Anyone ever have a friend go crazy on them?

I mean really, loony-tunes crackers.

I have a friend, a very dear friend whom I’ve known for years and years. I knew she had mental issues, for which she is medicated and sees psychiatrists. I knew that every other relationship she’d had had ended in ugly meltdowns like this one. I know she has no relationships with any of her family and no colleagues in her field. As far as I can tell, even professional relationships with her always end this way. Somehow I guess I felt I was immune to it, because we’d been friends for so long, and long-distance makes it easier to avoid those kinds of meltdowns.

However, I was going to be in her neck of the country for a brief period for business, and she invited me to stay with her for a couple days. We, ostensibly, had a great time, visiting museums, ate some great food, had some good conversations. The last day I was there she was (I felt) extremely aggressive, unnecessarily so, towards a customer service person over the telephone while we were in the car. After the exchange ended, I told her it made me uncomfortable when she did that, and it set off this nuclear chain of events. For a brief period in high-speed freeway traffic I honestly thought I was going to be part of a murder-suicide.

I did get out of there and it ended on a reasonably good note, she even posed her dog for me to shoot some photos because I had an idea for a painting and liked a particular feature of her dog’s face. She asked me to send her copies.

There were a lot of photos, so when I got home I burned them to a CD rather than taking the time to email or file-transfer them. I wanted to send her a thank-you note and return a book she’d loaned me anyway, so I just included the disc of photos with them.

Yesterday she sends me an email asking about the photos. I tell her that I’ve burned the disc and will drop it all in the mail on Monday. She says thats not fast enough and she wants to see the photos right now. She asks me to use a web-based file transfer program that allows me to send a large file all in one shot. I attempt to do so, but can’t get it to work because, first of all, it wants me to sign up for an account and give them a lot of personal information, but also it runs script and requires a download, none of which I’m comfortable with.

I try in various ways throughout the evening to make the files smaller to send, but can’t get them sent. Meanwhile, she has a meltdown. She says terrible things about me as a person and about our friendship, accuses me of keeping the pictures from her out of spite and malice, and finally ends by demanding again that I show her the pictures, simultaneously threatening me with legal action regarding the ownership of those images.

I respond, staying as neutral and even-keel as possible, saying that I hope she’ll reconsider this exchange in the future, that I will still ship her the disc and such, but that she’ll need to remind me of her home address–otherwise I’ll send it to her place of business, and that’s fine too. That I care about her very much and, again, hope she’ll think about this in the future.

She responds with a tirade that is both violent and paranoid, said more really vicious things about how I’ve ruined her life, threatened me with more legal action in several different realms, and then followed up with a note that reads something like:
“By the way, let me make it clear in writing. You were trespassing on my property taking pictures without my knowledge, sneaking around my house using my computer while I was sleeping, and I still don’t know what else you might have taken that you didn’t tell me about. If I ever see any of those images published in any form I will sue you. I should sue you now. Don’t even think those photos belong to you.” And so on. A completely fabricated version of events–and I’m not sure whether she actually believes I was trespassing on her property, stealing, and taking photos without her permission (while she was there posing the dog for me), or if she just wrote that because she thinks that sets her up for some kind of legal basis to make unfounded accusations.
Now, I fully realize there’s nothing I can say or do about it. There’s nothing I could have said or done to stop it from happening, because it has nothing to do with me or my actions. I feel like I’m in mourning over a dear friend who, now, really and truly is alone in this world. She’s on the brink of losing everything, financially, professionally, in every other way, and I understand why that might drive someone to drive away the one good connection she has. I know that she has been actively suicidal in the past and I’m afraid for her again. I’m at a total loss.

It seems easy enough to say to myself that she made her own decision, I don’t need that kind of crazy in my life, and good luck to her… but I really do mourn the loss of the friendship we had and the friend that I knew and loved. I do wish I could send her the package, but know that’s probably a bad idea at this point, and I don’t know what, if anything, else to do.

That is a really sad story. :frowning:

Sad and scary.

You should probably send the package as promised, but severe contact, at least for the time being.

