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The Rabbit Hole

*Trigger Warning: Vivid language about suicide, self-harm

To love my husband, Jesse, is to love the wind. His mood moves and shifts depending on the day, the season, the time, the weather, the food he’s eaten that day.

Once you think you know which way he’s blowing, he blows another way. Once you think you’ve grasped him, he slips through your fingers. Once you think you have him pinned, he melts through the wall.

He is a creature who is deeply influenced by his environment, yet never seems to conform completely to his surroundings. To meet him is to meet something that’s never been quite of this world.

I think it’s one of the reasons I was so drawn to him, like a magnet, or like the sea is to the moon. You can look into his eyes and see there is depth there, the wheels never cease to turn.

Sometimes he goes far away without ever leaving the room. You ask him what he’s thinking about and he’ll say nothing, when really he’s thinking of just about everything you can imagine.

I wouldn’t call him a genius, mainly because he’d gag if I did.

But yeah. I’d call him the wind. I’ve spent these past 12 years chasing him through a field, never quite catching him.

I like it that way.

But the wind can be dangerous. And that’s what I learned on October 10, 2018 when Hurricane Michael hit my hometown of Bay County, Florida.

Jesse got lost with that wind for a while. He went to a place where I could not reach him, like Voldemort in Albania.

I searched and searched for him, but couldn’t track him down.

“It’s neuroscience 101,” his psychiatrist would tell me, months after the storm took Jesse away. “He can’t sleep. Serotonin is low.” He scratched his prickly neck. “We’ve got to knock him out.”

I’m not sure who the drugs knocked out, but it wasn’t Jesse. No. My husband was far, far away from here.

The person who bunked with me for 18 months couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, had no interest in his children or me.

“Don’t you think I want to love you?” The person would say. “Don’t you think I want to be who I was?”

I would look into that person’s eyes and where I once saw wheels turning, I just saw blackness.

Death.

A rabbit hole.

And Jesse had sunk so deep I feared he would never rise back to the top.

I remember scrolling the Twitter feed, and a message from Chester Bennigton’s wife, Talinda, appeared. Chester was the lead vocalist of Linkin Park, and his suicide came as a shock to everyone.

I read her words. She stated that the day before his death, Chester seemed happy… even at peace. There was even a photo of him laughing with his family.

I tucked the information away for later.

Jesse couldn’t hold down a job and there was a lot of pressure on me. I couldn’t remember a time when Jesse didn’t have work, much less a time when he lay in the bed and slept for hours on end.

I would look at the huddled mass tangled up in the covers and wonder what that stranger was doing in my bed. It was disorienting, confusing, exhausting and a lot of other “ing” words.

“Jesse,” I would say. “You haven’t eaten today.”

“I’m not hungry.” He would mumble.

He lost 20lbs in a matter of weeks. His tanned face turned yellow, the whites of his eyes red with dark circles beneath them.

I no longer loved the wind, I loved a ghost.

A whisper. A memory. Of what once was and what would never be again.

I tricked him into the shower so I could change the bed sheets. I made him soup and instructed him to take at least five sips. I bought Gatorade so he would at least be hydrated.

“How about we move to the couch today?” I would say.

Anything. Anything but the bed.

Then came the walks. And then he ate a bit more. His days seemed to be getting a little brighter.

Then came the call. A job. A job with health insurance that he desperately needed.

He went back to work and a little light came into his eyes, but the source still seemed to glow from a distance, like the echo of the last light of a star reaching across a vast universe.

Jesse was yelling at me from far away. “I’m still here. Just not there.”

I would hold on to that while keeping a watchful eye.

The Christmas holidays came and Jesse was determined to make it the best Christmas ever.

“I know things have been rough lately, but this will be a good Christmas.”

And it was. The best day in months and months.

2020 would be our year. I could feel it. Things were looking up.

Then Jesse took the car out to get some food. When he came back, I could tell something was wrong. “I… don’t know what happened.” He said.

I looked at the large dent that covered the entire left side of the vehicle.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I just didn’t see the pole.” He said.

Just didn’t see the pole.

An alarm bell went off inside my head.

Jesse… my Jesse… he didn’t make mistakes like that.

“But…” I began. “But it’s down the entire side of the car… why didn’t you stop once you felt it scrape?”

“I just didn’t think about it.”

The alarm grew louder and louder. My husband drove huge ambulances for a long time. He had never been in an accident. He was a meticulous driver.

“Accidents happen,” I said. And I made the phone call to the insurance company.

But more strange events followed.

His reaction time to jokes was slower. He could barely hold a conversation. Most of the time he said nothing at all. He was forgetful, couldn’t remember or recall what he had done that day, where he had put something, or what he was supposed to be doing.

His laughter felt strange, forced. Almost as if he were on the verge of tears.

And then came the weird things he would say, as if his intrusive thoughts could no longer be held in. They leaked from him in seemingly random moments, eating up all the air in the room.

I watched him like a pot of water over an open flame.

Then one day he announced to me that we would be visiting his friend in Pensacola. My heart lifted a bit at this news, but my relief was short lived.

Wait a minute. He hasn’t wanted to speak to his friends in over a year. Why now?

The day came when we were supposed to visit, but the weather ended up being terrible. I watched his face and it was etched in disappointment.

“I just really wanted to see him.”

What Chester Bennigton’s wife said echoed through my brain.

I felt drums beating as if a war were marching my way.

A hunter is who I became, stalking a deer who would bolt if I came too close.

We spent time with the kids that day instead. We went to the park, we played a game and watched a movie together.

Jesse put his hand in my hair and turned my face to look at him. He smiled. “I love you.”

And he kissed me. His touch was one I had longed for. He was looking me in the eyes, smiling at me, spending time with me…

So why did everything feel so wrong? So off? So eerily final?

We went to bed that night and I decided to make my move.

Slowly, so slowly, I crept to the point.

I questioned him. “You seem a little off today.”

He began to yawn, but not in a way that is natural. It was an agitated move, like he was flexing his jaw. He took his palm and massaged the inside of his other hand.

“Why would you say that?”

“I can’t put my finger on it exactly.”

He said nothing and I let the silence inch through the room.

Jesse began biting his nails and stared at the ceiling.

I waited. And waited.

But he waited, too.

So I moved. “You’re stimming rather a lot.”

“Well I have OCPD, Sandi. It comes with the territory.” He was becoming increasingly agitated, he pulled at his black hair.

“Yes, but over the years you’ve made it almost impossible to notice. You rotate between them. Right now you can’t control them. It’s not so calculated.”

“Well, I’m with you. I’m comfortable.”

