One of my dearest friends, who has been unwell for almost a year, is leaving hospital on the 24th of this month. We met, almost ten years ago at the Bethlam Royal Hospital in South London, and since then have been through all kinds of crazy together.
We often say we’re one another’s life-line’s, because there is no one else either of us can really talk to about how strange and terrible the symptoms of schizophrenia are. It would be like trying to explain a mushroom trip to a tee-total er, or describe the subtle difference between magenta and crimson to a blind person.
We don’t have to explain much to one another, because a lot of our symptoms have been similar; when we say “it’s just been that weird,” the other one can instinctively sympathise. So we were so bloomin lucky to have met, to have instantly hit it off and then been able to maintain contact over years of change, upheaval, growth and relapse.
Before she was hospitalised, almost a year ago, she’d been suffering more than I had been. The intensity and persistence of her negative symptoms were relentless, and she was dealing with forms of anxiety and stress that nobody should have to endure, let alone someone as wonderful and bighearted as she is.
It was one of the main gripes I had with her situation back then- she tried, and tried, and tried- and yet all she received for her efforts was a worsening and worsening state of mind. It was so very unfair, and so very unjust, and made it really hard to maintain faith and optimism.
However I feel as though some of this may be my own sense of guilt, at not perceiving (a year ago), how dire her situation was. I knew she was suffering, but I didn’t perceive how close to the edge she was.
We have been each others life-lines over the course of the last ten years, and yet I feel like I let her down this time around. I didn’t realise that she’d reached the end of her tether, and that there was no space left for her to fall back into. Consequently she fell through, and away from me. She fell so very very far away.
I know that this is self-gratifying writing, I know that I couldn’t have done anything different to change what happened, and that I couldn’t have stopped the avalanche which happened in her mind with my own two metaphorical hands.
But I still feel bad- I still feel guilty because I feel that I failed her on some level. We were meant to go through all of this together- and she went away somewhere that I just couldn’t follow her to this time. I couldn’t fall through the cracks with her and help her back up- I’ve had to watch, from a spectators seat, as she has pulled herself back up, inch by inch, and come back to a place of consciousness where the two of us could interact meaningfully again.
It’s been so very difficult. But, that’s not the important thing, the important thing is that she’s bloody done it. She has clawed her way back from whichever portion of the madlands she was being held in, and found a way back to the light. She’s proven how bloody strong she is; how resilient and how utterly incredible her will and her spirit are. Things which I knew already- but dear god does this illness test what you deem to know.
I know, really, that this battles have to be waged alone. I know, really, that I could never have done it/fought it for her, and that I helped just by being there for her. I know, really, I don’t have anything to feel guilty about. It’s just been a long year, and a long road to come back to the point which we were at to begin with.
However, the sun’s come out here over the course of the last few days, and the long tunnel my friend has been struck in seems to have finally given way to clear blue skies and warm balmy air.
So it’s not that we’ve come back to the same point that we were at a year ago, and I’m glad of that because it wasn’t a point I would have wanted to be caught in. She’s fought a battle of the most epic proportions, and gained all kinds of strengths and wisdom from that, and I’m in such a different place as well.
I’m just thankful that she is better. There will still be trials ahead, as there are always trials ahead, but she will be back at home with her friends and family around her. We’re already talking about trips out, drastic make-overs and sun-holidays, and all the things we can do with her new-found freedom.
Bring on the summer, and bring on the rest of 2018- because my best friend is ready to enjoy it again.