DEAR KELLY: My friends and I are sophomores and we decided this year we were tired of being good girls all the time. We made a pact that we wouldn’t hook up with guys or dumb things like that, but that we would start to push the envelope a little and do fun things that were kind of edgy. We started a little group blog called bdangerous and we put on it the crazy things we do like skinny dipping in our neighbor’s pool or taking someone else’s drink at Starbucks. Things like that. Nothing too risky or dangerous and more for just fun.
One of the girls is taking it to total extremes, though, and I don’t know what to do anymore. She started taking selfies doing things that most of us think are pretty stupid. Then she pushed it and ate a ton of vodka gummy bears. She went and bought cigarettes and took selfies smoking (something she never did before) by a gas pump and now is all about different ways to get drunk and take selfies. She’s up at all hours doing these dangerous selfies. She thinks it’s so funny and keeps saying that she’s having so much fun, but none of those things are fun to us. One of my friends wrote her on our group text and said something like “April, you win. None of us are as dangerous or exciting as you are. We are all OK with being boring if it means we are safe so we don’t really want to continue doing this anymore because we’re worried about you and don’t want to keep seeing you do things that could hurt you.” April got really mad and said that she didn’t start the idea. She said everyone else she’s told thinks it’s funny and maybe that’s why all of us are considered prudes at school because we don’t know how to loosen up and have fun. She’s really mad at all of us and doesn’t reply when we text her.
She doesn’t post on our blog page anymore and started her own Instagram page where she posts wild and crazy things she does. People encourage it and say things about how cool she is. It’s totally out of control and every day I see her her doing dumber things because now people are challenging and posting ideas about what she should do.
Recently her mom reached out to me and said that April has been acting really weird for like six months and her mom doesn’t know what’s going on. She asked if I knew anything, but I didn’t want to say anything and be a snitch because we all might get in trouble. I know her mom is really nervous because April’s oldest brother has bipolar and has struggled his whole life. I don’t think she’s bipolar because she was fine before this whole dangerous thing happened and she didn’t do stupid things until she started getting all this attention for it. I’m so worried about April, but I don’t know if I should say anything or just hopefully let it all die down once she runs out of stupid things to do. And could we have caused her to get bipolar with our game? Now I’m feeling guilty too. Please help.
What should I do?
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Funny how life can turn “bdangerous” into “bworried.” What started as a little joke or game has turned serious and possibly very harmful. Thank you for having the courage to write and ask for help because not saying anything could be a decision you regret one day if April makes the wrong choice and is severely injured or, even worse, killed by her need to feel “dangerous.”
First thing – if April is bipolar, your game did not cause it. Bipolar disorder is caused by a biochemical imbalance or a brain-structuring issue. Genes also seem to play a role in who gets diagnosed with it as well. You did not cause April to be bipolar, but the game you and your friends decided to play may have triggered her responses and set the manic behavior in motion.
You need to talk with April’s mom. Go to her in confidence and show her the blog and the things April started doing in order to try and push the envelope and be cool. Then show her the new Instagram page and what decisions April is making now and the feedback she is getting. The fact that she has bipolar in her family means her risky choices need to be addressed by a professional and promptly. The “up” part of bipolar is mania or manic, and April’s risky behavior could fall in line with the symptoms around experiencing a manic episode.
On the mayoclinic.org website they talk about manic episodes and behaviors that accompany the disorder. They address the idea that many people with bipolar disorder don’t get the treatment they need because they don't recognize how much their emotional instability disrupts their lives and the lives of their loved ones. They enjoy the feelings of euphoria, feeling more creative and cycles of being more productive. Addiction or substance abuse frequently marries itself with people struggling with bipolar. People who are manic feel like they are invincible and nothing they do will harm them. I’ve heard it described before as optimism on steroids. Yet, it’s inevitable that a crash will follow the mania and people can fall into deep depressions and be unable to manage the simplest of daily tasks. It’s all a cycle, and because her brother has struggled with bipolar and we know it has a genetic component, you need to speak up soon and share what is happening. April needs to be evaluated by a professional, but the first step is making her mom aware of what has been going on.
Stop playing “the game” – even if April gets the help she needs and stops. It’s not safe and someone can get hurt doing something you think doesn’t even seem dangerous. Is it so important to be edgy that you are willing to risk the safety of one of your friends? There is nothing wrong with being a good girl and making good choices. And there is nothing wrong with being boring if it means you are being smart and safe.