(CW: Self-harm, suicide)
On the morning of March 18, I woke up to an empty house. My roommates had work and errands to run so I sat by myself, trying to muster the motivation to do… anything really. It had been five days since I’d run out of my Abilify and two days since I’d given up on taking my other medications. It would be simple to call this a stupid decision. The reality is that it was one stupid decision in larger series of stupid decisions: keeping empty medicine bottles causing me to believe I had another month’s supply; not scheduling a new appointment the last time I saw my psychiatrist; overextending myself between work and several side projects while in that fragile, unmedicated state.
So when I found myself home alone that morning, it triggered a peculiar emptiness in me that I couldn’t quite shake. I took a shower thinking that surely that would wash away the icky feelings. It didn’t. At all. In fact, I started crying and couldn't stop. There didn’t seem to be a reason. I just suddenly felt so isolated. My sadness felt like the biggest thing in the world. After about an hour of waterworks, I gave in to an old habit. I cut myself. Not too deep. Just enough to sting, to distract me. Of course, the distraction was temporary, and at one point, I started thinking a little too seriously about what would happen if I downed the remaining supply of my prescriptions. These thoughts scared me.
Thinking quickly, I Googled the number for the Suicide Hotline. After fifteen minutes of waiting on hold, I hung up and cried some more. Not knowing what else to do, I called my mom.
“Can you drive to the hospital?” she asked. I blubbered that I didn’t think I could go by myself. “Can the girls take you?” Before I could tell her that I was all alone in the house, in walked my roommates. They stared at me, not with judgment, but with pure concern. I saw Andrea’s eyes dart knowingly to my wrist. She’d seen me do this before.
Andrea and I have been roommates for five years. In that time, we’ve seen each other at our best and at our worst. We’ve pulled all-nighters together, worked retail together, cooked, shopped, done everything together. We’ve also struggled with our mental health together, her with depression and anxiety and me with bipolar disorder. We’ve helped each other through tough times. She’s seen a side of me that I haven’t revealed to anyone. Not my mom. Not my boyfriend. No one has seen me as angry, sad, or hopeless as Andrea has seen me. So when she walked in to find me with my wrist cut up and tears streaming down my face, she didn’t even bat an eye. She simply took the phone and asked my mom what needed to be done.
She and my other roommate, Angie, folded me into the car, and we made our way to the emergency room. From the backseat, I could tell Angie was nervous. She hadn’t experienced this side of me before. We’ve been friends for four years and roommates for two, and although she hasn’t seen what Andrea has, she’s always been quick to understand my problems. When we first met working in the college bookstore cafe, she was an innocent, fresh-faced girl who soon blossomed into a witty, helpful young woman with a forgiving heart. And God knows I need forgiving friends.
When we arrived at the emergency room, I could only take one of them with me due to Covid procedure, so Angie led me inside while Andrea parked the car. There was a hospital employee in the foyer area taking temperatures and distributing masks. She asked if I really needed someone with me, if I could check in myself. I replied with a heavy, wordless sob.
“I think she needs me,” Angie said firmly.
The hospital employee let us pass. Angie led me to the front desk and helped me check in then took me to a seat near the windows. There we sat for about five minutes when Andrea wandered up and gave a little wave. With a brief conversation via hand gestures (some obscene), she tried to make me laugh and was rewarded with my weak smile. She plopped down in the outside sitting area and waited patiently.
Angie took care of me while we sat. She brought tissues for my runny nose and a vomit bag for my queasy stomach. Most importantly, she talked to me, distracting me from the dissociative state my brain was trying to slip into. When I was finally called back, she walked me to the big double doors leading to triage. I told her I would call them when I knew what would happen to me. I should’ve hugged her, should’ve thanked her.
After hours in the emergency room and my mom’s swift arrival, the doctors decided to 1013 me, a hold of at least 72 hours for those experiencing suicidal thoughts. I was transported to a psychiatric facility and held for four days. I was admitted in the middle of the night while the phones were off, but as soon as I could, I called them. I called them every day at every opportunity. They asked me a million questions: what did I do all day? What kind of people were in there? How was the food? Ever the gossip-monger, I told them as much as I could, speaking in a hushed tone so the other patients couldn’t hear me talk about them. I promised my friends I would tell them all the drama when I came home. They were happy to hear me laugh and joke around. I felt them release a little more worry each day as I stabilized.
When I was finally discharged, my mom brought me home to them. Andrea wasn’t there when I arrived, but Angie was. I hugged her hard and thanked her. When Andrea returned home, I did the same to her. I regaled them with wild stories from the psych ward. A man who described himself as “better than Jesus.” A girl who escaped in the night. Another man who stripped naked when the nurses wouldn’t give him what he wanted. Tales to take the edge off and let them know my sense of humor was still intact.
The next day came along with my mom’s departure. We decided it would be fun to go to the movies. It would be the three of us plus our other roommate, Andrea’s little sister, Ariana. As the four of us got dressed and ready to go, I found myself in the bathroom looking into the mirror preparing to put on makeup for the first time in over a week. As I looked at myself, I felt overcome, not by sadness this time, but by guilt and shame. It suddenly hit me all at once how scared they must have been, how scared I would have been to see anyone in that condition, especially a friend. I felt selfish for doing that to them. I felt unworthy of their love. After examining myself in the mirror for too long, I began to cry. Not like before, tears that came from nowhere shed for unnameable despair. These were tears of embarrassment and regret.
When my roommates realized I was crying, they sat me down on the couch and asked me to talk to them. Face wet with humiliation and eyes puffy with remorse, I told them I was sorry for making them save my life. They laughed it off and said they’d do it again if they needed to. That’s just what friends are for. I didn’t believe them entirely. I couldn’t stop feeling like I’d asked for too much, needed too much. And yet they were still there for me. And I knew deep down that they would always be there for me. I dried my tears, ready to feel normal again. We finished getting ready and had a wonderful time at the movies.
They will never know how much I appreciate them for driving me to the hospital that day and for not abandoning me after. They understand that I’m not fully healed and may never be, but they’ve made it clear that they’re not going anywhere. I’ve started to let go of the guilt I still feel for showing them such a horrible side of me, but I will never forget how grateful I am to them for helping and accepting me. I don’t know what would’ve happened if they hadn’t walked in when they did, and I don’t like to ponder too long for fear of slipping back into that awful state. All I know for sure is that I have the best friends in the world and I can never thank them enough.