“You know that’s never mattered.” I cocked my head at him. “You rub your hands. But before anyone notices you’ve done it, you start scratching the inside of your thumb. Then you quickly move to running your hands through your hair. Then tapping your foot. Then shaking your leg. Then rocking back and forth. Then rubbing your leg. Then blinking several times. Then pulling at your beard. Then pacing the floor—”

“Okay! I get it!”

“And if it gets really bad.” I looked at his hands cradling his head. “You start hitting your head with your hands.”

He forced his arms down. “Well, you just know all about me don’t you.”

“No,” and I smiled. “Loving you is like loving the wind. I can never quite catch it.”

The silence hung in the air.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing.”

“You’re lying.”

“No I’m not.”

More silence.

“Why?!” He shouted at me.

“Why what?”

“Why can’t you just let things be good? I was determined to have today be a good day.”

“It was a good day.”

“Good.”

“But something isn’t right.” I paused. “Why did you want to see your friend?”

“I just wanted to see him.”

“You haven’t wanted to see anyone in over a year.”

“Well, I wanted to see him now.”

“And why did you look at me and tell me that you loved me?”

“Because I do love you.”

I shook my head. “But you haven’t felt compelled to say it in a very long time. And certainly not like that.”

“Like what?”

“As if it were final.” I breathed. “As if you were saying goodbye.”

His shoulders began to shake as if he were weeping, but no tears came. There lay a man who was beyond such things. Beyond hope.

There lay a rabbit hole. And Jesse was somewhere deep within, lost.

“Why can’t you just let things be good? Why can’t things EVER just be good? Why couldn’t you just let it be a great day?”

“Why did it need to be a great day?” I whispered.

He loosed a breath, too exhausted to keep up the pretense, the positivity…

… the great and terrible lie.

“Okay, okay.” And nothing could have prepared me for what came next. “I was going to take a bottle of pills tomorrow and just…” He sighed as if waking from a reverie. “… go to sleep. I wanted to see my friend one last time and have a good day together as a family.” His face contorted. “And you ruined it.”

The walls were made of glass. The air was thick. The lights were too bright. Jesse’s face too yellow.

I felt so many things at once. Rage. Sadness. Disgust. Contempt. Adrenaline.

Love. Longing. There were those things, too.

I wanted to shake him. He had left me. He had checked out. He had left me here in this world to deal with it all alone and now he wanted to make it all final.

He wanted to take away the last thread of hope I had.

The rabbit hole. His body. He wanted to make it so that Jesse really could never come back. Never climb back out of the hole. Never fill those eyes again.

Never take off like the wind so I could spend my whole life chasing him.

But out here. Not in there. Out here. Out here, with me, with us, in this world.

In THIS world.

I sat up out of the bed quickly, my brain racing.

A plan. That was a plan. He had a plan. It was a plan. A plan. It’s real. This is real. This is happening.

Drums. Drums. Drums.

What are you going to do, Sandi? What are you going to do?

Alarms. Alarms. Alarms.

Rage. Rage. Rage.

Silence.

Silence.

Silence.

“Well,” I said. “Shit.”

I wanted to kill him myself.

Out of pity. Out of spite.

In the rabbit hole you don’t know which way is up.

I looked at him lying there. A man so surrounded by love, admiration and potential… yet he couldn’t feel any of it.

None of it mattered.

I heard the soft sound of voices floating in from the other room. The kids had fallen asleep to a movie on the couch.

What are you going to do, Sandi?

What are you going to do?

My mind settled on the children in the living room.

“Do you know how many times I’ve planned your funeral in my head?”

Jesse shifted his gaze to me.

“Cremated.”

Jesse rolled his eyes. “No. Cryogenically preserved. We’ve been over this.”

“Then I guess you should have made us a bit richer before offing yourself.”

“Sandi…” Jesse put his face in his hands.

I continued. “Do you know how many times I’ve run through this exact scenario in my head?” I swung my legs over the side of the bed. “Or, you know, the scenario when I actually find you dead in a room.”

I got out of the bed and crossed to his side, staring at him. There would be no weeping. Not from me. Not from him.

“Well,” he said. “Don’t worry. I think through scenarios about my death all the time.”

“You’re not funny.” I stared at him, through him. “I wouldn’t cry out. I wouldn’t scream. I would calmly find wherever the kids are and distract them with a movie in their room. I’d lock them in. Which, by the way, how could you guarantee your kids wouldn’t run in here and try to get you up? How were you okay with me rolling over and finding you?”

His face hardened. “You’d all be better off without me.”

“Were you better off without your dad?”

He was quiet at this. Jesse’s dad took his own life when Jesse was 12. 

He, too, had a brilliant mind. A professional musician, he built Jesse a guitar and played several instruments, singing country music in bars and hotels around Jacksonville, Florida.

Jesse would sleep on the couch, waiting on his dad to get home from late-night gigs. I thought of little Jesse asleep, his face pushed into the couch cushions.

I thought he probably looked a lot like his son Judah, who was asleep on the couch on the other side of our bedroom door.

“That’s not fair,” Jesse whispered.

“Oh, but it is fair. You’ve dissociated from the consequences your death would have on all of the people who love you. How’d your dad’s death work out for you? Your brother? Your mom? Your granny?”

“Stop it.”

I turned and started pacing the floor.

What are you going to do, Sandi? 

What are you going to do?

My brother stored his guns in my house while he was deployed. I thought of the location of every single one.

I had thwarted his plans this time. But it would happen again.

When would he make another plan? A month from now? 6 months from now?

He had a plan. Oh god, he had a plan.

I felt a flash of white-hot anger. Then, something that felt like hope.

One last shot.

He had a plan. I had caught him. But he had a plan.

He had a plan…

I thought back to a moment when Jesse and I lived apart. It was the only way we could afford for Jesse to finish his senior year of college.

He had recently been diagnosed with a mental illness, but he still had not agreed to medication.

Jesse would fill up his schedule to the breaking point. It’s the main way his OCPD manifests itself.

An obsession around time, schedules and clocks. Pure rigidity around being on time for every appointment, every class. If not, his entire day, week, month would be ruined; his mind preying on his mistake and convincing him that he had just set off an unstoppable chain of events that would lead to an untimely death for himself, for his loved ones.

One day, something had set Jesse off. He wouldn’t return my phone calls. He disappeared for three days.

Hours away, I called the University and put in a request for someone to track him down and tell me he was okay.

Jesse called me a while later as I was gearing up to drive to Jacksonville and hunt him down. That evening he revealed that he had been in a bad way.

“I wrote you a letter. And one for Judah. I couldn’t bring myself to write one for Lorelai.”

Letters. The letters. They were still stuck between the pages of his journal on my bookshelf.

“I was too much of a coward to go through with it.”

Another flash, and I was sitting at the emergency behavioral hospital in front of a counselor, holding Jesse’s hand. I convinced him to come with me after a bad panic episode.

