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Advice
Feb 17, 2007

Je veux ton amour
Et je veux ton revanche
Je veux ton amour
I don't wanna be friends


Bit of backstory...

My dear friend Sarah (not real name) and I have gotten along fabulously since we met working at the same restaurant almost a decade ago. She's nearly 30 now, and we live in a 2 bedroom apartment in California. (We are not sexually active with each other at all, and we never have been)

This isn't our first time living together, I came in to help her out for the last few months of her last lease because her old roommate skipped out (now I see this as a red flag).

She is suffering from some sort of mental health crisis. The first sign I noticed, almost seven years into our friendship, was in this last apartment.

We were watching TV at around 9pm, and she kept looking out the window. I asked her what was up, and she was unresponsive, as though what were happening outside was very concerning to her. Eventually she got up and started checking outside from different angles of the room. I kept asking her if she was OK, and she finally responded with a hush, and telling me that people were outside our unit, trying to break in.

Obviously I was initially very worried, and checked outside. Nothing of the sort. A typical quiet night in a peaceful apartment community. Nobody was out there period, let alone "trying to break in".

Long story short, she spent the rest of the night hiding in corners of the room, terrified that people outside were "trying to break inside". I spoke with her, and tried to calm her down. (I should note that she because overly physical at this time, cuddling up to me when that has never been our relationship before. I ascribed this at the time, to her fear.)

I asked her to describe what she saw, and she said she saw several men trying to pry our windows open with a large bar. I posited that, if a large man were trying to get into our sliding glass door, it wouldn't be terribly difficult. A quick smash, and they'd be in. But in her mind, this state of "someone trying to force the window open" lasted several hours.

I guess I would amateurishly diagnose this, at least for the purposes of clarity in this post, as delusional paranoia.

Before you ask about drugs, she does have a bit of a drug problem, though I would point out that none of these attacks are during a "high" or a comedown, if you will. Obviously the brain is a delicate organism, and her years of partying may be catching up with her. This is someone SWIM has personally done ecstasy, coke, and smoked pot with (relax guys, they don't anymore), and I know that with boyfriends of varying moral fiber she has abused xanax, whippits, and alcohol as well.

As the night progressed, she became so fearful for her life that she grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen and began pacing the house, attempting to stay "out of sight" of the "intruders". I became QUITE concerned at this point, for my safety as well as her own. I tried to retreat into my room and lock the door, and at this she became hysterical. Convinced I was "abandoning her", she screamed and wedged herself into my doorway so I could not close it. We yelled at each other in the doorway for a bit, until she finally moved and allowed me to lock the door.

Perhaps not the most appropriate response, but I am woefully untrained in this field, and feared for my own safety. I do not know if she has the capacity to identify ME as a threat, and attack me.

I contacted her boyfriend, hoping a fresh set of eyes on the situation might help her. He came over, and went through similar stages as me; initial confusion, realization, and horror. Eventually we had to just leave her to her machinations, and we went to bed.

In the morning, (she didn't sleep a wink), she was slightly more lucid, aware that there were CURRENTLY not men trying to break and enter, but also convinced that what she saw last night was real, and her boyfriend and I were assholes for mistreating her and not believing her.

This was arguably more frustrating than the attack itself, being accused by a clearly unwell person, and I left the apartment to cool off.

Upon returning that night, she was apologetic and lucid. She said she was terrified by the incident. I asked her if she now believed there were really men trying to break in. She admitted that the situation was impossible, and said that it was obviously all in her head.

I am ashamed to admit that we just moved past this incident as if nothing happened.

The second incident, very similar, took place in the same apartment. Again, a slow descent into delusion and paranoia had her believing people were trying to break into the house and hurt her. Again, she brandished a weapon (this time a heavy tequila bottle) for "protection", which is the most concerning part to me. I would obviously hate for her to hurt herself or someone else.

I again hid in my room, as these events took place quite late. I told myself we would deal with it in the morning.

A couple hours later, there's a knock at the door. Apparently she called the police about the "break in".

Now, something I should point out, as she's called the cops during these attacks three times now while I've been home, (I hide in my room or leave the apartment when this happens, as I see it as a dilenma; if I talk to the officers, I have no choice but to tell them it's a mental health emergency, and in my weakness I didn't want her to be committed against her will or arrested for calling the police on a false charge.) She's not exactly a babbling lunatic during these episodes, and manages to speak to the officers quite "lucidly". Somehow, they never catch on. They take her information, take a look around outside, and tell her to call again if the "assailants" return.

