August 2001

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I remember this young man, 23 years old, that arrived in the psychiatric ward from the ER at around midnight. There wasn’t much to do this late at night, just check him in, go over a few rules, and let him make one phone call to a family member to let them know where he was and that he was safe.

“mom… yeah, I went to the ER earlier and they said I got to stay a few days in here”

(silence)

“took a few pills and she came home… called the cops… yeah… I know… in the psych ward… you can come see me tomorrow, but no rush… yeah…”

(silence)

“mommy, mommy, mommy, listen to me… listen… I am ok… and I’m sorry. I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?”

(silence)

“I know, and I love you too…. I’m sorry”

It was more than a few pills: 23 pain killers and 20 muscle relaxers.

He hung up the phone and went to his room. I could see him still up, laying there. It was now close to 1am when he noticed the bright beam of light come through his window. He sat up, and calmly walked to the window. He saw his mother’s car parked outside. He came out of his room and asked if he could go see her. “can’t do that”. He asked if he could call her. “Sorry, man. No phone calls until the morning”. He asked if someone could go and tell her that he was fine and to please go home and get some rest. “That would leave us out of ratio”.

He walked back to his room, I would say he was angry, but he looked more crushed than anything. He sat on his bed and just stared at the window… all night.

The next morning, he didn’t even ask to see his mother. After the hygiene and breakfast routine, he went to meet with one of the docs, and was told that after an initial assessment with her, he could go meet with his mother in the family room.

“So, what brings you here”

“life”

“what do you mean?”

“life… bullshit… bad decisions… LIFE”

“ok, let’s think about this a bit more”

“with all due respect, ma’am, I will not sit here and talk to you knowing that my mother is in this clinic somewhere. She’s been here since last night”

“fair enough. Let’s go see your mom”

He walked in the room and his mother immediately ran towards him, tears in her eyes. He watched her run towards him in what felt like slow motion. He could see the fear, the pain, the defeat in her eyes. His eyes closed as his head dropped in shame. By the time he opened them back up, she was all over him. Touching his face, as if to make sure he was really there. Touching his chest and back as if looking for bullet holes.

Then she hugged him… hugged him so tight that he could feel her pumping life back to his broken soul. He felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. “How could I be so selfish?” he thought. “How didn’t I think about what this shit would do to my mother?” Then he hugged her back.

And it was at this very moment that he… I mean… that I… I decided to never attempt suicide again.

That day I stopped living and started surviving.

I’ve been surviving for 16 years…

and counting.