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Old 05-03-2010, 04:53 PM   #1
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What do I say to badly depressed friend?

So for a bit over a year now I have been good friends with a woman who suffers severe depression and anxiety. She is suicidal, has panic attacks, and cuts herself. She told me in the beginning of our friendship that what she needed most from me was just to listen and be accepting. She said her family and friends all were in denial as to how badly she was depressed, and that she needed me to not be in denial. What this meant, of course, was that I could not shake my head and say NO when she said she was contemplating suicide.

She's had her ups and downs in this time. But today was the day she really scared me. Work has been hell for her lately, and she sent me an email today when I told her how sorry I was that work was going badly and she said, "It's not just work. Everything is going badly. I'm an old lady. I'm done with this." My friend is only 34- younger than I by about 3 years.

To me, this sounded very much like by "done" she meant she is committing suicide.

I don't know what to say. Lately her questions have been seeking answers that I don't have. Should she quit her job? What should she tell a new employer? Should she have herself committed? I can't make those decisions for her- and I'm afraid anything I recommend will be wrong.

Now I feel like she's given up, and I don't have the answer for that either.

Any suggestions? I just feel so helpless, like nothing I can say or do will make a difference.

 
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Old 05-03-2010, 06:49 PM   #2
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

Hi Dee...we started to talk on another thread that disappeared...I think we may have hijacked the thread and they don't like that here. I was hoping you'd re-post the situation.

You told me your friend was abused as a young child. Abuse as a young child usually leads to a life of distrust. If you can't trust adults to not hurt you, then who can you trust? It leads us to test the trustfulness of everyone around us, including you. She might just be testing you or she may be suicidal. Either way, you just need to listen to her and let her talk.

If I recall, she does see a therapist and if so, you can always call her therapist and let them know that you think she is suicidal. When you get an email like that, print it out and give it or forward it to the therapist.

I've been there and have many friends who have also been there and I have a rule I adhere to....and I tell everyone the following....I will listen all you want but if you act, talk, threaten or in anyway make me feel that you are a danger to yourself, I will call or email or in someway tell your therapist, police or whoever. PERIOD. Friendship does not mean hiding the fact that someone wants to die. And in my experience, most people who talk about it, do want to(to some extent) but are using you to reach out and ask for help. It's not a bad way of using someone, just sometimes it's the only way someone can reach out. You might be the only person she trusts right now to keep her alive. So don't feel used. But do consider telling her therapist. You can't make progress in therapy if you aren't alive to do so.

Now she might get angry if you do call her therapist and will probably tell you she is angry and even make threats if you do but it's all part of the lack of trust issue. Don't be intimidated. She is trying to test you to see if you really care and that may mean doing what is best for her despite what she says to you.

It's complicated, Dee. Just think to yourself how you'd deal with life if you trusted no one? How would you ask for help if you trusted no one? How conflicted would you be if you trusted no one but knew you needed to trust someone in order to get through it all?

The first thing we need once born is someone to trust. Think of yourself as a primitive woman giving birth in the fields. She has just given birth all alone. A baby lying in a field with blood on it and crying is a sign to animals that there is food. Unless a trusted person picks that baby up and wraps it up against the elements and keeps it safe from animals it will perish. So the first thing we need after birth is a trusted person. And when you loose that person through abuse, it becomes a life long battle to learn to trust again.

It can happen, but it takes a lot of work...a lifetime full of work. But I'm glad she has a friend like you....it makes it easier.

Keep in touch.

gentle hugs................Jenny

 
Old 05-03-2010, 06:51 PM   #3
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

Forgot to add....all those questions she has are something only she can answer along with her therapist. Don't even try to answer them....just let her talk and try to get her to talk to the therapist about it. They need to work on it together.

Jenny

 
Old 05-03-2010, 11:35 PM   #4
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

Jennybyc-

Thanks. I honestly don't know what to do, I'm so conflicted.

On the one hand, I agree she is asking for help- to a point. She brought up last Friday about whether she should have herself committed. Well, part of me thinks yes. See one thing is- she's NOT seeing a therapist. She did, for a few sessions, but he was a muslim male (not slamming muslims, just pointing out a big cultural difference) and he told her that all her problems stemmed from her weight and if she'd just lose weight everything would be fine. He completely marginalized her real issues, and she's sort of stuck because in the part of Canada she lives in you don't get to choose your specialists, just your GP. So her GP is affiliated with one psychiatric group, and so if she wants to go back to therapy she would probably wind up with the same guy. So she won't go. She only sees her GP, who basically also acts as her psychiatrist and he's the one doing her meds. So if she was committed, then she'd have to see a therapist. And that might be a good thing.