The counselor held her clipboard and asked him questions. Jesse would find me next to him with my lips pursed when he held back the truth.

“Okay,” she said, after walking Jesse through coping mechanisms we’d heard a thousand times before. “We’re going to release you for home.”

I was startled by this news. Surely he couldn’t go home. Surely not.

I asked the counselor to stay back with me as Jesse made for the exit. “Can’t you keep him here for evaluation? He’s not okay.” I looked at Jesse. “It’s just a matter of time.”

“He has no active plan in place,” said the counselor. “Honestly, we’re overbooked already because of the hurricane. He could stay until morning but the doctor will only send him home.” She paused. “But if he tells you he has a plan, don’t drive him here. Call the police for a Baker Act.”

A Baker Act is a Floridian law that allows the involuntary institutionalization and examination of an individual.

“I’m afraid of calling the police,” I said. I put a lot of unsaid things into that sentence.

The counselor nodded knowingly.

But here he was, with a plan.

What are you going to do, Sandi?

What are you going to do?

I could make the call. They would have to take him.

But he would hate me. I looked back at Jesse, he stared at the ceiling.

He might never forgive me. This could be the end of our marriage.

But he was already gone. Jesse hadn’t been Jesse for a very, very long time.

What are you going to do, Sandi?

What are you going to do?

He may hate me for forever, but maybe this would be the moment. Maybe this would start a chain of events that brought him back.

The kids would have their father.

The world would have Jesse.

And I would watch from afar.

Was I okay with that? Was I okay with losing him?

Could I live with myself if I made this choice?

Could I live with myself if I didn’t?

What are you going to do, Sandi?

What are you going to do?

I opened the door to the bathroom and grabbed every pill bottle from the medicine cabinet. I took the razors and anything that could remotely do any harm at all. Then I turned and walked out the door of the bedroom.

“Where are you going?” I heard Jesse call from behind me.

I quickly looked at the kids sleeping on the couch, their breathing deep and slow.

Good. They could not wake up for this.

I grabbed more pill bottles from the medicine cabinet and took out every knife from the drawers. Then I looked around for a place to hide everything.

I grabbed both keys to the white car and headed out the side door. I threw everything inside before locking the doors and stuffing the keys in my sweater pocket.

My pulse beat out of my veins, white noise roared in my ears.

I stepped back inside and went to where the guns were stored. I hid them, too.

I stole one last glance at the kids on the couch. “Please don’t come with sirens,” I whispered to the dark. “Please God, let them be kind. Let this go quickly. Let Jesse go peacefully.”

I steeled myself, took a deep breath.

And I let my heart go hard, my eyes set in stone, my will become immovable.

I walked back into the room and looked at my husband laying on the bed.

I saw him then, all at once.

17-year-old Jesse pulling over to the side of the road because I finally told him I loved him, too.

21-year-old Jesse tired after a long overnight shift as a medic. Judah toddling to greet him at the door.

23-year-old Jesse smiling because he just became a father to a baby girl.

27-year-old Jesse graduating from college in his blue cap and gown.

Him. I could do this for him.

“You might want to put some pants on. It’s cold, you’ll want a jacket.” I grabbed my phone.

Jesse went rigid. “What are you doing?”

I tore my eyes away from him and dialed the numbers.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“Hi. My husband has a plan in place to take his life. I think he needs to be Baker Acted.”

*𝐿𝑒𝓉 𝓂𝑒 𝓉𝒶𝓀𝑒 𝓎𝑜𝓊 𝒹𝑜𝓌𝓃 𝒸𝒶𝓊𝓈𝑒 𝐼’𝓂 𝑔𝑜𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓉𝑜…

“Do you need an ambulance?”

“No.”

“Is he aggressive?”

“No.”

“Are there weapons in the home?”

“I’ve hidden them.”

𝒮𝓉𝓇𝒶𝓌𝒷𝑒𝓇𝓇𝓎 𝐹𝒾𝑒𝓁𝒹𝓈

“What’s his name?”

“Jesse. Jesse Lard.”

𝒩𝑜𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒾𝓈 𝓇𝑒𝒶𝓁

“They’re coming, they should be there soon. Can you describe to me what happened?”

𝒜𝓃𝒹 𝓃𝑜𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓉𝑜 𝑔𝑒𝓉 𝒽𝓊𝓃𝑔 𝒶𝒷𝑜𝓊𝓉

“Where are the pills now?”

“Hidden.”

𝒮𝓉𝓇𝒶𝓌𝒷𝑒𝓇𝓇𝓎 𝐹𝒾𝑒𝓁𝒹𝓈 𝒻𝑜𝓇𝑒𝓋𝑒𝓇

“They should be pulling in now.”

“Yes I see them.”

𝐿𝒾𝓋𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒾𝓈 𝑒𝒶𝓈𝓎 𝓌𝒾𝓉𝒽 𝑒𝓎𝑒𝓈 𝒸𝓁𝑜𝓈𝑒𝒹…

“Could you step outside for me sir?”

𝑀𝒾𝓈𝓊𝓃𝒹𝑒𝓇𝓈𝓉𝒶𝓃𝒹𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒶𝓁𝓁 𝓎𝑜𝓊 𝓈𝑒𝑒

“Ma’am can you show me the bottle of pills he wanted to take?”

𝐼𝓉’𝓈 𝑔𝑒𝓉𝓉𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒽𝒶𝓇𝒹 𝓉𝑜 𝒷𝑒 𝓈𝑜𝓂𝑒𝑜𝓃𝑒

“He’s admitted to the plan. We’re taking him in for a psych eval. Who is he to you?”

“My husband.”

“How long have you been together?”

“Twelve… twelve years.”

𝐵𝓊𝓉 𝒾𝓉 𝒶𝓁𝓁 𝓌𝑜𝓇𝓀𝓈 𝑜𝓊𝓉

“You should know, you did the right thing by calling. He’ll thank you one day.”

𝐼𝓉 𝒹𝑜𝑒𝓈𝓃’𝓉 𝓂𝒶𝓉𝓉𝑒𝓇 𝓂𝓊𝒸𝒽 𝓉𝑜 𝓂𝑒

“Can I see him before he goes?”

“Yes. We had to handcuff him ma’am. He didn’t want to come. But he’s calm.”

𝐿𝑒𝓉 𝓂𝑒 𝓉𝒶𝓀𝑒 𝓎𝑜𝓊 𝒹𝑜𝓌𝓃

“What exactly does he have?”

“Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

𝒞𝒶𝓊𝓈𝑒 𝐼’𝓂 𝑔𝑜𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓉𝑜…

“How long has he been like this?”

“He was diagnosed 4 years ago.”

