Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Fade away

I was curled up on my bed laughing with my friends T and P when my phone rang. Although we were all clustered there, far be it from a 20-year-old girl to ignore a ringing phone, so I grabbed the handset and answered it. It was my ex-boyfriend D. After humoring him for a couple minutes, I started to end the long-distance call and he countered by revealing the purpose for his call. My stomach was suddenly a knot, my hand clenched around the phone and I started to imperceptibly tremble. My smile faded and the laughter died in my chest. I shooed my friends out of my room and focused on the man in Nebraska who wanted to say goodbye to the world forever.

After spending an hour trying to highlight the positive aspects of his life, my tension eased somewhat when I heard one of my roommates come home. While my two guy friends had hung around in my common room, now there was a girl I could trust to calmly help me. Without breaking our phone connection I sketched out the situation for her and gave her his parents phone number.

I can't imagine what it was like for his mother to get a call from a girl she'd never met informing her that her son, one state from both her and I, was threatening to end his life. Aside from an affirmative report from my roommate, I didn't know whether my effort had succeeded until I heard a knock on his door on the other end of the line. I took my first deep breath in hours after he broke our connection to talk with the friend at his door.

After his follow-up phone call, letting me know that his friend had calmed him down and he would be seeing his doctor the next day, I was finally able to emerge from my bedroom. Sweaty and shaken, I got hugs from my roommate and a couple friends and joined the crowd watching TV. Being a silent member of that group, I could feel the tension drain out of me slowly and as the group broke up I followed T and couple others across the hall to have a drink and relax a little longer before I could sleep.

I dropped in at our campus mental health services office the next day and spoke with a counselor who had some time free. I related my story to him and we discussed my feelings and how I was coping with the aftermath of that phone call; I took pride in his compliment that I was very self-aware and coping well. Once I knew it was a problem with his medication, my ex-boyfriend withdrew from me for a while and I let this memory fade away... until today when I had a coworker call and ask me how to handle finding her boyfriend's suicide notes last night and going to rescue him in the dark of night. Expressing my support for her in two phone calls today, I discovered this memory was still lurking in the recesses of my mind, like D, unwilling to fade away.

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