A friend of a friend “flipped out”, according to our mutual friend. Seemingly fine one day, and bundled off to an asylum the next. It happens. Sometimes it’s a tumor. Sometimes it’s stopping the meds you never even knew they took. It is unusual, though.

There was a TV movie or two about Betty Broderick, who shot her ex-husband and his new wife in their bed and went to jail for it. They portrayed her obsessing about her divorce and gradually losing the last friend that would put up with her especially thoroughly. It’s a fascinating study (though I don’t know how accurate it was).

Sorry this weird thing is happening! But we can only do so much. It’s hard to try to take responsibility for another adult, and much harder still to have it work out well. Good luck!

Did I mention that she’s a minister?

A choice line from her last note:
“Go to hell, you deserve it more than most.”


Sounds like classic paranoid schizophrenia.

Yes, I’ve been through this. Just stop communicating with her. You might send the pictures if you think it will calm her down a bit. Otherwise, just cut her off. Every communication just adds fuel to the loony fire.

More likely it’s borderline personality disorder.

A good friend of mine had something similar happen to her. We had this really good friend who lives across the country, so we didn’t see her too much. My friend (I’ll call her Anna) and the other lady (I’ll call her Jan) were really close to each other. Anna and I have been friends since childhood, and Jan is about 10-12 years older than us. While the 3 of us and another friend often took trips together, made little chatrooms just for us, and emailed as a group, Anna & Jan spent even more time together than the rest of us.

After several years of being good friends, Anna & Jan got together for a week-long trip. They had been writing a book together, having a blast, and wanted to do a research trip. While my other friend and I were invited, we didn’t go for lots of reasons, so it was just the two authors on this trip. They had a great time, sending emails and pictures and tidbits from their research.

A few days after they get back, Jan calls me up to ask if Anna and I ever hug each other, which I thought was a weird question, and if we often share a bed when we are on trips together. She then proceeds to tell me how my best friend Anna had tried to accost her in bed on their trip!

Now keep in mind, Anna was about, oh maybe 26-ish years old, and never married. She had never even really had a serious boyfriend, but had never given any indication that she might be gay either. She’s also this tiny slip of a thing, who is VERY shy. Jan, on the other hand, was closer to 40, been married twice with 2 kids, has one of those marriages where she and her husband live fairly separate lives. She’s very bold and brassy and in-your-face, which is part of why my shy friend loved being around her.

Then after she got off the phone with me, she called Anna’s mother and told her that her daughter was a secret lesbian who had tried to get her into bed. Then she told her that Anna was also going insane and she had the emails to prove it. She started forwarding all these emails to Mom and me and our other friend – all from Anna that said stuff about going out into the woods to listen to the voices so they could tell her what to do.
Well eventually we talked to Anna and got her side of the story. She did NOT try to get Jan into bed. One night before they went to sleep she did give her a hug and say something about being happy they are friends and happy they are working on the project and what-have-you. It’s true that she isn’t a huggy person, but one hug does not a predator make! (And I’m still trying to figure out – even if she WAS a lesbian and did have a thing for Jan, she totally does NOT have the personality to try anything. She’s very shy and would much rather let something pass her by than take a chance on it.)

The emails she did write, and her version on what they meant did make sense, although they were still a little bit weird. Turns out that the part of the conversation not forwarded to us was about how you make decisions and the “little voices” in your head and all that pretty normal stuff. Anna has always liked to go into the woods to think, ever since she was a little girl. She wasn’t following strange voices or hearing anything or being led by anyone inside her head. She was just talking about the natural process of thinking about things where you do sort of hear voices in your head – but they are your own voices.
Since then Jan has spread some of the lies to other people, calling her a crazy stalker and I don’t even remember what else (and saying some not-too-nice things about me in the process). She sent Anna a letter, and I can’t remember now what the deal was with it. I don’t think it was actually from a lawyer, but it seems like there was something official about it. Of course, it could just be that it was a certified letter or something. Anyway, it was all about how she would be taking legal action if any part of their book ever showed up to the public in any way. (Note that Jan has found another co-author and is supposedly working on a book on a different aspect of the same subject.)

It makes sense thinking back though. She used to talk about people that she used to be friends with, and just how horrible they were. She would meet people and try to figure out their agenda. She had a very obsessive personality. But you don’t think about those things while you are in the midst of the friendship, you know?

