When you can’t help your friends

I’ve always wanted to be heroic, so it’s got me down that two of my closest friends are suffering at the moment, and I don’t know what, if anything, I can do to help them beyond maintaining the friendship and listening to their woes — and I’m not having such a great time at the moment either, despite recent improvements…

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it much here, but my friend in Michigan — the younger brother of my roommate when I was at UMich in 1998-9 — is mildly handicapped (cerebral palsey).  For years this has made him a “big kid”, which meant I got on with him as I was still into Transformers as well… but lately, he’s become problematic.  Weight training and taking part in bodybuilding shows has made him happy since 2003, but due to recent joint pain, he’s been unable to do either lately, and while I was visiting him in late June and early July (originally planned to coincide with one of his shows), it became clear that he’s becoming… childish and petulant.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with him collecting comics and watching Sesame Street clips on YouTube (hey, how could I when I do similar myself?), and I try not to get annoyed at his tendency to repeat the same conversations over and over again, as I know he can’t help it.  No, my concern is the way he interacts with his parents these days, disdaining the food they cook, treating them like a bank, and even still holding a grudge against his father for preventing him attending a karate event back in, er, the mid-1990s.  He genuinely seems to have a problem with them, even though they do their best to take care of him — but he denies being childish: that’d mean calling his mother a “great big poopy-head”, and he’s much more mature, calling her a “pointy-nosed bitch” instead!

His parents, who are glad that I consider them “America’s real first family”, have actually put forward a proposal: they want to sponsor me for a US green card, so I could come over and live there, as my friend’s housemate, thus enabling him finally to move out of the family home where he’s lived his entire life (aside from a year or so he was married to a similarly-handicapped girl, which ended badly).  A few years ago I’d have jumped at the mere suggestion, but now I’ve got a good life here in London, would I really want to leave it all behind — and would it help my friend, seeing as he doesn’t want to move out of that house (hence why he and his folks didn’t migrate to Washington state in 2014 as planned)?

There seemed to be nothing I could do during my two weeks to encourage him to change his attitude, but I suspect his parents know this, and just want me to carry on being his friend, at least for now.  Perhaps they’re already aware of how he feels about them, though they also seem to realise it’s variable, and some days he’s perfectly amiable.  At the very least, I might have finally convinced him to go see a doctor about his joint pains, in the hope that he can be helped, and thus be able to resume his visits to the gym, with a view to being in a bodybuilding show later in the year.

The other person I can’t help is, of course, “best mate”, who’s been my friend since late 2012 and my housemate since early 2015.  He’s still working for his brother in construction, and still being taken for granted, sent to far-flung parts of Britain at short notice because all his brother’s other workers have families (apparently being single means you have no right to a weekend, or even any time off at all?), and this can happen even when he’s organised a holiday and needs to catch a flight!  This was tried (unsuccessfully) last year when he was about to fly to Japan, and this year he was forced to give up his flight back to his native Ireland; $DEITY help us all in September, when he’s planning to visit Vietnam…

Again, there’s nothing I can do to change this guy’s life — I can’t employ him myself, and while he’s certainly willing to take a crash course in something and aim for a steadier job than construction (which by its very nature is always temporary), being motivated to actually do so is very difficult when he’s exhausted after spending the week in Somerset… and that’s nowhere near as bad as it’s been earlier this year, and back in 2016.  It’s also destroyed his social life, leaving him no longer going to raves — if he’d outgrown them, fine, but he misses partying, and is so desperate for human contact that he’s hinted at hiring an escort!

As with my American friend, I suppose all I can do is listen to his complaints about his life situation, without being judgmental, and support him with whatever decision he makes, even if it’s to go back to Ireland and give up on living in London entirely (since he’s paying rent but seldom actually sleeping here).  However, I’m still recovering from jet lag following my holiday, and much as in Michigan, and indeed before I left, I’m sleeping badly every night (sometimes I have to lie awake doing magazine puzzles), so what good am I to either friend until I remove the beam from my own eye?  I need to fix myself up so I’m no longer having those dizzy spells (which feel like my brain is trying to dream even though I’m awake at the time — is it insomnia?), otherwise I’m in as much need of help as they are.

On that topic, I’m going to sleep early on a Sunday night for once, in the hope that even if I wake up again during the night, I’ll still get enough sleep overall (or at least be told so by Fitbit) that I won’t be in a state tomorrow.  Of course, it’d help if it wasn’t so hot in my room… but hey, it’s better than the cold — and at least that troublesome housemate’s gone at last!

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