𝒮𝓉𝓇𝒶𝓌𝒷𝑒𝓇𝓇𝓎 𝐹𝒾𝑒𝓁𝒹𝓈

“He’s in serious psychological distress. Thank you for calling. Here’s my card if you need anything.”

𝒩𝑜𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒾𝓈 𝓇𝑒𝒶𝓁

“Here he is ma’am.”

𝒜𝓃𝒹 𝓃𝑜𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓉𝑜 𝑔𝑒𝓉 𝒽𝓊𝓃𝑔 𝒶𝒷𝑜𝓊𝓉

“I love you, Jesse. I just want you to stay with me.”

𝒮𝓉𝓇𝒶𝓌𝒷𝑒𝓇𝓇𝓎 𝐹𝒾𝑒𝓁𝒹𝓈 𝒻𝑜𝓇𝑒𝓋𝑒𝓇

*Song Lyrics by the Beatles

*I was watching someone else’s life.

The handcuffs were tight. To be honest, I’d never been in handcuffs before this moment. They took my watch and gave it to Sandi. They said I didn’t need it. They obviously didn’t know me.

The linear distance to Emerald Coast Behavioral hospital was not long, yet the ride seemed to take an eternity. It was uncomfortable. I was scared. The officer was nice. He made small talk the whole way. He asked about my family and reminded me that I have them to live for. I nodded along.

We arrived at the entrance and a large African American man greeted us. He was dressed in scrubs and a jacket. It was cold out. Mid-January. We went inside and the officer handed my ID to the man in the scrubs and told him that I had been very compliant. I remember thinking how funny it was that the officer told the man in the scrubs that; like I had any other choice.

The officer removed the handcuffs and the man in the scrubs took me into a small room with two chairs. It was around midnight at this point. The man in the scrubs asked me a lot of questions, took my blood pressure, pulse and temperature. Then I waited.

And waited.

The computer system went down and had to be booted back up. It took an hour. A woman in scrubs came in and ask me to follow her. We went into a larger room and she was joined by another woman in scrubs. The first woman asked me to take my clothes off. She said they had to search me. I removed my shirt and shorts and stood there in my underwear. She motioned at my underwear and said “them too.” I did as she asked.

The two women ran their gloved hands all over my exposed body. The woman in the scrubs said “you can get dressed now.” I did and they took me back to the small room with two chairs. Another hour passed and another woman in scrubs came in and asked me to follow her. We went into a large room with a desk and a chair. She motioned for me to have a seat in the chair so I did. She handed me a urinalysis cup (I’m very familiar with them from being an EMT) and motioned for me to go to the other door in the room. “Fill’r up” she said.

I did and returned her cup.

She removed a sticker on the side and wrote something on a chart she was holding.

“Positive for benzos, when’s the last time you used?”

“I’m prescribed Klonopin and Xanax for sleeping,” I said.

“That’s not what I asked,” she said.

“I took Klonopin about 3 hours ago to go to sleep,” I said.

She nodded her head. “You use anything else?” She said.

“Wouldn’t your test tell you if I did,” I said, a little snarky.

“I suppose so,” she said. She stood up and grabbed the chart. She gave me a pair of red socks with grips on the bottom.

“You’re a fall risk because of the meds you’re on. These red socks and this red band on your wrist will show the staff.” She then motioned for me to follow her and we walked down a long hall. We walked past a lot of rooms with open doors and people sleeping in them. We stopped in a room with a large glass wall and a lot of chairs. There was a clock on the wall above the desk with the glass windows. A sigh of relief washed over me. It was a quarter to 3 in the morning.

One Spring break, my family and I went to Disney World. After stopping for a bathroom break I noticed that Judah, my son, was not with us. Sandi, my mother-in-law and I looked everywhere we could within a short distance but we couldn’t find him. A feeling of dread came over me. My heart raced, I couldn’t focus, I felt like I had lost my place in the world. Then Sandi, not thinking of the social consequences, ran into the men’s restroom and there he was. Standing by the hand dryers just like I’d asked him to, patiently waiting for me to get him. Sandi brought him out and the sight of him was a huge relief.

This is how I felt when I saw that clock on the wall.

Isn’t time that important to everyone?

Another woman in scrubs walked over and said “hello” to me. She was the first person in the facility to say hello. I said hello back. She said, “I’ll be your night nurse can I get you anything?”

I told her that I had taken my Klonopin for sleep but not the Xanax yet. She said she would get me the meds and asked if I was hungry. I said no and she walked away.

A short man walked over in scrubs and said he was the tech and that he would be checking in on me every 20 minutes. The nurse came with the meds, I took them, and the tech showed me to my room; first door on the left, right across from the phones. The “bed” was more like a cot with a thin mattress on it. Sitting on the bed were some linens. I quickly made the bed and got in it.

I didn’t sleep. I just laid there staring at the ceiling, watching the tech come in every 20 minutes with the red light. Eventually he came in and said “time to get up.”

He walked over to my roommate and shook him and said “Hey, time to get up.”

My roommate slowly got up. I walked out into the day room. There was a mixture of people getting up, most very groggy. One woman had a large gauze bandage on her forearm. She sat in the chair beside me and I said nothing. I looked at the clock, 6:30. An hour passed and there seemed to be a shift change. Our new tech announced that we were to go to breakfast.

Everyone got up and walked toward the door to the courtyard. I followed and we walked, in a straight line, to the cafeteria. People picked up trays, plates and began getting served food. I got my first breakfast: fruit, scrambled eggs, and some toast. I sat at a table alone. I didn’t eat. I just stared at the other people all eating and chatting.

Following all meals was a smoke break so we were to stay outside for some time. We then went inside and sat in the dayroom. I sat alone and talked to no one. It was Sunday morning, so the normal doctor was not there, it was the weekend doctor. After sitting in the dayroom for what seemed like forever, they called my name and I walked down the long hallway. They opened a door to a small room not much bigger than a broom closet. An older gentleman was sitting, reading. He looked up, took off his glasses and said, “Hello”.

He read from my chart as to why I was there and asked me a lot of questions. He said, “I just want to be clear from the start, you’re not going home today.”

I felt a lump in my throat. I wanted nothing more than to go home and get out of this place. He made a change to my sleeping meds and told me I could go.

The rest of the day was filled with group therapy, lunch, recreational time, dinner and free time.

I called Sandi after lunch during the phone time. I remember feeling very afraid. I told Sandi that I didn’t belong there, but they wouldn’t let me leave. She was reassuring and said that I was in the right place. I became angry.

“Why did you put me here?” I said, crying at this point.

“I had to save your life, Jesse.” Sandi replied.

I did get some off and on sleep that night but it was rough. My roommate snored.

