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I was sixteen, lying in the hospital recovering from a Tylenol overdose instead of studying for eleventh-grade physics and chemistry exams. Due to the activated charcoal doses and saline IV, I had developed a fever close to 40 degrees Celsius. Painkillers were out of the question, so I lay, elevated at an odd angle, sandbagged with ice packs to my pressure points.

My nurse came in at around 3 AM, and while taking my temperature, quietly asked me about my life, expressing her shock that a sixteen year old would have the guts to attempt to end her own life.

I told her about the deteriorating state of my family. The agony of slowly being torn apart. My faltering grades. My hopes of attending a decent university crushed before my eyes.

She straightened up, and with a patronizing yet sympathetic look told me that her own mother was seeking a divorce from her father, along with her younger siblings. Due to her background, it was extremely difficult for women to voluntarily separate from men, and yet, she told me, she fought with her mother and her siblings.

I was taken aback. Among my circle of friends, divorce had the connotation of a terminal illness, earning one sympathetic glances and hushed reassurances. I made my way through high school as a leper. The pain and shame of such an occurrence felt contagious. It was the first time anyone had ever empathized with me.

The next morning, a rotund man strode into my ward. Asked me cheerfully if I was feeling okay, and if I’d consider committing such an act again. Yes sir, no, never sir. I was declared good to go.

Somehow, the story of that nurse stuck with me. A reassurance to an ailing teen became my source of comfort and strength for the next year or so. Four years later, it came to me that such is a gift to pass on.

October 2013
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