You don’t learn this in school but, when you tell a doctor that you wanted to kill yourself yesterday, that’s the same thing as telling them that you want to kill yourself today. I didn’t know this when I walked into an urgent care one morning last October. Thinking about it now, they don’t teach you much of anything in school about wanting to kill yourself at all. What to do, where to go, who to go to or what those interactions are even supposed to look like. In my head the way the interaction was going to go that day was that I would say,
“Hey, I wanted to kill myself yesterday. I really, really wanted to do it but today, I only want to kind of do want to do it so I think the best move would be to get me on some medication.”
and the doctor would respond,
“Oh, okay, yeah. Here, let me write you a prescription.”
And as far as what I said goes, that was pretty accurate. The doctor though, he followed a different script. What he said was,
“Yeah, I can definitely get you something that might help you out.”
Then, he walked out of the room for 5 minutes and while he was gone I thought, wow, cool, he’s going to come back with a pamphlet, maybe some samples or something. I don’t know, I don’t know how medicine works. I’ve never done this before. The possibilities are endless.
What did end up happening was not that. When the doctor came back in, he was accompanied by a taller doctor who introduced himself with a heavy accent. He then said something along the lines of,
“So, doctor _____ here told me you were looking for medication. But, we both decided that what you really need is a hospital.”
I didn’t fight the suggestion. I knew that in the mindset that I was in, I didn’t have much room to argue about why or how I could know what was best for me at the time because at the time, I was failing miserably to stay afloat. Because even though I didn’t want to kill myself that morning, if I were put in a life and death situation, I would’ve done my best to fail.
One thing led to another and 3 hours later I was sitting on a broken medical recliner in a psychiatric facility. Having been stripped of my belongings, all I had with me was a rough blanket and a flat pillow that was given to me before I was let loose into the center’s lobby area.
The way the room was set up there was 3 medical recliners on both sides. The recliners all faced one TV that hung above the window where you’d go if you had any questions for the attending nurses. The TV was logged into a Netflix account and anyone was welcome to grab the controller and pick something to watch. I can’t remember what was on then because I was too scatterbrained to care.
All I could do though was stare at the ceiling and feel miserable about myself. If this is what help looks like, I thought to myself, things are looking pretty grim.
I settled into my self-pity, crying at the realization that once again the world had opened and let me fall into an even deeper rock bottom than I had ever been in before. When the nurses (I say nurses but one of them was wearing jeans and a band t-shirt so who knows what his job title was) walked over to me to check my blood pressure I asked,
“Is this what the whole day is gonna be?”
The one in the t-shirt sighed before saying,
“Yup, pretty much.”
and then they both turned around and walked away.
That was when Jeff (Or the person I’m calling Jeff for legal reasons) walked by and introduced himself. Jeff was another patient of the hospital, a skinny white guy from Washington with an orange head of hair and a beard to match.
Jeff didn’t trust the government or the nurses in the center and made it a point to warn me about the room temperature water and red kool-aid that was left out on the counter for patients to drink from. He would say things like,
“You don’t want to drink that. They have to be putting something in it. Cause you know, mind control is real. That’s a true story. Aliens are real too, but we’ve been manipulated to think otherwise. That’s also a true story.”
He’d go on tangents but for me they were always welcome because in the 12 hours that I was in the center, conversations I had with Jeff were the only ones that felt like genuine human interactions. In between rants he would stop and ask questions about my life and who I was. At one point he asked me if I had a girlfriend and when I told him about my recent breakup he responded,
“That sucks man. So, you’re like pretty bummed huh?”
It was cool because from the moment I had been told to pick a recliner hours before, no one that worked for the center had stopped and asked how I was feeling or why I was even there in the first place. To Jeff, I was another human being. For the people in charge of helping me, that wasn’t really the case. I was just another patient who needed their blood pressure checked occasionally. Admittedly, I’m a little bitter.
The highlight of my interactions with Jeff was when I got to see a little more of who he was as a person. About 6 hours into my stay at the center and late into the evening, Jeff grabbed the TV controller and started scrolling through Netflix. He played 3 episodes of the Netflix hip-hop docuseries “Hip-Hop Evolution” and as the episodes played, he would add commentary like “Suge Knight was full of shit and everybody knows it”. Along with that, he’d also add fun facts and information about rappers that were only briefly mentioned in the docuseries. To this day I haven’t fact checked anything he said but to be completely honest, I don’t feel like I have to. It became clear that this was something that Jeff was really passionate about. Clips from music videos would play and he would mouth the words and move his arms like an on-stage MC.
And it wasn’t just listening to hip-hop that Jeff enjoyed, he’d eventually reveal that he was also a rapper who didn’t shy away from confidence. At one point, he pointed at the T.V and told me “You see that guy? The one that just talked? His name is Quavo.”
I’d heard of Quavo before but didn’t know what to say so I just shook my head in acknowledgment. Jeff continued,
“Dude, I’m not joking when I say this; I am pretty sure that I can outrap Quavo.”
Admittedly, that statement sounds crazy. But then again, I think about my own self belief in my work and don’t know how crazy of a statement that actually is.
Like, I’ve read the book Supermarket, and I’ve never said this so boldly before but honestly, I feel like I can outwrite Logic. Not as a rapper, but as an author I feel like I can hold my weight.
Anyways, Jeff went off. He started talking about how he would spit a freestyle, but he was worried that the nurses might think he was acting up or causing a scene. I encouraged him to do it but he never changed his mind. Eventually he just decided he’d try to get some sleep and that was that. I know Jeff more than I know anyone else at that center. I spoke to Jeff more than I spoke to anyone else at that center. And it was the conversations that I had with Jeff that kept me from staring at the ceiling the entire time that I was there.
At that point in the night, I had been at the center for about 10 hours and no nurse had talked to me except to check my blood pressure or give me my dinner of frozen veggies and chicken strips. At around 11 p.m. I was called to the window and asked to sign some papers. I was told I was getting moved to a facility 2 hours away and when I asked if I had any say in that I was told,
“No, you need to sign these papers.”
And so, I signed.
Two hours later, I was strapped into a gurney and loaded into an ambulance to begin the long drive to another hospital. Once again, I was being thrust into the unknown. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of a very long weekend.