When Reality Hits….

A lamppost on Railroad Square.

For the last four years, at least, I have been corresponding with a beautiful, talented, hilarious young lady from England.  For me, this is a big deal, because I can’t even keep in contact with someone who lives the next street over, let alone someone who lives on a different continent.  But for some reason, I have managed to stay in contact with this girl, exchanging emails, Facebook messages, whatever, almost every day for over four years.  For privacy reasons, I’m going to give her the name “Belle”.

I meet Belle through my ex-boyfriend on AllPoetry.com.  No, my ex was a real person, but he was friends with her on this website, so I was too.  I loved Belle immediately, but then, I am always one to trust sooner than I ought.  Her poetry was always full of passion, which is how poetry should be.  She was a quirky, interesting individual with a bad home life (her mother is unstable, and her parents kept getting divorced and remarried, one moving back and forth from South Africa to England) who was afraid of geese and loved to run.

I can’t, for the life of me, figure out where the downhill run started.  Only about a year ago, everything was still wonderful and normal.  She had a friend die… maybe it was there that the problems began.  She met her fiance shortly after that incident, and everything seemed okay, still.  But then the next thing I know, she is complaining about how she can’t even finish a yogurt because it makes her feel fat, and the doctors are putting her on special diets, and her mum is force-feeding her.  Then she goes to University, and suddenly she pretends to be taking a lot of showers, just so the sound masks her purging.

A few weeks ago, she was eating better.  I thought maybe, after working for so many months, she had conquered bulimia.  She was running again, and was living in a new flat, and seemed to be generally enjoying life.

About a week ago, I get a simple three-sentence email.  It basically said that she hadn’t had time to write because she was in the hospital, but she would soon.  Cryptic much?  I waited and worried.

This morning, I got another email.  Belle thoroughly believed (and still believes) that her skin isn’t her own, and was trying to scratch it off.  But it hurt, so she took a painkiller.  And another.  And eventually eleven, and nearly killed herself.  And here I am, knowing that she’s in the hospital, or was, for delusion-driven attempted suicide… a thousand or so miles away with no way to get there… and I’m at a loss.

What do you say to something like that?  How do you make it better?  How can you save a life, and convince the owner it’s worth saving?

Writers live so often in their imaginations that they become absorbed in their fabricated worlds.  Then reality hits, like a brick to the head.  And I stand here, helpless.


5 Responses to “When Reality Hits….”

  1. 1 Daryl August 1, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Wow. I’m so sorry your friend is having such a hard time. It’s tough enough to help when you’re right there with someone; trying to do it halfway around the world would feel impossible.

    But maybe there’s an advantage in that, too? She might be more willing/able to open up to someone like you who cares, but who’s remote geographically and is maybe just enough of a stranger to feel less threatening than an in-person friend or family member? I don’t know. Sounds like you’ve tried, so my hypothesis might be wrong. But maybe there’s hope, if you can hit just the right combination of caring, interest, empathy, and non-judgement?

    This also touches on something else that I’ve found difficult about online friendships: you’ve generally got no way of knowing when your friend is in trouble. If your only contact is an e-mail address or a blog, how would you know if something happened to them?

    With in-person friends, you usually have other means of contact, maybe even a mutual community of friends who know each other and who could tell you, “Hey, I just heard that so-and-so is in the hospital….” With online friends, that interconnected network is usually missing.

    And what you said about being a writer and living in your imagination – so true! Our ability to visualize things, to put ourselves in other worlds, in the minds of other characters, to imagine stories in great detail, is an asset in writing, but if it gets out of control the results are a living nightmare.

    And that’s probably exactly what’s happened to your friend. Problem is, it’s so very hard to write a happier story for ourselves. But it can be done, and I hope Belle will be open to help from you and others.

    Best wishes,


    • 2 Amber August 1, 2010 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks Daryl. 🙂

      I’m definitely still trying, but I’m lost. She needs people around her who care and want to help her, not judge her. And that will help her whether she wants it or not. Her fiance is great, but at the moment he’s living about an hour away (different Unis) and he’s gentle with her. She needs somebody there who’s going to take care of her, even if it makes her hate them.

      Since I’m not there, I have to be gentle, too, and I’m just trying to get into her mind. Which is hard, because she won’t necessarily let me in.

      I think what scares me most is that if she does kill herself, I’ll never know.

      (wow, WordPress is buggy this morning!)

  2. 3 Daryl August 1, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Oops. Forgot to click that “notify me” button again. Some day I’ll learn….

  3. 4 Daryl August 1, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Hi Amber,

    It sounds to me like you’re doing everything you possibly can. And I can definitely understand your fear about not even being able to find out if your friend kills herself or soemthing. Damn….

    I wish I had some shining solution to offer. I’m sitting here thinking of things like telling her what you’ve just told me, or of seeing if she would mind giving you her fiance’s e-mail address (or him yours) so you could find out how she’s doing, but some of that feels a little borderline stalker-like and might not be appropriate. Besides, I know you’re smart and you’re deeply involved in this, and you’ve almost certainly already thought of anything else I might suggest.


    It feels like you’re up against one of those kinds of situations that I’ve never been good at, either: the kind where you eventually have to just take a deep breath and accept that you’re doing all that you can and that things are going to play out their own way, whether we like it or not.

    (But I’m still hoping they’ll turn out well, and that maybe some other visitor to your blog will have that ideal solution!)

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something to think about

"You know, I don't know if you'll understand this or not, but sometimes, even when I'm feeling very low, I'll see some little thing that will somehow renew my faith. Something like that leaf, for instance - clinging to its tree despite wind and storm. You know, that makes me think that courage and tenacity are about the greatest values a man can have. Suddenly my old confidence is back and I know things aren't half as bad as I make them out to be. Suddenly I know that with the strength of his convictions a man can move mountains, and I can proceed with full confidence in the basic goodness of my fellow man. I know that now. I know it." ~ End of Act I in the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

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