Carolyn: I’m a senior in high school. One of my best friends was diagnosed with clinical depression when we were freshmen. It’s been up and down — she’s on medication and has been to therapy.
We don’t have classes together this year, and I hadn’t seen her for a while. A week ago I finally got a chance to catch up with her.
Turns out she had been cutting herself. She said her parents noticed and her doctor put her on a new “mood-stabilizer,” which she said seemed to be working. I was upset for so many reasons.
I know that if someone is displaying suicidal/self-destructive behavior I should tell an adult, but she’s already receiving help. What do I do now? I’m also upset because we haven’t spent time together this year. Is it possible her worsening is my fault? I don’t know whom to talk to. None of my other friends knows she’s depressed, and I feel like it’s something I shouldn’t share. But I’m so worried for her and I feel like I don’t have anyone to talk to about it.
You’re right, you can’t tell friends — because even though the need to talk is about you, the facts belong to your friend and aren’t yours to share.
The good news: You always have someone to talk to — starting with your parents and branching out to your school’s counselor, or a trusted teacher.
If you’d rather suffer than approach an adult, then lean on a hotline. In your case, you have the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, help line at your disposal: 800-950-NAMI (www.nami.org).
There are other excellent resources out there, of course, but none of them is worth spit if you don’t use them.
As for your being responsible for your friend’s decline, please know that serious conditions like hers don’t trace easily to one person, one cause, one choice or even one health issue. Extremes are eye-catching, but avoid them anyway: Don’t run away from her, and don’t try to rescue her, either. Just line up your own support and be the friend who listens to her.
Carolyn: I have seen my share of friends get divorced. Usually, I just try to be supportive of the closer friend and civil/polite to the soon-to-be ex.
However, my most recent friends to divorce are very close, lifelong family friends, and the fallout of this divorce has me questioning whether it is possible to remain friends with both. After years of trying to stay out of their conflict, I am ready to throw my hands up and take a stand, which will mean losing a friend I’ve had since college. She is just so angry at me for not taking her side against the ex. Any advice?
FRIENDS WITH BOTH
It’s probably tempting to use her insistence on loyalty as a reason unto itself for taking his “side.”
Not everyone who insists on loyalty is being petty; some have a point. Those who have been mistreated by a spouse often feel betrayed twice over when they see friends who know what happened remain chummy with that spouse after the marriage dissolves.
So before you take any kind of stand, please use everything you know — not suspect, know — to make as objective a decision as possible about who deserves your support more.
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