July 26, 2005

My own crystal ball

Ah, to be a clairvoyant for real. I’ve been told so many times in my life that I can see that which no one else sees. I’ve been able to identify so many things that no one sees.

I recall the day in college as an RA (Resident Assistant) that I had a girl from my floor in my room talking to me and realized she was planning on killing herself. Elizabeth. It took me a minute to recall her name. I can see her face plain as day. Thin, pale, face surrounded by long dark brown hair. Angelic. Such a serene face I saw everyday. Yet, finally it registered that this woman was going to end her life. Today. Jesus Fuck. OK, you are wrong, so confirm it. That’s what they teach. If you think someone is suicidal, you are supposed to come right out and ask them.

“Do you want to die?”
“Yes.” Point blank. You are shitting me. This is not happening. What the fuck do I do now?
“You are going to kill yourself?” The truth is that most suicidal people will tell you the truth. They don’t really want to do it, they want to live. In many cases there are signs if you know what to look for.
“Yes,” she says. She just looks at me like she just admitted it was warm in the room.
Deep breath. “Do you have a plan?”
“Yes, I have a few hundred pills.” They weren’t bullshit either. I don’t recall now what they were, I recall sucking in my breath. This is real. She really could do it.
I talked to her for about two hours about her problems and alternatives to solve them. Getting nowhere, I told her. “I have to call someone who can help. Will you talk to them? Please?” She agreed to let me call.
So I called the campus health clinic. I got a receptionist. “I need to talk to Dr. T, now.”
“I’m sorry, she is with a patient/client right now. Can I take a message?”
Jesus Christ lady, no. Not No. Fuck NO!
I said, “Um, no. My name is ______ ______ I’m an RA in X Dorm. I have a student in my room that is planning to kill herself. I need to talk to Dr. T. now.”
30 seconds later the Dr. was on the line. She knew me from RA training where I had brought this very scenario up as a fear of mine. “Tell me what is happening…”
I relayed the story to her very calmly including the name and quantity of pills that Elizabeth had and her plan to take them.
“Will she talk to me?” Dr. T asked.
I pleaded with Elizabeth to take the phone and talk to someone that could help her.
It’s amazing the things we tell ourselves in a crisis. How we can carry on two conversations at once, one in the real world and one with ourselves. Please fucking take the phone and don’t do this. Outwardly, I was calm as a a windless pond. To make a long story short, Elizabeth took the phone. She left my room to go see Dr. T. From there, it was out of my hands. Weeks passed. I saw E in the halls, I talked to her. I tried not to pry. Then one night during an RA meeting in the Residence Hall Director’s home (in our building) the phone rang while the RHD was out solving a problem. The RA that answered the phone handed it to me.

“Since the RHD isn’t there, and you brought the situation to our attention, I have to tell you that I think Elizabeth is going to try to take her life tonight.”

I’m 21 years old and a trained professional just put a life in my hands. Oh. My. God. “Can you see if you can find her? Urge her to call me. Blah, blah, blah…” I look up and I have16 people in the room staring at me. My face must have gone pale white. When I hung up the phone they all yammered at once. Eyes closed I just raised a hand for silence. I pointed at my two co-RAs… come with me. “Tell the RHD to come upstairs immediately.” I sent one after the RHD and told the other what was happening. We went to Elizabeth’s room to intercede if we weren’t too late.

We never found E that night. She didn’t kill herself, and I eventually lost track of her. The situation catapulted me into a severe depression I couldn’t shake. I skipped all my classes for weeks. I ceased to function in my job as an RA completely. My girlfriend broke up with me. Early the next semester, another student was determined to be suicidal one Friday night. The RA’s on his floor came to get me. “Because you’ll know what to do.” I talked him down too (so to speak). I quit my job three weeks later. I wrote the semester off. I dropped whatever classes I was now failing and begged the other professors to just pass me.

The vision doesn’t always work. I dream that one day I’ll be able to turn that vision upon my own life and find whatever it is that we look for to give meaning to our lives. In the meantime, I’m still on an incredible adventure called life. Whatever is thrown my way, I have to look at it as a thing to experience and revel in. To think different would mean I have surrendered. I’d be an Elizabeth; a person that gave up on herself and the people around her.

I have no idea why I just spent the time to write that story down... maybe it was just time to say goodbye to it. A story that just needed to go away. If you know someone you suspect may be suffering from severe depression or suicidal (or even if you don't) I urge you to read about how you can help them at the following web sites. Suicide Info and Prevent Suicide


At 7:39 PM, Blogger Jen P. said...

I can relate to this story. I had a good friend in high school that was the same way. His girlfriend had just broke up with him, and he told me he was going to. I talked to him about it and tried to talk him down the best I could. The next day he came to school with bandaids on his wrists....he never talked about it...but i assumed he started to and then stopped himself. It's such a scary scary thing. --Jen Pack

At 11:17 PM, Blogger 30Something said...

You are amazing. You felt her pain, thats why you had a hard time after the fact.

I have that same gift. I have several stories like yours.


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