The next day was Monday. The night tech woke us up at 6:30 as normal with the red light. I went out to the dayroom and sat in silence. We went to breakfast and as I got my food, the woman with the gauze bandage on her forearm stopped me and said “You can sit with us, if you like”. I did.

She asked my name and whether I was Baker Acted or not. I told her my name and that I was.

“Me too,” she said. I nodded and began to eat.

I would sit with her and another woman every meal for the rest of my stay. The food there was honestly pretty good. I’m not the pickiest eater and there was never anything there that I didn’t enjoy eating. But there was only tea for lunch and dinner, not for breakfast. I resented that.

I talked with Sandi again. This time a lot less emotional. My voice felt steady. We chatted about the kids and how she was doing. She made arrangements with my job and I was grateful for that. Bay Haven would prove to be one of, if not the most, understanding jobs I’ve ever worked for. Even after I was released and needed more time they never flinched. They told me to take as much time as I needed and that everything would be okay. My whole math department banded together to cover my classes and I’ll never truly be able to thank them for how much they helped during one of the worst periods of my life.

On Monday afternoon I met my treatment doctor and the social worker. He asked the same questions that all psychiatrists ask and we went over my meds. He asked if I planned on hurting myself and I said “yes.”

He asked what I thought prompted this episode and I told him I had no idea but that I’d been feeling down for a while now. He said that he had an idea and wanted to start me on a medication that would help with my sleep and was also an antidepressant, Remeron. I agreed and he told me that I would have to stay until at least Wednesday.

He wrote in my chart “major depression, mild OCPD, PTSD.”

Mild OCPD. I didn’t realize that thinking I’m going to die in a car accident every time I’m late for an appointment is considered mild.

I nodded and left.

He also ordered me an egg-crate topper to put on my bed. I took Remeron and Klonopin that night to sleep and I slept the best I had in 18 months, since the hurricane. It was a deep, restful sleep.

The rest of my time at Emerald Coast passed uneventfully except when the woman with the gauze bandage asked me to play Sequence with her and another woman. I did and felt some semblance of normalcy. There was one incident where a disturbed man had an episode in the dayroom after lunch while most of us were outside. He was taken to solitary confinement and I never saw him again.

On Wednesday, the social worker told me I was going home that afternoon. During rec time I painted a picture of a river at the foot of a mountain range. It was my first time actually painting a picture. I enjoyed it a lot.

That afternoon I met with my treatment team: My doctor, social worker and a therapist, whom I’d spoken to once. They asked where I’d be going home to and about my family life and if I felt safe to return home. I told them I did and they agreed to let me leave.

As I walked out of the room, the woman with gauze on her forearm had the gauze removed. She walked toward me and I saw it.

She had carved “please stop” into her forearm.

I pitied her. I thought, “She must really be sick.”

Then I remembered I was here, too. In the same place she was.

She greeted me and said, “So, you’re going home today?”

I said yes and she smiled.

Sandi came close to dinner. The woman who previously had the gauze on her arm said, “Good luck.”

I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

No one else seemed to notice me leaving. I had my belongings in a bag and still had on those red socks. Sandi met me at the door and hugged me. I smiled and told her I wanted some sweet tea and we went home.

*by Jesse Lard

I kissed Jesse goodbye and then walked back to the house, shutting the door behind me.

I didn’t watch the cop car pull away.

I looked into the living room where the kids were sleeping on the couch. They never moved. Three cops walked into our home and asked me questions, but the kids never stirred.

I watched their chests move up and down thinking about what I would tell them in the morning.

I guess it was morning now.

I’d tell them the truth though. It’s what Jesse and I had always done. They deserved to know. We excluded some of the finer details, but Judah could recite our words to him by heart at this point. 

“Daddy has a sickness in his brain that makes him sad.”

I moved to my bedroom door and stared at the empty bed. I spotted Jesse’s medical marijuana on his bedside table. The stuff that was supposed to be “it.” THE solution.

How many times had we been told something similar before? “This is it.”—“This will work.”

Blah. Blah. Blah.

I went down my call list, but only my sister picked up. “I’ll come by tomorrow and get the guns out of the house.”

I agreed. Then I texted everyone else. I’d wait to tell his granny in the morning.

God. His granny. Words could not express how much I didn’t want to call that sweet woman who had already lost a son to suicide. 


I remembered the letters stuck between the pages of his journal on my bookshelf. I decided that I should probably torture myself by reading them.

I sat on my bed. First I read the letter to Judah, then to me.

I can’t remember much. Just the first and last lines. 

“First, this isn’t your fault. A terrible combination of chemicals in my brain caused this to happen.”

“Please don’t think less of me.”

I grabbed a pillow and screamed into it, until my voice was raw.

I gave myself an hour to pitch a fit. After that I knew I had to let it go. 

After all, Jesse wasn’t actually dead. He just wanted to be.

He had just planned to be.

But, honestly, I’d grown used to that fact by then. Part of Jesse always longed for death, to be free of having to appear normal, to break out of the body that caused him so much pain.

The only thing different this time was that he had a plan.

But it didn’t work. Not this time.

There was work to be done. I had to let it go.

I took a few pulls on Jesse’s vape pen. My thoughts slowed down enough so I could focus on each one individually.

“They’ll put a bandaid on him and send him home in three days.”

“You know that’s not going to be enough.”

“No one’s going to fight for him.”

“I’ll fight for him.”

“The system doesn’t care about him. It doesn’t care about you or the kids.”

“Tomorrow is war.”

“Enough is enough.”

“Get ready, girl.”

I’d learned a few things about the mental heath care system in the United States. There were very few options for people like Jesse. Well, very few affordable options. You know, for normal people who weren’t… normal.

Many people could see their psychiatrists and talk therapists, take their medication, stay in a routine and manage their illnesses fairly well.

Jesse needed more help than that. He’d needed more help for a long time, but there was a process that needed to be followed.

It didn’t matter that I saw the train coming at him from a mile away. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t leave him alone for well over a year. It didn’t matter that there was clearly something not right. That his body might as well have been a walking open grave, waiting to swallow Jesse whole. 

Intervention would only come for Jesse once he began the quick spiral into death. Then, I had three days.

That part had happened.

Three days to think, to find an option for him.

Three days.

I thought of Ursula in the Little Mermaid, “Before the sun sets on the third day…”

Leave it to me to think of fairytale at a time like this.

I took a deep breath in and exhaled slowly. I picked up my phone and set an alarm. Then I went to grab the sleeping pills Jesse meant to take himself.

I took one and laid down on the bed in the dark.

Soon, I heard the door open and little feet padding to my bed.

That would be Lorelai. She always makes the trek to my bed around 3am.

I lifted up the covers and let her climb in with me.

When I awoke, I heard Judah playing video games in the living room. Lorelai was gone from the bed.

