Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
My best friend struggles. Since HS, her grades have dropped she has become isolated and anxious. She avoids me and just about everything else. She’s lost a ton of weight, in fact I rarely see her eat at the cafeteria. She looks like a scared rabbit. She found a big boyfriend and clings to him. I asked her if something happened and she just went pale and walked away. Anyway her mom sent her to a Dr. who diagnosed her with ADHD.
She at one point told me she felt better on her ADHD medication but she still looks awful. Can’t ADHD medication make her more anxious and thin? I don’t remember any issues like this when we were younger, what gives?
The problem with specialists is that they view everything through the lens of their specialty and might not look at the big picture. It is also sometimes the case that people don’t tell the truth when they seek help. They may describe how they feel, but omit the objective DATA. If they knew that, they wouldn’t really need help.
A diagnosis is often made by surveys and tests, but many factors can point down the same road. Often, surveys ask the wrong questions and limit the useful information that is received.
Your friend sounds as if she has totally withdrawn. She can’t pay attention in school because she is trying not to pay attention to anything. I suspect this is more likely PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) but her ADHD diagnosis gives her a reason and cause to cling to; it helps her avoid whatever happened to her.
Your friend is indeed scared and confused. She has a secret and secrets, according to Steven King, are like heartworms- they eat you from the inside out. Her secret worm thrives in darkness and sucks up everything positive. These worms hate light and truth and will feed her false messages to prevent her from disclosing to or connecting with anyone at all. I predict isolation, blame, explosions, illnesses, anxiety and depression.
I have also seen this same phenomena occur without direct trauma. Families of soft abuse say one thing and do another. This type of confusion can produce a child who can’t focus- they don’t know what to focus on. They aren’t sure if they should trust their eyes or their faulty intuition. If any real trauma occurs in their life, that trauma can become a diversion- used as a tangible excuse to absorb, explain and mask all their pre-trauma confusion.
More likely than not, there was background dysfunction in your friend’s life that some new trauma added to. Focusing on this trauma could be addicting as it helps to resolve her confusion. It is why people have such a tough time letting go of a trauma. It would throw them back into the ambiguity and insecurity of earlier life.
Your friend is now living a game that she has to learn to stop playing. What would be of far greater benefit would be for her to role model the person she wishes to become rather than clamping down on the person she was prior to the trauma.
At this point there is not much you can do. She needs the right professional help. Unsolicited advice only pisses people off.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: It’s tough to watch a friend turn into a different and disturbing person. The most disturbing thing about it is that there is literally nothing you can do other than try to remain a light shining in the darkness for her.
People get lost and change for all sorts of reasons. We can’t control very much of it. Sometimes when we try to help we end up causing more damage than if we’d stayed out of it. People in trauma don’t have normal reactions to the things around them. They have crossed into another dimension where everything has a different meaning and language has been altered.
Some things for you to keep in mind: none of this is your fault and if your friend goes down that is her decision. Everything she is doing is her own decision.
Be a role model and be loving, but wise. People in trauma can be full of BS too, and we want to let them get away with it because we know they are hurting. But the quickest way to get someone back to normal is to maintain normal boundaries. When a friend has wandered out where the busses don’t run, a glimpse of a route schedule can sometimes help them remember the way back home.