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What an Unexpected Visitor at the Psych Ward Taught Me About Human Interaction

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I have a story to share. It’s about the power of our individual existence — the power of people.

I was born in May, 18 years ago. But last year, at the end of May, I was in the hospital because I had decided I did not want to continue to be alive. The days prior had been some of the worst days of my short life, filled with feelings of fear, pain, hopelessness and exhaustion. I felt plagued by a fatigue that no amount of sleep could cure. This was my first, and unfortunately not my last, time in a psychiatric ward. It was a place filled with a constant throb of noise. Suffering is not quiet and I also remember the pain of my swollen eyes from all the tears that had fallen from them.

Amongst this strange environment, I felt very lonely, but if there’s anything I know now — it’s that feelings aren’t always a true. My mom was working full-time and caring for my sister, my friends were in the middle of their mid-year exams and the grueling days of therapy during my stay often left me feeling drained and unable to manage visitors for long periods of time. The hardest part was when my family or my friends had to leave. I would watch them walk out the door to the world outside, knowing I had to stay behind.

One evening, during visiting hours, I was sitting on the couch in the ward, half-heartedly channel surfing on the TV (although, most of the channel’s were blocked anyway) and watching the other patients who had visitors. I felt both jealous of their present company and relieved that I didn’t have to entertain people, when the frosted door parted and someone I recognized walked through. It was my current math teacher from school and I remember thinking she must know another inpatient. Then she saw me, came over and I knew that she was here to see me. The shock of this realization was so overwhelming that I burst into tears. Besides that fact that she brought with her a bag of treats, her presence brought joy and love into a dark time in my life and that moment will stay with me always.

It was because of her, and the many, many other people who believed in me and refused to give up on me when I didn’t believe in myself, that I am able to proudly say I am no longer in that same, tough, place. She was a teacher I saw for three classes a week, who became so much more than the role she was paid for by the school. Simply by offering words of comfort and encouragement, showing genuine concern and empathy and being there for me, I began to understand the significance of human interaction. And she was far from being the only person in my life who shared their love, companionship and hope with me. In different ways I received solidarity from classmates, friends, family, family of friends, teachers, other patients and even strangers. Just from simply sharing a moment with another person, we can take away so much pain, if we are willing to be open and share kindness. Despite its apparent simplicity, the power of our interactions with one another is astounding. It helps me to get out of bed each morning and reminds me daily to never underestimate the power of life.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via alien185

Originally published: August 31, 2017
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