I reached for my phone and saw several texts from the people who loved Jesse. Then I googled the number for the behavioral hospital.

“Yes, I’m calling to check on Jesse Lard.”

There was rustling on the other end of the line. “I cannot confirm whether or not a Jesse Lard is here.”

You’ve got to be effing kidding me. I stared at the ceiling, gearing myself up for a long fight.

Come on, Sandi. It’s not her fault. She’s just part of a system that gives her rules.

“Ma’am,” I said. “I’m the one that called for a Baker Act and the police told me where they would be taking him. I know that he’s there.”

“I cannot confirm whether or not a Jesse Lard is here.”

I hit the red button, threw my phone across the room and screamed.

Judah walked into the room. “Good morning, mom.”

I breathed out with a whoosh. “Good morning, honey.” 

“Did daddy go somewhere?”

And I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to tell him or his sister anything at all.

But we had already—Jesse and me—decided a long time ago to be honest.

“Actually, I need to talk to you and your sister about that. Let’s go sit in the living room.”

So I sat them down on the couch and told them both calmly that daddy had gotten very sick in his mind and that he went to a hospital.

“So daddy had lots of bad thoughts?” Judah said bravely. “That’s what it means when he gets sick in his brain.”

“I thought he was all better,” Lorelai said. “He takes medicine.”

“It never goes away, Lorelai.” Judah rolled his eyes. “Daddy will always have it.”

“Judah,” I said. “I know you’re upset, but there’s no reason to be rude to someone who’s trying to understand.”

He took a deep breath and nodded.

So grown. At seven years old this boy had seen a lot of the world already and could understand what was happening.

A daddy who sometimes couldn’t get off the couch. A category 5 hurricane. His home being destroyed.

Lorelai, too. But she was still so young. There was a clear difference in emotional comprehension between a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old.

“Daddy can get better, but yes, Lorelai, he will always have a sickness in his brain. Last night it was bad. You both will be going to stay with Miss Jessica today so mommy can get what Daddy needs altogether.”

“Yay!!!” Lorelai squealed. She kissed me on the cheek and ran off to play.

I smiled a bit, happy she didn’t really understand, elated that she could know but not really know.

But Judah stayed with me.

“So,” I began. “I can’t pretend to know what you’re feeling right now. You should know it’s okay to feel a lot of things at once or not know how to feel. It’s even okay to be angry.”

“Angry?”


“Yeah. All of it is normal.”

Judah moved to sit closer to me. “I’m not really angry. I’m just really sad.”

“I’m really sad, too.”

“I have something I want to say, but I’m afraid to say it.”

“You can tell me anything, but you don’t have to say it either.”

“I’m afraid that Daddy’s going to die.” Judah began to cry and my heart cracked. “Is he?”

I pulled him into a tight hug. “Oh baby.” And I knew I had to continue with the truth. It didn’t matter if I thought it was so unfair my son had to grow up so fast. It didn’t matter if I thought just a bit of his innocence would be chipped away right in this moment.

Reality. Reality mattered.

“The truth is, we’re all going to die,” I finally replied. “You, me, Lorelai, daddy. One day we’re all going to die. It’s a part of life. It’s what makes life meaningful.” I pulled him back and looked into his eyes, those eyes given to him by either me or his father. We’re not sure. Our features are all so similar anyway.

“But I don’t want Daddy to die right now.”

“Well, that’s the point isn’t it? That’s why mommy sent him to the hospital.” I paused for a moment, thinking of exactly what I wanted to say. “Because we all want more time. We want more time with him. That’s really all. Your Daddy still has things to do here, like be a father to you and be a husband to me.” I paused. “So I can’t promise you that your daddy won’t die. He will. We all will. But I can promise you that I will do everything in my power to be sure that he has more time, that we have more time to enjoy him.”

Then we sat, holding each other before I instructed him to tell his sister to start packing for an overnight stay.

When the kids left, I messaged my therapist explaining what happened and asked for an emergency appointment with her. Then, I got in touch with Jesse’s family, staying on the line while the people who loved him processed the news.

Then Jesse called me from the facility.

“Hello Jesse. How are you?”

I heard him swallow hard, then start to cry. “I’m not sure. Why did you put me in here?”

“I wouldn’t have done what I did if I had any other choice. I hope one day you can forgive me, but you need to know that I’m not sorry. I had to save your life. And if that means losing you because you’re so angry with me for what I had to do, I decided a long time ago that I could live with that.”

When Jesse hung up, I called the facility again. This time they could confirm Jesse was there.

Magical.

“I can’t gauge how he’s doing just by talking with him. Is there someone I can talk to?”

“You will be contacted by the social worker before he leaves. The main thing is to get everything dangerous out of the house.”

I met with my therapist and expressed my frustration.

“They’re just going to send him home and the clock starts ticking again. He needs more help than three days.”

“It’s a long shot, but there’s a facility my friend’s husband went to. It was a game-changer.” She sighed. “It’s expensive.”

I got in touch with Jesse’s work. I posted an anonymous post in a local girl group. They organized a meal train for me for a week.

I hired someone to clean the house. Anything I could outsource, I outsourced.

Then I started calling the numbers to longterm care facilities.

“The cost without insurance comes to $33,000 a month.”

That’s about the mean yearly income for people in my area.

“Who. the. hell. can afford that?” I breathed. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Do you take this insurance?” And I told the representative the name. 

“No. But our sister property in Tennessee does.” I could hear in her voice that she felt bad for me. You could hear it in most people’s voices when they talked to me. 

Hopeless.

Another sad story, subjected to our broken American healthcare system.

I refused. I refused for Jesse to be another tragic story.

“Well, how much would that be?”

“May I put you on hold?”

$11,300 was the grand total to get Jesse care. Money I didn’t just have.

But when I heard the amount I felt like I could make it happen.

I called relatives, pulled resources.

“Sandi, maybe you should take some time off from work.”

I listened to the gentle suggestion. I heard the concern.

Then faced the reality.

The reality was I have two children to feed, a mortgage, and a deductible to pay. I had no idea when or if Jesse would return to work, if he could continue getting healthcare benefits, if it would just be me from now on.

I had no idea what the conditions would be like when he came home.

No idea what the future held.

“I appreciate that.” I replied. “I’m okay right now. But I’ll let you know if something changes.”

I texted people I thought would send Jesse encouraging words. I made a vague Facebook post on his page. Some I told exactly what had happened, others I just made sure to communicate how dire the situation was.

The message was this: “If Jesse Lard ever encouraged you, was kind to you, impressed you, was a friend to you or you care about whether he lives or dies, now is the time to say what you’d say at his funeral. Now, when he can hear you.”

And I’ll never forget. Over 100 people reached out with individualized, kind messages.