Flabbergasted, I contacted some of her old roommates, and got some shocking answers. This has happened to every one of her old roommates I could find, and they were as confused and scared as I was. She apparently suffers from these with some regularity, and I suppose I never noticed simply because I didn't spend every day with her before.

After the second attack, I convinced her to seek help through the medical industry. She saw a psychiatrist, though upon reflection, I'm not sure what she told them. She was prescribed a low dose antidepressant with the plan to up the dosage if she responded well, and to change the prescription as needed.

I have to say, that was the best month I've ever had with her.

The drug made her personality change in a way I can't quite describe. She became quieter, but more thoughtful. She seemed more intelligent, almost. And far less moody or prone to whining or aggression.

I told her all this, and asked her to pass it along to the doctors. We joked that we wished she had taken these years ago.

Unfortunately, she experienced a very decreased libido, and inability to achieve orgasm. This alone was enough to make her want to change medications, but the nail in the coffin was when she started experiencing lightheaded-ness and blackouts. We contacted her doctor, and he told her to immediately stop taking the medication, and that the next time she was in, they would discuss next steps.

Before she had another appointment, we had another attack. This one was in our new apartment, but a similar attack. We're on the second floor now, and she thought outside her room, were people in the bushes watching her. The same sort of silent staring out windows, and the same weapon clutching. (I really need to throw that bottle out)

At this point, I have a M.O. for the situation, basically. So I tried to comfort her to the best of my abilities, but eventually retreated into my room and pretended to sleep. Lo and behold, I hear the cops in our apartment talking to her shortly later. They're confused, but see no intruders, so they leave.

Like the first and second times, we have the *Night of the the Attack*, then the *Morning After* where she's angry at me for not believing her or helping more, and then the *~24 hours later* where she's sobbing and apologetic and begging for help.
This time, during the last phase, she checked herself into a nearby hospital for mental health evaluation.

I assumed she would have some sort of 48 or 72 hour hold for observation. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I figured she was finally getting the help she needed. But alas, TWO HOURS LATER at 4am I get a call from her. Apparently she was able to check herself out, because she was "scared" in there.

On the car ride home she's talking about how freaky the place was, how rude everyone was to her, how scared she was, really playing the victim, and I'm just exhausted at this point. I ask her how we're going to get help now, and she says she'll just talk to her doctor later. Her exact wording is, "This makes three attacks. I really have to take this seriously." (A lie, or else she really has no idea about the old roommates' claims about previous attacks)

Well, short of breaking my lease or physically dragging her, I can't really do much to force her to get help. She avoids talking about it for several months, and never goes on new medication. When we discuss it, she says, "I'm not depressed, so why would I be taking antidepressants?"

I casually mentioned that she wasn't taking them for depression, she was taking them for her dangerous paranoid delusions. She said she didn't want to talk about that.

Now, I don't know if this is healthy or helpful on my part, but I figured she may need help describing this to her doctor, so the most recent attack I recorded bits of on my phone. Just short videos of her yelling out the window at nothing, at 1 in the morning (we have neighbors, its a small quiet community). She refuses to watch these, and becomes angry and yells if I try to discuss them or show them to her.

Well, I have my own life, so I have to be honest, it was pretty easy for me to ignore as well. If it wasn't going down right in my living room that night, it was easy to just watch Seinfeld on Hulu with her again and talk about what we're going to have for dinner. So for yet another few months we acted as though everything were hunky-dorey. No medication, no telling doctors about her problem.

Then a couple weeks ago, she complained of "bugs in her hair" and asked me to help her. We dug through her hair, and found nothing, but she insisted she had bugs or mites or some sort of pest infesting her head or hair. She says she feels "crawling all over her head", and will frequently dig at her scalp or hair, produce some household detritus or small piece of lint or dust, and proudly show it to me as "evidence" of her infestation. I have since learned that this is a common trait of people with delusional parasitosis, called the "matchbox test".

Well, attack or not, or whatever this is, it's been going on now for two weeks. Day and night, she's bent over the sink with gloves on, dumping distilled white vinegar, or tea tree oil (in doses and concentrations FAR beyond what you're supposed to use), or loving olive oil out of the kitchen (entire bottles at a time) on her head, and furiously brushing or scrubbing while in a several-hours-long boiling hot shower.

