To the Man Who Saved My Life With One Sentence
Around one year ago today, I made an impulsive decision. I tried for the second time to take my own life. This was back before I had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, so my untreated psychotic symptoms were making getting through the day seem impossible.
My first suicide attempt had been in a psychiatric hospital. This one was different.
It was premeditated. I wrote a note. I lay down and after about 20 minutes, I began to have trouble breathing.
That’s when I realized it. This was serious. I was going to die.
So I called the paramedics.
Before they reached me, a public safety officer responded to my call. Scott, who I had met with many times, came into my dorm room to find me half-unconscious and on the floor, a suicide note grasped in my fist. This wasn’t the first time Scott had responded to one of my mental health crises — in fact, during my time in college, he had responded to every single one. He had driven me to the emergency department during all crises that didn’t involve the paramedics.
“What did you do?” he asked me. His voice was shaking so badly he could barely speak. He called poison control. I heard him ask desperately into the phone if I was going to live. Poison control told Scott to engage with me and to not let me fall asleep.
Scott was crying. He sat down on the floor with me. Talking with me, giving me reasons to hold on. I heard the ambulance from what must have been a mile away. When they arrived they loaded me onto a stretcher. Scott held my hand as I was rushed into the back of the rescue vehicle.
Then, as I was being loaded into the ambulance, he told me something that would empower me to make it through every depressive episode, and legitimize every time I asked for help.
“We’re all going be here to see you graduate,” he said, gripping my hand, “You’ll learn to live with this. Get better so we can see you walk across that stage.”
I was only a sophomore, but he had faith in me. He had faith that I would put this illness behind me. That I would learn to live with it and thrive.
Now, this is what I want him to know:
Put simply, you saved my life. You’ve been the only person, after 10 years in mental health treatment, who has told me something that resonated deeply enough to save my life. My treatment has mostly been a lot of breathing exercises, dialectical behavior therapy, crises plans, medication and a lot of doctors visits. But the salvation you’ve given me was a simple one. You gave me a foundation to believe in myself.
You see Scott, we got to know each other in a different way. You know me through late-night conversations in the front of a police cruiser, my symptoms and what my crises look like. You know about my battles and how after 10 years of preoccupying myself with starvation, self-harm, responsibility, drug abuse and apathy, I thought I wanted to die.
But on the night I really tried, you shocked me out of my fog of self-destruction and into recovery. You saved my life. I will always remember that one sentence. It reached me in ways nothing ever had. No matter how bad my suicidal ideation might get, you managed to prevent me from ever trying again. Your response to what could’ve been the worst decision I had ever made was absolutely perfect. Someday I will walk across that stage, diploma in hand. How great living will be knowing I had tried to die, but chose recovery instead. Every accomplishment after college graduation, I will thank you for saving my life. Every time I kiss my fiance goodnight, every time I make a phone call to my dad, or visit my mom, every time I congratulate my brother on his accomplishments, I will thank you for what you’ve done. And even though you’ve moved away to a new town and have a new job, I hope you know what you did for me that night. Because of you I have a lifetime to love and be loved, I have a lifetime to learn, to experience, to laugh and cry, to smile and feel and taste. I have a lifetime to live and a lifetime to breathe.
Thank you, Officer Scott.
Sincerely, the women whose life you saved.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.