When I picked Jesse up from the hospital, they had released him without shoes. He wore red socks and was still wearing the same clothes he was brought in. “I’ve come to break you out.” I smiled.

“I want tea,” Jesse replied.

We picked him up a drink, but I drove past the house a few blocks to the Bay. I asked Jesse to exit the car and sit on a bench.

I handed him his phone and showed him the messages from all the people who reached out.

I made him read every message aloud to me, not knowing if it would do anything. But it would make me feel better hearing his voice reading aloud the impact he had made on the world at just 29 years old.

After he had finished, Jesse sat quietly. It was a warmer January day. The park held so many memories for us.

Our first date. Our first kiss. Our kids playing in the water, finding sea creatures and shells. Jesse and I playing there as kids. Thousands of walks along the bridge. Jesse, me and our friends meeting up after work to blow off some steam. Taking the boat out on the Fourth of July. Seeing the water pulled out for miles because a beast of a hurricane was headed our way.

“Don’t you see?” I began. “Your life isn’t just about you. Your absence would be felt. You see how many people you’ve impacted with your life? How many people would be in pain if you were gone? And those are just the ones who spoke out. I get more messages every day. Jesse Lard matters.”

Jesse continued to stare out at the water.

“I realize I’m a broken record at this point. I fill the silence. Which is weird for me.” I began to cry. “Because that was always you. You would talk, I would listen. It was our dynamic. I’m not good at filling silences.”

I stood up and walked towards the railing, watching the seagulls pick at the ground in front of us.

“But I won’t let you go quietly,” I said. My voice grew more confident as I turned to face him. “If you want to die, then you won’t do it in the shadows. I won’t let you. Silence kills people and I’ve had enough of it.”

“I don’t want to be like this,” Jesse whispered. “You act like I want this.”

“No. That’s not what I’m doing.” I sat down again and took his hand. “What I’m trying to do is make it all feel louder. Loud enough to reach you and make you hold on just a little while longer. Maybe it will be harder to die with an audience watching, when you can see for yourself that people care whether you live or die.”

Each time I speak to him this way, even now, I hope to reach him. 

Usually he hears the words, but can’t feel them.

This time was no different.

“Now everyone knows that something’s going on.”

I thought he might say that. It was a thought that almost kept me from reaching out.

“Yeah. Now people know something’s up. But you know what Jesse? Everyone, even if they don’t talk about it, everyone remembers the name of people who complete a suicide. For me, I remember many. But the first I remember was a boy named Justin. I was in the 7th grade. He was quiet and we crossed paths, but never really spoke. I barely knew him, but I still think about him. I think about how I wish I would have known, because I would have reached out in some way. But that’s usually not how it works…”

I turned to face the bay again. “But this time, Jesse, I have an opportunity and I wanted everyone who’s known you, who loves you, to have the same opportunity.”

“What opportunity?”

I smiled softly. “To do something.”

I’m a reader, a listener, an observer. I’ve always loved studying people from the outside looking in, watching how they behave in social circles or how they react to what happens to them.

I’m attracted to people with fascinating stories. I’m attracted to people who put high value on telling the truth. I value loyalty, faithfulness and steadiness.

I like outspokenness. I like frankness. I steer clear of passive aggressiveness.

I need what’s real. I need what’s true.

Jesse Lard ticked all those boxes for me when I met him at 16.

He was always an hour early for work. He would wait in the car until it was 15 minutes till so he could clock in. It was only when he started dating me and I suggested that being an hour early was tad-bit excessive that he painfully compromised to half an hour early.

He was a fierce friend. He put high value on his church community. He leaned in when others leaned out.

But there was always something just a bit odd about Jesse Lard.

He was unlike any other human I had ever met. His mannerisms were different, he stood differently, he laughed differently… sometimes too long by most social standards. Sometimes he wouldn’t understand why I was laughing and would feel overly embarrassed for me.

My favorite is when he would look at my outfits and make a face. I dressed differently than the norm, usually with bright colors mixed with pieces that didn’t typically go together.

Jesse tried really, really hard to adhere to social standards. He wore what was popular and steered clear of anything that seemed too “out there.”

Except me. He seemed to find me as fascinating as I found him.

I didn’t really understand what was just a bit strange about Jesse until one day when we were headed to work. We had made it just to the first stopsign near my house when I exclaimed I had forgotten to grab my wallet and could we please turn around.

Jesse lost his grip on the careful control he presented to the rest of the world.

“No,” he said firmly. He tightly gripped the steering wheel, his breathing increased and his eyes seemed to become veiled. “We’re going to keep going.”

“Excuse me?” I said, taken aback. “We’ve barely left the house. Just turn around so I can go in and grab it.”

“No!” And Jesse pounded the steering once with the heel of his hand.

I can’t explain how I knew Jesse wasn’t just being an asshole. Maybe it was because I am more attuned to body language than most people. Maybe that’s just what I tell myself.

But Jesse wasn’t angry, he was… desperate. Pleading. Insistent. Immovable. Unyielding.

In pain.

I didn’t press the issue, but pondered it for many years.

Instances like this would happen many times in our relationship. When I was late, when I forgot something, when I wanted to take a detour on our way to a destination, when I wanted to stay longer than we had planned, when plans changed.

Sometimes it ended with me stepping out of the car when Jesse had reached a complete stop.

“Sandi! Get back in the car!” Jesse would plead as I walked beside him.

“No!” I said. “It’s ridiculous! Sometimes people forget things! Sometimes I run late! Sometimes I want to stay late! It’s not a big deal! Stop trying to control me!”

It wasn’t until many years later that I would realize that Jesse had never been trying to control me. He had been trying to keep us both from dying an untimely death.

Jesse had at that point begun developing a fixation around everything that had to do with time. Spontaneity did not exist in Jesse’s world. If I was just a few minutes later to call him than I said I would be, Jesse would think I was dead in a ditch somewhere. If I had forgotten something at home, turning around to get it would mean setting off a chain of events that ended with us dead in a fiery car crash.

We never, ever did something that wasn’t in the plan.

I subconsciously, I think, knew this about Jesse. In one math class, I took cardboard paper and markers and made him his week’s schedule on his binder. It had time stamps, checkmarks and everything.

When I gave it to him, I could not have fathomed the reaction.

He beamed. He beamed like I had just given him the sun to wear as a blanket.

He broke composure and showed one of his friends the schedule I made for him.

“Look at what Sandi did for me,” he said.

And I remember the look on that friend’s face, slightly amused, slightly weirded out.

I could imagine what that guy was probably thinking. “Dude, she’s making schedules for you? Controlling much?”

I had the same thoughts about Jesse sometimes. Much of what I witnessed seemed like a man who was trying to “control his woman.” He was trying to “take away my free spirit.”

