Several years ago, a dear friend had a mental health crisis. A combination of auspicious factors: my being there, my nosiness and bossiness, and, most vitally, his exceptional strength, got him through the acute crisis. Then, he did immense ongoing work with a team of professionals to get him to a healthy place.
When the doctor came into the hospital room, I had removed my beautiful Armani houndstooth jacket with the care that one might use to remove a heart for transplant. Underneath, I was wearing a cocktail dress. My friend is a doctor twice over and so I introduced him as a doctor to his emergency room physician hoping she would take the care of a fellow doctor seriously. Assessing a mental health crisis is complex and I wanted her full attention. When she asked who I was and I said, “A friend,” I could feel her scrutinizing me with displeasure. Stupidly, I thought I would eliminate the confusion by offering to my friend that I call his wife and tell her what was happening. He expressed that I not call and upset her. That did nothing to increase my favor with his physician; however, she did a fantastic job of caring for him anyway. During a break in her visits with him, I called his daughter who met me with him after he was discharged.
Nevertheless, my friend’s work, the support of his healthcare providers and family, and getting the right treatment for him, led to his full recovery from depression. Years later, he introduces me to people as the person who saved his life—a fact I dispute; he saved his life. I was only there to witness his first steps in doing so. He is now entering the 9th decade of his life. He lived through active military service, building a family, a long career in academia, and many health battles. I am proud to know him.
I wish I knew what was in him that made him so resilient and fortunate. I wish I could have given some of that luck to Constance. She had already possessed the persistence. I wish I could have been there for her steps toward recovery from her brain tumor.
If you are in crisis or if you need advice about someone that is, please call the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It is always free and available.