The day I arrived at the mental hospital, the last thing on my mind was the status of single guys at the facility. I don’t think these types of places have a location status on Bumble. However, it’s in the places unknown and unfamiliar to us that we meet some of the most important people along our journey. I did meet a guy, and his name is Jared.
Jared and I didn’t fall in love with each other. We fell in understanding with one another; two souls destined to meet, to help one another find peace in the midst of chaos. At my darkest, he reached for hope and built a key from the light he found within me; a key that would unlock the chains of stigma and finally set me free. This is not a love story; this is a life story about love.
When I entered the mental hospital I was a 20-year-old girl who was at the end of the road; no light, no future, just static and darkness. Jared was an athlete who struggled with depression. He had a rough childhood and attempted to commit suicide multiple times. His family and friends abandoned him as if he were a broken object. I will never forget when his mother came to eat breakfast with him. Out of shame, she stormed out of the cafeteria leaving him utterly alone at the table. This type of behavior was familiar to him, but it wasn’t familiar to me. I thought I knew what it was like to feel alone in this world until I met Jared.
I took it upon myself to befriend him, trying to coax him out of his shell. He opened up to me, and for a 19-year-old he had more life experience than most people in their late forties and fifties. Every night, at our mandatory bedtime we would catch each other looking across the hall. The other girls were in love with him. I would find them crawling across the floor trying to throw him notes. We acted like children who believed laughter was the only way we would survive. We had fun, but most importantly we understood one another. Jared and I lived very different lives, yet we ended up in the same place at the same time.
It was during a group therapy session where I was the main subject that things began to change. I broke down revealing my shame and self-hate. I admitted my fears and the fact that I was completely lost. Jared’s face was filled with anger, shock and sadness. From that day on, in spite of his pain, he was relentless about building me up. He worked endlessly to clear the fog that prevented me from finding my truth. He was tough on me. It was like I was his vessel into the light.
The day I was released, I was filled with mixed emotions; fear, sadness, excitement, happiness, and gratitude. Jared came to my door to say goodbye. I was desperate to keep in touch, but he hesitated when I asked for his number. He grabbed a piece of paper, jotted down his number quickly and folded it back up. Once he was released I figured we could meet again. I could help him start the process of getting a GED and potentially work towards going to College. In my mind, we could make our dreams come true, but I was naive to the reality of the situation. When I began speaking with excitement about his future, he placed his hand in my hand. Without one word exchanged I knew what he was silently saying to me. We were not going to see each other again, and Jared would walk back into a society that set him up for failure. Through his eyes, and in his touch, I felt the reality of stigma.
When someone crashes into you and says the words that have been missing from your life and points out the way your shattered pieces sparkle, it removes the chains that have been holding you back from truly living. Jared did this for me, and I am forever grateful to him.
If you are wondering what happened after the hospital, I decided to reach out to Jared a couple months after being released. I searched for his number on the paper that the hospital staff had collected and misplaced. Luckily I found it, but inside the paper was a note, not a number.
“I hope I am around long enough to see how you shine in this world. Love, Jared.”
Little did we know, we weren’t falling in love, we were falling in life. Jared, this story is for you.