“Have you ever wanted to harm yourself son?” the Doctor asked with seemingly true concern in his voice.
“I’ve wanted to die for a few years now honestly,” I said back without looking up. I dropped shame from my eyes and felt the pain from my mother as she sat and listened beside me. I had never felt so low.
The physician turned around and began typing on the computer. He made occasional head nods and murmured to himself as he archived my life into their database. How very many keystrokes it took to say I was a “broken man.” I could have told him again in fewer words.
Charter Lakeside is a mental hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. It is a picturesque building from the outside that hides the pain within.
We pulled our car in front of the building like we were checking into a hotel. A man serving as valet ran out all smiles. It might have been an inviting feel if I didn’t know exactly what this building was.
My mother and I walked into the front office and checked in. The receptionist asked us to sit down and wait as she processed my forms. We sat in a white room that reflected my horror back into my face. I felt trapped even though I was still free. I didn’t feel free.
I began to feel a tightness in my chest. A feeling that this was all wrong and not the way it was supposed to be. My foot began to tap out my heartbeat and my palms began to sweat like I was in a showdown in a poker game. I quickly began to reevaluate my situation.
“Mom,” I said turning to my mother who was pretending this was all normal. “I don’t belong here,” I stammered.
“Do you mean you don’t want to check into this facility Jason?” she asked with a seriousness that I knew meant this was one of those decisions I should think about first.
“I want to go home,” I finally said with a single tear of reinforcement falling down my cheek.
“Let’s go home then,” she said without hesitation.
I loved her for that. Her lack of hesitation and her understanding of the darkness I was currently in. She was willing to let me figure it out in my own way and wasn’t about to force me into a facility I was suddenly sure would kill my spirit and possibly make me want to die even more. My mom explained things to the receptionist and we got up together to leave. I returned home to face my demons another day, but on my terms. On my time and in my own way.
Thank you to the best mother ever. The only mom I know.
Jason C. Cushman