Congratulations to Rosemary Peterson – our PDAD Second Prize winner! The story behind Rosemary’s essay has literally impressed us. We decided to award her a $50 prize. We publish Rosemary’s essay here hoping that you will appreciate her courage.
Tough Experiences that Stimulated me to Become a Better Person
August 25th, 2018 was the day that would change me fundamentally as a person. I would like to walk you through that day and try to explain what it was like for me and how I have been changed since then.
I woke up and called my friend Beth*, excited to spend the day with her. I had spent the summer away from our university and I had not seen her since May. When she picked up the phone, she sounded groggy and not at all like herself. I knew that something was wrong the minute she said hi.
“Are you ok?” I asked.
“I tried to overdose last night on my medications,” she mumbled.
My heart felt like it skipped a couple of beats. That was not the answer that I was expecting. I thought that she was upset because she had a fight with her boyfriend or her mom. I was not prepared for the answer that she gave me. In fact, I don’t think that anything could have prepared me for this. As it would happen, I had just finished two weeks of training for my new job. We had learned that asking someone about suicide does not increase the risk that they will attempt. I had to hear the words for myself.
“To kill yourself?” I asked.
“Yes.” I paused, my mind racing. I didn’t have much time to think. I knew that I had to do something to help her.
“I’m going to come over to your house and then we can go to the hospital.”
“I’m not going to the hospital,” she insisted. She needed to go. I knew that. But I also knew that she might take more pills while I wasn’t there if she felt like she was being forced into going to the hospital. I made a decision to lie to her.
“Alright, I’ll just come over there and we can talk,” I said. I knew that we were going to end up at the hospital. I drove over to her apartment, praying that she would still be alive when I got there. I didn’t know what medication she had taken, how much, or even when she had last taken pills. Basically, I was going into the situation with almost no information. All I knew was that I had to help my friend.
When I got to her house, she was lying on her bed. She was responsive to me but extremely upset, tired, and languid. I knew right away that she was still under the influence of medication. I went and sat next to her and talked to her. I told her that I knew she didn’t want to go to the hospital but that I couldn’t give her the help that she needed. I wasn’t anywhere near qualified to give her that sort of help. She needed doctors and a therapist.
Even though my hands were shaking, I did not panic as I called our local police dispatch. I have worked for my sheriff’s office before and I knew that they could help me. The dispatcher asked me a lot of questions about where we were, what medications she had taken, and whether or not she was responsive. I was standing in the kitchen and would look over at Beth every so often. Sometimes, she was lying there with her eyes closed and I would think that she had stopped breathing. I very distinctly remember thinking, “I just have to keep her alive until they get here to help me.”
Beth grabbed one of her medication bottles and opened it. I ran over to her, still on the phone with dispatch, and tried to grab it out of her hand. This was when things went south. Beth started to scream and cry. I was grabbing the medication bottle by putting my hand in it and she was pulling on it, scratching up my hands. She was also hitting me. We had never even had a fight before that morning. It was one of the most difficult and scary moments in my life, trying to keep the medications away from her. I didn’t know if one more pill would put her over the edge. It was the emotionally and physically exhausting but I knew that I couldn’t give up.
I eventually got her medications away from her. The police showed up a couple of minutes later. There were also firefighters and EMTs- probably fifteen in all. Once they got there, I broke down. I knew that I had done my job and that I had gotten her help. They were going to help me now. Between sobs, I told one of the officers what had happened. I finally let myself feel every emotion that I had been holding back while I kept her medications away and got her help.
In the end, we went to the hospital and she was put on a 72-hour mental health hold. This is just the beginning of what happened but it is enough for now.
That day changed how I looked at myself, other people, and life in general. There were many difficult days and nights after August 25th. However, I reached out and got the help and support that I needed to get through the emotional aftermath of that day.
Now, with more time and perspective, I have decided that I will be more spontaneous and really seize every opportunity that comes my way. My focus on self-care and my own health had increased exponentially. I know how to have difficult conversations and how to step up and help in challenging situations. Most importantly though, I learned that we have to be there for other people. We are all just trying to get through our lives the best that we can but nobody can do it alone. I do not want to live life without ever thinking about someone else. I am hoping to become a police officer so that I can make a positive impact in my community and in the world.
*Name changed for privacy