But here's where I'm really, really torn. My friend is a person who has been desperately depressed since she was about 13. Probably due to having been abused. She's told her parents and her brother and some friends how things are, and none of them really listen. They think she's dramatizing or something, despite the fact that she is on meds for serious depression and despite the fact that she cuts herself. And- I don't think she's crazy. I don't want her to die, but I also feel that it's not my place to interfere because I DON'T think she's crazy. I think she's in chronic pain...albeit mental as opposed to physical.

For her, this isn't some phase, it's not something she's going to snap out of in a few weeks. I feel like, if I were to report her to the authorities as a danger to herself, that she would never forgive me. She'd see it as a breach of our trust, and right now I'm the only person she talks to about this stuff. Who would she talk to then?

So what is left is for me to be there for her and to try to say the right things. But what do I say? I tell her she's my best friend. I tell her (often) that I lean on her as she leans on me, because it seems like she is forever feeling guilty for leaning on me and thinks that our friendship is one sided when it's not. I get as much out of the friendship as she does, but she doesn't want to believe that. She says often how she feels like I'm going to get tired of her, or mad, and stop talking to her.

Right now she's also a bit bummed because we had wanted to take a vacation together this year - since we live in different countries it would be a rare opportunity to see each other- and now it doesn't look like it will happen because I've got health issues right now that are costing me a lot of money to work through. And so she is disappointed because it's something she's been looking forward to.

She told me today that it's "okay" until the movie "Eclipse" comes out. For some reason, she has latched onto the Twilight series in a serious way. Not like a normal fan, but obsessed. She lives, eats, breathes Twilight. So I believe her when she says she'll hang on until the movies are finished...but what then? She's never obsessed about anything else before and I don't know why the Twilight thing got her so obsessed but its the only thing that she ever got really excited about. I don't know the psychology of it, but it seems like it matters. Like- if she can be excited and happy about this one thing, then there ought to be a way to get through to the rest of her.

I guess I'm rambling at this point, but I'm just so lost. I feel like if she does commit suicide that I will always question the "What if"...what if I'd said this, what if I'd done that...

 
Old 05-04-2010, 09:28 AM   #5
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

Hi Dee. I grew up in Canada so I am familiar with the Canadian health care system and it can be a big problem when you get someone you don't like. She must tell her GP what was said to her and the GP can see that she gets a different therapist. Often if it's a male that abused, you don't want a male therapist so if this is the case, then she can use that as an excuse. But that is the way to get a change...have the GP do it as her GP is the one in charge in Canadian health care.

Here is a suggestion. It does seem as if she is backing off on her threat so just be yourself with her and make her keep that promise. In the meantime, there are a number of books out there on abuse and healing from it. Some even have workbooks that you write in in order to work it through. Off hand I can't give you names or authors but if you go to a book selling site and do a search, you could probably find them. Either have her get them or buy one or 2 as a gift and send them directly to her. PTSD is one disorder that can be worked on alone quite well and if you have a therapist who "doesn't get it" often it is better. You can be your own best therapist. I did it for many, many years and the therapist I now see says I did a better job that most therapists do.

As for committing herself...she doesn't have to do that. Commitment is involuntary. She could just go to a hospital ER and tell them she's suicidal and they may just admit her to the psych ward for treatment and observation. And yes, that way she'd get a different doc if she doesn't tell them she's seeing the guy she was sent to. She has to consider the other therapist as a past therapist and that she has cut the connection so they give her someone new. That way she is admitted voluntarily and can leave when she wants if things don't go well. Commitments are done to you by other docs who have found you to incompetent or a danger to yourself or others. Not something you ever want to do. But you can go and ask about being admitted voluntarily because you feel you are in danger of hurting yourself.

Her cutting is all part of the abuse spectrum. Don't see it as a threat to herself but a way to release anxiety. Pretty common. I did it too. It will go away once she deals with the abuse.

If she can back down and say she'll hang on until the movie comes out then she's not a danger right now. So be a good friend and get her some self help stuff and then ask her to tell you about what she's read. Talk about it with her. Talk about trust with her.

Although I have my rules with others who are suicidal, it is different with you being in a different country. I've tried to help friends in Canada and from the US it's really hard unless you have the exact phone numbers to reach someone. But realize that it's not your job to keep her alive if the going gets that bad.