But when you looked at him, examined his actions, there were differences. He would plead with me not to make him turn around to get the forgotten object. He would grow increasingly panicked the closer to “late” we became.

He tried really, really hard to behave as normal as humanly possible, to the point it was robotic at times.

Social rules must be followed.

Jesse didn’t like hugs, from anyone. Not even from me. He would only hold my hand in the car as he was driving, and then he would wipe his hand on his jeans, taking a deep breath, like he had been holding it the whole time he held my hand.

When we walked together, he asked me to loop my arm around his instead of holding hands.

He absolutely would not kiss me in public.

His appearance was always impeccably put together. Not a hair out of place.

His hands were calloused, but always clean.

I was a lazy dresser half the time. I would leave the house with my hair damp and Jesse couldn’t stand it.

When he would point it out, I could hear what was being said. The words behind the words.

“Don’t you know that people will think you’re not normal?”

But there was something in Jesse that longed for freedom, that desired openness and a lack of rules.

There had to have been. Or he wouldn’t have fallen in love with me.

I thought about all of this as I welcomed a few family members and friends into my home to see Jesse in the days leading up to taking him to the facility.

“I’ve never seen him like this,” was the common refrain.

Jesse couldn’t move off the couch. Even when his best friend, Tylor, came from Orlando to see him off to the longterm mental health facility. Usually, if we had company, Jesse could pull himself together and appear 100% normal.

But he couldn’t anymore. He lay there, motionless. The man who was so structured, so rigid, so concerned about wasting time and being on time. The man who never had a hair out of place, who was always clean, couldn’t muster up the strength to shower or banter with his friend.

The man who so desperately tried to fit in with the “normal” world, could keep up the show no longer.

“I’ve never seen him like this.”

“He’s been like this for a long time,” I wanted to say. “Just not for your eyes.”

People like Jesse get really good at being chameleons. They have to… to survive society. If they were to give in to every impulse they had openly, if they were to truly “be themselves” without modifying it into a way that is more “palatable,” they would have extreme difficulty functioning in the world we’ve created.

So at home, they fall apart in exhaustion. But that’s just for home.

Many times at gatherings, I’ve had people approach me.

“Is Jesse okay? Is he upset?”

“I believe he’s fine. Why do you ask?”

“He’s shaking his legs.” And they’d nod to him.

Now, Jesse doesn’t just bounce his legs as he sits. Depending on the floor, his “bouncing” will shake the whole house.

To outsiders, Jesse appears nervous or uncomfortable. Sometimes, that’s the case.

Most of the time, though, the bouncing is him just stimming. He’s centering himself so he can be present.

He’s not nervous, he’s not uncomfortable, he’s stimming because he’s trying to participate in community. For Jesse to be mentally present with all of us, he has to physically ground himself.

When Jesse goes for job interviews, or other interviews that are important, there’s a bit of coaching involved.

“Okay, so shaking your legs will make you appear nervous even though you’re not. Nervousness will make them think you’re unprepared for the position.”

“But if there’s a desk between us,” Jesse would say. “I can get away with it.”

I shook my head. “Except you always manage to shake the entire building.”

“Okay okay.” Jesse breathed. “No leg shaking. I’ll hide my hands beneath the desk and rub them.”

He would always be frustrated when he came home from an “off” job interview.

“There was no desk.” He’d say frustratedly.

“Oh God, what happened?”

“They had me sit across from three of them in a big open room.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.” I’d hang my head.

Well intentioned people often approach Jesse in large gatherings.

“Feeling a bit nervous today? It’s okay to relax. We won’t bite.” They smile and pat Jesse on the shoulder.

I lock eyes with him across the room. He’d show embarrassment for not fitting in seamlessly.

But Jesse did not stim on the couch, the day we left for the facility.

Major Depression had cancelled out all outward signs of OCPD. Jesse was left with the most deadly effects of all.

Intrusive thoughts.

Over and over and over again, Jesse’s mind was churning out thoughts like a CD stuck on the same lyric.

“You’re going to end up just like your father.”

“Everyone would be better off without you.”

“Sandi is taking you to a facility just to get rid of you.”

“It’s not a real facility, she’s locking you up.”

He’s described the noise as being in a large room with a thousand people, all saying different negative thoughts to you. Occasionally, what one person says sticks out and you hear what they say loudest.

Over and over and over.

It doesn’t stop with sleep. It doesn’t stop when you’re happy or when you’re sad.

Over and over and over.

That’s how Jesse got to the point when he was ready to execute his plan to take his life. That voice was simply the loudest that day, and he fixated on it.

“It’s good your wife called when she did. It’s good that you’re here. When people with your condition get fixated like that, they follow through with the plan. You were in danger.”

I would get a bit of encouragement like this over the next several weeks. It was good for me, I felt like I was flying blind most of the time.

There’s no guidebook out there for stuff like this. I’ve checked.

But I did the right thing in that instance. I made a good move. It was the right call.

Yet, part of me couldn’t help but feel guilty when I looked at Jesse laying on the couch, immobile.

Pain. Jesse had been in pain for so long. And I kept him here, with no real promise that the pain would ever get better or go away.

I kept him here just because I had hope.

I needed it to be enough… this time.

God and I have a relationship unique to us. I feel like he gets me. We’ve been friends for a long while.

My prayers are never long anymore, I just throw them out there throughout the day. Checking in as I move through the world.

“God. I’ve made good calls so far. Please let this one be a good move.”

Tylor helped load up our car, the kids were at my mother’s and Jesse sat heavily medicated in the passenger seat.

Basically, we sedated him for transport.

I hugged Tylor, one of the few people close to Jesse who had loved him longer than I had.

“You’re a good friend.”

Because that’s what it takes. It takes the best of friends to see someone you love in that state and not look away. And that’s what Tylor did.

I saw the effect seeing Jesse like that had on Tylor, but he went and got a cooler full of oysters and played music for us that night on his guitar. I heard him give Jesse a heart-to-heart when I had walked away to get more drinks.

“It feels like you both just want me to change who I am,” Jesse said.

“Oh, we absolutely want you to change. You really think it’s a good thing that you want to die? That part needs to change or at least get better. We’re sending you to the facility because we love you, man. I want you around for awhile. We think they can help you get better. Otherwise we wouldn’t send you there. That’s the whole point.”

No pretense. No shame. Just a man telling another man how much he meant to him.

May we all be so lucky to have a friend like Tylor.

I stepped up into the driver’s seat. It was 8pm. We would drive to Atlanta that night and the rest of the way to Tennessee in the morning.

Jesse checked in at 12pm, sharp. On a Sunday in January.

“Let me know when you get there safe,” Tylor said.

And we set off into the night with hope as a stowaway. Down the rabbit hole.

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