In fact, the maintenance crews have been to our unit twice now in the past two weeks, because our downstairs neighbor is complaining about water damage to his unit. I'm guessing it's related to our friend's 48 hour shower marathons, but maintenance is confused when they don't find any obvious pipe damage.

Now, this is a girl who is usually obsessed with keeping her hair nice. She has very long, thick hair, and is very proud of it. She spends good money on treatments and hair care, and often brags about her hair quality and quantity compared to other girls.

I told you that to help you understand the gravity of the next statement: I saw her the day after, with a large bald spot on the side of her head, maybe the size of four quarters. Also in my sink was an inordinate amount of hair. Like, giant bushels of it. I have to assume the poor thing literally tore her own hair out of her head.

This terrified me, so I "offered" to take her to the hospital so they can help her with "the bugs". I dropped her off with a plastic bag on her head, and told the receptionist I needed to talk to them outside. I basically told them a shortened version of the above, and that my friend was suffering a delusional attack, and that she had before.

They told me not to worry about anything, and to go home and they would take care of her.

I got a call two hours later from her, asking why I left, and saying she had been discharged with a scabies diagnosis.

Now, for my money, EVEN IF SHE HAS SCABIES, this wasn't a reasonable reaction. So I was livid. I am bending over backwards to get my friend help, and the medical community is making GBS threads in my face. She came home that night with a prescription for a steroid cream to get rid of scabies, and manages to get some sleep.

This story is getting longer than I wanted, so let me hurry up. Thank you for reading this far.

Basically, we used the cream, but the next morning she was again combing her hair obsessively, and woke me up to show me "the bugs" (more dirt or specks of whatever, but clearly not alive, not "crawling all over her" and not a cause for concern like this). When we look at them together, she seems to become lucid for a moment, realizes it's not what she thought, but then she just walks right back to the sink to continue.

This has probably happened 40 times or more in the last couple weeks. She keeps trying to produce these bugs, fails, and we end up fighting. She 100% refuses to believe it's a mental health issue, and refuses to see a psychiatrist or tell her doctors my side of the story. When I try to go with her to the doctor, she sneaks out or lies about the date. Now I fear I am the "enemy" because she has stopped showing me the bugs, but continues her "treatment" in the sink.

She plays the medical industry against itself, using her Health Insurance's App to teleconference with a doctor remotely and get X treatment (for lice, or whatever they think it could be over the phone), then she'll go to her PCP and get Y treatment, for something else entirely.

The pharmacist the other day refused to give her the six medications she had prepared until she called her doctor, because apparently some of them were not supposed to be combined. He was confused as to why she is being prescribed all this.

She recently had an appointment with a dermatologist, who was confused about her "scalp irritation" and prescribed her MORE poo poo for that, and that alone (no bugs found, but I don't know what's going down in these meetings).

Gee, you think dumping PURE tea tree oil on your head, tearing your hair out, and taking boiling hot showers for hours at a time could result in scalp irritation? I don't know, I'm not a doctor.

(By the way, if you ask her, she will tell you the infestation is responsible for her "hair falling out")

I'm at my wit's end. I'm in contact with her mother who lives 3000 miles away, and she's worried but can't really travel (she already came down last month, narrowly missing this whole ordeal, and with COVID and her work she can't come again), the medical industry is failing us left and right, and after consulting with a treatment center, her mother was informed that without Power of Attorney, we cannot commit her against her will.

Any advice? It feels good to get this off my chest, but frankly, I'm about to bail on this poo poo. I don't consider it worth my life should she become violent, and frankly my quality of life is hurting significantly by this. I'm uncomfortable and worried constantly in my own apartment. I have bent over backwards trying to help this girl, but if she's going to live in denial, and just wait for some nightmare to ruin her life, I don't want to be around when it happens. I'm about to just break my lease and loving bail.

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Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


It's a pretty terrible situation and I don't blame you for wanting to remove yourself from it. It's probably the right move.

All I will say is that in my experience, it is almost never enough to mention to 'interstitial' cogs in the medical machine, e.g. paramedics/receptionists, the lowdown on the situation. Very few people in life will go above and beyond, or even be able to transmit what you said to anybody who could make a difference. She will tell a totally different set of events as soon as you aren't around. I know that frustration.

Far removed or not, this is the kind of situation where her family need to get involved. It's not only not your responsibility, though it is admirable to try, but it's not really within your capability because you are unlikely to be allowed to meet her doctor in the first place. What needs to happen is for her to get a concrete diagnosis from a specialist on whatever kind of delusional disorder she has. That will probably involve a family member accompanying her and doing the talking for her. Getting somebody non-violent committed against their will, as her mother told you, is basically impossible.