Send the disc as quickly as you can. Be nice. Then break off contact with her. Do not respond to any future attempts to contact you, but be prepared for follow-ups to be brutally nasty. And those tirades will be justification enough for not responding or re-opening contact. I’d even block her e-mail after the next time she becomes abusive.

Like you said, you don’t need that in your life.

And remember never to take personally things said to you by a sick individual.

But do what you need to for your own protection.

Yes. It ended badly with her spreading nasty rumors about me, and last I heard - a nervous breakdown.

I hope she’s okay. I just never want to speak to her again.

Yep. A couple of friends from college have been slipping away from reality ever since we graduated, although to be honest, I’m not sure how much a part of reality they ever were.

One I have tiptoed away from before she had a violent (or just plain batshit crazy) eruption. Every time I’ve visited with her, she is louder, more volatile, twitchier, and less in touch with anything resembling reality. The last time we met, she had one of the more bizarre, picky, nasty, really squirm-in-your-seat series of “confrontations” with the waitress (who did NOTHING wrong–I actually secretly tipped her more for dealing with my abrasive and abusive friend).

But the real cake-topper is another college pal who, last we saw each other, went on and ON and on and ON about how credit card companies are illegal organizations funded by drug money (and so, we don’t need to pay them), how the IRS is an illegal organization…her bizarre logic prompted a GQ post from me as I wondered how such organizations respond to being told, “Hey, you’re an illegal organization, I don’t have to pay you.” From my 2004 OP typed a day or two after the visit:

BTW, mental illness does run in her family. Her younger sister tried to commit suicide by drinking bleach–yikes. That’s a unique, and uniquely horrible, way to try to go.

I have carefully backed away from both friendships. Part of it is they are indeed kooky, but part of it is also we simply do not having much in common any more. As I have gotten a job, gotten married, bought a house, and had a baby, both of these women (in their mid to late 30s) are still living home with their parents. Both can’t hold down a job. One has never even been asked out on a date (with good reason), nevertheless kissed anyone, nevertheless had a boyfriend. The other attaches herself to poor unsuspecting horny saps who suddenly realize they’ve been dating Alex Forrest. I heard many an increasingly batty phone tirade about the men she has been with.

I feel bad that I’ve let these friendships go, as in college we really had good times together. But…well, yeah. You see why.

I gonna take a wild stab in the dark and guess this is my ex-girlfriend. The girl who also faked a pregnancy scare, went on for a fortnight to me that after taking a morning-after pill had killed the life of our unborn baby, threatened me with violence and suicide? That the one. Yeah.

BTW, thanks for introducing us. :smiley:

I second the borderline personality disorder guess. I really feel for you and for your friend. She is very alone in her world, I am sure. Of course, we don’t know that’s what she has, but if she does and if you are willing to be friends with a BPD person, you might want to read up on it and then decide --you might decide the “rules” of friendship are sort of different for them. I wish I had known more about it when a friend freaked out on me. I probably would not have cut off contact.

P.S. You own the copyright in the pictures because you took them. The subject does not own the copyright. She was right there posing so she can’t say you invaded her privacy. She probably has no “rights of publicity” damages either – for instance, if you took a picture of Brad Pitt and his dog and then used it without his knowledge to sell dog shampoo, he could say you are cutting into the profits he could make with his own image. But if her image has no commercial value, then…OK I know the issue isn’t the dog photos. But, you know, in case she wants a copyright lesson…

That is a very sad situation, Naja. Thinking about what the best thing to do, all I could come up with is to send the disk of pictures with a very simple letter saying you appreciate both her, and her friendship in the past, and that you hope that life gets better for her, and maybe too that she can get some help in dealing with things that are troubling her. Not a long note, but a simple, sincere, wish-you-well note, maybe inviting her to contact you when things are looking more clear. It’s easy to say cut her off completely, but if, as you say, it’s a long-standing friendship, and your friend has no support or relationship with family or colleagues, it could be very hard to be the last one to walk away.

