I knock on Greg's door. He doesn't open. I just left his room 30 minutes ago while he was still relaxing on the couch, so this is strange. I bang the door harder. The whole building can hear me now, surely he must too? No answer. Maybe he's in the living room. I go to the spot where patients who live in the hospital's hostel often hang out. The hostel has been my home now since two weeks. It's an in-between place before going home. He's not in the living room though.
While dialing his number on my phone again, I go to the nurses' office.
"Did Greg leave?" I ask the lady inside, since we always have to sign-off when leaving the hostel.
"Not that I know," she replies.
"He doesn't open his door," I say. "I thought he was here."
"Well, I don't know," she replies. She doesn't seem worried.
I run up the stairs again to the second floor, and enter my own room, which is next to Greg's. I put my ear against the wall, and call his phone again. No sound. I send him a message on Whatsapp. I can see it's delivering, but he's not clicked on it. He's not online, and hasn't been for a while. I can't hear his phone buzzing in the other room either. All I can hear, is the sound my fists make while banging against the wall
"He doesn't open his door," I urge to the nurse an hour later again, after I tried getting in touch with Greg in a variety of ways, and failed. I have a reason to be worried. Not just because Greg is my friend, but because he's been committed before. Unlike me, he wasn't voluntarily committed. He was forced, after he tried to commit suicide, by overdosing on his medication. At the young age of 24, he even spent one week in isolation after he was caught trying to hang himself inside the closet of his hospital room. One week, inside an empty room, with only a bed and a cardboard toilet to shit in, and white walls as daily entertainment. Apparently he'd beaten his hands bloody and bruised on the windows of the isolation cell, in anger, due to being locked up. When I once asked him if isolation hadn't traumatised him, he laughed and said: "No. It actually made me very calm, and worked well for me."
Greg has Borderline Personality Disorder, and he battles heavy feelings constantly. Six months ago he didn't want to live like this anymore. For the last 3 months (I met him in December) he seemed to be doing much better. But the last few days, I noticed he withdrew after getting drunk on a party for the first time in a while. He's gone silent. He previously told me what to look for, when he's found himself in a dark place. He told me since he finds it difficult to express it, and ask for help. Everybody in our 'mental-health friend-group' (whom know each other through the hospital), somewhat knows the problem-signs of all the people in it. We've all agreed that if we feel someone in the group is in crisis, we need to point that it out to the professionals. The person who showed the danger-signs, can't be mad at the rest for 'telling on them'. So here I am now, asking a professional for help.
"I've called his phone, I've been trying to get in touch for hours. Nothing. He seemed unwell," I say.
"Well, let's see," the nurse says. "It's 10 now. He should come over for his medication soon. If he hasn't shown up by 11, I'll go check on him, okay?"
"But he's not replied to any of my messages for hours. It's unlike him," I say.
"If he hasn't showed up by 11, I will check on him. Just give him another hour."
"Right. Thank you," I say.
Great, I think. Should I make a fuss? Maybe I should first go check some other places.. Maybe he's just not here, in the hostel.
I go back to my room to grab my coat. Ten minutes later I'm outside the cafe Greg and I sometimes go to. He's not there. I look over the square, check the train station, and then walk towards the location where I know his car is parked. I look at my phone again. Two missed calls.
"Hey," I hear a soft voice reply.
"Where are you?" I ask.
"Are you in the hostel?"
"What? Yeah, yeah I am."
He sounds very drowsy, and I'm not sure what to think.
"I'm in my room," he says. "I was sleeping."
"I've been banging on your door," I say.
"Loud," I remark. "For hours."
"Sorry," he says. "I was really sleepy."
"Are you okay?" I ask ".. Did you take something?"
"Greg? Did you take something?!" I'm shouting now, and start running, back to the hostel.
".. No, I didn't," he says quietly. "But there's something I want to tell you, not over the phone though."
"I'm coming," I say. "I was near your car to see if you left. Ten minutes and I'll be there."
Greg looks very worn-down when he opens the door. He must have been sleeping for 18 hours by now. I settle down on his sleeping-couch, next to him. He looks scared and fragile at the same time. His normally happy face - he's someone you always find smiling brightly on pictures - seems dead.
"I don't think I can do this anymore," he whispers. "I'm tired Pieke," he says.
When people say your name it's often during serious talk. I remember the questions the professionals ask us, to measure how critical the situation is.
"Do you have plans?" I ask.
"I don't know. I just don't want to be here anymore. I'm tired of being me. My mind will never change," he speaks softly.
"How would you do it?" I ask; it's a question the doctors at the hospital asked me too, in November.
"I would go to the kitchen here, grab a knife, and lock myself in my room. I know my body's most important arteries," Greg answers.
"Hmm," I say.
Greg was a student medical operation-assistant before, and knows a lot about the body. He knows, just like me, that it just takes 10 minutes. Or 10 seconds. Judging Greg, I think he would opt for 10 minutes. His first choice was overdosing, so by that I can guess he probably would like to 'glide away'. One might call it 'the spirit of a romantic', in a very disturbed way.
- "Or," he says, "I'd take the car and drive into a tree. I know which one."
Alright, maybe not so romantic. A tree? Yes, let's please deliver blood and bones and your face in pieces to your family, I think. I've always disliked the idea of jumping in front of a train, or driving into something.
A year ago, a man killed himself by driving his car into my building. I remember I was working behind my computer around 1 in the morning when it happened, and that I was watching and listening to the music video Beautiful Now by Zed ft. Jon Bellion, on youtube (in the picture on the right you can see I looked up the video lyrics after the crash). A dark thought, considering in the music video of this song, all the main characters stare in the eyes of death, in some way*.