All I'll say is that there's no use in challenging the delusions, it will just create aggro. Worse, once somebody is challenged on them enough, they learn that other people will react poorly to them, and will do what they can to hide and misdirect all questions about the delusions. I'd break the lease and impress upon her parent(s) that this is serious and may get much worse if continually left untreated. I'd like to say that leaving Sarah an uncombative note clearly detailing that you are leaving because she needs help would do something, but it probably won't. As has become clear to you, you are not the first or even probably the 3rd-4th person to run into this. She has probably been aware all this time that they left in part or wholly due to the delusions, but from her perspective, she is justified and they were wrong.

DickParasite
Dec 2, 2004



Slippery Tilde

Advice posted:

Bit of backstory...


Any advice? I'm about to just break my lease and loving bail.

You break your lease and loving bail. Pack your poo poo and go. Tell her mom when you're gone. Your safety is your first priority.

Torquemada
Oct 21, 2010

Drei Gläser


Your friend is seriously ill, and requires immediate treatment, not least because she needs to rule out a whole host of possible organic reasons for her behaviours, including but not limited to early onset dementia or a brain tumour. Unless you have power of attorney for her, you are unlikely to be able to be her primary caregiver even if you want to, so involving her family is of paramount importance (as is removing yourself from the situation).Since you have a relatively clear historical pattern of consistent behaviour, I dont think you are in immediate danger, but youre obviously (rightly) concerned for your own welfare.

keanureeves99
Jan 23, 2014

Guess where this lollipop's going?

Sounds like she has schizophrenia or something similar. She might be mischaracterising her symptoms to the psychiatrist.

Advice
Feb 17, 2007

Je veux ton amour
Et je veux ton revanche
Je veux ton amour
I don't wanna be friends


Thanks for the advice, guys. Frankly it's a little scary to come to E/N sometimes, but that's probably the fault of the OPs who frequently don't listen to good advice.


keanureeves99 posted:

Sounds like she has schizophrenia or something similar. She might be mischaracterising her symptoms to the psychiatrist.

Thank you so much for suggesting this. I had trouble Googling specific help for this, and "schizophrenia" added to my searches brought me to an interventionist specializing in mental health. We're now in talks to bring her mother down and attempt an intervention followed by immediate inpatient care. I feel like this is probably the last thing I can try, it's no skin off my back to write a letter and sit in on an intervention, and it's worth a shot.

However, if it doesn't go EXACTLY as we want, and we experience even the slightest bit of resistance to treatment, I'm afraid it's going to have to be


DickParasite posted:

You break your lease and loving bail. Pack your poo poo and go. Tell her mom when you're gone. Your safety is your first priority.


Jeza posted:

remove yourself from it


Torquemada posted:

removing yourself from the situation

keanureeves99
Jan 23, 2014

Guess where this lollipop's going?

Advice posted:

Thanks for the advice, guys. Frankly it's a little scary to come to E/N sometimes, but that's probably the fault of the OPs who frequently don't listen to good advice.


Thank you so much for suggesting this. I had trouble Googling specific help for this, and "schizophrenia" added to my searches brought me to an interventionist specializing in mental health. We're now in talks to bring her mother down and attempt an intervention followed by immediate inpatient care. I feel like this is probably the last thing I can try, it's no skin off my back to write a letter and sit in on an intervention, and it's worth a shot.

However, if it doesn't go EXACTLY as we want, and we experience even the slightest bit of resistance to treatment, I'm afraid it's going to have to be

I had a friend in a similar situation who developed a schizoaffective disorder in his 20s. You should prepare yourself for the possibility that she will resist the idea. I'm no pro, but if you can frame the intervention as "just a precaution for eliminating the possibility" of psychosis it may go over easier for her. I'd avoid involving the police or even paramedics if you can, frightened people are hard to reason with.

Crosswell
Jun 7, 2007
Lying in a Bombay alley

It doesnt have to be a mental health breakdown. Pulling your hair out and paranoid delusions are symptoms, not diagnosis People have demonstrated odd behaviour based off glandular imbalances and tiny tumours in the wrong spot.

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BambooTelegraph
Jan 19, 2010


At least where I'm from, we usually have an on-call mobile crisis team that, in the event of a mental health crisis we can reach out to.

Just a thought, have you been in contact with anyone from this: https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/Pages/Obtai...Assistance.aspx

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