On the other hand, she’s been very, very hurtful toward you, and the first duty is to protect yourself. I’d leave it open to resume friendship or be there in some small way for her if she needs you, but only if she is also seeking help for her problems, and doing so does not put you at risk for hurt, grief, irrational lawsuits and such.

She sounds like she is leading a very sad life, and I am sorry about that, and you must be, too.

I knew a guy in college, “Dan.” Dan was a really friendly, outgoing, personable guy, and then every now and then he would completely flip out on someone. Several times during conversations, he would suddenly begin screaming–really screaming–at one of his friends. Epithets, racial slurs, you name it… “You slimy little white-bread faggot” sticks in my mind.

He’d go on getting all worked up for a few minutes, then stop, look around in some confusion, and leave the room. A few minutes later he’d come back, make a half-hearted apology (“Sorry I got a little excited there”), and act as though nothing had happened.

I saw this happen two or three times, and heard about a few more episodes. There were two Dans in our circle of friends, and this one pretty quickly became known as “Psycho Dan,” to distinguish him from “Asian Dan.” We all gradually cut off contact with him.

NajaNivea, I know it’s wrenching to watch a friend turn like that. It doesn’t sound like my knowledge of Borderline Personality Disorder, though; in my experience, BPD doesn’t entail the kind of paranoia that your friend is exhibiting. I’m not a psychiatrist, so take that for what it’s worth.

I am, however, a lawyer, and tesseract is right; you’re in no legal danger. You might want to keep any future communications she sends you, though. Just in case.

I am, more than anything else. It’s easy to ignore the hurtful things she said because I know they’re not coming from my friend, if that makes sense, and that they have no basis in any kind of reality except for her own–what’s not so easy is thinking about, as you said, being the very last one to walk away. I’m comfortable with it because I do feel she has the potential to be very dangerous, especially now that she really does have nothing left to lose–but it’s still deeply saddening to think about anyone being left truly alone in this world.

I do sincerely appreciate all the replies, it’s nice to know others have gone through similar things.

As for her actual diagnosis, she’s told me but I don’t remember. Based on her medications and the moderate amount I know about such things, manic depression and BPD sound rightish.

Also thanks for the copyright news., My sister is a paralegal who, incidentally, just went to a seminar on copyright law, so I did try to touch bases with her regarding any claim she might have, no mater how remote. I know the images belong to me because I created them–the one thing I questioned was whether or not she could make some claim about the images having been taken on her property. The photos don’t actually show any identifiable piece of her property, such as a house or anything, they’re just close-up portrait style photos of the dog’s face. I have plenty of documentation regarding her invitation for me to be there, so there’s no worries about that. She claims not to have given me permission to shoot the photos, though she was right there at the time. She’s not in any of the pictures, so I guess it’s my word against hers on that one.

I do sincerely appreciate all the replies, it’s nice to know others have gone through similar things.

Not a diagnosis, consultation, etc., but a few thoughts.

When people with BPD get scared, they can express themselves in extreme ways that lead to misdiagnosis during a crisis (say, a on trip to the ER for suicidality). Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are fairly frequent diagnostic impressions made of people with BPD who present to emergency services, especially when the emergency personnel don’t know the person’s background and historical quality of relationships. Throwing illicit drugs and alcohol on an emotional crisis, which is often something the person does, both exacerbates the crisis and can muddle the diagnosis. In addition, lots of people with BPD have a concurrent post-traumatic disorder, and in my clinical experience can slip into paranoia pretty easily (and in a lot of cases, knowing something of a person’s history makes me think that paranoia makes sense as a response to the perceived threat, even though it may be a terrible fit for the actual threat that’s present in the here-and-now).

If you’d like to do some further reading to get some ideas for how to maintain a friendship with a person with florid BPD (big if–if that seems to be what’s going on for your friend), or with boundary problems in general (“You’re the best” suddenly becomes “You stink”), take a look at The Stop Walking on Eggshells Workbook.

I have a friend who suddenly became convinced that there were “vortexes of power” in South America and that these somehow tied in with Alien visitations and flying carpets. His marriage fell apart, he spent all his savings traveling to South America. From what I hear, he’s now back home, resuming a mostly normal life. Not going to see how he is myself, though. I’m chicken.