Not long after my overdose incident I found myself being admitted to a mental health facility for suicidal thoughts. Some girl had broken up with me and I began to imagine driving off a bridge on my way home. I started swerving the car and trying to get a feel for what it might be like to crash. As I tried to muster the courage to actually do it I started crying so violently that I had to pull the car over. For some reason I decided to call home and tell my parents what had happened. They instructed me to stay put so I sat and waited for someone to pick me up.
Late that night I was transported to the hospital and dropped off. The attendants searched me, emptied my pockets, took my belt and shoelaces and sent me to my room. It was a cold and sterile place. White walls made of cinder block. A big heavy metal door with locks that were in place to keep me captive if necessary. My roommate was less than inviting. He barely spoke and it was clear that he hated being there. Needless to say, I was uncomfortable.
Every day we had class during the morning and then group discussions every afternoon. There were no windows and we never went outside. We weren’t allowed to talk to the girls who were on a separate wing. It was a bleak place but I did my best to learn something while I was there. One class in particular was really valuable to me because it reinforced an idea that I had only learned a few months prior from getting charged with larceny. The class was about managing our reactions and the teacher said something that really stuck with me. “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you do about it.”
I almost ended my life because a girl had rejected me which made me realize that my pie graph was treeibly inverted. Up to this point I was living my life as if it were 100% about what happened to me and not at all about what choices I was making. Shortly after learning this principle God gave me an opportunity to practice.
As patients we weren’t allowed outside unless everyone was “green” which meant no one was at risk. At the time it appeared more likely for all the stars to align into a perfectly scaled picture of the president than for all of us to act right at the same time. But then it happened. As I made my way past the nurses board I realized the impossible had actually taken place. We all lined up anxiously in the hall. I was handed a basketball and instructed to lead the line but stay behind the nurse. Excitedly I walked at her heels in hopes that it would encourage her to move a little faster while simultaneously coaxing my peers to hurry along. As the door opened the crisp fall air gave me chills and the warmth of the sun created a euphoria that I had never before felt. I was coming back to life in this moment. I dribbled the basketball and strutted onto the court as I made my way toward my nemesis for the afternoon, the basketball rim. I stared down my adversary for a moment, completely oblivious to my surroundings, took aim and prepared to conquer.
I shot the basketball and was immediately snapped back to reality as I heard a commotion around me. I turned to see my roommate scaling the 20 foot fence, jumping down from it’s peak, and running across the lawn! Immediately the nurse called a code over her walky-talky and out came two male nurses to help corral us all back inside. The ball bounced by me as I hung my head despairingly and followed the orders of the shouting nurses. I was crushed. Worst of all, I still don’t know if I made that shot.
I made my way to my room angry, hurt, and appalled. Why would he do that!? Didn’t he know how badly I wanted to play basketball!? I thought the board said he was green! I laid on my bed and cried and screamed like a toddler. I exhausted myself. Finally, as I began to sink into a quieter grieving I remembered what we had learned the day before, that I had a choice to make that could change this situation.
I approached the nurse with swollen eyes and a sniffling nose. “I was really looking forward to being outside. Is there any chance we could go back out?” The nurse looked at me with sympathy in her face and offered me a solution. “Scot, I’m sorry but in order to keep everyone safe we will need to stay inside. I know you’re disappointed but our first priority is everyone’s safety. However, if you’d like something to do I could use your help putting some things in the storage closet. Would you like to help me?” Obviously putting things in storage and playing basketball are not the same but I had choice to make. I could stay angry and go cry myself to sleep or I could take this opportunity and see where it took me.
As I carried the boxes she led me down a hall that had previously been forbidden to me as a patient. I found some joy in exploring a place that none of my peers had seen before which began to lift my countenance. As we approached the metal door I waited behind her as she unlocked it. It was dark and had that musty storage smell to it. I followed her in cautiously and awaited further instructions while she fumbled for the light switch. As the room lit up I realized that I was standing beside an upright piano which the nurse instructed me to set my boxes on. I set the box on top and began to fumble across the keys. They were cold and textured with dust as I ran my fingers across them. “Do you play?” inquired the nurse. “A little.” “Well, here, sit down” she said as she pulled the bench out from underneath.
I don’t remember the song I played or sang or the reaction of the nurse but I will never forget flying over the wall of pain I was trapped behind much like my fleeing roommate. It was the first time I realized that I could sing my way through sadness. Music had become my 90% and it has been ever since.