I will research some books and get back to you as to what others have found help but she sounds like she is very smart and could probably help herself a lot. There a lot of people out there who do just that because they have no insurance. And sometimes just having someone in your life you can trust is the start of recovery so keep up the good work.

Back to you later..................Jenny

 
Old 05-04-2010, 09:43 AM   #6
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

you need to call 911 when she threatens suicide.
this is not your burden to carry......
she's being selfish by expecting you to "go along"

 
Old 05-04-2010, 11:11 AM   #7
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

Jennybyc-

My friend LOVES to write. I think those workbooks are probably a great idea. I will look for some.

Rosequartz-

Yes- sometimes she is being selfish, but I get it. You know? I understand why she is being selfish when she is, and most of the time she's not. I just feel like if I call in help I will be betraying her. What I want to do is convince her to get help for herself.

 
Old 05-04-2010, 11:18 AM   #8
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

Quote:
Originally Posted by EagleRiverDee View Post
Jennybyc-

Rosequartz-

Yes- sometimes she is being selfish, but I get it. You know? I understand why she is being selfish when she is, and most of the time she's not. I just feel like if I call in help I will be betraying her. What I want to do is convince her to get help for herself.
will you "get it", the one time she follows thru with her threat?
will you be able to live with yourself knowing that you complacently did nothing (as she asked you to).
She's putting waayyy too much pressure on you and it is very very selfish.....not a little bit.....a lot.
this girl needs more help than you can give her....I know you want to believe by just being her friend you can save her, but you could be doing her more harm than good. She needs professional help, not just a buddy to console her.....this is way deeper than that.

 
Old 05-04-2010, 12:25 PM   #9
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

RoseQuartz:

She knows she needs professional help. I've encouraged her to go to a therapist. I've encouraged her to try alternative stuff like hypnosis, even, since on a personal level I've had more success with that than with therapy. She resists any effort I make at asking her to seek help. I've mentioned to her how guilty I will feel if she commits suicide and I didn't do anything. I've asked her- what will your parents say to me, when you commit suicide, and they find out I knew you were suicidal? She says to me, "I've tried to talk to them, I've tried to ask them for help. They are in denial and don't want to talk about it. They shouldn't be surprised if it happens."

I guess the reason I feel torn is I'm the only person she talks to about her mental issues, and she needs someone to talk to. If I betray her (which is how she would see it) by contacting mental health professionals or the police near where she lives, odds are strong that it will be straw that breaks the camels back. In other words, If I betray her confidence I feel strongly that it would be the thing that pushes her over the edge and ensures she commits suicide. How can I live with that? Even if an intervention takes place at the time, she'll never speak to me again, and as soon as she gets out she would be highly likely to commit suicide.

 
Old 05-04-2010, 02:54 PM   #10
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

eagledee this scenario makes me angry because I have had boyfriends threaten suicide, and I guess that's hardened me to this situation a little. When someone threatens something like that it's manipulative, plain and simple. She's sucking you into this manipulation game.....just like the boyfriend that said if I ever left him he'd kill himself......
manipulation by guilt.....
same thing with her.....if you ever told anyone she'd kill herself.
she's making you her prisoner.....why is that ok with you?
personally I can't STAND when anyone tries to manipulate me......

 
Old 05-04-2010, 03:46 PM   #11
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

RoseQuartz-
I am a cynical person by nature. I can say "NO" to someone easier than anyone I know, and not feel one whit of guilt. I will assure you- if I thought for one minute that my friend was simply being a drama-queen and trying to manipulate me, I'd tell her to take a short walk off a tall building. I have zero tolerance for being manipulated, made to feel guilty, etc. I understand why you think what you do, and even why you might think I'm playing the fool, but I can assure you that my friend's suicidal depression is quite real. When she is at her worst, she stops communicating with me entirely. She tries to push me away. She is the opposite of needy- she actively tries to self-destruct. Sometimes I get frustrated. Just now I sent her an email basically taking her to task for not doing squat to help herself, and how frustrated that makes me. It's going to make her angry, and I know it. She may not talk to me for a couple of days. And odds are, she won't change a think even after she does start talking to me again. If I wanted to walk away, she would make it easy for me to do it. The closer she gets to committing suicide the more she pushes me away. It's me that refuses to give up and let go. I know it's stupid to think I can make a difference. For one, I'm not there. I can't do things with her in person. For two, I'm not a therapist, and she desperately needs one. But I can't just turn my back. She's not playing around- she's desperately depressed and suicidal. I know sometimes you can call a person's bluff on suicide. This isn't one of those instances. She's not bluffing. If I turn my back on her, I truly feel that it will sever the last thing keeping her here. That's how I feel. Not anything she has ever said to me. What she says to me is that I need to not be in denial.

