There is a common saying along the lines of “Once you leave, you can never go home.” This is truer than true. Once you’ve left, the atmosphere changes and you yourself change and the home you remember is not the home you come to. You create a new home somewhere else.
And this weekend, I realized exactly the implications of this statement. A friend who is very ill was convinced to return to the town where we attended undergrad together. She was told that she would have a support system in place and that these people would be there to help her every step of the way.
After a horrible journey from North Carolina, including totaling her car in Tennessee and a week long stay in a hotel, she managed to get to them, taking the bus across the country to a little mountain city in Colorado. She got there and the support was there but those so willing to help her quickly tired of her seemingly constant complaints and requests for assistance. They have even begun screening her calls because she is so overwhelming to handle.
And she feels even more alone. Nearly everyone she knew before leaving four years ago has left or died. She has nobody else she can rely on to help her. When I try to suggest various state agencies that can help her, she changes the subject. I think she is tired of thinking about her situation and tired of feeling so alone. So she has begun lashing out at people who have been helping her, complaining about every step of the process. And it’s understandable but not an endearing trait.
I want to help this friend but I also need to take my own needs into account. I am not a savior. I cannot drop everything to help as I live 250 miles away in Denver. She continues lamenting that she wishes she could just come live with me and my family, because my mom was so very kind to her when they met so many years ago.
But life has changed and she is no longer welcome in my home. She cannot come into my space and take what she likes as she had done in the past. She is not welcome in the inner recesses of my heart where I hold dear my closest friends and family. I no longer wish to help her, I simply pity her and wish she could escape her situation.
My stance may seem cold and removed to those of you reading this, but at my strongest point, I steeled myself against her, to prevent her hurting me more. In 2010, we were close friends but she began dabbling in drugs and questionable activities and she was having a whole host of problems with her roommates. At one point she asked me to accompany her to a bar in another town as the designated driver and I agreed. But before the end of the night, she had refused to hand over her keys, and consequently lost them, preventing either of us from driving anywhere.
I was so livid that I began walking home, back to the school, 20 miles away in the darkness of the country night. I stopped almost at the edge of town, made a few phone calls, and procured a ride at 2 am. By the time I got back to my apartment, I was exhausted and simply fell into bed. Shortly after, I get a call telling me that she tried to kill herself by taking sleeping pills. I headed to the hospital and kept vigil with several others, including the one who called me and his parents, until it was clear there was nothing we could do.
She was kept in a medically induced coma for several days and when she got back on her feet, I was still mad but I helped her out. She eventually got more and more angry with me over things that were out of my control. It came to a head when she told me that we shouldn’t be friends anymore because I had driven her to attempt suicide. I did not respond and happily continued through my final semester of college without any more incidents.
And then five years later, out of the blue, she contacted me. And like an idiot, I responded. But I’m not the same person who will allow her to walk over me again. I am not there. I cannot help her. I can listen when she calls but that’s the extent of my involvement from this point forward. I have my own life to think about, my own relationships with my family and friends and (maybe eventually) love interests. I have grad school and my career and my bills and everything else to consider. And she is not welcome to pull all this down around me.