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To the Medical Student Who Let Me Know It's OK Not to Be OK After a Suicide Attempt

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Dear medical student,

I met you the day after my suicide attempt seven months ago. I was sitting in a bed wearing orange, paper-like clothing, which showed everyone else why I was in the hospital. I felt disgusting, and my hair was a greasy mess. I was alone and fidgeting with the hospital blankets. I was barely mentally aware of what was going on.

You sat next to my bed and proceeded to rattle off questions on a form that would somehow tell you whether or not it was OK to discharge me. You asked about what I did the day of my attempt, how I felt about it, how I was feeling now. You asked if I thought I would do it again and if I felt safe. You asked about my history of mental illness and what my everyday life was like. I answered everything like I had become accustomed to answering questions from the string of doctors before you and during regular therapy sessions.

Then you asked me something that stopped me with my mouth agape and no response readily available: “What do you like to do?” I mumbled something about reading, going outside or handing out with friends — activities I knew interested me before depression took over, but I couldn’t remember the last time I felt like doing anything. I could barely remember a time I didn’t feel down, anxious, or numb. I hadn’t looked at you since you came in the room. I barely looked anyone in the face that whole day. But then you told me it was OK that I didn’t feel interested in anything, because depression can take these things away. I looked at you and immediately felt comforted and understood.

In a way, you told me it was OK not to be OK. And I’ll be forever grateful for that. You didn’t tell me to do something that would make me happy. Or to do something to distract myself. You let me know I am allowed to feel like complete sh*t. I do not have to put up a facade every time someone asks me what I like or want to do. Sure, efforts to feel better are important, but in a moment when I needed to know how I felt was neither my fault nor something I had to hide, you were there for me in a way no one else had been.

You were in my room for only 30 minutes, but you helped me more than you could have possibly imagined. It is partially because of you that I’ve decided to share my story and let other people know it’s OK not to be OK.

I think you’ll make a pretty badass doctor someday.

Image via Thinkstock.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: December 15, 2016
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