My Friend, Jeanine

Today’s Daily Prompt: Buddy

As I don’t have permission yet to use my dear friend’s name on here, I’ve dubbed her as Jeanine instead. This is the story of our friendship.

Jeanine and I met during our psychology class together, about behavioral research, it was a research methods course, one of those required major courses sort of thing. I spotted her, maybe before she spotted me. It was fall 2014. I got diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on self-harm and suicide obsessions and I was brand spankin’ new to the mental health world. I hadn’t struggled with mental health issues before this point in time, although the OCD began making its way through me the two years prior to that point in time, I just didn’t realize it was OCD–or any type of illness, anyways.

There was some blur of a day where I saw Jeanine was wearing shorter sleeves. Her long dyed hair would sparkle in the sunlight and she had brown eyes that you could tell had seen a lot. I saw on one of her arms a series of lines, and I had a hunch about how they got there. I wanted to talk to her about it, to offer my hand to her, but I didn’t know how. It makes me a little squeamish to say, but I knew I wanted to be her friend right then and there. Maybe that’s not the greatest way to start a friendship, but, it’s where ours began on my side of things.

Jeanine is a very smart, intelligent young woman. She would answer questions a few times in class and I couldn’t help but marvel at her knowledge, since from where I sat I had my nose in the books falling asleep because the OCD hadn’t given me a break the night before.

I believe there was one day we saw each other on the train or something. I can’t quite recall… but we spoke about Halloween and I was telling her how I wanted to dress up as Loki from Thor and the Avengers movies and how she told me I’d be able to pull it off. I think that was the first time I told her how amazing and beautiful she was. She said I was awesome too (a bonus!).

I would notice the times where she wouldn’t be there for class, and I would be worried. I hadn’t yet known of what she was going through, and I know it’s not my place to share such details on here. When we would see each other, I was happy.

I recall one afternoon we were speaking with each other in the Quinn building on campus, and I think I had asked her how she was, and Jeanine had expressed how the semester was going roughly. I offered her what small amount of hope that I could, telling her that for me, too, the semester was rough, but it was at least coming to an end soon. I think in this semester I had mentioned to her that I had been diagnosed with the OCD, I think mentioning even that I was struggling with the self-harm and suicide obsessions, which is a feat for me because I hadn’t been too open about the matter yet during this time. We worked on a project together and with a few others and that went pretty well. I think that’s how we got each other’s email addresses, even.

Then the winter break came along… and come and pass it did.

We were both surprised to see each other again in the spring 2015 semester, in the same adolescence course. I believe it was around this time that we wound up sharing phone numbers to stay in better contact with each other. Or maybe it was in the fall…it all blurs together, really.

But I know that after my first hospitalization, in February, we met up together one day at lunch in the cafeteria and I began asking her about her scars and what mental health issues she was dealing with. We began having a very open discussion back and forth about our troubles then. From there, we would catch each other when we could, and we’d talk, even when I had to withdraw from the course we were in together again. Even when we’d be struggling or when we found out our therapist’s office were near each other’s. Then a few times we went on the train together to get there, and I’d try to snag my appointments to be on those same days too, so we could ride together for a while.

I remember, possibly even that first day in the spring where we spoke with each other openly about mental health issues, that I asked her what coping strategies she had. Maybe, too, that was the day we rode together to therapy, because I recall counting off a list of coping strategies to her, one involving coloring.

The next time we met, she said she’d gotten a coloring book. I was shocked! “Those exist?” “Yeah, I got one at the bookstore around X” “Oh my god, I must see these things!”

And so, one day we did. Jeanine had discovered ‘The Secret Garden’ and ‘The Enchanted Forest’ coloring books by Johana Brasford. I fell in love with them, just as much as she had. It blew my mind to know there were coloring books out there, as I had gotten freebie coloring sheets from the hospital.

I remember Jeanine telling me she had mentioned me to her therapist that day I sparked her imagination. I, too, had told her to mine.