 
Old 05-04-2010, 03:52 PM   #12
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

does she have any family close by?

 
Old 05-04-2010, 04:03 PM   #13
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rosequartz View Post
does she have any family close by?
She lives with her parents. Due to her anxiety, she feels unable to live alone. She doesn't have a boyfriend. She does have some girl friends in the area, but none that she is fully honest with. I think it's easier for her to be honest with me because I'm thousands of miles away, and also because I've had some of the same issues. I have panic disorder and GAD and went through a period of depression and risk of suicide. But at this point, I don't even feel like I can relate to her. For one, I never REALLY wanted to die. I wanted to get better. Yet, when I ask her if she would rather die or get better and live, she says she doesn't know. I don't even know what to say to that. How can someone not know if they want to live a happy life or be dead?

That's why I posted this thread. It's about relating to her- what do I say? What could I say that would help? I was sort of hoping that people who may have walked in her shoes...that maybe someone would say, "You know, what did it for me is my friend said (insert amazingly wise comment here) and it completely changed how I saw things and I went and got help."

In other words, I'm looking for a miracle.

 
Old 05-04-2010, 04:31 PM   #14
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

I don't think there is any one phrase anyone can utter that will make a huge difference. Things like that usually are minor-seeming and it can't be explained why they had such a huge effect. For example, when I first got sober I didn't think anyone really understood what I was going through, and my friend said "Trust me I get it, I didn't check my voicemail for a year." It was just a passing comment but I was like whoaaaa he really does get it! It seriously made me trust him more when he probably thought nothing of it. So if anything, you might accidentally say something that gets her mind spinning haha. Otherwise, just listening, being available to her, not judging her and NOT making her feel like she should just snap out of it, telling her to just get up and walk around the block and she'd feel better - that is what most people desperately want when they're depressed.

 
Old 05-04-2010, 05:50 PM   #15
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Re: What do I say to badly depressed friend?

Hi Dee..see you've been busy on here but the more I learn about your friend, the more I understand. She really does sound as if she has PTSD.

The problem with your friend is that for someone who's been abused, you figure that you'll never be able to forget so even if you felt happy, you'd still have memories so how could you ever be happy? The role of her abuse has obviously been minimized and it shouldn't be. The brain remembers and even if she doesn't say anything about it, it is what drives the depression. I didn't know I was an abuse survivor until I was 35 and yet I suffered from deep, deep depressions since my teens and attempted suicide more than once(and almost succeeded twice but by the grace of God survived). Once I remembered and started to deal with my past, my years and years of depression and behavior problems(cutting, breaking my own bones, all sorts of stuff) slowly disappeared. That is what abuse does to you.

But you can tell her for me that you can overcome your past and let it go and live a happy life but it must be dealt with. And living with parents who are in denial, is like being re-traumatized every day. Being home is killing her.

But when you can't work, where do you go? I spent 7 years in psych hospitals so I understand. My parents both died when I was in my early 20's (mom at 21 and dad at 26)and I've said this so many times to people I feel like it's what saved me but........Thank God my parents died while I was still young enough to recover and have a good life!

I'm going to head to my local book store tomorrow while researching the books on-line that people say help. I want to check out the work books for myself. In the meantime, tell her to get any book on PTSD or child abuse. She may not feel as if this is the source but tell her to trust me, that it is. I've met too many people just like her....and of course, myself.

On the suicide issue, if she is saying she can wait until the movie comes out, she has a lot of control and is not on her way out. I understand it's US release is August. I think she is just frustrated and doesn't know where to turn anymore. Her family doesn't "get it" and neither does the therapist she was sent to. Nothing drives an abuse victim more nuts that people not listening. Unless she is in danger, don't call out the RCMP.....it will make her feel as if no one listens.

Keep up talking with her and I'm glad to see you have a good head on your shoulders as to what is manipulative and what isn't. I've lost over 2 dozen friends to suicide over the years and as much as it hurts, I always know that I was a good friend but I can't stop someone who is determined to die. In the end, it is their life and not mine. I just pray that they are now in peace.

So I will be back with some recommendations. Let me know how she is...and remember...when you do make her face the truth, that is good...that is what real friends do for each other.

gentle hugs............Jenny

 
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