To the Police Officer Who Saved My Life, Thank You
I was bleary-eyed and drained, exhaustion painted itself across my bones and depression had its foothold in my otherwise creative, intelligent and witty mind. Despite those feelings, I had a sense of peace about me. I thought it would be the last day of my life. The rains would vanish forever, the clouds would dissipate, the muck in my mind would be gone and the instability and chaos that accompanies bipolar disorder would cease. My understanding of death was skewed; death seemed good.
That day, there was a knock at the door, interrupting my flow of bad thoughts. It was more forceful than most knocks. I opened it a crack and peered out, only to see a 6’8″ man in uniform.
“Lola, I’m with the local police force and I’m here to do a wellness check,” the officer said. “Can we chat?”
Gently and with a heaping pile of compassion, he brought up the most intimate part of my life: My struggle with mental illness.
“How are you doing, really?” he asked.
I hadn’t been asked that simple question in ages because I had burned bridges with my friends and isolated myself from my support system. I had written my goodbye note and was more than ready to leave.
The way he spoke, so tenderly and considerate, made me trust him. “Well, officer,” I began. “I haven’t showered in days. I don’t eat anymore and I dropped out of school. And, if we’re being honest, I plan to [die by suicide] today. So to answer your question, not good.”
“I’m concerned about you,” he said. “And I care about your life, even if you don’t right now. Let’s drive over to the hospital and I’ll wait with you until you get a psychiatric evaluation. Unfortunately, you don’t have a choice in the matter.”
Aggravated, I rode with the officer to the hospital where there was a long wait to be seen. Bored from waiting in a cramped and uncomfortable space, I began building a rapport with the officer. I disclosed everything to him: the plans for my suicide attempt, my past trauma, my diagnoses and my wavering faith.
“Hey, I’m a Christian too,” he replied. “Let’s pray. If God is for us, Lola, then who can be against us?”
My sense of peace altered. I moved away from feeling at peace about death, to feeling peace that I was safe. I had someone in my corner, and I needed that.
“I’m going to fight for you, Lola,” he said. “You deserve help. I know you’ve fallen through the cracks in our health care system, but not this time, not with me by your side. OK?”
Help arrived and I began what would be a tedious recovery, a process that has since transformed me. I no longer plan for death, but for vibrancy, life and a rich future. The world needs people who have experienced great despair and have risen above.
There are days when my eyes flicker into sadness, but I am equipped to fight those feelings now. That is the most important skill I have learned.
To the arresting officer who visited me that day, thank you. Thank you for being the catapult to my wellness. Thank you for being a strong voice when I was weak. Thank you for praying with and for me, and for being my advocate. Thank you for believing in me, because of you, I was admitted to the hospital and not a grave.
I may not ever see you again, but I hope that one day we meet on the street so you can see my eyes twinkling and my smile shining. I hope you see my medical school lab coat swaying in the wind and my stethoscope dangling. I hope you see my curls bounce with joy and know that joy overflows in my heart. I hope you see my body – once weak and feeble – now strong and able.
I hope you know that you helped me get to where I am. You picked me up in my pit of despair and carried me to a place of hope.
Thank you, constable.
Thinkstock image via -Panya-.