Friday, November 28, 2008

Ask teh Internets

Halp. We need advice. (Again. Always.)

Remember 'Uncle' J? Who was Pynchon's first friend here when we moved to town, a co-worker who became part of our extended family? Who showed up one day in our driveway with a suitcase and stayed for 10 weeks? Read up if you don't remember the deets.

Ok. Caught up?

He moved to The Big Smoke in September, but his health and his outlook on life have taken a big downturn since then. He's spent maybe three weekends here since he's moved out, and we usually hear from him over email or over the phone. But lately he's dropped right off the map, to the extent that one of his co-workers riffled through old phone bills, hoping that one of the numbers to our area code would yield 'J's friends'--that's us.

They wanted Pynchon to come rescue J: he was really not eating, was really heavily medicated for pain, was not coming out of his room, was not paying his rent. Pynchon called him and emailed and told him it was urgent that we get hold of him--no response, no answer, no reply. So one night this week he drove to the city (took two hours! In the dark!) and pounded on the door until J roused himself ... and fell over, split his head open, and made a trip to Mount Sinai in the ambulance. Nice. No major damage but no real progress.

Now the Big City friends are still calling and emailing Pynchon, asking him ... to what? I don't know. Fix it. The roommate reports that the rent cheque bounced. The co-worker thinks he's going to get fired, has looked up detox and hospice programs--she thinks he's got a drug problem with his pain meds. No one knows what's going on, but they think we can do something about it from 100km away.

The roommate just called again: she was going to meet with J to talk about the bounced cheque. But he's not there--he's left a note about going to the hospital? Can Pynchon fix it?


We can't. Is that wrong? He's getting evicted--but he can't come back here. It's not good for our family, not good for our marriage. Not good for our finances. He is in chronic pain; he is depressed. He needs to be propped up. He needs to be driven places. He needs to be housed and fed. We did it all summer and it was draining. We have the terrible twos. We have high-needs careers. We are working on renovations when we can afford them. We are learning to be a married couple with a kid, despite a kid. We just can't--it sounds so terrible--spare much more for J than we already have.

What to do? Everyone is looking to us--even J is sending whiny, needy emails. He has no money. Soon he'll have no job. He's being evicted and he's so new to the city that he can't find his street on a map. He is feuding with his family ... who are all in Newfoundland.

How can we help but maintain our boundaries? We are terrified that he's going to be homeless, sick, addled, and alone. But we are just as terrified of singlehandedly trying to prevent it.

Scared, sad, guilty: everything we're working hard to stop feeling, and yet, here we are. Any suggestions, Internets? Advice? Commiseration? Excoriation?


Assertagirl said...

Sometimes the best way to help someone is to let them fall, as harsh as that sounds. It's not up to you guys to fix J, and his local acquaintances need to realize that. You guys have already done more than most people would, and you deserve to have your little family intact and healthy under your own roof without the weight of J's issues on your shoulders, too. You're not being a bad person. You just can't take care of anybody else if you don't take care of yourself first.

Kate said...

I've been in this place too, and it really sucks. My family needs to come first but it was very hard to let someone struggle. My compromise was to: 1) be very clear about how much and what type of support I could provide (made the limits explicit and explained that anything else was too much for me/my family); and, 2) to provide my friend with information on the other sources of support. Can you use J's appeals for help to encourage him to move back home (assuming that he has a supportive community there), or to get him to contact CAMH? Given his depression (and possible addiction) issues, it sounds like he needs to see them for a consult (

Good luck!

Beck said...

J. sounds like my youngest brother who is, thank God, my parent's problem and NOT MINE (aside from him smoking on my porch all the time and the police showing up occasionally to ask where he is.). My life! It's magical!

Even if he's estranged from his family - do they HATE him? Could they be contacted to come and sign him into someplace for a while? If not, I would place a strongly worded worried phone call to social services. If someone's in crisis, sometimes the best thing you can do is to pass the buck onto someone who can actually DO something.

Jenifer said...

I think I agree with Beck, is there anyone in NFLD who can help? Can they come and stand by him while he gets the treatment he needs? Do they know how dire it is?

I really think you have done more than your share, yet I totally understand why you feel guilty about drawing the line now.

There really is no right answer other than to think of the well-being and safety of your own family and put that need first and foremost.

Mimi said...

Kate--that's very sensible. One of the Toronto friends sent a list of such resources (ie, which hospitals can best receive about-to-be-homeless sick people, and how to call a social worker) that we may use.

Beck, Jen -- we may have to contact his family directly. He was raised by his Gramma, and she's not really in a position to help directly. His parents might not be much help (for example, this week, his dad refused to let his Gramma loan him money for rent), but he does have two sisters still in his hometown. It's funny -- I was just going to say something about how it wouldn't be fair to them, as they have young families. But hey! I have a young family too, and he's THEIR brother, right? We'll see.


cinnamon gurl said...

I found the CMHC very helpful, which is now called something else. Not sure if there's also one in your town, but they have people whose jobs is to support loved ones of people with mental health problems. You know we've struggled with a family member, and the CMHC person sort of gave us permission to set boundaries and not feel guilty about it. She said that with physical illness, people pull together and get closer to the sick person. But with mental illness, you can't do that. You have to pull away or else you will get sucked into the craziness and the mental illness will overtake everyone.

Just phone the services. There's no reason to wait.

Patti said...

I was going to say brilliant things, but everyone here has truly already said them. I have a good pastor friend in that city, if you think that might be helpful.

May I just say - you don't have to have reasons for not doing more.

In my job, I cross paths with a lot of people struggling with depression and/or addictions. It's awful. Friends and family that are supportive are helpful - but in the end, J has to make his own choices. Otherwise, it's all just enabling.

You don't need a reason to refuse to participate in that. Just the inner strength to not cave in.

Patti said...

P.S. I AM sorry for what you're going through. It's lousy.

Omaha Mama said...

It is so great that you guys have helped him so much already. You need to remind yourself that you've already done more than most people would've (10 weeks!). He is going to have to get figured out what to do next. He needs to make a choice for treatment, etc. With everyone "helping" him, he's not learning to do for himself. I'm sorry that you have to see your friend going through this, but it's not your fault. If he couldn't get on his feet after all of the help you've given, he's going to have to get more formal assistance. And it's not up to you to fix that for him.

Good luck and best wishes!

Her Bad Mother said...

I've learned the hard way - the really hard way, the way that demands you keep learning - that you can't 'save' people, you just can't, not when it comes to their lives. People can only save themselves - you can try to help, but you always need to be aware of the boundaries. If they won't help themselves, there's nothing you can do.

Biggest hugs to you.

motherbumper said...

Wow, the magic of the internet, everyone is saying what I was going to say so I'll just second and third: CMHC and set the boundaries. I've been there, I eventually had to be harsh and let him fall and you know he fell hard but has since recovered (it took years but he thanked me for that loving push recently which lifted all the guilt I felt). You can't save people from themselves.

The Mrs. said...

You can only help someone who is willing to help themselves. I would contact your Department of Health & Mental Hygiene in your state to look for agencies and rehab programs that may be able to help. Give him the information and then it is up to him to contact them or succeed in the program.

Kate said...

Oh, and just because I didn't seem to bother mention it before (too busy being 'mr fixit'?): We're rooting for you to come out of this well.