His Jet Black Hair

The call came twenty years ago, but it stands out in my mind like it was yesterday. I was a student nurse on a psychiatric rotation, and my clinical instructor called to inform me that the patient that I had been caring for had died. The death occured after discharge from the hospital. And the cause of death was suicide.

My patient was nineteen years old. (I was at the ripe old age of twenty-four at the time.) We had connected nurse to patient. He showed me his sketchbook, his drawings. He expressed hope. He loved his parents.

I had aced this rotation, and my nursing care plan dictated a successful patient outcome. How could this happen? How could he vanquish my hopes for his success and shatter my shallow understanding of mental illness?

He had bipolar disorder, a chronic disease that has touched my world both personally and professionally many times throughout the years. To honor these individuals–and to help me cope–I’ve collected positive memories. With these reminders, I can picture them in all their beauty . . .

-“The man with the golden backpack”
-“She made you an aunt”
-“He knows everything about operas, and man can he sing!”
-“The love of her life”
-“His jet black hair”

My hope is no longer vanquished.

Tamara Cunitz
Seattle, Washington

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Comments

1 thought on “His Jet Black Hair”

  1. Ronna Edelstein

    You seem to be a very compassionate nurse, Tamara. I “like” how you called bipolar disorder a “chronic disease” because it is a disease, just like cancer or diabetes. Too many people dismiss mental issues; too many people stigmatize individuals who have mental issues. Thank you for sharing your story and your positive memories.

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