One of my proudest moments as Kaia’s* mom was when she was in 6th grade and she lost all of her friends that she had since elementary school because she stood up for a girl she didn’t know very well, Sarah,* who was being bullied. The girls thought Sarah was annoying, and so they were going to tell her that she was annoying and that they didn’t want to be her friend, and they planned to take a video of it and post it on social media to humiliate her. Kaia went to the counselor and told her what the girls were planning. The counselor put a stop to it, and so Sarah didn’t have to go through the humiliation of having that video shared on the internet, but Kaia lost every single friend she had because she did the right thing. This meant so much to me, because I was bullied as a kid, and no one ever stood up for me. And I watched others get bullied and did nothing because I was scared to be the target again. The shame of being bullied and of those personal failures when it came to others being bullied still hurt to this day, but knowing that my daughter had her own strong value system that she lived by was very healing and hopeful for me.
I was very proud of Kaia two years later, when she was in 8th grade and, knowing she would face the same consequences, she did it again—she stood up for Sarah when she was being bullied, and as a result of that, she lost all of her friends again. What I admired most was that she didn’t even regret what she had done. I had worried that she was so traumatized from losing all of her friends in her first year of middle school that it would be too painful for her to ever stand up for anyone ever again. But Kaia never saw someone suffering that she didn’t decide to help. And she paid a price for it.
And then Sarah became Kaia’s best friend. They have years of memories of friendship and trouble.
Today, Kaia suffers from Bipolar I disorder, severe, with psychotic features. It’s easy to love Kaia, but it’s hard to be a person who loves her when her behavior is reflecting an episode of her illness. I set boundaries, I take breaks, I get help for myself so that I can be the person that I need to be for her and for myself, because she is still that fierce girl who would never let an underdog fight alone, and so I will always fight for her too. She has been abandoned by every friend she’s ever had. She’s been abandoned by most of her family members.
My hope for Kaia is that we eventually find the right combination of treatment and meds so that she experiences triggers and symptoms of her illness less frequently and is able to fully be in this world experiencing it and offering the wonderful person she is to the world. Her triggers are being rejected, abandoned, and being made to feel like she doesn’t belong, and it’s really hard to manage when it keeps happening to her over and over again. But I believe in her strength and her ability to get through this.
I will ask her not to contact Sarah ever again, not because of your cowardly suggestion that it’s “time” for them to go separate ways, but because Kaia has always deserved better than what she got from any of the friends who have decided to abandon her now that she is sick. I am hopeful that she will find friends in the future who understand what courage, decency, and friendship actually mean.
*names have been changed