Recently he sat beside me saying, “Erinn, I’m sick in the head. There’s no getting better. I’m dying from the inside out”. I didn’t have any words, so I continued to listen. I heard descriptions of the torture done to him as a child at the hands of people who should have been his protectors. I was told about decisions that once landed him in jail. I had to sift through some non-sensical things thrown in the mix of our conversation, mostly born out of his mental health challenges. It was all desperately sad. I couldn’t help but cry with my friend, who I’ll call “Trevor”.

At some point along the way I asked if there was anything I could do for him right now. “Buy me some alcohol? Or score me a hit?” I declined. I asked again, explaining the resources I had available. Looking at the ground Trevor quietly said, “play a game with me, kinda like you would with Cate (my daughter)?” That I could do. For the next ten minutes we played a game that he won. That seemed to be all he needed, so we gave each other a hug and went on to do some other things.

Just this week I saw Trevor again. He was writing on a scrap piece of tracing paper with a purple pencil crayon. I sat beside him and asked what he was doing. “I’m making a list that I want you to see”. Together we went over what was actually a list of goals, things like: open a bank account, buy a notebook from the Dollar Store to keep track of spending, finish school (“even though school sucks”), get a haircut, and so on. At the bottom of the page, with me looking on, Trevor drew a picture of himself with a smile and the caption “up with hope, down with dope”. I know Trevor didn’t coin the phrase- I  also know he meant it, because for Trevor one follows the other.

Honestly, seeing Trevor feel even the slightest bit of hope made my heart swell. I know that his battle is a hard one: he fights a variety of voices in his head that repeatedly say he’s not worth it. He uses substances to try to manage his pain and regularly admits it isn’t working. There are days when he is lucid and more days that he is not. I count it a privilege that Trevor is willing to share his life with me and really does invite me to share mine with him.

When asked about what ‘success’ looks like at The Dale, I usually point out that it comes in a variety of forms. In Trevor’s case, I want to celebrate the success that it is for him to move from utter despair to a moment of hope. My prayer is that when the darkness seeps back in he will see there are people rooting for him; that he will find the folded up list of goals; and that when all else fails he will remember how playing a game with a friend is actually good therapy.