Is that banging on my bedroom door? Someone’s trying to break into the house, my half-asleep brain tells me. Don’t worry, there’s nothing worth taking. Turn over.
In case you hadn’t guessed, I am a heavy sleeper.
My phone rings, vibrating against the glass of water on the bedside table and shaking me out of slumber. More knocks on the door. Eyes adjusting to the light, I see who is calling me: my flatmate Ohad, whose bedroom is just across the hall.
“I think I need to go the hospital.”
I stumble out of bed and yank open the bedroom door, and there he is, standing in the hallway. Almost doubled over in pain, breathing heavily, and eyes streaming, he explains that he’s been like this for the past hour.
“I thought it would go away, and I didn’t want to wake you up,” he says
Brain still booting up, I scan the floor for clothes, shoes, car keys. Within minutes, we’re out the door and in the car. I fumble with Google Maps in the iPhone for directions to the hospital while Ohad starts to grip the door handle and groan.
Ignoring every red light, I try not to let my own panic show as we approach the hospital. His pain is getting worse, and I’m terrified that one of his internal organs is bleeding. I’ve never seen someone in this much pain.
I drive to the main entrance, but it is closed, and red signs point rightward for the emergency department. This leads us back out onto the main road and round a corner. The groans get louder.
Three streets later, and I find the entrance. I drive right up to the door and help him inside. The triage nurse starts asking him for details, but once she starts asking for anything more complicated than his name it’s game over. He can’t think of anything more than whether his stomach is going to explode.
He stumbles to a row of seats and lays down in the foetal position while I give the rest of his details to the nurse. Mercifully, it’s only a few minutes before he’s taken through. An IV line is inserted and he’s injected with morphine. It takes the pain down from excruciating to merely tolerable.
Doctors and nurses buzz about, carefully weighing up possible options, which include surgery for some sort of possible rupture. Ohad looks terrified. I hold his hand.
A few months earlier, it was me knocking on his door at 3 o’clock – but in the afternoon.
After lunch, I sat in the open plan office of the mega-corporation I’d inexplicably found myself working for and ran my fingers lifelessly over the keys of my laptop. An impenetrable cone of hopelessness had descended, and out of the soupy mess of despair came the first clear thought I’d had in several days.
Get in the car. Drive home. Find a bottle of spirits in the kitchen, then head to bed and empty all those pills into your mouth. Then drift into a beautiful, final sleep.
I mechanically packed my bag and got in the car. The journey home was numb. I can’t remember if I listened to music or whether it was silent.
As I headed for the front door of the house, still dedicated to carrying out the steps of my plan, I noticed that Ohad’s car was parked outside. I was expecting to be alone in the house. He must be home from work early, I thought.
I headed to my bedroom and reached not for the pills but for the phone. I rang the Suicide Call Back Service, which I’d seen advertised on Facebook several times over the past fortnight. (How’s that for targeting?)
A wonderful young woman spoke to me for about twenty minutes and talked me down from my delusional state. She asked me exactly what I was planning to do, and if anyone was in the house. Yes, I replied, there was someone in the house.
When I knocked on Ohad’s bedroom door, I saw lines of concern on his face as his eyes met mine.
“I’m just talking to someone from the suicide helpline, and she’s asked me to give you these for safekeeping,” I said flatly as I hand him my bottle of pills. “Can you please hide them somewhere where I can’t find them?”
I finish my call to the suicide helpline, the young woman now convinced that I am out of harm’s way when I tell her that my flatmate has my pills and is going to look after me.
He did about as good a job at initially hiding his panic as I did at the hospital, but for the next few hours we sat in the living room and talked. The valve on the pressure cooker of the last few weeks was released, and after a strong, healing hug I eventually took myself off to bed.
That’s not the end of the story by any means – living with a mental illness is a perpetual rollercoaster – but Ohad was the safety net that prevented me from destroying myself that day.
After his surgery, which thankfully turned out to be minor, he got me to take a photo of him in his hospital bed and put it up on Facebook. He captioned it with the following:
“At the hospital, woke up at 3am with an excruciating pain in my lower belly area. Had a minor operation and feeling much better. Thanks for my amazing friend Christopher to drive me here and hold my hand while I was in pain.”
As human beings, we don’t think when a friend is in pain or danger – we act instinctively to secure their welfare.
If Ohad had not done that for me, I would not have been around to drive him to the hospital last week. He said he couldn’t thank me enough. Seriously, I think the ledger is the opposite way round.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please speak with someone right now.
This article previously appeared on Christopher's own blog bipolarbear here.