"When you get those rare moments of clarity, those flashes when the universe makes sense, you try desperately to hold on to them. They are the life boats for the darker times, when the vastness of it all, the incomprehensible nature of life is completely illusive. So the question becomes, or should have been all a long... What would you do if you knew you only had one day, or one week, or one month to live. What life boat would you grab on to? What secret would you tell? What band would you see? What person would you declare your love to? What wish would you fulfill? What exotic locale would you fly to for coffee? What book would you write?"

Monday, July 27, 2009

Suicide: What to say?

Yesterday I spent 4 hours with a patient that wanted to commit suicide. At first I was afraid to go in there because I had heard that once you went in, she wouldnt "let" you leave. But, when I am in the hallway and someone like this is ringing, I cannot not go in to help. Sure enough, she starts telling me about why she has been admitted to the hospital and that she might never walk the same again...and she is normally very athletic. She said more than once to me, that she would rather die then go on one more day like this.

Now, in nursing school, we have had countless lectures in "therapeutic communication" and what to say and what not to say but when put up in front with a patient that is confiding in you all this very personal information about her life, and bawling her eyes out, I am speechless of course.

I am not the type of person to come up with countless corny phrases that these people don't want to hear. "It'll be OK." "This too will pass" "You'll get better soon" "don't lose faith"....they've heard it a thousand times from people like me who are also speechless and come up with the first line in the book and duck out of there. I am also not the person that can just leave people alone that are like this. So here I am in this awkward position where I am sitting there thinking of something to say as she tells me her life story and is crying her eyes out. I hand her a tissue box. I hold her hand...She gives me hugs. She apologizes...I say not to.

What else can I do? I definitely do not feel I am the right person for this...I don't know what to say to people that do not want to continue living there life. I firmly believe that if someone is truly that miserable, then who are we (doctors, nurses, parents, friends, etc.) to stop them? The best we can do is be there as a light at the end and offer our hand in help. But putting them in a psych ward to be babysat so they don't kill themselves? Seriously? I cannot offer words to tell people why life is worth living...Because I don't know why. I am 21 and haven't yet found this reason. I have my own reasons why I continue on, as everyone else. I am not nor ever would be afraid to die, but I know that when I do die, I pray that I will have at least published a novel first...Thats why I live my life...To write...to do photography...to change peoples lives.

I desperately want to be the "hero" nurse that can change peoples lives like my patients yesterday. I want to say the right things...I want them to feel better. But I am petrified that they can see right through me...can they?

I came very close to offering her the number for the suicide Hotline. But I was afraid that would be considered out of line, for someone in my position. Instead I tracked down the Reverend working in hospital and asked if he could speak to her. I also told her nurse who got the therapist. I later went in and she again apologized for breaking down like that, and I again told her not to be sorry...That was what I was here for. She thanked me and I moved on...

I hope I did the right thing. I really do want to learn how to talk to people like this...How to better talk to people in general..I have always had a problem talking closely to people....

I give 1000,0000, 000 props and kudos to the volunteers that work at those suicide hotlines that can stay on the phone with people for 3+ hours and convince them not to kill themselves. They are heroes.

~A Writer in a Nurses Body

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