Today was an exercise in helplessness.

A new friend (the guy I’m seeing/banging) is just at the beginning of what could become a bitter custody battle with his ex.  I grant, I only get to hear one side of the story, but in my opinion if a couple separates and both adults are self-sufficient, gainfully employed, not abusive, drug addicts or criminals, each should be entitled to 50% custody of their progeny. That is, assuming both are interested in the progeny.  In this case, they are.  It sounds like his ex is trying to find a way to prevent him from having reasonable access to his child — for reasons unknown to him.  I think maybe she’s trying to punish him for whatever pain she’s in which may or may not be related to their breakup/separation/pending divorce.  By all accounts he appears to be a warm and devoted father.  No apparent history of violence or intimidation.

But as I said, I only hear from him.  And I’m somewhat biased, because I like the guy a lot.

update on that whole “herpes and us” thing: turns out he had HSV-1 already. like most people (*coughmy ex cough*), apparently, he didn’t really associate cold sores with “herpes”; what ARE they teaching kids in health class these days??  In any case, we’re free to fuck each other silly, which pleases me to no end.

The most difficult thing for me is that I know I can’t actually do anything to help.  It’s not my problem, it’s really none of my business except that I prefer when he’s happy and not stressing out over something jerk-hole-ish his ex said or did.  So there’s helpless scenario #1.

#2: a woman who has been a friend of mine for over 10 years, whom I have tried to love and mentor as something of a sister, has had serious psychological/emotional issues for the last 5 or so years.  We’re talking in and out of hospitals, psych wards, wherever they could pass her off to, they did.  Off medication, on medication, stuck at her parents’ house, kicked out of her parents’ house, she’s just never been able to find her feet.

I remember visiting her in the hospital a couple years ago, staying for hours because she begged me not to leave.  Her moods were all over the place, pleased, childlike, tormented, sobbing, pained, fearful, bitter, depressed.  All in spans so brief I wouldn’t have been able to believe it if I hadn’t been there.  Her mind was all over the place, undirected, then fixated, distracted and distractable.  She couldn’t, or wouldn’t, support herself standing for very long.  We’d take short walks, just down the hall, and she would have to stop and sit for a few moments.  She clung to my hand as if, somehow, my presence could take away some of the indescribable suffering she was living with.

For about a year she’d actually been doing ok.  Living with her parents was wearing her down, she had issues with her mom and (i think) some anger issues in general, but she was off the anti-psychotics, on a regular antidepressant and trying to raise her 3-year-old (but that’s another story).

A month ago her big sister, her actual sister, was killed in a hit-and-run late at night. No witnesses.  From then the whole family broke down.  The house, which was already claustrophobic, became like a hell (for all of them, I’m sure).  Everyone was grieving, everyone’s fuse was a little bit shorter, and my friend’s anger became less rational and less focused.  One night she called me, saying she’d been in an argument with her father and he’d stormed out. Her mom told her she should probably be gone before he got back.  I tried to suggest she stay, apologize, try to work it out.  The service for her sister hadn’t even been held yet.  When she continued to insist that she had to get out, I admitted to her that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, come get her.  I didn’t have the energy to take care of her.  And I couldn’t afford to bring her negativity and illness into my home.  It was selfish, but I can’t say I regret it.  I knew then, as I know now, that I can’t do anything to help her.

I’m not sure what happened after that.  I was certain she had ended up back at one hospital or another.  The suddenly, a couple days ago, my phone rang and it was her number calling.  I didn’t have the nerve to pick it up then.  What could I expect at the other end of the line?

We met for coffee today.  Or rather, I picked her up from her parents’ house and bought us coffee at a Starbucks nearby.  I knew — because I had seen what previous her hospital stays had been like — that her experience over the last few weeks had surely been unpleasant.  Beyond that I wasn’t sure what to expect.  We conversed relatively normally at first, but it became clear and clearer that she was not as functional as she had been before Thanksgiving.  She would interrupt, take over the conversation with no allowance for input.  She would tear up and express how much she loved me, how she didn’t know what she would do if I weren’t around.  When she began emoting in broken Japanese — we had both picked up just enough from watching anime that she could create simple clauses and I could more or less understand her meaning — I realized how bad off she must be.  That time a few years ago, when I visited her in the hospital, that was one of the things she did regularly.  I almost cried right there beside her when it hit me.  At the end of the visit I dropped her off at one of the hospitals nearby so she could pick up some medication or another that she said she needed.  Her parents would pick her up, she said.

It was such a relief when I pulled away.  And heartbreaking, too.  After all these years, she’s still fighting the same demons, the same pain, the same lack of reason whose source I don’t know.  And she wants me to help her, to cure her, because she associates me with warmth and comfort, because I did what I could to comfort her during her awkward “tween” period (I was in high school at the time).  I know that there is nothing I can do for her.  My presence isn’t enough to chase away the demons.  Soothing words won’t clear her sky of dark clouds.  I honestly don’t know if there’s anything that can help her.  Persistence and family, I would say, if I thought her family capable.  But time and again they have shown me they are not.  I don’t know what her future is.  I’m afraid she will find herself back in hospital very soon.  Even there they don’t seem to do much for her.  And in her illness she is unable to determine what she needs herself.

By comparison my life, my little chronic depression, is a blessing.