He was severely depressed.
He saw no point in living.
He promised he wouldn’t hurt himself.
He was being honest on 2 out of the 3.
He had tried countless medicines, had been to counseling, had been in the psychiatric hospital multiple times. Nothing worked. He continued to spiral into the darkness of depression. And now, here he was talking to me. I thought we had a good plan and had made progress over the last few months. I thought he was getting better. I was wrong.
When I heard he had committed suicide, I was shocked. I felt defeated. I felt I had let him down. I went to his chart and looked over our last visit. He had promised to come back if he felt overwhelmed or hopeless. What happened?
I am not a therapist. But most of the time, my patients won’t see a therapist. So I learn to listen, watch for worrisome cues, ask open questions. I am slow to give advice. Slow to speak. Slow to grab my prescription pad. Slow to end the conversation. Because you never know when the “real” conversation begins.
People want to portray themselves a certain way. It’s why Instagram is popular. They want to edit their life. They want you to see the unblemished version and believe it’s the real one. Then they can believe it’s the real version as well. The fiction becomes their reality.
But, if you are patient, you let them talk, you give them a safe place, they will open up. You will get the no-filter picture. But the truth is, even then you can’t always help them. At least not in the sense that you would like. You can still be a help, but you won’t always get the outcome you are looking for.
There’s no way to know what leads some down a road of despair. To find yourself empty. To battle the demons alone. We can only pray to provide some source of hope to those that we encounter.
To give in is to give up. And that is unacceptable. We won’t win every battle. And some losses are more costly. But the battle is worth fighting.
I have treated homeless addicts on a mountain in Nicaragua. I have seen the poorest of the poor in Haiti. I have held the hand of the mentally disabled. And all I can say is, hope is all around us.
If I could tell my patient one more thing it would be this: I am sorry. Maybe I failed you, maybe I didn’t. Maybe we failed each other. But the world is less without you in it.