My schedule was open for April. No speeches and just some sporadic meetings. I had no idea how I was going to spend all that free time. At all of my speeches I urge students to reach out to me for help if they need it. It’s not something that I charge for. The reward is seeing progression and change in the life of each individual student.
It all started with these messages:
“Hi. I just need someone to talk to. I feel like everything is falling apart. I don’t know how to cope and I feel like I have no one to talk to.”
“I just don’t want to be here anymore. I started self harming again and I’ve never felt so worthless.”
“I’m losing it.”
It was a scary situation for me, but there was no way I was going to ignore this person. There is nothing more valuable than the life of another person. I took it upon myself to give this girl the much needed advice and attention. For the next month I dedicated my life to her. I did not want to leave her alone so I invited her into my home.
I knew the feeling of thinking you’re worthless and that your life is no longer worth living. I had so much support, but even with that I was so close to ending my life five years ago never believing that my life would turn out the way it has unfolded. I understood what was going through her head. She had spent her entire life seeking help, but never found someone that fully understood what she was going through.
There were several points where I was scared to death thinking she was about to go through with it and end it. I had to prove that life was worth living. She crashed on my couch many nights when I was afraid to leave her alone. We went to the emergency room multiple times when it became too much, but she was never admitted to the psychiatric hospital. She had been in the psych ward many many times before and it always just proved to make things worse. I was always able to calm her down to the point where when we finally saw the psychiatrists they felt comfortable sending her home under my supervision.
Suicide was always on her mind, but up to this point it was never attempted since I had met her, but it was attempted in the past. She had her ups and downs. One second everything would be fine and the next second it was back to her thinking she would be better off dead. I had to constantly remind her what she had to live for although she would still argue that life was no longer worth living. She thought it was the best solution for everyone.
Then came the day that I never will forget. A series of events led to the decision that it all had to end right then and there. Locked in my bathroom she laid crying and screaming on the floor. When I finally got her to open the door she was holding the solution in her hands that would end her suffering. It was a large bottle of bleach and she threatened me that she was going to drink it down, especially if I called the police.
I left the room and quickly called 911. A police officer arrived quickly and knocked on the door but there was no response. He tried to knock on the door, but in desperation she opened the door screaming for help.
“I don’t want to die! I can’t breathe! Please help! I don’t want to die!”
She had chugged down as much bleach as she possibly could. She was looking right at me and I have never seen someone look so scared. Not even able to sit up or really even hold her head up the police officer tried to calm her down.
“Please don’t hate me,” she screamed.
I told her, “I don’t hate you. I love you.”
Then I was told by the police officer to go outside and wait for the paramedics. The paramedics came and basically carried her as she stumbled to the ambulance. Then I drove home to Akron in complete silence trying to take in what just happened.
I was told by the paramedics that she was going to be OK before I left. I tried to turn this around in my mind and figure out what good could’ve come out of the situation. Maybe it was a wake up call for her or perhaps a turning point. It seemed like in that moment when she stared death in the face she realized that she wanted to live. She was on my mind almost every second of that weekend and I was just waiting to hear her voice.
I finally got the phone call that I was waiting for later that weekend. It was amazing to hear her voice. The best part about it though was that I was right about my optimism. She couldn’t explain how happy she was to be alive after being so afraid of losing her life. The tone in her voice was different. She was stuck in a hospital after having the bleach flushed out of her system through IVs and having it come up with what she said was the most painful burning sensation she had ever felt. She promised she would never try to take her life again. She chose life.
She didn’t know exactly what was next for her, but she really wasn’t scared. Just being alive was enough to put a smile on her face and trust me it did the same for me. The bond that I had with her was continuing to grow stronger. The more she struggled the closer we became, but now she was ready to do what I had done and take a negative situation and use it as a reminder of how much she had to live for. She was ready to listen. I was ready to help.
She found out that she was going to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. For once in her life she was OK with this. She wanted a place where she would be safe and could not harm herself. For the first time in her life she was admitting that she needed help and she was ready to turn her life around. She was tired of suffering from all the depression and anxiety that she was living with. She was 18 so the one thing she was afraid of was that she was going to be admitted with the adults. Although after talking with the psychiatrists they agreed that they would admit her with the adolescents.
I got a call from her with the news, but she was very afraid. She told me that since she was going to be on that floor that she was only going to be able to talk to her parents. She didn’t think she could get through it without being able to talk to me. I promised her that I would write her a letter every day to remind her what she had to live for. She was still afraid, but she calmed down and realized that this was what was best for her.
That night I got a call from her and she was extremely excited. She told them that I was her life coach so they were going to allow me to not only call, but also visit. She was so relieved and I was so happy that I could be there for her. I talked to her for a little while to give her some advice. I told her that she needed to keep her mind occupied and participate in all of the groups that were offered. She keeps a journal so I told her to keep writing. I also told her to write about things that she was going to look forward to doing when she got out of there. I told her the more she opened up and the more she participated the faster she would get out of there.
