The year was 2005. My longtime, close friend Evelyn had been committed to a mental institution in Northeast Iowa after having fallen on tough times and being evicted by her family. The story is a long-one, so I'll try and be concise.
Evelyn and I had a history together. We were raised inside a closely knit community where every family knew each other (and the friends we made were like our siblings). And from that close connection at an early age, she and I began cycling between friends and lovers throughout our teens.
When college age rolled around, I had a decision to make: and I ultimately decided to leave it all for school. That was around 1998. I maintained only a very loose connection to everything thereafter. And that loose connection extended to Evelyn too. We spoke only occasionally, on the phone or via internet. It was always very general, polite, conversational. I heard she had taken local work, was dating so-and-so (and then another so-and-so). And in sum, it seemed she was moving on with her life and doing well.
Sometime in late 2004 things changed. Word got passed along that Evelyn had been laid off, was staying with her parents, and had been having a tough time with it. I remember being concerned, but not overly so. I knew her parents, trusted they would be there, and felt too overwhelmed to stop by. The next I heard of it was in January 2005, when I was made aware she had been committed–miles away from anything she had ever known in Fayette, Iowa.
I felt myself obligated to visit. The story that slowly unfolded was tragic. Evelyn's diagnosis had followed her layoff, triggering a breakdown common to those with BPD. Her family had also fallen on hard times, and couldn't afford her treatment. In an unaided state of mental distress, with no economic means to seek recourse, she was forced into the streets.
Things subsequently coalesced to have her committed. I was floored. The state-sponsored facility that she was sent to, though, could only do so much. By and large, it was a professional outfit providing an optimal environment for recovery. It offered sanctuary, positive social interaction through focus groups and classes, an emphasis on nutrition, and nursing care tailored to individual patients. But it wasn't a panacea: many patients languished there for years only hoping in vain to regain their former selves. Such was the situation with Evelyn.
Having been diagnosed with BPD, the one essential element to her recovery–a strong social network–was lacking. The facility wasn't her family, and the friendships she made there were fleeting at best. That's why I stepped in, albeit cautiously and reluctantly at first. I made my first visit out of respect–she was alone, abandoned, and she deserved that much from a friend. But the more and more I learned, the more I realized I had to do more.
If she ever had a chance of getting better, she needed a family again–a family like the one she lost and only I could recreate. I won't belabor the details, but in 2005 I changed my life, and saved hers. We ended up getting married. And I've never looked back.
Written by a Male (Dubuque, Iowa)