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I write verbose posts about polyamory, love, lust, and self-discovery on my other blog Victoria's Imaginarium.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My first-hand encounter with a friend's psychosis

I had contemplated for more than 2 years whether to tell the story here, I guess circumstances are different now and I am no longer held back by the considerations I used to have for all parties involved. I am no longer afraid to deal with any backlash— that is, if anyone who still reads my blog decides to give me any.

This happened in January 2014.

I'd known her since INTI International University. I'd never talked to her back then though. My first actual conversation with her was during a group dinner as she sat right next to me. Following that, she started to have more interactions with me, though most of the conversations we had were actually just her ranting on about her life— roommate problems, boy problems, study problems. A few month prior to the incident, she started to call me on the phone and talk for hours. I would listen and provide emphatic comments.

One day, out of a sudden, almost everyone on her Facebook friend list was invited to a Facebook event page she created. On the event page, she claimed that she was diagnosed with terminal stage of stomach cancer and was hosting a farewell dinner prior to her departure to the UK for a surgery with very low success rate, and that she would welcome monetary donations to afford the surgery.

Kylie was very affected upon hearing the news and came over to my place to talk about it. After we put together what we knew, we could tell that something was wrong, so Kylie decided to gave her a phone call. They talked for almost 2 hours on the phone with me listening in. She claimed that her parents did not know therefore she needed the money. Kylie asked about the cost of the surgery a few times, each time she answered a different number. The longer they talked, the more incoherent her story became. After the phone call ended, Kylie sent a text to Dawn asking for advice to deal with this situation, as we were concerned about her mental state. Apparently Dawn had been pushing her to seek help since a while ago, but she refused to listen to Dawn's advice and stopped attending Dawn's bible study group. Dawn asked Kylie to follow her guts and react the way she deemed fit. Kylie discussed this with another friend, then they texted her roommates to give them a headsup.

The next day, she spammed her Facebook event page with hundreds of comments consisted of mostly meaningless strings of letters. We were looking at the page when it was happening. Kylie called one of her roommates to check, apparently they could hear her hitting on the keyboard very aggressively in her room. The episode ended with one of her roommates contacting the police. She got sedated and taken away to a health institute.

A few days later, her father arrived in Madison to take her back to Malaysia. She called me on the phone the same day she got released, around 8PM, saying she went back to her apartment to pack and none of her roommates were home. Around midnight she called me again and said her roommates told her they were at the library. She asked if I could go over and stay with her until her roommates got home. I was busy with assignments, plus it was late and it was winter, so I told her I couldn't. I called all her roommates, none of them picked up. I texted all of them, none replied. But she sounded fine on the phone, so I assumed and hoped that everything would be fine.

Around 2AM she phoned me again, sounded very frightened, said she was surrounded by evil spirits and all the pots in the kitchen flew onto the floor, begging me to go over to accompany her. Upon hearing the word "kitchen" I got alarmed and was worried that she hurt herself with the knives. I immediately agreed and asked Kit to walk with me to her place. He suggested that it might be a better idea to get her a cab to come to our place. She agreed to the change of plan, so I stayed on the phone with her as Kit called for a cab to pick her up. 15 minutes never felt so long.

She got out of the cab with a bible in her hand, looking petrified. She turned around and saw me and almost burst out in tears. I rushed to her and gave her a big hug, she stank, but I didn't care. I sat with her on the couch, assuring her that no harm would come to her. After a while, she seemed to have calmed down a lot. I managed to persuade her to give us her father's hotel address, then we called for another cab and went with her to the hotel her father was staying in.

During the car ride, she told me her roommates wouldn't pick up her phone call or reply her texts when she was hospitalized. She asked me why knowing that she was sick, they still left her alone in the house and wouldn't tell her that they were not coming home tonight. She asked me why 5 years of their friendship would come down to abandonment when she was in trouble. I didn't know how to answer her. Seeing her in such bad shape and hearing her say all those wrenched my heart. All I could do was to hold her hand firmly and told her I would be there for her.

After we got her to her father and went home, it was already almost 4AM.

The next day, I found out that her roommates did not go home because they felt unsafe and spent the night at a hotel. I sent them an angry group message asking for an explanation of their decision to leave her alone without telling anyone that they would be leaving her alone. The only reply I got was a request to not tell anyone about what happened.

The day after that, she left with her father. Like many other friends, I met with her at the hotel before their departure and helped them with the luggage.

While she was still at the airport, she called me several times on the phone and sounded very upset. Apparently, the pastor who arranged for her roommates to spend that night at a hotel told her the truth; naturally, she was enraged upon finding out. After the several brief phone conversations about that and how disheartened she was, suddenly she called me again and cursed at me, calling me a betrayer, then hung up on me. Minutes later, she called me again and explained that she was mad at me because Dawn told her that I publicized her condition to the whole world, that everything I did for her was not sincere but with a hidden agenda for my own gain of "popularity".

I sent Dawn a message and asked if it was true that she told her all those speculations. The reply I received was harsh. But truth was, I hadn't said anything to anyone who wasn't already involved. People knew about her condition because she was actively posting things about what was happening to her on Facebook since the day she got hospitalized, anyone who followed her Facebook activities could easily figure out what was going on.

I couldn't eat or sleep that night. I recalled all the red flags and I blamed myself for not paying enough attention, for not caring enough. I had so many questions, so many emotions, and so many doubts I couldn't process. I broke down in the shower. I had never cried so hard for a very long time.

I posted "我对得起天地良心" and "心寒" on Facebook. To my surprise, although my posts were out of nowhere and without context, a few friends in other states whom I hadn't been keeping in touch with noticed and messaged me to check if I was okay. You know who you are if you are reading this. You might think it was just a simple gesture, you have no idea how much it meant to me— you restored my faith in humanity in the midst of all those chaos.

The day after her departure was Chinese New Year. Her roommates held a gathering at their apartment, but I couldn't bring myself to attend. I was still overwhelmed and wasn't in a festive mood after everything that had just happened.

After things cooled down a bit, I sent her roommates an apology for my harshness questioning them why they did what they did. Dawn also sent me an apology and explained that everything was a big misunderstanding.

At the same time, she continued to post on Facebook actively, painting me and her roommates as bullies. That went on for about 2 months. Her attitude towards me flip-flopped, but I guess if she kept sending me texts and emails, it probably meant she wanted to feel that someone still cared for her, so I still tried my best to show her some warmth of friendship. However, it seemed she was convinced by what she claimed Dawn said about me, therefore whatever I replied would startle her. Gradually, I stopped responding.

My guess is schizophrenia, but I guess I will never get to find out.

I wouldn't have handled the situation any differently, if I were to choose again. I could have avoided all of these, but at least I did not abandon someone in need of help when I could help, and for that I have no regrets.

Obligatory disclaimer: I did not write this to boost readership. I did not write this to condemn anyone either. In fact, I left out many details that would magnify irresponsibility and hypocrisy of many people involved. If you notice, I also carefully avoided making excessive emotional remarks that could affect the judgment of my readers. I wrote this because once the story has been told to an audience, I can drop the residual emotional baggage I have been carrying but tucked away somewhere deep. 

Thank you for reading.

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