What I Wish I Would Have Said to the ER Nurse on the Night I Tried to Commit Suicide

To the ER nurse, on the night I tried to commit suicide:

When I arrived in the Emergency Room, 19 years old and blushing under my tear-stained cheeks, do you remember the words you spoke to me? You said, “Are you just doing this for the attention?”

Perhaps you’ve spoken the same words to other introverted, socially anxious teens. To other pained souls who saw no way forward. Who felt they had no place in this loud and demanding world. Drowning in a dark sea of hopelessness, they made the difficult decision to end the daily torture they felt. And they landed in the Emergency Room, with you.

In my darkest moment, you could have been a light. You could have shown me that I’m not alone in this world. You could have given me hope. But you didn’t. Instead, you were full of judgement and empty of compassion.

When you assumed I took those pills because I wanted attention, you could not have been farther from the truth. If you had shown a little curiosity, I might have opened up to you. And if you had heard my story, you would have known that as a shy introvert, attention was the last thing I wanted. Perhaps you could have actually helped me! Isn’t that what nurses are supposed to do?

You see, social anxiety had a tight grip on me. I didn’t have a name for it back then; all I knew was I hated the person I was. As a shy introvert, I felt there was something deeply wrong with me. I was ashamed of my quiet nature and my social awkwardness. I assumed we were all supposed to be confident and extroverted, and I didn’t want the world to find out that I was defective.

To go on living seemed impossible. I was too fearful to go to university so a career was out of the question. I didn’t want to get a job either, because have you ever come across a job that didn’t require some amount of social interaction? I panicked when a guy looked my way and I just knew I’d make a terrible mother, so there was no family in my future. I was going to stay exactly where I was—paralyzed with fear and self-loathing. A big disappointment to everyone around me.

And there you were, the ER nurse, accusing me of attention seeking.

Life wasn’t meant for me. So I was escaping.

I was escaping from any possible attention.

But thankfully I didn’t make it out.

I felt guilty for being in the hospital. Stupid for forcing my broken family together amid the chaos I created. I was deeply ashamed of myself. Then there was you.

Think about what your careless attitude said to me. Can you imagine how your cutting words made me feel? It was clear I wasn’t important to you. You had patients who were really sick; you weren’t going to waste your time on some attention-seeking teen who put herself in the hospital. And why should you care about me? I didn’t care about myself. I was certain I wasn’t worthy of love and compassion. Of life. I was strange and did not belong. And you… you successfully reinforced that hugely destructive belief I held.

That moment was a crossroads for me and you should have been my signpost. Instead, you thoughtlessly blocked my path to recovery. I stumbled down the road I was on. With bottled confidence, I barely existed. It was years later when I realized that I’m not so different after all. And I am not alone.

I Have More Power Than I Thought

I learned that I am not my social anxiety. But I am introverted—and that’s a good thing! The qualities and skills I like about myself I have because I’m introverted, and I wouldn’t dream of swapping them to be more outgoing. I also discovered that I have more power over the way I feel and how I behave than I ever knew. Today, I have accomplished things I never thought possible. I have:

  • Achieved a degree.
  • Built a career.
  • Attended networking events alone.
  • Presented to over 400 people at a time.
  • Successfully pitched a business idea to a panel of eight professionals, à la Shark Tank.

Because, just by chance, I met a compassionate and understanding person who took the time to care and connect with me and show me that I am worthy. This person challenged my belief that “I can’t change” and showed me that I didn’t have to bitterly accept that this is just the way my life would always be.

What If, Next Time, That Person Was You?

Have you ever thought about the power of your words? In a single moment, you can connect with someone with compassion and show them that they are valued. That they matter. In that same moment, more clumsy words simply serve to reinforce a person’s dangerous belief that they are not worthy of love or compassion—or life.

What if we all chose to treat everyone we meet with a mental health problem with as much compassion and respect as we do a person with cancer? You could be someone’s glimmer of hope. You could set someone on a new path towards a brighter future and a better life. And with 1 in 6 survivors making another attempt within a year, you might just save a life.  retina_favicon1

Read this: 14 Things Introverts With Social Anxiety Wish You Knew


  • Tan says:

    I can relate so much. I’m still thinking about suicide every passing days but each day is a challenge to overcome. Congrats on making it out to the other side. You can only ever get stronger. Thank you for sharing and really happy for you.

  • Chance says:

    I understand you : )

    I never fit in, and I never have. Its a good thing I don’t mind being alone because I never feel welcome anywhere. Instead when forced into a crowded situation… Inside I am usually terrified and usually fighting a horribly upset stomach.

    I am INFJ with High Functioning Autism… Some argue I have Asperger’s, others say it is Sensory Processing Disorder. It really makes no difference to me. All it tells me is… I am flawed in the eyes of the world.
    As if I already didn’t know I don’t fit in.

    I also suffer from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I try to never make any issues of any of it. I have learned to mask all of it except surprise bad panic attacks. Even then I just try and vanish without any one noticing until I can breathe again. I have had people, (even people close in my life), say some horrible things that have hurt me deep simply because they never took the time to see how hard it is for me to even function in this life.

    I have been in a situation where I had to be in a place I dint want to be. I got so stressed that I got soaking wet in sweat and then got the chills and started shaking, only to be railed for the attention I drew to myself. It cost me a trip to the ER. A male nurse stated that I was having withdrawals and that I was most likely just wanting pills…. Really? He presumed this very publicly and he presumed very wrongly. I felt so betrayed by life at that point. How can I hide what I cant stop from happening?

