Authors: Beatrice Sparks
The True Story of an Anonymous Teenager's Life on the Streets
Thank you Sammy for
blowing out your candle. You light up the universe for all of us who know you, as well as lighting up the lives of those who will read about your experiences
People do not die from suicide; they die from sadness.
Such (usually longer-term cases) are referred to trusted colleagues whoâ¦
Traveling with Sammy on his real-life therapeutic road to recovery allows parents, teachers, friends, etc., to see what they may be doing that is right; or what they may be doing literally to foster dangerous, perhaps even suicidal, behavior in someone, including themselves.
Sammy, with his parents' approval, has consented to help others through the “scary, black, pain-filled, unbelonging no-way-out nothingness” that he has recently exited by allowing his edited therapy session tapes to be assembled into the book
Love ya, Sammy.
Dr. Phillip Morgenstern
Family Guidance Service Director
Sammy knows me but he doesn't know that in the past I've tried to “off” myself too. I didn't know any ways out then. BUT I DO NOW! THANKS SAMMY!
I always thought I had to be perfect. Sometimes it was so hard I contemplated suicide. Now I know people, even my mother and father, should accept and respect me as imperfect as I sometimes am. That knowledge is a great relief.
Name withheld at request
I've wondered what it would be like to go through therapy. I thought it would be deep and scary, like someone getting you to remember things that were horrible and maybe didn't even happen. Now I know it's more like looking for the good stuff, and I wish that my whole family could learn to listen and play help-yourself and everybody else head games and learn to get along more, and help each of us get rid of the bad hurting stuff in our lives, like Sammy and his family did.
Marianne, age 14
My family has lots of problems. There's no way we could afford a psychologist, though, for counseling. I've gone to the school counselor, but she's got so many sent to her she can't even remember our names. I'm going to try to get my family to read this book together. It can't hurtâbut helping? I guess I can be positive and hope. We need lots of help, though.
Josh, age 16
Paula Gordon Chart
Tuesday, March 29, 10:10
Paula Gordon, Registered Nurse, called regarding therapy for her son, Samuel Gordon, age 15
Samuel has gone from being a bright, happy, funny, usually
self-confident boy to someone who often seems “almost an old senile stranger.”
APPOINTMENT MADE FOR
Samuel GordonâMonday, April 4, 2:00
Samuel Gordon Chart
Monday, April 4, 2:00
Edited tape from first visit
SAMUEL (SAMMY) GORDON, 15 years old
“Hi, Samuel. I'm Doctor B.”
“Hi.” Samuel sounded as depleted as if he had just done his best, but still finished dead last, in an exhausting marathon that he had really wanted to win.
“Do you like to be called Samuel, Sam, Sammy, or something else?”
“I want you to know that anything you say in this session is completely between the two of us. I am required by law to keep it confidential. I am even more bound by my own code of ethics to honor and respect your thoughts and concepts and words absolutely.”
Samuel continues. “What I really want is for you and the rest of the whole screwed-up world, including me, to just quickly and quietly dissolve into nothing, never-was, nothingness.”
“You don't know me butâ¦”
“I kind of know you through your books.”
“I hope you know how much I cared for each of
“Do you think I would care less about you?”
“I want to be completely honest with you so that
you can feel safe in being straightforward and honest with meâthat is, if you want to be. Does that sound fair?”
“If I feel someone I talk with is an endangerment to himself or herself, or to others, I might on a rare occasion feel it necessary to seek help beyond my own ability, but
in a professional way. I hope that makes sense to you.”
“It doesn't. Why can't everybody just live, or not live, their own life?”
“Because sometimes people can't see their glorious future through their glucky present.”
“That's Establishment horse hockey.”
“Your mom told me that you didn't want to come, didn't think you needed to come.”
“For once the warden and keeper was right.”
“Did you have any particular reason for
wanting to see me?”
“Why would anyone in their right mind
see a shrink?”
“What's the difference between seeing a medical doctor when you suffer from physical pain and seeing a therapist when you're hurting mentally? Isn't the pain you have now as real as any pain could be?”
“It's not really pain. It'sâ¦”
“You mean it's not like a broken leg.”
“But it's still deep, dark, cold discomfort isn't it?”
(Deep sigh.) “Sometimes even my hair hurts.”
“Would you like to talk about what is hurting you?”
“Would it help to try to find out why you're sad?”
Samuel pulled into himself like a turtle pulling into its shell.
“Would you like to feel better? Like your old, old, olden self?”
“I almost don't even remember that person.”
“But would you like to go back again to a happy, uncluttered, unpressured existence?”
“I'm not sure I
“Do you think maybe you're depressed?”
“No way! My mom probably gave you a bunch of gobbly goop poop about that. Actually, she has not clue one. What she's really looking for is
absolute, complete remote control of my life
“You think she wants to
“Seems like it.”
