Not This Again -- Crazy Friend Is Crazy And I Guess I Have To Intervene

This would be in the Pit but (with one notable recent exception), I don’t love posting there.

Known this guy for 20 years. Were close friends for the first three or four. He’s an oddball and a self-styled “character,” which he has the ability to pull off because he’s from a ton of family money. Never worked a day in his life, not really (fake jobs in the family company, go-nowhere “businesses” he went through the motions of trying to get off the ground with family backing). He’s got way too much time on his hands, is completely self-centered, and is annoying/insulting to most people (bores or confuses them with his grandiose, hare-brained, short-lived obsessions/projects, like oh being a musician, a magician, an impresario, and Internet baron. And, infuriatingly, beds all sorts of hot chicks who find his BS edgy or interesting (doesn’t hurt that he’s tall, rich, and pretty good looking).

And – diagnosed with manic disorder (not, apparently manic depressive). My first part of friendship with him ended when he spiraled down into a manic meltdown that led to jail, inpatient treatment, and rehab (and medication). He faded out as he and his family were, I guess, embarrassed at what I’d seen in trying to manage the most dangerous part of the crisis (the jail etc. episode).

Re-introduced himself about a year ago. New leaf, sober, engaged, serious enough, kind of witty but no outre Charlie Sheen behavior (he even wryly noted that apparently all that “wizard” talk, which he totally exhibited in his meltdown, is typical in manic people).

Last few months – engagement is off, latest scheme is disintegrating into failure, feeling pressure from his parents who still deludedly believe that this time he can become a self-sustaining adult.

And the wheels are falling off. Last time I saw him about a month ago he was wearing effectively jester clothes and trying to make me go in to a fancy restaurant with him (they of course turned him away). Talking about his “new forms of art,” bragging about all the rich famous people who found him fascinating.

Tonight, after not hearing from him when I huffed off from our last time-wasting annoying encounter, he called me. There ensued 50 minutes of pure craziness about how he needs security because people would try to kill him for his brilliant scientific discoveries, there’s billions to be made here if we manage it right, he needs to buy up his block because it’s going to become a tourist mecca after he wins the Nobel Prize, he’s going to take his ideas to Howard Stern. I eventually said I had to run.

He’s organically sick, I know (though I’m convinced he’s also got serious personality and character flaws that keep him from fighting the sickness). But I have to do something, I think. I think tomorrow I have to call his 80-something year old father, whom I haven’t talked to in 15 years, and burden him with the need to Do Something. And I don’t know what that something is.

No point to this, just venting. Though if you have any brilliant suggestions, do tell, I’m all ears.

Well, all that you can do is make suggestions to his father. But, I’m glad that you’re there for him even though it isn’t fun for you.

Having to deal with hypomania sometimes leads me to seek the advice of family and friends to make sure that I’m not about to go off the deep end. I know I certainly appreciate my friends. Hopefully on some level he appreciates you, too.

Person with bipolar disorder and two manic episodes under their belt chiming in.

You’re missing a step in this process which is considering whether you do, in fact, need to help him. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, I’m questioning your obvious obligation to this person. You’re only responsible for yourself, and although he is clearly sick and needs help it doesn’t have to come for you. I’m not attempting to discourage you from doing anything at all, but trying to put a limitation on what can be reasonably required of you so that you don’t see the situation as quite so daunting.

With all that said, my recommendation is you speak to his family about your concerns - that you have them, that based on past experience they suggest a relapse, and that in your view he needs help. You don’t have to give him that help, his family don’t even have to give him that help, but that you’ve highlighted it and suggested a course of action is doing a hell of a lot more than nothing.

I don’t quite know how the psychiatric system functions in the US, but if the situation were a friend of mine in the UK who had the symptoms your friend was displaying I (thinking about it in the calm of the hypothetical, at any rate) would:

  1. If I know them, tell their family/partner what is going on, relate my own experiences and say I think they need medical attention, if only to be clear if there is a problem (although with those symptoms I think it’s pretty clear there is). After I’ve done that I’d step back and wait to be asked to do anything more, otherwise I’m just potentially making things worse.

  2. If I didn’t have a close contact to speak to, tell the person I’m worried about them and would they consider coming with me to speak to a doctor? This is difficult because the more manic you are the less receptive you are to the prospect of medical intervention. It’s those that insist the most that they’re fine that are the least likely to be.

  3. If the person won’t do it say that’s fine, but I can’t be involved in their life or offer them friendship until they’ve spoken to someone and entertained the possibility of getting help. I would close with the promise that if I’m contacted again and they’re still displaying these symptoms I would reserve the right to contact the authorities and express my concerns about my friend’s welfare, which would very likely activate the mental health emergency services resulting in a visit from mental health workers/the police and possibly forcible hospitalisation.

The last bit is more for my own conscience than it is for them to think about rationally, because they’re unlikely to be able to. I know from experience how horrifying it is to be committed in a psychiatric ward, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone I consider a friend, but in retrospect it saved me from harming myself, someone else or dying (manics can die from exhaustion or abusing their own body). However I need to feel for my own sense of ethics that I have at least told them what I might feel compelled to do, rather than just smiling and saying yeah they’re fine, I’d better get home as I have stuff to do, then straight away calling social services saying they need to be locked up (even if they do). Also it’s better practically if someone willingly speaks to a psychiatrist as it increases their likelihood of being able to get less invasive treatment and, potentially, avoid hospital. Again, that for me is the goal if it can be avoided.

