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My friend Karl was a normal, happy guy. We were part of a sprawling group of friends. With the rest of our group, Karl and I shared most Saturday nights laughing, boozy & relaxed, be it at someone’s place or playing pool down the pub. Karl was a nice guy. A good guy.

When he was around 25, he began showing symptoms of bipolar disorder that very quickly turned into full-blown manic and depressive episodes. One day he would be a bundle of electric nervous energy with a million and one fantastical ideas and he felt capable of conquering the world. A week later he would be so down he couldn’t drag himself out of bed, he couldn’t hold a conversation and everything was just too hard for him.

Being his friend was hard. When he was manic, he was exhausting and he would spin unbelievable tales. Then the tide would turn and he’d be incapable of participation in the friendship. It was a challenge to be close to someone who couldn’t separate fact from fiction, so one by one people slipped away from him. I tried to maintain contact with him, but truthfully, I was less than spectacular at being there for him.

Within 12 months of his initial diagnosis, Karl committed suicide during one of his depressive phases.

What I’ve come to understand is that my job was never to fix him or to make everything better. The fact is, there are people out there who are trained to deal with this situation, and there are organisations which can provide support when and where it’s needed. My job was just to be there as much as I could, frustrating as it was, and to remind him, in those times when it was all too much, that help was out there.

words: Kristen Hodges.


February 15, 2010 at 11:10 AM notlizzie said...

As a gal who tries to "fix it", its good to read another persons thoughts. It took a long time for me to realise that I cant be the one who makes it better all the time, even if i want to.

I am better for this knowledge, though my heart was broken many times before the message got through.
And sometimes i do still try.

I hope others read this and get the courage to let go and just be a friend.

Thanks for the note.

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