My husband and I are in our 50’s. Six years ago, “Said Woman,” a woman in her mid-thirties moved to our town and joined our church. She got very involved in our projects and we were thrilled to have a “younger” person working so hard on our church projects, even though we noticed that she talked non-stop, took on more work than a person could reasonably finish, and told wild stories about where she had worked.
After a series of personal setbacks, we agreed to allow Said Woman to move in with us and use our third vehicle. There were numerous times that she did not do something she had promised she would do and we noticed that many people avoided her after meeting her. We later found out after she made threats of suicide that she is mentally ill, after her father and brother came to get her.
Her father and her brother knew/know she’s ill and not in treatment. Both her father and brother knew of her close relationship with me and my husband. On two separate occasions when I was staying with the father and step mother, they could have easily talked to me privately. All of them had our email addresses and phone numbers.
Shouldn’t they have warned or even suggested we should be aware if certain behaviors start? If they should not have warned us, why not?
Why should my husband and I be “collateral damage” to an illness her family knew she wasn’t treating?
Where do we go to get those years of OUR lives back? How do we recapture OUR ability and willingness to trust people and help people again?
Where do Said Woman’s privacy rights to be sick stop and our rights to be warned
Thanks in advance for your time,
Thank you so much for writing in. I am so sorry that you have had such a hard time and that this person hurt you so much. I hope that once she has received treatment, she will realize that she needs to make amends.
As far as whether or not her family should have told you that she has a mental illness, I would ask you what you would want if you were Said Woman. As a person with bipolar disorder, I struggle with who to tell every day. I have had to live with the stigma of being mentally ill and, when I tell friends/acquaintances/employers, often those people look at me differently than they did before. Because of that stigma, there are times that I choose not to tell people. Would it be fair to me if my family chose who to tell for me? We have HIPPA laws which protect our privacy and, just as you would not want your family to tell all of your friends about your medical history, Said Woman shouldn’t have to worry about that either.
It seems from your email that you had a long period of time to get to know Said Woman. I am wondering if you chose to overlook behaviors that were clearly irrational because she was such a help to you with her volunteer work and why you did not ask Said Woman (or her family) if you were noticing behavior that did not seem normal.
Where Said Woman’s rights stop is when she is a threat to herself or others. If that is not the case, than her privacy rights are stronger than your right to be “warned” by her family. And, because her family got involved when she threatened to commit suicide, obviously they care enough about her to get her treatment. As an adult, she has the right to refuse treatment, however, just as you would have the right not to follow a doctor’s instructions to change your diet, stop smoking, exercise, take medication for high blood pressure or diabetes, etc. If you chose to ignore your doctor’s suggestions, do you think it would be okay for your family to go around “warning” your friends that you might have a heart attack, stroke, etc.?
Unfortunately, you can never get a period of your life “back.” I would try taking a different point of view and not see yourself as “collateral damage.” You attempted to help someone who clearly needed help, which means you have empathy. It also appears that you were taken advantage of, but remember that only you can allow that to happen. This might be a lesson as to when you say no to someone who is asking something unreasonable of you.
It sounds like there were obvious warning signs that Said Woman had a problem that you chose to ignore. I don’t know how you begin to trust people again, but just because you had a bad experience with one person does not mean that everyone is untrustworthy. I have struggled myself with knowing who to trust a great deal because I have a mental illness. If you are a good person (and it sounds like you are), then you continue to trust people, but move into new relationships with more awareness of what the other person is doing and saying. If something doesn’t sound right, you always have the option of walking away.
You cannot regain the six years that you invested in this relationship. I suggest that you try to think of what you gained from it as opposed to what you lost. And it may be that Said Woman will come back and ask both for forgiveness and to make amends. I would use this as an opportunity to examine what you learned and see if there is anything positive that you can take from the relationship.