But, and I can’t stress this enough, at no point would I consider this my personal responsibility to help them or do anything at all. I’m only responsible for myself and trying to take on other people’s problems as mine isn’t a healthy road to go down (for either of us).

Hope that helps, PM me if you want to talk about this more and don’t want to do so in public.

Thanks for that. While the manic symptoms aren’t generally self-harm oriented, everyone worries about self-destructive behavior when a friend has a really bad episode of disturbed behavior. Here, the delusion of grandeur leading to fears of persecution by “the authorities” is the one that worries me, coupled with fear of putting himself in dangerous situations (in his last meltdown, I’m thinking I might have saved him from being shot dead as I successfully intervened to tell him to stop violently fighting the much-smaller, and visibly scared, petite female cop who was trying with no success to handcuff him).

Crazy friends are exhausting. I am currently dealing with three:

Stalky Cathy, who fixates on the most inappropriate, uninterested man she can find, then weepily stalks him till he takes out an order of protection against her.

PTSD James, from whom I get a weekly suicide-threat e-mail.

Paranoid Schizo Bradley, who now tells me the local pizza chain drugged him so the government can induct him into a gay sex ring.

I try to be supportive and yet no-nonsense, tell them the truth, do not coddle them, and try to direct them to a professional who can help them with therapy and/or drugs. But crazy people will not listen, so of course I am just spinning my wheels till they kill themelves, intentionally or otherwise.

The only reason I do not cut them off entirely is that in these three cases, I am the last friend they have.

I’d contend that’s not a very good reason. If anything you’re enabling their behaviour by inadvertently saying “it doesn’t matter how irrationally you behave, you’ll always have a friend” which is a reward, not a sanction. Liking people and wanting to spend time with them is a reason to be a friend, not because they need you (when the need is in fact psychiatric/psychological care).

Sure sure, but guilt and fear of something Really Bad happening are hard to overestimate.

True, but I’m clear what it’s reasonable to expect from my friends should I have another episode myself, and saying “you should go for help but I won’t abandon you no matter how much you scare me” isn’t it. As for guilt, it’s not something I experience personally so guess that’s something I can’t help with.

I foresee romance, with only positive results!!

BWA-hahahaha! They *would *make an adorable couple.

Weak update:

I did not contact his family yet. In response to some frantic 2:30 a.m. text requesting my help with his “business plan” I texted back:

“Not sure what I can do for you on that, it doesn’t sound like anything viable. Are you doing okay? I tell you honestly as a friend, it does not sound that way.”

Weak weak weak. No response. The frustrating thing is that when he’s lucid, he’s quite lucid and candid about his disorder, confessing just how carried away he gets when he’s on a manic jag. But of course during the episodes, that self-awareness is just gone.

I should probably contact his family (whom, of course, he has intentionally distanced himself from because of their (to him) nagging inquiries about how he’s doing and what he’s making of the credit lines and such they’ve extended to him).

Being friends with someone is not about reward or punishment, though. You don’t become friends with someone to reward them for how they act, why should you dump them to try and punish them for how they act? No, you stop being friends because someone has hurt you, because you don’t have as much in common anymore, or because you’ve just naturally fallen apart.

Mania is a little different in that there’s actually a need to make someone notice that something bad is going on. But not all mental illnesses are like that. Someone who is very anxious or depressed doesn’t need to be made aware that this is a problem.

True friendship isn’t unconditional, sure, but it’s also not merely a matter of convenience. Someone who only claims to be your friend when things are going well is not really that good of a friend.

I salute Eve and Huerta88 for doing what they can to help these people. I don’t expect them to go beyond what they can handle, but I do very much appreciate it. And I’m sure there are countless others with mental illnesses who would agree.

It shouldn’t be about pity either.

You don’t think having a friendship with eve where these people do nothing but send her crazy emails expecting her to do something to help them is hurtful? It’s an entirely one sided relationship, and I wouldn’t put up with it from someone who was sane any more than someone who was mentally ill. If someone is ill and seeking help, I would feel inclined to want to try and be part of that. If they’re ill and actively resisting help (as many do) it’s not my responsibility to be their saviour, nor can I be.

To be frank I find your approach to friendships, particularly when it encompasses the reality of the big challenges that come with putting up with the shit that mentally ill people throw at you, quite naive. I’ve been manic, I know how terrifying it is for other people to have to deal with, and if I was sick and not being helped by the medical profession I could perfectly understand my friends not wanting to know.

Illuminatiprimus, I’m reasonably sure Eve is more logical than my mother, but there’s a friend about whom my mother often says things such as “she’s such a drag, I don’t know why I put up with her”. I know why: because a) it makes Mom feel saintly, which she loves, and b) she shares many of Mom’s defects, only times 2 or 3 - if Friend can find someone to put up with her bullshit, why, then Mom will always be able to as well, right? Since she’s so much nicer, right? And saintlier, don’t forget saintlier…

The TLDR version is, one needs to know both parts of a relationship real, real well before one can tell what does each part get from it; often a relationship which seems lopsided at first sight isn’t.

