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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am having a very difficult time with my friend who has schizoaffective disorder. We have know each other for 17 years. Early on, she told me she suffered from this.

We had good times and good conversations and I ignored the absolute messy state that her room was in. I bought her drinks because she could not afford them when we went out. She paid me back many years later with art supplies. For a while she was doing pretty well. She did sports every day, cycled, lost a lot of weight and was more 'in the world'.

Even though she was doing better, I urged her to go on permanent disability while the government was still granting this. She did and I am comforted that she will have a base income for the rest of her life.

I helped her with all manner of things from cleaning up her room (which she had never done) when she was threatened with eviction, to helping her with her resume endless times, to helping her work on her various projects. She could come to my house and work on her book that she has been trying to write for all the time I have known her.

Then, she decided that she wanted to have the things that other people had too. And she maxed out many credit cards to buy designer shoes, expensive computers, etc. All the while I tried to warn her that this was a dangerous path to be on while on a fixed income.

Fast forward ten years, and she works shitty jobs to pay off the creditors. She gets fired constantly, because she is not capable of holding down a job. She is still buying expensive consumer goods. In fact, she asks me frequently if I could drive her somewhere to pick up yet another thing that she bought on ebay and I usually accommodate, knowing full well that she is deep into hoarding these days.

One day she is sure that she will beat this affliction. And I come with suggestions (stop eating gluten, go to see a psychiatrist, switch up the medication - there are better ones out there), take up sports again etc. The next day, she get mad that people think that she will get better.

I have a young child, and my friend has been getting worse, way worse. Sometimes, she gets so mad that she growls. She is catatonic. She has paranoia. She starts to shout louder and louder as she is talking. She sleeps while we are out.

My DS is now getting to be at an age where he is becoming much more aware of her dysfunction. My DP is not keen on her being in our lives so much. And I am getting more and more upset by her behavior, in particular the buying of expensive things and designer coffees while at the same time raiding my fridge when she visits. Actually, I get worked up a lot and frequently can't even sleep at night worrying about her.

I know that I am the only person who is a steady presence in her life. But, after all these years I can't take it anymore. And I feel so bad about this. So, very sad too.

Thanks for reading. I'm not sure what to do.
 

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I know that I am the only person who is a steady presence in her life. But, after all these years I can't take it anymore. And I feel so bad about this. So, very sad too.
You need to tell her this. You have been a dedicated friend, but she can't keep leaning on you while she continues her self-destruction with abandon. I wouldn't worry about her raiding your fridge so much as her impact on your family and your own health.

Who is managing her medication? Is she seeing a therapist regularly? Like, weekly?

There is a point where people like this see suggestions on how to improve as judgments (and they are!) I can speak from experience on this, so I can use the first person: on one hand, I know I have things that need working through. Sometimes I am able to distance myself from the judgment and merely identify the problems. Other times my own internal (very harsh) judge will pound me with criticisms. The last thing I want is for *someone else* to keep pointing out these things, even if I know them to be true. It makes me feel naked, vulnerable and defensive. Even when I *know* they are right. Oddly, there are certain people who can evade these defenses, but usually not those closest to me.

So, yes, I would (do) also get alternately self-aware and irritated. It is a bundle of contradictions, but I've identified the extremes of personality which has been helpful for keeping some integration between the constructive and destructive aspects of my personality.

Anyway, she needs to want to get better for herself. She knows what she needs to do, I think, in her better moments. The paradox of "beating this" is that a good chunk of her identity is rolled up in this. If she can beat this now, why couldn't she beat this before? Besides (I think) age making the symptoms worse, if she did beat this, she would be "proving" that it was easy. Others might think "see? This wasn't that hard" and oh, the condescension is simply aggravating. For some of us, it's incredibly hard. DH says, "well I have that too, and I just move past it". Argh! I *must* prove to him how crazy hard this is!!! All speculation, I'm sure, and I'm projecting my own thoughts onto your friend, so thanks for indulging me.

So, even though I am not dysfunctional like your friend, I *get* it. I also understand that there comes a point where you must pull away if she can't pull herself together. She cannot lean on you like this. I've lost a close friendship because I couldn't stop leaning on him until he said "enough, pull yourself out". I don't speak with my father because of his toxicity. It sucks, it's painful for everybody, but eventually it must be done. You have stepped across the boundary from "friend" to "caretaker", and that is not okay.

The difference here is your friend seems on the verge of total self-destruction. So maybe you can start by insisting on limits. Take her out to eat and drive her to *therapy* once a week, cut off her contact with your family and then pull away. Let her know why, and maybe she will be motivated. (But maybe she'll self destruct. This CANNOT be your fault, as much as you care about her.)

