Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Little Psychopath

That's what I've started calling my young friend Liz. I care about her, I'm very concerned about her, and I want to help her, but she is one very seriously messed up young woman.

I just finished talking with her for the third time this week. As is her usual pattern, she was crying when she called me, and she was driving. Tonight, she said she had had a "horrible day," and she just needed someone to talk to until she got home." Her litany of problems is far heavier than any 24 year old should have to bear. Serious psychologial problems (obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, destructive behaviors, i.e. cutting and attempted suicide), emotional estrangement from her mother, overwhelming stress on the job, financial difficulties, moving residences more than three times in one year...added to that, this week she has strep throat, intestinal flu, and got into a car accident.

All I have to say is, "Tell me what's going on..." and she's very happy to regale me with the litany of all the horrible things that have happened to her since the last time we talked. I know she's looking for a mother figure- someone to sympathize, croon comforting words, and, yes, offer to fly in and rescue her from all this distress. Liz did finally tell her mother the whole truth about her situation, but (at least according to Liz) her mother "has nothing to offer" in the way of help, either literally or emotionally.

I know Liz's mother - not terribly well, but we've met on several occasions. I would characterize Sara as a woman who has been soured on life. Her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving her with two young daughters to raise. She's had a hard time keeping a job, so the past 15 years have been a continuous struggle for her. Still...when Liz tells me things that her mother says and does which seem utterly insensitive to me, I struggle to keep from calling this woman on the phone and screaming at her to get out there and take care of her daughter. Yet I also realize that having Liz for a daughter must have been a daunting proposition - needy, disturbed, and at the same time, exceedingly bright - she would have been a challenge for the most well rounded of parents. After all, Sara, like every mother, is only human. Perhaps this child has just sucked her dry??

The one good thing about this situation is that every time I talk to this girl, every time I think about her life and how fragile it is, I'm reminded once again how lucky I am to have had loving, supportive relationships. From the foundation of caring and respect I was fortunate enough to receive from my parents, and in my relationship with my husband, I was able to provide my own child with the kind of support he needed to help him overcome some tough emotional times in his life and go on to become a healthy and stable adult.

Of course I wasn't a "perfect mother" by any stretch of the imagination, but hopfully I didn't leave my child feeling abandonded and completely bereft, like Liz apparently feels. But I know that even with the best of intentions, parents can go wrong. Every child is different, with unique needs and expectations. Sometimes we think we're doing the right thing, and it turns out to be completely wrong based on the needs of that individual child. And sometimes you don't know that until it's way too late.

I'm hoping it's not too late for Liz. As much as I care about what happens to her, I can't be the mother she's looking for. And I don't think she wants me to be. What she really wants is unconditional love and nurturing from her own mother. Right now, she's not getting it~I really hope someday soon she will.



Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

The care and support you give this troubled, young woman must feel like a huge lifeline in her world. It is my belief that we have people in our lives for a reason ... and the interesting thing in all of this is what is she bringing to your life? Much peace & love to you dear Becca, xx, JP

Anonymous bella said...

I wonder how much this girl had to have gone through in her life to have all of these behaviors manifesting well into her twenties. It's very sad.
I often think of your friend Liz and wonder how she's doing. Thank you for the update.

Blogger Star said...

This seems like an odd situation to me. While I am glad for Liz that she feels comfortable expressing her frustrations and fears to you, it makes me wonder if she isn't putting you in a pretty tough spot. I hope she is continuing to receive professional psychiatric help in addition to the compassion you provide.

Blogger twitches said...

Sounds like she needs medication - I have experience with this through a close friend. It is hard to be close to someone with so much trauma in their lives. Most likely her mother will never be the parent she wants, and she will ultimately have to learn to parent herself.

Blogger jzr said...

I'm with Star on this. It is wonderful that you are so giving to Liz, but you must be very careful that you don't get too involved. You are the person in the middle and that can cause real problems. She needs help but she needs a professional to get her through the toughest places.

Blogger Bibi said...

Hmmm, sounds just like one of my friends, and I know it can get very wearing to be the one listening to all that crisis.

She's lucky to have had you in her life, but she has a responsiblity to herself to get help and find the peace she deserves ... I don't believe it's ever too late for people to change the way they respond to situations. But of course, they have to want to get out of their crisis-comfort zone.

Blogger paris parfait said...

I think you are a saint to listen and try to help her - certainly there are limits. Is she not continuing to receive any sort of professional care? I agree with Deborah that people are in our lives for us to learn lessons from - but it seems you're going above and beyond the call of duty or friendship and it can't be easy for you.

Blogger Becca said...

Thank you all for your wise words...yes, I'm thinking many of these things myself. She is still in counseling, and she is on medication. She is just so desperately needy that none of it seems to be enough.

In sharing her story, I'm reaching out in my own way to all of you, and I really appreciate the wisdom that comes from all your varying experiences. I am grateful...

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