| Take 2 |

Dalia and Simi        

We are concerned about our friend, we think she needs help, but we don’t want to betray her trust


Dalia’s Take

Hi, my name is Dalia. I’m seventeen years old and in the middle of my senior year. I have a great friend named Simi. We became close a couple of years ago and I’m very lucky to have someone like her in my life. She’s so funny and she makes me laugh all day. It’s really nice to have a friend who can make you genuinely laugh. One good laugh can turn a rotten day into a good one, and I can’t count how many times Simi’s been able to do that for me.

The thing is, though, Simi seems to be laughing and smiling less and less lately. I noticed over the past few weeks that she seems to be struggling with something, and her happy-go-lucky attitude is slowly diminishing into this more stoic, unfamiliar Simi. I happen to know that she’s been having issues with her stomach and a lot of foods have been making her feel very sick. She’s lost a lot of weight, eliminating things from her diet to try and figure out what’s causing the extreme discomfort. She doesn’t complain about that (what teenage girl would?) but she’s definitely been weaker and less excitable. That part’s totally understandable. She’s going through a lot, seeing a different doctor every week, following this crazy diet and trying to keep up with schoolwork in the process.

What’s concerning me is that I think she’s going through some other stuff that she’s not telling me about. Slowly, she’s getting a little more depressed by the day and I’m not sure how to help her. She claims her health isn’t bothering her and that getting rejected from her preferred seminary isn’t at all a concern (yeah, right) but I’m suspicious that there’s more.

I’m not necessarily nosy enough to pry, but I definitely keep encouraging her to speak to a professional. She rolls her eyes at me and tells me I’m being dramatic and that she’s fine; she just misses pasta that isn’t gluten free. Then she gives me her bright Simi smile, but I can tell. I know her too well for that. Something’s not right.

I know it’s not my place to interfere. Or is it? Should I get an adult involved? I feel like I’m watching her tumble into this downward spiral and I feel so helpless, standing by and doing nothing. It’s killing me. I wish she would just agree to speak to someone, then I’d know at least that someone’s on top of the situation. Is there anything I should be doing to help her? I wish she’d stop pretending she’s alright.


Simi’s Take

Hi, my name’s Simi.

I’m a senior in high school. I’m having a rough year and I’ve been feeling very isolated from my friends.

A few months ago, I started having really bad stomach pains after I ate bread or pasta. I tried cutting those out of my diet, but then it still kept hurting from all random types of foods, like Tradition soups or rugelach or garlic knots. I couldn’t really keep track. My parents became concerned and took me to a gastroenterologist, who thought I might have Celiac disease. I’m still undergoing a lot of tests and it’s all been very stressful.

On top of that, I got rejected from the seminary I really wanted to go to. I’m trying not to be bummed about that, but it’s been bothering me. A lot. I planned to go to this seminary and never imagined that I wouldn’t get accepted. My option B was never really appealing to me. And now it’s my only option. It kind of stinks.

There’s also something else. I haven’t spoken about it with anyone because I just haven’t had the nerve. I almost did to my friend Dalia. She’s definitely on to me. But I keep shaking her off. I just can’t bring myself to say it or tell anyone.

I’m making it sound like I murdered someone, chas v’shalom. I can assure you, what happened was only harmful to me. It’s been eating at me and making my stomach churn to even think about it. But who can I tell without feeling so completely ashamed and humiliated?

I need to shed this mask, but I can’t. I’m too scared to. But I also know that being on my very own with this is turning me inside out.

I would never recover if any of my friends or family found out about this. How can I be sure that a person I confided in would be trustworthy? Keep it private? Make sure no one ever found out? Stay loyal?

I’m feeling very unlike myself and I know this is the reason. I’m carrying around this feeling like a pack of weights on my back. I know if I don’t do something soon, my spine may eventually snap from the stress.

I need help.


Mindy’s Take

Dear Dalia,

Thank you! Thank you! Thank You!

This question is so incredibly valuable! I am so grateful that you brought it up. It is a serious and all too frequent dilemma.

We are concerned about our friend, we think she needs help, but we don’t want to betray her trust.

It’s a real headache of a question but the solution is clear.

We follow the 3-step plan:

  1. We speak with our friend and try to encourage her to go for help.
  2. We evaluate the situation for danger.
  3. If it meets the criteria for being dangerous, we speak to a trusted adult. The general list of trusted adults is: your parents, your teachers, your rav, or your friend’s parents.

The plan is easy to type up but much harder to carry through.

Step #1 takes tremendous courage — we are always so sensitive to our friends’ feelings. What if she takes it the wrong way? What if she gets insulted? What if she laughs and makes fun of me? What if it causes me to lose the friendship?

Dalia, you had enough confidence and strength to share your concerns with Simi and implement step 1. Writing a letter to a friend either with your name or anonymously is another option.

Step # 2: This is a harder step as there is no black and white, hard and fast rule. How do we know if she’s really suffering or in danger? When do we draw the line? To help with this I suggest you speak with a trusted adult, preferably your parents. You can protect your friend’s identity and change necessary details — often they can help you realize if the situation is dangerous.

Step # 3: When in doubt, tell an adult. If you are brave enough, you can warn your friend in advance. You can say something like:

Simi, I love you like a sister. I’m legit very worried about you. I won’t be able to forgive myself if I’m remiss in getting you help and then something happens to you. I’m so sorry, I know you may be angry with me, but if you don’t speak with someone by the end of this week, I’ll speak with someone on your behalf.

I know many teenagers and adults that took this step, and their friendship was irrevocably ruined. They still mourn the relationship and the closeness. However, they also know that they wouldn’t have been able to live with themselves if they hadn’t taken that drastic step. It’s not an easy choice to betray a friend’s loyalty. It’s a decision carried out with sadness and a heavy heart. However, to remain silent is a much riskier choice with scarier consequences.

Dear “Simi,” and to all the Simis out there who are suffering in silence,

I am so sorry for your suffering and pain. I daven for the day that Mashiach will come and all your pain will disappear.

Teenage years and adulthood can be fraught with challenges and hardships. Some are through no fault of our own and some are a result of our own doing. Both are OK. People make mistakes. People go through trials and tribulations. There is help and resources out there. Sometimes we think that we know everything. I hate to burst your bubble… but there is so much we don’t know. There is so much we cannot conquer alone and yet with help we can scale mountains we never thought were possible. You don’t need to suffer alone. Often the hardest step is reaching out for help. With help we can grow from our challenges and emerge stronger. Left alone, problems have a tendency to “get infected” and negatively impact the quality of our life.

The nature of depression is that it impacts our ability to see clearly and make smart choices. If your friend makes that choice for you, I hope one day you can forgive her and appreciate her intentions.

I will end with a heartfelt brachah that you should have the strength to access the help you need and that this hardship should serve as a catalyst for tremendous growth and simchah in your life.



(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 902)

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