My suicidal friend


I had a friend for 25 years who was always depressed.  I believed his stories about his various mental ‘conditions’ and trying to improve.  I liked him a lot, but was blind to his parasitical nature.  He was always dumping his problems on me and even complete strangers.  That’s how he got attention.  When I had a problem, he didn’t care.

This went on over the years as he moved around the country going through self-help groups, therapists, jobs, acquaintances, and infatuations.  He never seemed to improve.  (He didn’t want to.)

He had a high IQ, an ivy league education, and great talent for comedy, but was an en­cyclopedia of misery.  He let everyone know how awful life was as he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  He began to talk of suicide.

About then I ran the home for mental patients.  They were l0% crazy and 90% spoiled, immature, and irresponsible.  Ah ha!  My friend was irresponsible.  That was why he didn’t take care of his hygiene, wardrobe, car, apt. money etc.  It wasn’t ‘mental’.  The same with the rest of his life.  If he could blame all of his problems on ‘society’ or ‘these times’ etc., he wasn’t responsible.

His behavior declined.  Once we made plans to go out as a foursome, but when he saw his blind date, he wanted to cancel.  He went, but ruined the evening.  Another time he was invited to a party.  He made a play for a much younger woman, who didn’t respond, and left without saying a word.

Later he dropped out of sight for 4 years, and then resumed the friendship with no explanation nor apology.  In his 60s now, he chased women in their 30s and 20s.  He drove without a license, nor insurance, and had his car repossessed.  He got a mysterious inheritance of $2000, spent it on a TV, a VCR, and a bike and gave the bike away.

His depressing stories grew worse.  I had no desire to see him, and soon didn’t want him to call.  All that was left were the great jokes by mail.  They had a richness unequalled.  But he didn’t see this nor the worth of a mutual friend, the good times we had had, nor women, work, life, relatives ….  He resented everything and wanted his folks to take him in.  He wrote I was ‘all he had’.  I let slip something critical of him and he dropped me.  Why, if I was ‘all he had’.  Another game.

His unwillingness to accept responsibility continued.  However ‘mental’ he was, his behavior was increasingly inexcusable.  He might fool psychologists, but I knew better, which bring up a point.  If I knew him so well, why hadn’t he asked me for an outline of how I saw him to take to his psychologists?   Why hadn’t any of them asked for one?   Par for the course. 


(I used the same lessons on another friend, who did want help after his nervous breakdown.  I kept after him about taking more responsibility for his life.  Slowly he did; he got better, and said he owed it all to me.  You live to hear such things.)