I met her when I was about 15 years old. She was lush. She was called Holly. We made friends almost instantly. I was with my school friends hanging out at the local park one Friday night in my hometown of Bristol. She just appeared and started chilling with us. I remember it being a really funny night. She thought we were a cool bunch too and we all agreed to hang out again. After that, I’d see her about once a week, usually at the weekend.
I had a Saturday job at the shop up the road. I was paid a pittance, so after a laborious day mostly twiddling my thumbs, I’d spend every hard-earned penny on going out that night. I’d always meet up with Holly at my mum’s house, before going into town. She’d turn up looking so glamorous. Most of us were jealous of her. She just seemed to always pull it off. Her long thick black hair looked gorgeous and she was always bang up to date with fashion. On trend, at the time, being short dresses, tights and high heeled boots. (It was the mid-nineties by the way.) My sister, Tracey loved Holly too, not as much as I did though. The three of us used to laugh and dance around the bedroom whilst getting ready for our night out. Hols always brought the fun side out in us. I remember one time we recorded a radio show on cassette tape. It was the station of the nation at the time. We listened to Bros, ‘Cat among the Pigeons’ and Kylie and stuff.
We remained the best of friends for years. After I’d graduated from film school, I decided to move to London because that’s where all the work was. Holly decided to move to London too. I didn’t think this was a problem. On the contrary, I was so excited and thought nothing of it. I was starting my career in the ‘big smoke’ and my best friend was coming too. How perfect! We had some really good times in London. I’d see her every weekend and some nights in the week after work. We even went on holiday together, which I absolutely loved. My boyfriend at the time thought I had an ‘unhealthy relationship’ with her. What a load of old crap! She was my best mate. Best mates spend a lot of time together. Through thick and thin, right?
We partied hard sometimes and she made me do the craziest things. She always managed to make me feel more confident, just because she was, I suppose. But you just get used to it, that was Holly, just who she was. She always made it seem OK to go a bit mental sometimes. She’d often disappear without saying a word the next day leaving me feeling miserable about what I’d done the night before. Although, I never stayed mad at her for long.
After a few years living the high life in the capital, earning good money in the TV industry and hanging out with pretentious people, I suddenly seemed to be suffering from a kind of breakdown with no idea why. I had developed bipolar disorder, although I didn’t know this at the time, and was diagnosed a couple of years later. Holly was there with me every step of the way, through some pretty dark times. I split up with my boyfriend after almost 10 years and had to move back home. I never took her for granted and felt I owed her a lot.
I later learnt that bipolar (formerly called manic depression) is a chemical imbalance in the brain known as a mood disorder. It’s called this because of the opposite ends of the poles; up and down. I would have episodes of being hypomanic where I’d wake up early, talk too much, rush around, spend loads of money and generally take risks with anything and everything. For example, I’d upped and left everything I’d worked so hard for, including a perfectly happy relationship, a job with amazing prospects and many new friends. Not to mention the pricey one bedroom flat that I’d bought. This was me being hypomanic. You don’t get a taxi from London to Bristol costing £300 when you’re ‘stable’. (One of my home town mates was having a baby and the trains were on strike.) My £3,500 mobile phone bill was eventually framed in gold in my hallway.
Other times I’d feel depressed, where I’d sleep loads, wouldn’t go out, found it difficult to speak to people and thought I’d be better off dead. One time my poor mum had to take me to A&E after I’d taken an overdose. I had to go on a drip to make it better. Holly steered clear when I was in hospital but she was the first person I saw when I was discharged. I was offered a couple of really good jobs in television but had to turn them down because I just wasn’t well enough. I’d also met this guy, Kyle, who I started developing feelings for. I turned him down so many times. He kept phoning up, asking me if I wanted to go out with him and I kept saying, “No I can’t. Sorry.”
When I was ‘hyper’, Hols loved it. It went with her personality and she revelled in it when I was ‘up’. You’d think she would’ve scarpered when I became low a few months later, but no, she was there, especially when I was suicidal. Bless her, such a true friend!
I’d been living back at home for a few months and my illness was progressing. Holly started acting a bit weirdly, and was turning up at my house in the morning when I was supposed to be asleep or out doing things. Because she was my best friend and had helped me so much I just took it. I didn’t realise it was becoming a problem at the time. It felt like she was beginning to stalk me and wouldn’t leave me alone. I didn’t make a big deal of it because all my friends and family still thought she was the ‘bee’s knees’, so even though she could be a bit of a nightmare I always forgave her.
During the next couple of years I experienced some close family bereavements. My dad was assaulted which led to his untimely death. 10 months later my father-in-law (to be) committed suicide and a year after that my step mother died from a heart infection. My family were of course most supportive, and all my friends, and yet again, Holly was there to put a smile on my face. Through the worst times, she was there. She stuck by me through what turned out to be quite a bad few years. She showed what a good friend she was. I’d been through so much I needed her more than ever.
It was different to the old days though, when we were teenagers and in our twenties. Then we used to party and laugh so much. It was a lot more carefree and I guess I didn’t see her as often. Also we went through a stage where we just enjoyed each other’s company. But now it was different. I relied on her so much and our friendship seemed to be a lot more serious. Not as jolly as it was when we were younger.
I was coming to terms with my illness, receiving regular counselling and taking various medications to help me through the episodes. I went to bereavement counselling also and although the pain will always be there it does get easier with time. I even had a couple of jobs which I enjoyed and Kyle had finally convinced me to give it a go. That was one of my better decisions!
I was finally becoming happy again (properly happy, not bipolar happy!) I was in my mid-thirties by now. I’d met my true love, got married and had a baby. These were the things I’d always dreamed of. I think, because my dreams were finally coming true, Holly was beginning to show her jealous side. She started coming round to my house even more often. I was happy again so why couldn’t she just leave me alone? I began to feel suffocated by her and wondered why someone I cherished so much was making me feel sad.
She was up to her usual tricks. She always had the most amazing way of persuading me that it was still cool to hang out so much. She made me laugh and party again. But then sometimes she was so over the top it would be embarrassing and I’d regret some days that I’d hung out with her. I found myself becoming more rebellious, and sometimes even secretive and dishonest and that wasn’t me. I had started to blame Holly. It was getting harder to forgive her. We weren’t kids anymore, and now I had responsibilities.
She slowly started becoming ‘stalker-like’ again and I thought I couldn’t let this happen. I’d already forgiven her a number of times. If I kept letting her do this she’d never stop. She was becoming toxic. It was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done but I had to end our friendship.
She kept saying to me, “But I’ve known you for years. We go back you and me. Remember all the good times? It’ll be weird without me in your life.”
She had a point. What was I going to do without her? She was my best friend, my confidante. We’d been through so much together over a very long period of my life. But I had to weigh things up in my head. It was hard but I knew she wasn’t good for me. I had to think about my husband, my baby and most of all myself.
I finally decided to break friends with Holly. My other friends and family were all really pleased as they had begun to see what a bad influence she had become. (I know they all still liked her though. Everyone likes Holly.) She did leave in the end, threatening to come back at any time. I told her not to.
Yes. I had finally given up my best friend; alcohol.
Copyright Alicia Quinn