The easiest part about being friends with Jackie is that we have years and years of memories together. At any given time, I could rattle off a fun time we shared, a sad time we experienced, or even a wild time we engaged in together. For instance, there’s the time we danced until 4 a.m. at a Chicago bar on St. Patrick’s Day; or the day her grandma passed away and she was completely heartbroken; or the many nights we snuck out my parents’ car for a joyride well before we had our driver’s license.
Every time I think of Jackie or see her, no matter how she’s changed or no matter how different her life has become from the times we shared over the years, I can always turn to memories to remind me of who she was pre-schizophrenia.
These memories act as something reliable and tangible I hold onto when I’m at a loss.
A few months ago, during a visit with Jackie, she was quieter than the time before. She drifted off during our conversation and didn’t seem interested or engaged in our talk. The hour-and-a-half we spent together felt like three. When I dropped her off at home and pulled out of her driveway, I was just a few blocks away before I received a text message from her.
“I found the Queen of Germany’s daughter with Tom Cruise…it’s Cathy.”
My heart sank. I pulled off to the side of the road. As I continued reading the text, sadness began to overwhelm me. It was clear Jackie wasn’t well. I sat with the realization for a few minutes, and then put the car into drive and continued on my way.
During my half-hour ride home, the questions ran through my head.
“Do I tell her mom?”
“If I do, am I telling on her? Invading her privacy? Making things worse for her?”
Even though we’re 40-years old, somehow the childhood feeling of tattling arose.
The debate with myself went on for hours after I got home.
During dinner with my family, I asked my kids what they did during recess that day. (They usually like to answer that over “What did you learn today?”).
My daughter began telling us how her friend had her laughing so hard when they were on the swings because she was making silly faces at her. As we all giggled at the scenario, I knew then that I had to tell Jackie’s mom about the text.
I knew then that Jackie deserved to feel her best—at least, the best that’s possible. I knew then that it was my place as her friend to always speak up when she sways from her true personality. I knew then that I was in the right to hold onto who Jackie was before she became ill, and to try to always believe she deserves to get back to that place.
I would want my friend to do the same for me.
After dinner, I sent Jackie’s mom a text telling her that I had received an alarming note from Jackie earlier that day. I mentioned to her mom that I felt guilty letting her know; that it felt like I was telling on Jackie.
Her mom was grateful that I clued her in. She mentioned that Jackie had been keeping to herself lately. She said she would tell Jackie’s doctor and see if they could adjust her medication.
The next time I saw Jackie about a month later, was the best visit we’ve had in over a year.
She was engaged in our conversation. And happy to see me. We even laughed about so many things, including how her grandma used to comment on all of Jackie’s boyfriends. Jackie even reminded me of some her grandma’s best quotes.
Seeing Jackie feeling and acting like her old self, whether it was fleeting or not, helped erase the feelings I had around exposing her. On my ride home that day, I didn’t question myself. Instead, I sat with the fact that even though we’re no longer kids, sometimes tattling has its place.