A friend in need

In response to Daily Post’s Prompt: A moment in Time

It was a week after Christmas. I had been thoroughly enjoying the new Polaroid camera I had been gifted, and had displayed proudly on my bookshelf. I was expecting my best friend, H.

Now, “best friend” seems like an understatement. H and I, now both 18, have known each other since we were toddling around in kindergarten together, and have been friends since we were developmentally able to form friendships.

We went through primary school together, crying when we had to go into separate classrooms in grade 3 and when we found ourselves in the same classroom again in our final year of primary school, the teacher laughed that we were still so close.

And when as we passed high school and are now entering adulthood, we are still so close. While the 15 years we’ve known each other has shown us changing in who we are, our friendship has only strengthened. She is more than a friend to me, because despite our vast differences and our difficulties, we will never leave each other. I feel as close to her as I do my siblings.

My best friend, H, discovered the Polaroid camera I got for Christmas

So, it was just after New Years and I had invited H around to my house. But we weren’t going to just hang out. We were looking for a therapist for her.

Of all the similarities I could have had with my friend, severe mental illness is not the one I would have wished for. But it was the one we were both granted. Only we still had one big difference here.

I had grown up knowing of the risks, the signs, and able to ask for help. She had not. When I saw myself struggling, I confidently sought out help. When H was struggling, people abandoned her, thought of her as difficult, and she succumbed to this awful illness.

Getting help is a difficult thing for many people. When people believe that it’s all about willpower and they are weak if they can’t overcome it, they don’t get help. When people know they are struggling but are scared of others reactions, they don’t get help. When people are in a bad place and they have no idea what to do but everyone else leaves them alone, they don’t get help.

And when people don’t get help, when they hold the burden on their own, thinking they are weak and it’s helpless, that’s when you have people crying over dead loved ones saying “but I thought they were happy”.

Initially I was quite a bad friend to H. Her actions pissed me off, her behaviour irrational. I had been told she was depressed and I was empathetic, but I had been depressed too without letting it control me. It was only after venting at my aunt, who is a psychologist, that she pointed out the likelihood of Borderline Personality Disorder and it clicked for me.

Perhaps her irrational behaviour wasn’t her deliberately choosing to react badly to her situation, but another thing that was beyond her control.

That understanding allowed me to see her differently, and be more accepting. To know the way my friend had changed was not her fault gave me more respect for her. I invited her to my house, and told her I knew she was struggling. She cried. She said no one had cared like that, or wanted to help. We made an appointment with the doctor to be referred to a psychologist, and on the day those photographs were taken she came over to book an appointment with a therapist.

I am going with her and encouraging her through this. She is now in the process of being diagnosed and getting help, is living on her own for the first time, committed to studying, and although this whole process is difficult, she is moving forward.

And all it took was one person to care.

In the end, just remember that a little act can go a long way, and that getting help is a seemingly impossible task for many. If you see someone struggling, talk to them. Help them, and let them know they don’t have to go through it alone.

You might just save a life.

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