My best friend


A few years ago, my best friend, Cait, was diagnosed with manic depression (also known as bipolar disorder). Prior to knowing her, I didn’t know much about manic depression. I assumed (incorrectly) that it meant that a person was just hyper-depressed. Or just mentally unstable. Which, in my mind, was a polite way of saying they were just kind of crazy.

I was really, really wrong.

People who are manic depressive experience periods of mania, during which they are flying high, productive, creative, unstoppable…followed by equally severe periods of all-consuming, all-encompassing, paralyzing, debilitating depression. With medication and therapy, these episodes can be lessened, but they’ll never truly go away.

Cait's really been struggling lately with her bipolar disorder. Her moods have been fluctuating wildly and unpredictably, and she (and her doctors) are trying to find the right medicine combinations to better get them under control.

But it's been hard.

I can walk into a room and feel if Cait's crushed with depression. Similarly, I can tell just by looking at her if she's hypomanic. Depending on her moods, I tiptoe carefully around her, or curl up next to her. Once, during an incredibly awful period back in November, I had to physically lift her out of bed — she couldn't get out on her own. And one night, she took a really long shower, and when I went to check on her, I found her curled on the bottom of the bathtub, water raining over her. She couldn't get out. She just couldn't. I pulled the curtain aside, hooked my arms under hers, and pulled her up.

There are also times where she's flying so high she can't stop talking. She talks at lightning speed, jumping from one topic to another. Sometimes she can't sit still, she has to get out of wherever she is — like tonight. Sometimes she has the urge to do potentially harmful and dangerous things. Most of the time, she resists. Sometimes she doesn't.

My best friend has manic depression. But that doesn’t mean she’s crazy. Yes, she goes through period of mania (which is a word with enormously weighted negative associations). Yes, she goes through periods of depression. But she’s also empathetic, loyal, intelligent, and a brilliant writer and photographer. And she produces incredible work because of, and not in spite of, her manic depression.

Sometimes being best friends with Cait feels like I'm on a roller coaster. She goes so high, and I try to fly with her, and then she crashes, and I sink too. It's hard. But it's a part of who she is. Just like I have complete anxiety-ridden breakdowns from time to time (okay, let's be honest, pretty frequently). That, and my own depression, are part of me. And Cait loves me and takes care of me regardless.

That's what we do. We take care of each other, no matter what. My best friend has manic depression, and she's struggling. It's been really hard. But I'd never for one second consider not being by her side.

(FYI — I asked Cait before I posted this. She graciously was completely supportive of my need to just write this out.)


Anonymous said...

Love you both, Nanny.


Erin O. said...

Although I am not going through the same thing, I do understand the roller coaster. Hang in there! Feel free to email me if you ever need a shoulder; no questions asked.

Anonymous said...

love love love love LOVE you both.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a struggle for Cait, and you too. I hope her doctors can find the right medicine for her and soon. In the mean time, it probably was a good thing she stopped being a Nanny. Even though it is an invansion of privacy to ask to speak to her doctors, I think her former employer was understandably concerned for the kids' safety. Hope she turns the corner soon and things start to settle down and makes sense again!

Take care,
Mary in Michigan

The Nanny said...

Hi Mary,

For some reason, I'm just now seeing your comment. (Gmail? Why didn't I get a notification?)

I did want to respond, though, on the chance that you might check back here. I want to reiterate that Cait was in no way irresponsible while she was at work. Ever. Had there been any possibility of that, she would have removed herself from the situation. I know her, and I know that. That sentiment was also echoed by her therapist, who knows her and her mood patterns extremely well. In addition to that, her employer said outright that she'd never had any cause for concern about Cait.

Cait hasn't stopped being a nanny, and she is a phenomenal one. She blows me away with the love, care, and attention she gives to her kids. She is stable and smart. And the families she's worked for have been so, so lucky to have her. I can assure you that her kids would never, ever be in danger.


Andrew Mack said...

Love you both, Nanny. Marmsie