(This essay originally appeared on Flip Collective)
A month passed and things were starting to calm down. I packed up our Koreatown apartment and brought Jane her things. It was almost as moving out of our apartment cured Jane. My sister was very optimistic. She started to see improvement in Jane in the following weeks. She was helping my sister and her boyfriend Dave with work around their house. Her mental state had definitely improved. Unfortunately, our hope was premature.
Jane eventually ran out of her prescriptions. My sister called me crying one night because Jane was outside screaming about domestic abuse, cyber crimes, and being held against her will. My sister called the police and they told her to take Jane to the emergency room. It took an hour, but she finally convinced Jane to get in her car.
Once there, Jane kept running out of the hospital and coming back. The nurse locked the door to her room but Jane banged on the door until someone opened it and she ran out the front doors to smoke a cigarette. Jane said she was fine, but that her prescriptions ran out and she just needed a refill. My sister told the nurse she was psychotic and a threat to herself. The nurse said, “Unless I hear her say she’s going to kill herself, we can’t put her on a 5150 hold.” (A “5150 hold” is an involuntary 72-hour psychiatric confinement.)
No one in that hospital wanted to deal with Jane, so they wrote her refills for Adderall and the other prescriptions she should absolutely not be taking and sent her home.
This happened a few more times. Until my sister couldn’t handle it anymore.
We finally got Jane to talk to a psychiatrist. She got an official diagnosis of severe bipolar disorder with psychotic tendencies. Yeah, no shit. We couldn’t talk to her about police, the government, or anything that could trigger her paranoia. She thought birds were secret government drones sent to gather information. The only secret information worth knowing at my sister’s house is what she puts in her scrambled eggs to make them so tasty (I think it’s rosemary).
Jane got an idea that my sister’s boyfriend Dave was trying to kill her and keeping her around for slave labor. He was actually offering her jobs around the house and at the soil yard to keep her busy. She refused to believe my sister and Dave were trying to help, so she called the police and reported Dave for beating her and my sister. The police showed up shortly after.
The town that my sister and her boyfriend live in is very small. The police knew Dave as a nice guy who doesn’t get into trouble. They talked to my sister and she tried to explain what was happening with Jane. Dave tried to convince the police that everything was fine. Jane ran outside drunkenly and told the police that Dave was growing a massive amount of weed in their yard and was keeping her in his house as a slave. They asked her if Dave tried to hit her, and she said not really, but she thought he was going to. The police were annoyed. Fortunately they observed Jane’s behavior and understood what my sister was trying to explain.
The days after that were tense. Jane decided she was going to move back to LA and live with Ron—the man who had abused her and gave her drugs. My sister was in a bind because she wanted to help Jane, but she was at her wit’s end. How do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped? But also, how do you help someone who doesn’t even think there’s anything wrong? My sister and I thought of Jane as our sister. We all grew up in Michigan together. Was letting her go back to Ron being a bad friend? Were we enabling her?
The only thing I learned about addiction was from the show Intervention. I knew we had to let her go. Her wellbeing was beyond our control at this point. She didn’t want help. There was nothing left to do other than let her hit rock bottom.
Ron drove five hours in a U-haul to pick Jane up. He was disturbingly excited to have his slave back. At this point her Stockholm Syndrome seemed impenetrable. Ron egged her on, and believed that my sister and Dave were evil slave drivers.
Now, it’s been six months since she’s been back with Ron. There are good days—when she comes over to my apartment to watch a movie, and there are terrible days—like when I found a noose in her closet. I’ve called the police three times after Jane called me inebriated, crying, and saying she wanted to die. The police haven’t helped a bit. In fact, they treat Jane like a criminal and believe Ron when he says, “She’s just an addict, she’s fine.”
I’ve talked to social workers in mental health clinics and found places for Jane to go, but she refuses. I’ve attended Al-Anon meetings to find answers on what to do. I’ve talked to friends who have dealt with similar issues, and they tell me I’ve done all I can do.
Jane has alienated all her friendships by blaming us for not helping her. The majority of our conversations end with her telling me I’m a worthless friend because I don’t do anything to help her. I know it’s the alcohol or drugs or mental illness talking, but it hurts every time. I hoped that she would have been better by now, but it’s almost a year later and nothing has improved. Ron was arrested for domestic violence a month ago, but the charges were dropped.
I gave Jane keys to my apartment and told her she can show up anytime she needs. She texts me often that she is being tortured and beaten and asks why I’m not helping. I usually respond with:
“I’ve tried everything, you won’t accept help.”
The response is always:
“Fuck off, you’re not my friend.”