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To the Nurse in the ER Who Comforted Me Amidst the Chaos

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

When I had hit rock bottom (and then some), I was no stranger to the emergency room. And yet, I was still scared; of the police guarding the corners of the hallways, of the doctor yelling at me that I had forfeited my rights of authority over my own body, of the cold, sterile sheets that lined the stretcher, of the smell of chemical cleaner permeating the hospital air, of the sporadic beeps of my heart monitor, of the pilled, heinously patterned hospital gown and of the dull blue rubber-lined hospital socks. But, mostly, I was afraid of myself.

At this point, I thought depression had won. Everything was happening so quickly, yet I felt like I was moving through cement. I remember backing myself into the corner of the hallway, hugging my knees close to my chest, shielding my face from the police who were threatening to sedate me and just willing myself to die right in that moment. You see, in that moment, I was still of the mindset that death was the only escape from another second in this hellish nightmare.

But while trapped in this cycle of self-deprecation and helplessness, something beautiful happened. You saw me in that corner, asked the surrounding doctors and police to back off, and guided me to my designate stretcher. I don’t know why in that moment I trusted you, but I did, and I’m so very grateful for that.

You asked for my name. “Britt.” I was suddenly a person again, not some wild, incontrollable being. I had a name and an identity and a soul. “I’m Kathleen. May I clean your wounds?” I nodded my head.

As I sat on the stretcher in the ER while you wrapped my self-harm wounds, the tears suddenly started pouring harder. Not out of pain, but of shame at what I had done to myself. But then you looked me in the eye and said, “I know what you’re feeling. You feel like your life is ending, but it’s just beginning.” My eyes dried while yours began to brim with tears. “We aren’t that different. I dealt with anorexia, too. I had depression, too. I was your age when I tried to kill myself and I’m so glad I was unsuccessful. I never thought I’d have a family, the opportunity to do what I love every day, the feelings of fulfillment and happiness, but I do, and you will, too. You have so much more to live for. It gets better.”

In that brief moment, you showed me it doesn’t have to be this way; the restless nights and daunting days that exhaust every ounce of energy you have, the feelings that no one loves you or that you’re unworthy of love, the intrusive thoughts that you’re a burden and that everyone would be better off if you were gone. You knew what it was like to feel so much all at once and yet feel absolutely nothing at all. You knew what it was like to feel like you can’t escape your own mind and that the bodiless demons you faced every day could soon envelop you. You knew those feeling and thoughts were real, but told me not to believe them. You gave me validation when everyone around me was telling me I was crazy.

And you know what? You were right. I do have so much to live for and it does get better. With your kindness and honesty, you showed me that there’s so much more to see, feel and experience outside of that dark place I was in. You comforted me amidst the chaos that was both inside my head and surrounding me.

I want to say thank you, but these two little words do not give enough weight to the gratefulness I feel towards you. So, thank you, but know I mean so much more than those two words. I will never forget the kindness and humanity you showed me on that day.

With all my love,


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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally published: January 27, 2016
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