My extremely-gifted best friend halfway across the world was depressed and then recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Now she's nearly suicidal. I'm in over my head and I don't know what to do...
posted by luciphercolors to Human Relations (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We met at a study abroad last year in Amsterdam. I went back to my home in the 'States, and she (Isabella, not her real name) returned to her hometown in South America. Towards the end of her time in Amsterdam she met a local woman and the two fell madly, deeply in love, and then a few months after that Isabella's girlfriend callously dumped her. The breakup was devastating, sending Isabella deeply into depression and making her insomnia worse.
Isabella is an extraordinarily-gifted young woman, who possesses a staggering IQ, an ability to learn things abnormally quickly, and an amazingly detailed memory. She excels at chess, math, science, and tries very hard to conduct herself with integrity and sincerity. She is also fiercely independent, bored easily, scrappy, and completely atypical; growing up she was a rebel and a punk, but also heavily repressed for her intelligence, sexuality (her country is not kind to LGBT'ers), and general maverick-ness. I mention these things because she strongly distrusts psychologists (and the mental health industry in general) because of abuse she suffered at their hands when she was younger, and because she feels she is smarter than them (unfortunately, she probably is).
She lives in South America (I'd rather not say where specifically), and me in the USA. I cannot afford to see her right now and our interactions are limited to Skype and Facebook chat.
Recently Isabella was diagnosed with Stage-3 breast cancer. She's gone from manageably depressed to someone flirting with the concept of suicide. She sleeps very little due to insomnia, and when she tries to sleep she tells me she is instead haunted by the memories of her former love. She's returned to the world of drugs and goes on binges to push her body to its limits, and tells me she does so because she can, and that she can't feel anything anymore. In all things she claims to be completely honest with me, but lately when I ask her what she is putting in to her body she dodges the question -- even when I call her out on this uncharacteristically evasive behavior. I used to be able to consistently cheer her up but, now, sometimes we just end up fighting. She lives with her family but won't tell them about the cancer. She parties relentlessly (for a week straight sometimes), but seems lonely and does not have any close friendships nearby.
I feel that I am in over my head. I plan on completing some of my studies in her hometown next semester (I'm a global business management major, they want us traveling so it's not difficult to arrange), but I'm not even sure if I'll be able to afford to do that. I feel that if I could fly out and see her ASAP maybe it would lift her spirits enough to feel that she could fight this -- but I don't have any credit available to me, don't have the cash, and aborting my classes like this would cause all sorts of havoc. The only way I could see her sooner is if I sold all my possessions. All I can do is sit here and talk.
Lately, I've gone from being able to consistently cheer her up, to mostly fending off various barbs and hostility. I plead with her to be strong, and remind her that these low points don't last forever. In our argument this evening she called me selfish for pleading with her to continue treatment (she began chemo today), accusing me of "keeping her around" for me. I said I was not trying to be selfish but if she is going to accuse me of it then so be it. She immediately logged off.
I am usually very good with people, and I'm used to dealing with mopey-depressed folks (seems to run in the family) but I really feel that I am in over my head with her. I want to help her, I want her to live, I want her to be strong and fight this. She has such an incredibly bright future if she could only get there. I love her to pieces, and powerlessly watching this from a distance is incredibly painful. Her willpower seems is failing, and beneath the twin burdens of her memories and this cancer I am very afraid she is just going to give up, stop fighting, and crawl up in a little ball and die -- and that's if suicide doesn't claim her first. She needs someone for support, and I am doing my best to be that person, but it is not enough. She doesn't seem to be reaching out to many people for support.
I love Isabella dearly. Her depression is exacerbating my own mental problems, and I want her to both regain her willpower and, if possible, not treat me (or make me feel) like shit in the process (I need my willpower for fighting my own demons, which are also serious). Any advice?