where the writers are
Finding a friend in Las Vegas
Las Vegas

I never knew what it was like to have trouble making friends until I was 22 and living in Las Vegas with my parents. Throughout my life I always had lots of friends, in school, and at jobs I had, no problem. Even in my darkest times, there was someone. For example, to pick me up at the hospital after a suicide attempt, no matter how pissed off they were at me. To come over to my place in Stamford because I was afraid to drive the 25 miles to Milford.

In 1995 I moved to Las Vegas with my parents. All of us were getting a fresh start there. But mine didn’t work out nearly as I’d hoped. I didn’t get a job. I was very mentally ill, the bipolar disorder torturing me with depression, mixed episodes, mania, there was no way I was going to work. I had agoraphobia, but could to go the casino in the middle of the night because it was empty (a crappy, local place).

It was one of the loneliest times of my life, hands down. I’d never experienced anything like it. I tried to mitigate the loneliness by talking on the phone to people back home, but I wasn’t the same person I’d been. It didn’t feel the same, because when my old friends asked me what was going on in my life this was all I had, “I’ve got bipolar disorder and I’m on a lot of medication. I don’t have a job. I’m trying to go to school and failing.”

People back home didn’t know this “me.” The Chris with bipolar disorder who could barely go to the grocery store alone. Or who was completely unable to succeed at school. I used to sit with my surveying professor in his office, talking, wondering if he was the closest thing to a friend in Las Vegas I had. And there I was, asking for an incomplete we both knew I’d never be able to finish.

I had a psychiatrist and therapist. Walt was my meds doctor, and he was very cool – I liked talking to him. Dr. Matthews was my therapist, and while we were able to talk about some things, especially sports, nothing was being accomplished. And he sometimes made me feel even worse. Like when I went to see him and he said, “You look heavier, have you gained weight?”

Really, Dr. Matthews? Didn’t I say I wanted to die? And you want to know if I’ve gained weight? Smooth move, man.

The utter lack of socialization was even a challenge to AU Chris. But at least there I had money and the means to see my old friends.

I went over a year in Las Vegas without making a real friend. But once I made that real friend, it was for life. A best friend. We met in the hospital. It didn’t matter, because we were exactly what we each needed. Was this some easy friendship that would smoothly move forward for years? No. The rest of the story is for another post.