An Irrevocable Triumph: A Midnight Taxi
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The hour hovered around midnight and my mother slept in her bedroom. I cried in mine. I often cried privately at home (and publicly at school). My mother lent ample cause to my distress—rejecting my individuality, issuing tirades at my expense, and being unwilling to take responsibility for the harm she perpetrated. At 15, having worked with LICSWs (social workers/psychotherapists) and the public school psychologist for years, I knew that my mental health presented crises. No practitioner ever reported a diagnosis to me, but I had read about Major Depression, and I knew I lived with it.
I left my house in the middle of the night, taking a taxi to the Emergency Room at Franklin General Hospital. The explanatory note that I left on the kitchen table read: I went to the hospital to find out why I get so sad all the time.
Because I was underage, the hospital could not admit me without parental consent. I feared my mother’s wrath were the hospital to call in the wee hours and wake her. As second thoughts arose, regarding whether she would consent to my initiation of an inpatient stay or perceive this as a public embarrassment, a reproach for her parenting skills, and spurning of our home life, I opted not to wait until morning only to have her come and get me.
I needed the power of an authority on my side. Not finding any, I aborted this request for help and opted to walk home, arriving home by dawn, removing the note from the kitchen table, and returning to sleep with voiceless desperation. What child takes herself to the Emergency Room and asks for a psychiatric admission?
What Strength! My gumption to call a taxi and walk myself into an ER manifested maturity and sheer courage. By yielding to my vulnerability and taking measures to ask for help, I demonstrated fortitude. The resourcefulness to seek medical help reflected the asset of education.
What Endurance! I had carried my burden—albeit with copious tears—with keen personal insight. My perseverance despite crushing emotional pain spoke to tremendous patience. The patience did not feel like patience, or like any asset at all, yet somehow day upon day my mind continued to trouble-shoot and problem solve.
What Power! In the face of mental illness, there seemed to be absolute powerlessness—a sickness that I could not control. This truth of this perception prevailed for me. Yet I owned my response. I possessed the power to choose the next right step for me and the autonomy—the self-governance—to take it.
The failure of my orchestration to get medical help frustrated, disappointed, and dismayed me, but the attempt spoke to an irrevocable triumph: I had advocated for myself. Resourcefulness, insight, autonomy, and self-advocacy facilitated a heroism that, at the time, I could not appreciate but today is undeniable.
Heroism can be vividly dramatic, as in my story, and it can be ordinarily extraordinary. Among the nine competencies—including STRENGTH – ENDURANCE – POWER—heroism develops through grave hardship and through unpretentious dedication. We cultivate it through examination of how we focus our time and attention, how patterns of relationship and work contribute to our personal growth, and how our reactions and decisions take root and take wing. Do you know that we were born to be our own HEROES?
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