How To Save A Life

Being on the other side of suicide - the one who is not suicidal and trying to help someone who is, is not what I thought it would be.

I knew my friend was severely depressed, she did not hide it.  I cautiously started talking to her, not sure how she would react.  I did not know how to ask her THAT question, and so scared I would turn her away and lose her to who knows what.

I finally gathered the courage to ask her, but do not remember the exact words I used.  I do not know if I said "are you having any thoughts of harming yourself?" or something else more direct.  She may have ignored my question completely the first time, I do not know why I cannot remember exact details.  She was constantly on my mind, the first thing I thought of when I woke up.

I asked very gently again, but so very nervous to bring up the topic.  I am pretty sure I said something to the effect of "are you thinking of ending your life?", and she told me she was.

I thought I would know exactly what to do, what to say, how to act, explain what steps to take, but I realized it is not that simple, and I never considered how fragile a suicidal person would be.  She seemed like a little bird with a broken wing who was trying desperately to fly away.

I wanted to talk to her every single day, but did not want to become an annoyance.  So I worried and went through conversations in my mind again and again.  That did not help much as I was never prepared for what she was going to say the next time I spoke with her.

Once again, I had a huge topic I wanted to bring up.  I had no idea how she would react and knew it could very well drive her away, but I had to suggest it.  I asked her if she had considered checking herself into a psychiatric facility.  The immediate answer was no - and a definite no.  She did not want tell anyone what she was thinking and feeling, fearing she would be locked up.  I told her that would not happen, not if she went voluntarily, yet I do not know the rules in her state and I did not want to say the wrong thing so kept my words to a minimum.

She did try to see a psychiatrist, but as anyone knows who tries to get a new patient appointment with a psychiatrist, you could be waiting months.  That is exactly what happened.  She did have a therapist, and she did go to her family doctor.  From what she told me though, I could tell she did not tell her therapist she was suicidal.

I let some time go by, still checking on her, but trying not to be obsessive, and she started contacting me when she was having a particularly rough time.  She would ask if I could pray for her, which of course I would do and had been doing, and we would talk it through.  She probably did not feel much better after we spoke except for the relief of having someone understand how she felt and having been there before as well.

I just had to bring up the psychiatric facility again, I could not let it go.  As scared as I was that she would never talk to me again, how could I take a chance that something might happen to her if I did not at least give it another try?

This time she was receptive.  Her therapist had suggested it, so a seed had been planted, but she was so hesitant as she had no idea what to expect.  The media - ugh!  Television, movies - they make facilities seem worse than a haunted house.

I described my own experience, not sugar coating anything, but taking away any notion that it was a place with overly sedated people in gowns tied in the back sitting at chess tables.  That is my impression from tv/movies anyway.

She needed to think about it again.  The next time I spoke to her, she told me her therapist had recommended a facility to her that took her insurance, but it did not accept people who were suicidal because of the liability.  Knowing what I know now, I should not have gotten involved, but I asked her, "So when they ask you if you are suicidal, what are you going to say?  No??"

That led to another week of her searching for a facility, while I wished I had been happy she was considering going to a psychiatric facility.  She would send links to places, including the first one, for me to check out, but I really didn't.  Who am I to pick out where she goes?

She settled on the first place, and this time I was nothing but positive - and that is how I felt, absolutely ecstatic.

The only problem?  Her husband had no idea she was depressed and needed to go to a facility.  I told her he would understand, he would not want to lose his wife.  And besides, I told her, there was no way he could not have noticed there was something wrong with her.

Wow, I was SO wrong!  They had a huge fight about it, and he told her not to make any plans about going somewhere, to at least let him think about it.  To me, I could not believe it.  What did HE need to think about?  She told me it was all new to him, but no matter what, she was going.

And she did.  She is out now, and still struggling, just like I was.  I really cannot imagine someone being so low that they can enter a facility and come out on the other end as their "normal self".  I even wonder - will someone EVER be their "normal self" again?  I have forgotten who that person is for me.  I absolutely might be back to my normal self - or even a new and improved self, but I simply cannot remember who I was and how I acted before I was suicidal.

She is better, I am not sensing she is suicidal, and is seems like she now has an excellent support system when she has what she calls "bad moments" or a "bad day".  She has professionals to call immediately, but still working to find the right cocktail of medications for her.

I had considered what I would do and say if I were ever in the position of helping someone in her position one day, but I had not anticipated how scared I would be and how very, very fragile the other person would be.

Even though I had been suicidal and felt the same or something similar to what she had felt, I now see how difficult it must be for people who care about someone who is in a crisis.  It is so heartbreaking.  I was not aware of the intense emotions I would have on the other side of an individual who is sick that I care about.  I thought I would have one, maybe two conversations with someone and "fix them" enough so they would go to the hospital.

Now that I better understand, and why it had not occurred to me I have no idea, the state of mind of someone who is so very depressed, I feel so relieved and thankful that I am able to talk to her and ask how she is doing now.  I am thinking perhaps a miracle occurred, not because of me, just because things all came together at the right time and she was open to everything.  Thank God for that.

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