Well, I guess now, for the first time in my life, I actually may know how a parent really feels.
A student of mine, who has very tearfully written to me more than once about how her depression is having a debilitating effect on her life, did not show up to our appointment today. Any other time I would say fuckit, whatever, but this time I had a terrible, sinking feeling in my stomach that reminded me about my first girlfriend who used to cut herself and all my friends on celexapaxilprozaczoloftritalinadderall-dexedrineelavil and my own past battles with depression and my brother's suicide.
By the time I got home, I was completely paralyzed by the idea, so I got the student's phone number from the class roster and called her. Even as she picked up the phone, she was crying and her voice was trembling. I calmly and gently told her that I was worried about her, but that I was also not qualified to help. I asked her if she had someone to talk to. She said yes. I told her to forget about the class for a day or two and to try to get things together first. Then, I sent her an email trying to cheer her up. I wrote to her that, "just in case," she could call ___________ (who works with ____ students and who can be reached at ____________) or the 24/7 distress line (____________).
Now it's my second drink and my hands are still shaking, and suddenly I'm terrified, terrified, terrified of the idea of this girl doing someone to herself. I wanted so much to tell her that mental health is a thing, that working on it actually makes a difference, that it helped me, that, in the depths of my own darkness I had called hotlines—in _________, in _____, in ________, in _______—and I screamed and cried and negotiated and sobbed and explained—and was better and remained among the living. But I did not tell her any of this. I just made sure that she was alive and I gave her some phone numbers. It's time for another drink.