I think that maybe one problem is that she believes that "beating this" means being free of her affliction, and that might never be possible, probably won't ever be possible. At some point, she can pull herself together enough and you can go back to being a friend, one that listens rather than feeling compelled to stop a train wreck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sweetsilver - Thank you so much for your thoughtful and insightful reply. I appreciate it so much. It helps a lot just to put things in perspective. My friend and I are both well aware that I am the only steady person in her life. I've told her several times recently that I am having a difficult time with our friendship.

Medication: well, ever since her psychiatrist retired several years ago, she sees a regular doctor who prescribes her her medication. It has not been going well since then. She only goes when she needs the prescription (I believe that is once a month). And she is on minimal dosage as per her wish. This summer, when she was particularly catatonic while we were out, and she was talking a bit about her disability, I tentatively raised my concern that I have observed that she is not doing well and that she needs to see a professional as before. She replied by brushing it off and by mentioning that she cancelled appointments with the now retired psychiatrist all the time anyway. What?? Alarm bells went off for me after this revelation.

So, yes, I can totally see how it is annoying to talk about your disability and that it puts up all the defenses. And usually I don't mention much, knowing that this is the case. At the same time, I am the only one who really knows her for a long time and when I mention something, I do so when she seems to want input.

Yes, I wholly agree that people need to want to heal themselves. I have been through this once before with an alcoholic partner. And, I do think, that on my part I have recreated this co-dependent type of relationship with my friend. Certainly, I tend to hope that she will get better just as I hoped that my former DP would quit being an alcoholic (the dream-on train to never-neverland). A friend of mine, a psychologist, mentioned that schizoaffective disorder only gets worse with age. I am witnessing it.

And here comes the confounding part. As you write, a part of your identity becomes rolled up in the disability. At the beginning of our friendship, the SA was not that bad. I also only knew the college textbook information about the disability. Over time, I learned to identify when her illness was talking (e.g., paranoia about people/things). But now this line has become blurred to the extent that it hardly exists. And so, I would like to distance myself, but I find it sad that this is because of her disability. And that sucks. I'm not sure if I make sense. I don't like to leave people for these kinds of reasons. So, indeed it comes down to the health of my DP, my young, impressionable DS and myself. That should trump any other reasoning. And here, I know what to do.

Thanks again. There really just does not seem to be a lot of information about the friends of people with these types of disabilities.
 

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She replied by brushing it off and by mentioning that she cancelled appointments with the now retired psychiatrist all the time anyway. What?? Alarm bells went off for me after this revelation.
It's easy to say this as a third party, but therapy needs to be part of the condition for friendship, I think. She doesn't just need medication prescribed to her (maybe it's time for a change in prescription?) A doctor is not a substitute for therapy. Medication is not a substitute for therapy. She needs a counselor or a psychiatrist, and she might need your help getting there.

So, you are not only her steady friend, but you have essentially been her therapist all this time, too? This is not okay, and this is why I sought therapy: because I absolutely could not pull away from my friend without that, or without my friend pulling away from me.
 

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And so, I would like to distance myself, but I find it sad that this is because of her disability. And that sucks. I'm not sure if I make sense. I don't like to leave people for these kinds of reasons. So, indeed it comes down to the health of my DP, my young, impressionable DS and myself. That should trump any other reasoning. And here, I know what to do.

Thanks again. There really just does not seem to be a lot of information about the friends of people with these types of disabilities.
Yes, it sucks, and it does come down to your health, and in spite of people reminding you that it cannot be your fault whatever happens, you will feel bad and you will feel some responsibility. But you need to let those moments pass. You would be doing the right thing protecting your family. That way, the shit stops. Quarantine. It sucks.

I don't think you are at quite that absolute stage yet if you don't want it to be, but you are close. I'm glad my comments were actually helpful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I totally agree that she needs medical help. And, as mentioned before, she refuses it. I offered help in seeking a psychiatrist; even went so far as to ask my psychologist friend for a reference. But she wants to keep that part of her life private. I am at the stage of letting go, and am mourning a friendship.

Thanks again SweetSilver for your insight and guidance. I greatly appreciate it.
 

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You're welcome. It is hard, letting go, because you can't all at once.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It's been several weeks now. I have told my friend that I did not like the way that we relate to each other any more and that I need a big break. She came by yesterday to finish off a project that she had asked my DP to help her with. It was awkward. When she left we had a brief exchange. She asked if I really did not want to hang out anymore. I said, 'not now'. I wished her all the best and told her that I hoped that she would get to finish all the projects that she was planning to do and that she be well. I don't know. It's tough, but I'm OK with it and she is too.
 
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