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cut for dealing with schizophrenic friend; poverty; gossip; social… 
8th-Nov-2007 10:00 am
cut for dealing with schizophrenic friend; poverty; gossip; social anxiety

I am going nuts ... I am on the phone with a woman I know who is schizophrenic, and she will not shut up and I can't get off the phone without being really rude ... which I don't want to do, as she has so few friends as it is.

She is really poor and needs food. I am trying to provide her with the courage to go to the local food pantry. I am a new volunteer there, and went to a training program yesterday and then visited this friend after the training. So, she wanted to pick my brain for everything about the food pantry before going. I am ok with that, but she gets really, really weird and picky about everything! I can't answer all of her questions, but I have done my best.

Now, she is giving me all the gossip about the local library. But, she imagines so many things I don't know what is real, and what is not. I don't like to say that people make things up, but she has also gone off about me before, so I know she imagines things.

She just said I have "convinced her she can go without being insulted". And, she has finally agreed to hang up! Yea!

I wrote all of the above except the last paragraph) while listening to her. I don't think that is bad of me, because I am the *only* one in town who will listen to her!!!

I have to save my sanity in some manner. Now, I can go back to work.

I do hope she gets herself some food. Weird thing is -- as weird as this woman is, and I have dealt with a lot of weird people in my life, but this one is really, really near the edge of "too much for me" -- she is a public school teacher, working as a substitute in the special ed department. I think she is even more special than some of her students.

I don't mean to be mean, just realistic. I have to be careful not to get myself hurt while I try and help her. As I said, she does imagine things and has gone off once before about me. Since then, I have stayed very guarded with her.
8th-Nov-2007 05:37 pm (UTC)
I once had a three-hour long conversation in sign-language with a friend in my room while someone I knew like that talked at me on the phone. She'd never stop talking, and really I think just wanted to be talking to someone instead of to herself, so she didn't seem to notice that I wasn't responding. It wasn't a conversation anyway, and she was happy I didn't hang up on her like most people.

I felt a little bad, but not that much. Eventually I had to cut her off all together, because she'd try to latch on to someone and take as much energy as she could get as "support" until they burned out. We were in college, so living in dorms, and she'd still have a panic attack anyone she considered a "friend" left her presence. Then again, it was probably good for me; it was the first place I learned about maintaining boundaries.

Giving what support you can while keeping the boundaries you need to maintain your own self is the best you can do. Even if that is doing something grounding while talking to her.
8th-Nov-2007 07:57 pm (UTC)
OT but...

How/where did you learn sign language? The interpreter in me is curious :)
9th-Nov-2007 02:36 am (UTC)
My friend in college. I mean, growing up I picked up bits and pieces, mostly from PBS, but in college one of my friends was Deaf and it was way easier to do sort of pragmatic communication. At the beginning we'd speak a lot and sign some, and then eventually we signed more and spoke less. Then there was a signing dinner table once a week in college (the day the people in the dining room next door came over and asked us if week could keep the noise down was priceless :)), so I picked up some more there. I have now, unfortunately, lost a lot of it, since she lives far away and I don't use it much.

I've been thinking I should find a local class, but I'm really shy about signing with strangers so I keep putting it off.
11th-Nov-2007 03:58 am (UTC)
Sorry for taking a while to get back here; thanks for your comment. I had to laugh when I read it! I had a friend who was very good at sign language. One she had a conversation with my husband and I while she was simoultaneously having a conversation with her daughter in sign language! It was fun to watch.

8th-Nov-2007 07:59 pm (UTC)
I've never known of anyone who is schizophrenic, but that sounds really tough.
9th-Nov-2007 02:30 am (UTC)
You're nice for listening to her. I feel bad for those people, I wish there was more support available for them. Still it's not your responsibility to deal with her. I don't know if there are any support systems in your area for schizophrenic folks, but perhaps you could find out about it and guide her in their direction.
9th-Nov-2007 02:52 am (UTC)
It's good to stay guarded with her. I've known people who made things up, and twisted things around, and remaining guarded with them has been the best way to handle it.
11th-Nov-2007 04:01 am (UTC)
Thanks for the comment. Yes, the hardest part of dealing with her was finally accepting that she really was making stuff up -- even if she didn't realize it herself. So, it is a fine balance. I treat her as if everything she was telling me was the truth, but I can tell by how her body and voice changes when she goes into her fantasy world. It is bizarre.

I keep good boundaries, and stay safe with her. There is a reason I interact with her, and I try and keep things focused on that.
10th-Nov-2007 11:40 am (UTC)
People can trigger you and that makes it so much harder to provide support for them. At the end of the day, you can't be there for everyone, so don't feel bad if you totally couldn't handle it, you do have that right.
Having said that, the fact that you are handleing it is really awesome, and if you can use boundaries effectively you can give something to this person which you've said yourself no one else in town can or wants to. That is so great.

Perhaps the fact that she is making up stories because of her condition triggers you about abusers that have lied to you? Or the worry about what is real and what isn't? I think if she triggers you and you can find out exactly why, then it's easier to deal with (or to state that you can't.) I've met some people I couldn't be close to. I tried, but I just ended up drained. You need to protect yourself first, or there won't be anything left of you to protect others *big safe hugs*
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