* While I wrote this, I was going through an old Skype conversation of a friend of mine and I (for blog research), whom I thought I spoke to about it, on the morning of the horrible event. Then this happened. While scrolling through the conversation with my friend Jørgen, I found I sent him a message I sent Exurb1a (my ex-coworker and ex-boyfriend, whom I've been speaking out against due to him assaulting and blackmailing me) before we broke up. I sent Exurb1a the original message in a doc file because I wrote it there, and in it I talk about the assault and how he hurt and scared me. Months later, Exurb1a accused me (and threatened to say this online) of making up the assault after we broke up, to get revenge. I have a video of this. I filmed my Iphone with my Ipad when this conversation happened while I was hospitalised and suicidal. In it you can hear him harass me, and accuse me of things, and threaten me. It ends in me crying saying I don't want to talk to him again, and a nurse chipping in, telling Exurb1a I need to go to the doctor. You can all hear this on audio. Because I sent Exurb1a originally a doc file of the message, I only had proof of a doc file being sent to Exurb1a in a Skype conversation, about the assault. I couldn't use this as evidence before, which is why I never brought it up online. But, apparently I had sent Jørgen the text in the file through copy-paste in Skype also. I forgot about this. Through writing this blog, and through writing about the car-crash, I found out I have more evidence now that I accused Exurb1a of assaulting me already, before we broke up. (Will be included in my full statement).
I heard a soft zoooof outside, and then nothing. Surprised, I went on my balcony. I saw the trail of a car on the grass patch below me, but no car. I kept listening for a while, and then decided to go inside. While I turned around, I saw the back of a car sticking out of the basement of my neighbour's apartment. A minute later, my neighbour and I were at the scene. We couldn't see anyone in it, while looking through the car windows, from a few meters away. The car's window and front had been crushed completely. How could someone survive this? I saw a police car pulling up across the street. They got there very fast. I wondered if the police was after someone, and if they fled the scene. Were they on the run? I leaned to the right, and suddenly saw someone lying on the passenger's seat. The second I saw the back of his head, covered in blood, I looked away. I knew there was nothing we could do anymore. He was dead; apparently the man in the car left his house in a confused mental state. This happened on March 6, 2016. Coincidentally, 12 hours before, Exurb1a subscribed to my youtube channel, and on March 6 he sent his first message to me. He was unknown around this time.
* Fun fact. The day after I told my parents about this event (which was yesterday, it's April 18, 2017 now), I showed them the music video of Beautiful Now, the video I had been watching the moment the car-crash happened, to ask their opinion on it. The video and event that, due to me writing about it in this blog, made me check an old conversation between my friend Jørgen and I. I didn't mention Exurb1a at all when I asked my parents what they thought the overall theme of the video was. My dad sarcastically joked "Nothing means anything and we're all going to die." He knew it's Exurb1a's slogan. Only after he said that, I told my parents I found out I 'met' Exurb1a 12 hours before and after the car crash event (during which I saw the music video for the first time). So the day I 'met' Exurb1a, coincidentally has become the day that also helped me find a piece of evidence that helps prove I'm not a liar, that I had overlooked for months. Universe can be hilarious. It surely is a funny...
Back to the story.
An unknown stranger picked the building I lived in to end his life with, my friend Chris who died in October 2016, chose a train. I can only imagine how lost and hopeless you must feel to opt for such an end.
And here is my friend Greg, talking about knives and trees. I never liked that combination. Trees shouldn't be cut, and neither should they be driven into. I understand the desire to fade, but not the desire to go literally go boom (ironically, boom in Dutch means tree).
I can't find the right words to say, so instead, I take Greg in my arms and hold him. He's silent. I'm silent. We're both silent. What do you say in a situation like this? Where one person wants to die, and the other one can understand why, because she's been in the same place? After a few minutes, I ask: "Do you think it's a small dip, or a major one?"
I know Greg is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, so his mood can swiftly change. I also know around 10% of people with BPD end up committing suicide, and that I've never seen him like this these last 4 months. I've seen Greg in many different emotional states, and have gotten quite close with him. And now he is asking me to judge the severity of his mental state. I go through all the Greg-data I have in my mind, and my knowledge about BPD, and suicidal people. I'm trying to calculate the probability of him harming himself. I don't have enough data, because this is the first moment I'm experiencing with Greg, in which he expresses there is a mental crisis. My gut tells me I need to protect him.
"It feels like a big dip," Greg whispers. "Do you think I have to be committed again Pieke?"
I pat his back. He's a tall guy, but right now, he doesn't feel tall at all.
"I don't know. Do you want to talk to the nurses?" I ask. "I can go get someone."
"No. I want to sleep," he says.
"Then sleep," I say. "I'll stay here. I slept the whole afternoon and I'm quite awake. I'll go write on my Ipad and will keep an eye on you. If tomorrow's the same, we'll talk to the nurses."
I watch Greg as he sleeps, while I'm messaging a female chemist I've been talking to on Twitter. I continue writing another blog, and research train dates. Around 4 in the morning I'm done looking at screens. I think about what my mum always says: A clean room makes for a clean mind. So, I decide to clean up Greg's room. First I fold his clothes, then I start doing the dishes. I grab some plants from my own room also, and put them in his. Finally, I write a note for his board:
Wake up, Stay Awake, Don't Give up.
[to be continued]
Written with permission of Greg (not his real name).
Inside the System: A blog series about mental health, being hospitalised, and pretty much everything I've experienced these last 6 months. From naked patients crawling through the hallway, to having your medication dose raised 4 times in 6 weeks due to your ex boyfriend threatening you. From being publicly shamed online for speaking out and being called a liar, to what actually happened, and how and when I will press charges against my ex. So, a lot of mental vomit will be thrown on my blog upcoming weeks.