Jeanine and I began hanging out, even going over to each other’s houses which still marks the few college friends I’ve had where we do that. I would be by her apartment, not actually going in until this year, and she’d come over to my house.

We made it a goal to watch the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie together. That, and Jurassic World. We did go on those movie watching days. They were wonderful.

As we hung out together more, able to confide in one another about mental health, I began seeing how else we could get along and mesh. Jeanine enjoys drawing and has created some beautiful pieces, may I add, and she likes coloring and MCU and reading and the colors red and black and we even made bracelets together a few times!

That was our first hanging out together, in the library up in the city making bracelets. One of hers, tied precariously so, wound up sputtering all over the place in a tragic yet hilarious fashion.

As we’d hang out together, I found there was something different about discussing mental health issues with Jeanine than any other person–and then I realized it was because we were BOTH still in the midst of our issues. Others I had spoken to about my troubles were people who’d been through it and were striving now. But with Jeanine, we were both caught up in it, still.

I like being the positive force in our friendship, and Jeanine has it in her too, because she’s helped me out plenty of times, too. It’s an honor to be the recovery voice and I can share that with her and hope that at least while we see each other, it brings her some joy and light for when the other days don’t quite measure up.

She is a gifted musician as well, oh my, and her singing voice is lovely! I hope and dream for her to be able to use her talents one day, possibly even incorporating them into what career path she aims to follow.

I want her to be well and happy and loved, because I certainly care about her a lot.

Over the last summer we managed to stay in pretty good contact. Over the fall semester 2015, which I had taken a leave of absence from, I saw her a couple of times, especially when I got out in December. We met multiple times then, until there was about a three month break or so.

Sometimes I think I need her more than she may need me. It was tough being on that break. I texted her a bunch during it, and would think to email her, but would often forget to. I thought about her a lot, hoping she was all right and that she was carrying on. A few times, and even in the last small break, I worry that I’ll have to look for her name in the obituary. More than once I had to just push aside my thoughts and feelings of concern for her because if I thought about it too much it’d be too upsetting. I just kept holding onto the hope and faith that we’d see each other again. That we’d get into contact again.

After about three months, I sent her an email and soon after, I saw Jeanine’s name pop up on my email. CONTACT WAS SUCCESSFUL!

When the spring break came in 2016 I marched my way over to her and where she was receiving some treatment. We went to Joann’s Fabrics, Friendly’s and got lost in Boston that day. With me driving. For the first time. In Boston. Oh, my GPS, leading me astray ever so!

It was …. quite the adventure, put mildly so. But we did make it out alive! I didn’t know how to get home from her apartment that night so thinking on our feet, we decided to have a double sleep over–she came with me on the way home and slept over my house and then I went back over to hers after taking the train in later on and after I saw my therapist, and then headed to her apartment. I even got to see some of the plants (almost said planets, haha) that Jeanine has!

It was such a fun and enjoyable time, then. And we came to the conclusion we hardly knew any of the same songs together! But, that’s a work in progress now.

We were going to hang out another time in April but it didn’t work out for Jeanine and the next time didn’t work out for me, either.

Slowly, another small break began then, and texting and emailing wasn’t yielding me with any results.

So, a week ago, I did the next best thing. My Mom and I were in the area, we genuinely were, she drove me up to Brookline for my therapy appointment which she sat in on and then we were around the Boston area anyways after I had gone to school that day, and so we stopped by Jeanine’s.

Buahaha, that’s right, I unexpectedly and without forewarning showed up at Jeanine’s to pop on in. Except, well, I couldn’t get IN so I left two notes for her–one on her car and one in the little mailbox.

I can happily say, she contacted me the next day. (I left all my info for her in the note)

And even more happily, we’ll be seeing each other tomorrow.

Buddies, pals, friends, buddeh, they can be tough to contact at times, but when you’re really there for them, you’re really there. Just as they are for you. Jeanine is a wonderful, gifted and beautiful young lady, and I am so very honored to call her my friend. ❤

Caring for you deeply, Jeanine. ❤

— Raquel


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