I went to visit her the next day and it was like talking to a person that I had never met. She was high energy, excited, and seemed genuinely happy. I had never seen her like this and would never have expected it to be in a place like a psych ward. She told me that she had been writing and that she also came up with this idea to make a list of 50 things that made her happy. In the first day she had already come up with 23 things that made her happy.
The conversations that we had in her room were the best conversations I had ever had with her. She was talking about all of the things that she had to live for. She talked about how happy she was to be alive. She talked about how the incident with the bleach was a wake up call and promised me that she would never do something like that again. There was too much to live for. Too many people that cared about her. Too much unfinished business.
We talked for a while and I cautioned her that while the event was still fresh in her head she had to keep reminding herself that she was given a second chance. I told her that the farther you get away from a tragic situation that changes your mindset the more likely you are to forget about how lucky you are to have that second chance. I told her to always remind herself that.
I shared some stories with her about my experiences in the psych ward and while she was listening she was also writing something. She wrote me a note about how thankful she was to have me in her life, which meant so much to me. I gave her a hug and when I walked out I had a huge smile on my face. Seeing her in that state of mind was all that I will ever wanted for her. I slept easy that night.
The next day she gave me a call and told me that she finished the list of the 50 things that made her happy. She wanted to share it with me, but she also really wanted a letter like I had promised to bring to her. So after I got off the phone I wrote the letter. Then I went to visit her.
When I got there she was very euphoric just like the day before. I gave her the letter, but she wanted to hold off on reading it. She wanted to read me the 50 things that made her happy. She was excited as she went through the list. She then read me some things from her journal. We talked for a while and before I left she read my letter. She told me how much it meant to her and said that she wanted to get it framed so that she could read it every day once she got out of there as a reminder of what she had to live for. I gave her a hug and left at the end of visiting hours.
The next day she found out that she was going to be released. She called me to ask if I could pick her up. Of course I agreed to. I picked her up later that day and she said goodbye to all of the friends that she had met there. When she walked out of the hospital doors she couldn’t help but smile. From that point on she was a different person.
I knew she wouldn’t want to hang out inside so I picked up another friend and we headed to a park. This park had a boardwalk that went through the woods. We came across a creek that had a bridge going over it. My one friend who was with us, who is also in a wheelchair, pointed out a large tree that had fallen over the creek and she told her that she would love to go lay on the tree if she could. So the girl went to the tree and laid on it on her back and looked up through the trees and into the sky. She looked so content at that moment. She actually was enjoying and living in the moment for once. She truly looked thankful to be alive.
We left the park and when I dropped her off I finally felt safe with her being on her own for the first time since I met her. I knew that the last thing she was going to do was to try and take her life again.
Working with her was the most rewarding experience of my life. It’s one thing to speak to a large crowd of students and think that you made an impact, but it’s another to work with someone one-on-one and see a progression in their lives where they ultimately find happiness.
That was not the last time I saw her. We talk every single day and I still spend a lot of time with her. I love spending time with her. There is still stress in her life, but we all have stress. She is going to go through a group therapy program to work through other issues that she has not dealt with from her past. She knows the importance of taking her medications. Since the incident she still has been a different person. She’s still happy and never wants to go back to where she was.
Last week she was over and she was looking through her journal and she found a bucket list that she wrote to her future self. One of the things was to visit the site of where a very close friend and mentor of hers died tragically on December 30, 2010 while crossing a street and getting struck by a truck. She could never bring herself to go visit that spot. She didn’t feel ready for it, but she told herself that she didn’t think she was ever going to feel ready for it, but she was ready for closure.
I told her I would take her there. She got her journal out and wrote a note to her that she wanted to leave at the site of the accident. I plugged the directions into my GPS and we went off to find the intersection.
We parked my van and we went over to the spot to where it all happened. It was very hard for her to be at that spot, but I think it was a good thing for her. Then I noticed something that brought me back to a night that I will never forget. I used to be a valet and on December 31, 2010 I was working outside of a restaurant in the freezing cold until 2 AM. That restaurant happened to be right next to where her friend was tragically struck while crossing the street.
I remember that night many people were talking about this lady that had been struck by a vehicle the day before I was working there. That was the first night that I was ever alone as I went into a new year. It was the last place that I would ever take steps in 2010 and the first place that I would take steps in 2011. I had a bad feeling about that year from the start. 2011 would end up being the worst year of my life.
That night I left the restaurant and crossed the street in the same exact crosswalk that the woman was hit the day before. This lady was the most influential person in her life and she did not know what she would do without her. It’s ironic that I literally crossed paths with the same lady that did so much for the same girl that I was now helping. Five years later I crossed paths with this girl and it seems like I took over where the greatest mentor of her life had left off. It’s amazing how life works out and I know that she came into my life for a reason. For that I am thankful and I am so happy that she is still here with me.