    I don’t want their pity, nor am I seeking any kind of attention, because it makes it all worse! I just want to be able to function without feeling like this world is crushing me.

    I struggle everyday to be as “normal” as a person can be. It drains me… sometimes to the point, I fear I cant make it home. Sometimes I just breakdown and then I get mad at myself. I’m a grown man who has to fake that he can function in this world. I get so overwhelmed by the intensness, the loudness, and the smells. I hate people touching me. Its like hot coals sometimes. I know I’m a freak… That doesn’t mean I can help it.

    I have been told I’m a handsome guy who is unthinkably smart… but inside it all feels pointless. I cant process stuff right. I have to stop and think through what people are saying and then have to find an emotion that I think matches what I think they are saying and try to understand what they are rambling on about. It’s not that I dont like people. It’s the effort I have to put into communicating with them without seeming like there is something wrong with me. It’s all cool around the few close friends I have. They can even laugh at me, or even call me a “tard.” I know they care about me, and they made an effort to put up with me. Those great people are few and far between so I cherish them and never try and burden them in any way.

    I hate drama it has no place in my life because I suck at showing my emotions and I certainly don’t want to attract any more chaos into my life… So very often, I simply avoid LIFE. I feel a little cheated, because there is so much I would love to do and experience, but it just becomes a struggle and I fear the next big panic attack in some strange place.

    I know what it is like to have to find a reason to want to live. I know what it is to just feel empty. I know what it is to be unloved, unwanted, and even told that as a very small child. It messes you up for your mom to hate the day you were born, and then prove it by walking away forever. LIFE often leaves scars that are very deep, but that makes us who we are. That nurse left one of those scars on your life. It hurts and it is unnecessary for us to treat each other in this manner. Our lesson learned is WE DONT treat others how we have been treated… : )

    I also know we all have a reason we were put here, and maybe our reason is to simply help others like us.
    We grow through what we go through, only to find our story shows us why we are here.

    That mean nurse was part of what made you who you are now. She will just be the bitter, heartless person she is until something shakes her inside. If that is possible.

    Keep going after all you seek… : ) I am proud of you and for you!

    Thanks for reminding me I’m are not alone.


  • Lizzi says:

    So happy to see you flourishing my friend and enjoying being perfectly you, living from a place of compassion, creativity and courage 🙂

  • I’m a highly sensitive introvert. I’m 62 and a caretaker for my dad who is 96 and on hospice. Since last year when he got sick my whole world has been turned upset down. I wonder has any introverts have thought about when that time comes when they are in a place where I’m at will they be prepared? I sure wasn’t. While I love my dad and very honored to be his caretaker the people who you thought you could rely on i.e. His professional caretakers have failed miserably. I’m an emotional wreck having strangers come into my home taking advantage of me and doing the minimalist amount of help. My dad has an aide comes three times to groom him,change his bedsheets and out the door and a nurse that comes one day a week. The rest of his care is on me plus the cooking, cleaning, taking care of three dogs. I’m not complaining mind you but I tell you it is a lot on one person. Plus having to fight the VA for them to do their part. I get one hour a month to go out grocery shopping. That’s all this hospice will provide. And we know as an introvert I have very little support from outside. I have 2 friends and no family and even the church has been no help. All I can do is try to warn other introverts that sooner or later will be in my shoes best prepare. It’s only because of my faith in God and my deep love and respect for my dad I haven’t run off to a cave in the wilderness. Thank you. Been needing to get this out.

  • jennah2005 says:

    Amazingly well said. I’m so glad someone was there to actually help you the correct way. So glad for your accomplishments!

  • Empath says:

    I had a similar thing happen to me as a teen – except it was the doctor who shouted at me and demanded why I did such a thing to my family. Everyone was more upset about how it would LOOK, than worrying about why I would do it, or how to get me out of the depression and give me confidence. I was bullied for years, and taken advantage of at school. Never thought I would be able to even make a speech or deal with people on a job. I made it through college and won scholarships and grants.
    Currently I am like ExperienceLife, I am also a caregiver and it is unbelievably stressful. I have no choice but to allow strangers to come in, if we can afford it, and it is the only way to have a little bit of a social life. I really worry about what will happen once my family is gone, and it is scary because other people know so many people and they have large support systems, and I do not.
    I still struggle with the social anxiety, but the older I get the more it seems pointless to worry about what people say. I have already had people attack me for no reason, and people lie about me, and people misunderstand me.
    And it didn’t kill me. Which I thought it would, back when I was a teen. People can drive you crazy if you let them. Don’t let them. Be yourself. Going through the dark times made Hayley stronger, and it really does.
    The people who have no clue, are the heartless ones ( the ‘normal ones’ I suppose) who have never had a dark time, and are the worse for it because they can’t relate. They have a large piece of their soul missing.

  • Heather says:

    Wonderfully said and written. And I can totally relate.
    While I haven’t actually seriously attempted suicide, I certainly have been close on and off more than once over the years (from childhood I remember feeling like that).

    This “nurse” is just showing her judgemental projections and total lack of compassion as you said. Many people project what they truly are on to others (“if I think/behave like that, others must too….). So, she is obviously someone who is attention seeking, insecure and vapid.

    So please don’t take her heartless comment personally.

    Your success is an inspiration.

  • Tammy Starcher says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I remember when a similar thing happened to me, and it is encouraging to know that I am not alone in having gone through that.