Of course - I’m merely commenting on what has been presented, I’m sure it’s not as simple as that. My point remains that I don’t consider friendships based purely on the strength of the need of one party to be particularly healthy for either. Saying that friendships are life and not just for Christmas is a bit simplistic, that’s all. I had considered that Eve is getting some emotional pay off from these crappy friendships, again that doesn’t make it better.

I would have gone with a Cathy-Bradley hookup:

Bradley: “The government is watching me all the time!”

Eve: “No, that’s just Cathy. She does that to all the guys she likes.”

More seriously, if you’re afraid to leave a friendship or a relationship because of what the other person might do (to you, themselves or others) you’re not IN a friendship or relationship; you’re in a hostage situation. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying to help if you genuinely want to but you shouldn’t be afraid to leave if that’s the only reason you’re staying.

Again, BWA-hahaha!

I do find Cathy and Bradley and James exhausting, and it’s true that they never show any interest in my life at all, but I don’t think they are capable of doing so. I remember what they are like at their best–funny and smart and sympathetic–and hope that they can get back there again. But I try not to invest too much in them: someday they are probably going to go off the rails, and, really, there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

In my defense (not that your or anyone else’s informed and measured comments struck me as an attack):

(1) My thread title’s deceptive as I think about it. A bit grandiose in its own right. I mention an “intervention” and then propose, in actuality, merely dropping a dime on the guy and handing the problem off to his aged parents. Which isn’t exactly helpless self-sacrifice.

(2) And I didn’t even do it yet. I generally do feel strongly about letting people muddle their own way through.

(3) As my fact pattern might indicate, his need and my concerns for him are the impetus for telling someone else about his acute problem, but not for staying friends or closely involved with him. In fact, as I briefly mentioned, we drifted apart years ago, when he was still in the depths of working things out, because his family seemed the more appropriate people (if anyone has to stick by a troubled person or try to solve their demons, it’d be family, and even then I’m doubtful) to deal with it. I had very little interest in (but no active antipathy to) reviving the friendship, and would have said Hells no if his initial reaching out, which included some fairly abject apology for making me witness to the first meltdown, had not contained some concrete and plausible assurances that he was back on a much more level track and committed to keeping it that way with getting married, finding a career, etc. (Mainly I was relying on the meds and his commitment to stick with the regimen that seemed to have been successful for some years).

(4) I’m no Florence Nightingale, I want to do the right thing here and otherwise, but I’ve never been a long-term enabler of any serious pathology in a friend or family member. I may not have fleshed this out in the OP, but there were affirmative reasons having nothing to do with his problems or bad habits to hang out with the guy every now and again – he can be funny, we shared some interests in investing, sports betting, and – being unemployed – he was always around when my irregular schedule opened up and you might want to wind down by meeting for drinks and a cigar. As I noted, when the ratio of conversation:craziness changed even a little, I backed off pretty fast.

(5) I mention the possibility of self-harm only as one of the factors that might increase the impulse to tell his family, not as a reason for staying friends. To the points that might be made about manipulation, to his credit, he has never threatened or used self-harm as a way to make people keep interacting with him. (Tellingly, as a rich guy, in both manic episodes he’s instead rather insultingly tried to manipulate me with the crass promise that when his invention or religion or whatever takes off, he’ll give me lots of money, if only I’ll listen to his ravings now). The self-harm is only an incidental though serious risk (as when he decided it was a good idea to try to wrestle a cop for interfering with his wizarding (don’t ask)).

(6) The final fact I left out is that I’m really the only person in this town who knows his family (he just moved here a year and a half or so ago). He’s surrounded by acolytes and casual riffraff acquaintances, but mostly the kind of demimondaines you’d accumulate hanging out in cocktail bars, museums, and coffeehouses all day and night, and I doubt they’d know how to contact his family if they could. So factually (and I swear this isn’t a rationalization) it’s me or no one who’d do it.

You definitely don’t need to defend yourself to me - I’m not implying anything about your friendship with this guy. I said right at the start you’re not responsible for helping him, and that’s as far as I’d go. Everything else I’ve said on the subject has been about **Eve’s **friends, and she’s quite capably explained her own point.

That said for someone saying “I don’t need to defend myself” by god you went ahead and did it. I’m guessing you really feel like you should be doing something but are conflicted on it. For your own sanity, I recommend calling the guy’s parents and leaving it at that, or forgetting you know the dude; this isn’t having a good impact on you.

Crazy Friend Is Crazy


And I Guess I Have To Intervene

No. You do not have to do anything of the sort.

I get that you have some sort of history with the guy, but that doesn’t obligate you to be his keeper. Frankly, he sounds like a person you’d be better off steering clear of entirely. Perhaps the kindest thing you can do is tell him exactly why you’re steering clear, but his choices are his own. For your own sanity, refuse to keep getting sucked in.