as I get older I find it increasingly embarrassing to be seen around him by my friends and family. The line I'm currently giving him is, "I'm not sure yet, but I can't see anything in the way at the moment."
But he's begun to give me the borderline-y drama treatment: he says if he couldn't come he'd be thrown back into depression, likely be suicidal, etc. This is not an empty threat: he has had countless months-long mental health crises, consisting of severe depression, mood swings, dissociation, almost delusional thinking, etc. He is relatively stable now (on a couple of antidepressants and a low dose of a benzodiazepine, largely thanks to my prodding), and his life is actually kind of coming together on several levels. But it's not hard to believe that he will be thrown into a pretty bad state again if he gets told he can't come. And if he does have another episode, I will definitely be the main person to deal with it: I'm the one of all his friends who cares the most about his well-being, and the only other one who was even in the ballpark just moved away, so he'll be less involved now. All the others are barely trying. His family is just as flaky as him, and whenever they're clued in about his problems, they overreact, try to dominate him and impose their own plans for his life, and basically cause more trouble than good; the only times they seem to be a positive influence is basically direct intervention in a suicide threat. He sees a psychiatrist for his medication, but he's not interested in a therapist, and it's very hard to get him to engage the mental health field on any level other than drugs (something which I want to push him to change, but I can't necessarily make anything happen in the short term). So every time he has a crisis, it's almost entirely me that deals with it.
So I'm between a rock and a hard place. I don't want to do the visit, but I can't handle literally months of having to talk to him for a couple hours a day most days just to get him to the point of promising he'll live another day--which has happened several times in the past.
Obviously, there are some real questions about whether this is a healthy relationship for me to be in at all. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that there is lots of fucked up codependency in the picture here, and this has all evolved in a complicated way over almost a decade, that would be hard to summarize here. But I've gotten past the point of this being pure codependent worrying about his welfare--I understand that I should be able to live my life too, even if it hurts him badly. Instead, I mainly worry that he'll make another serious or even successful suicide attempt and that will be on my conscience. I have pretty serious issues with general anxiety, so if I tell him he can't come and he freaks out, I can't just say "fuck it" and take a somewhat hands-off approach. Even if, statistically, the chance of a successful suicide attempt is relatively small, I'm the main outside variable that affects his survival, and if he gets thrown into another extended suicidal crisis, the worrying would hurt my grades for the rest of the semester--especially
if I try to be hands-off about it.
I understand intellectually that I should be allowed to live my own life, but considering I'll be moving into finals in just a few weeks, and the worrying would certainly destroy my focus, I can't help feeling like it may be easier just to let him come, bite the bullet on spending a bunch of time and energy when I can't really afford it, and deal with the larger question of how can I approach this relationship in a more healthy way later.
I plan to start seeing a therapist soon, about him and many other issues, but I only have a couple weeks before he'll start really pressuring me about whether he should buy a plane ticket or not. Obviously neither option is going to be pretty, but I've reached an impasse in my thought about this, so I figured I'd throw it out there to a smart, unbiased group of people and see if you had any thoughts.
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