(Originally appeared on Flip Collective)
Part I of “I Want My Best Friend Back.”
Jane was my roommate, but more importantly—she’s been my best friend for 16 years. She started drinking heavily shortly after she met Don in 2011. For the first few months, Don was suave and charming. He sent her flowers and bought her fancy dinners. He convinced her to quit her job and he paid for everything—her rent, cell phone, groceries, etc. But then he slowly transformed into a monster.
I was stunned at the things he said to her. He wanted her at his apartment every night. When Jane didn’t see Don for a few days, he would get drunk and text her things like: “Don’t bother coming back you whore. Have fun fucking your secret boyfriend you n****r lover. This ship had sailed and you missed the boat.”
He loved using that terrible word (and also the worst clichés ever). Jane’s last boyfriend was black and she maintained a friendship with him over the phone because he no longer lived in California. Don was delusional and extremely jealous and used it against her. He was also a master manipulator and convinced Jane that she needed him because no one else wanted her. They would argue all the time. I couldn’t understand why Jane fell into his trap. She was always so independent and strong. I looked up to her when I was younger. I wanted to be as creative and interesting as her. Every guy was in love with her because she was so beautiful and quirky. Don didn’t appreciate anything about her; he only wanted to control and use her.
In March of 2013, after three years of Don’s torment, Jane finally broke.
At first I thought her delusions were temporary and stress related, but when I came home to see towels stuffed in every drain in our apartment because “the neighbors are putting chemicals through the vents and working with the Russian mafia to kidnap us,” (written on a piece of construction paper because she didn’t want us talking for fear of listening devices), I knew the shit had hit the fan.
Weeks passed with no signs of improvement. Jane stopped sleeping and would stare out the windows pointing out black cars that looked suspicious. She put cans of pop on the windows as a security method in case an intruder showed up. Our neighbors were, in fact, drug dealers, but the harmless Mountain Dew-drinking, pot-smoking kind. Jane would lay with her ear pressed against our wooden floors listening to the downstairs neighbors conversations. She even unplugged the refrigerator to lessen the vibration on the floor.
Aside from Don’s torment, I assumed her behavior was a side effect of medication. Surely the combination of alcohol, Adderall, Seroquel, Lexapro, Gabapentin, and other various pills had to be the culprit. I would see glimpses of her sweet and energetic personality, but then be thrown back into confusion when she made me answer questions about my identity before she would talk to me on the phone. She thought posts on Facebook were secret messages that Don concocted to intimidate her. If I tried to talk sense into her she would get angry and assume I was working with the police.
At one point she thought my boyfriend had ties to KONY. She didn’t know who or what to trust.
I spent hours on the phone with psychiatric hospitals and doctors trying to find a solution. I took her to emergency rooms only to be passed through a maze. “This isn’t my department, you need to go up three floors and wait an hour to see someone.” It’s impossible to deal with the health care system in LA, and also impossible to deal with someone who doesn’t actually believe they have a problem—the double whammy of mental illness.
Don offered no assistance. He would text, “come over here, it’s safe over here.” He was sick and gross. In a way I thought he was thrilled Jane was even more helpless than before. Fortunately, I convinced Jane to stay away from Don so I could monitor her behavior in case something really bad happened—and it did.
I came home to find Jane in our front yard asking neighbors if they knew about the “cyber crimes” happening in the area. She also moved our cats into her car because it was “safer.” Her emotions ranged from happy to angry within seconds. She would yell at me, saying I was a “naïve brat who didn’t understand what was really happening.”
She was also unable to pay her portion of rent so I made the executive decision to move out of our apartment. I called my sister crying and exhausted, and she volunteered to make the ten-hour round trip to pick up Jane. I helped her pack a bag and said I would take care of moving her things to my sister’s as soon as I could. I hoped a change of surroundings and getting away from Don would help improve her mental state. My sister also set up doctors and therapists for her to talk to.
While I was counting down the minutes until my sister’s arrival, Jane started crying and asked, “Some of this isn’t happening, right? Why don’t you believe me?”
I wanted to say I believed her. I wanted to support her and make her feel safe. I wanted to tell her everything was going to be OK, but at that moment I had no idea if everything was going to be OK. I feared I was going to lose her forever; my heart was breaking.
My sister finally arrived and Jane was happy to see her. I felt a huge relief. It seemed as though we were on the right track to helping her.
Jane had one last request, though. She asked if I could put her in a sleeping bag and carry her into my sister’s car so the neighbors and people spying on us wouldn’t be able to follow her. I declined and gave her a hug.
After she left, I sat in her bed with her cat and looked around at all the scattered papers. Her room was even crazier than Russell Crowe’s in A Beautiful Mind. I put my head down on her pillow and started crying. I already missed her, but I knew she was in good hands with my sister.
Unfortunately, this is only the second part of the story. Things got much worse.