“How does that make you feel?”
“Like hell. Makes me wanna get the hell outta there and off the planet.”
“Does your mom know that?”
“She should. I've told her often enough.”
“Think about this question for a minute. Maybe your mom's pushy, but do you think she tries to give you suggestions and guidelines and boundaries because she
she loves you?
“You honestly don't know?”
“I honestly don't care.”
“Did you know that depression is a lot more than just a long downer? It's loneliness, apathy, loss of interest and pleasure and curiosity. I wish you'd talk with me about depression even if
don't have it. Lots of kids do, you know. In fact, it is estimated that over eighteen million people today suffer from depression,
many, many of them kids!
“The sad thing is that lots of depression goes undiagnosed and untreated because people don't want to accept the symptoms for what they are. They don't know that it
be diagnosed and treated. Anyone who is going through a state of unhappiness or nonfeeling deserves to know that it is practically always temporary and that he or she is
in the entire universe who feels that way, but just
out of eighteen million.”
“I thought I was the only one so sort of unhinged and out of touch.”
“Believe me, you're not! I'd say that most kids go through some degree of depression, at one point or another before they become adults. And they're usually pretty good at covering it up. There are probably many kids
who, to one degree or another, feel much as you do,
“You've got statistics and studies and stuff.”
“I certainly have. Would you like to talk about them?”
“Perhaps I can show you how to shuffle things around a little in your life so
can let some extra sunshine and happiness in if you want to do that. I can't
you change. Your mom can't make you change, your dad can't, butâ”
Samuel clapped his hands over his ears. “I don't want to talk about
“Is it possible then that he is the very one we should be talking about?
No way! No way!
He doesn't exist. He never did. He's less than nothing in my life, and I'm less than
nothing in his. He's just blank space. Forget himâ¦erase himâ¦rub him out.”
“Okay, relax. We can do that. You are sure, though, that talking about him won't ease the pressure and the anger and the hurt that you're feeling right now?”
I could sense that the tiny thread of hope and rapport that had barely started to build between us was unraveling.
“I don't want to talk about
or anything. I don't want to feel anything, taste anythingâ¦or anything. I just want toâ¦pull the plugâ¦do the deedâ¦get it over with. It's my candle. I should be able to blow it out if I want to.”
“You're talking about suicide? We can talk about suicide.”
talk about suicide! I can't even do
right. They make it sound so easy on the tapes, so peaceful, so out-of-it, so what I want. The lyrics âjust dying to die' run around in my brain day and night like a squirrel in a cage. I can't stop it.”
“You can if you allow someone to teach you how. Try sloooowing dooooown, sloow doownâ¦slow down. Take some big, deep, slow breaths. Now quietly and slowly let
little beam of sunlight float softly into your brain.”
“I don't want to! I like it here inside myself, where I'm protected, where it's all mushy and squished together and quicksandy tarrish black. I'm up to my neck in the gooâ¦almost goneâ¦”
Samuel closed his eyes and relaxed. The lines melted from his face and the faintest of smiles took over. It was as if he was in the deepest of self-imposed trances.
“I'm almost a forever part of the forever black
nothingness that forever floats slowly between the planets in the black galaxy, through black infinityâ¦just waiting for my mouth and nose to be sucked under and filled up.”
“Have you thought about the pain that would be felt by your loved ones who would be left behind?”
Tears started streaming down Samuel's face and his nose ran.
“I want them to feel it! I want my dad to feel it in every nerve and muscle and bone and pore of his body. I want him to feel it a million, trillion, zillion times more than I do, if that's possible.”
“What about your mom? Would it make you feel good to have her feel that sad and bad?”
“No! No way do I want her to be hurt.”
Samuel clammed up so tightly I could see it would be prudent to change subjects, at least temporarily.
“Do you know much about hypnosis?”
“I saw by one momentary spark in your eyes that you know something.”
“I saw a guy at the high school one time make kids think they were chickens and stuff.”
“Did you find that interesting?”
“Maybe so at that time and place.”
“Would you like to know more about hypnosis?”
“Why? I told you I'm outta here as soon as I can get my hands onâ¦” He stopped.
“Wouldn't you, just in the slightest curious way, like me to show you how to use hypnosis positively instead of negatively as it was used when you saw it demonstrated?”
“You mean like you put
in a trance and make me think I'm a pig or an insane person or something?”
“No, no, no. I mean if you want me to, I'll show
you how to put yourself in a trance
so that you can remember some of the happy things in your past life, or see the good fun possibilities for your future. You will like it, I promise.”
“I don't think so.”
“Aw, come on. Let's try.”
“Doesn't one single moment of your childhood that was happy or funny or filled with sunshine flicker through your mind ever?”
“Do you mean you can't remember or you choose not to remember?”
“I dunno. My mind doesn't seem to be working, and, besides, I don't care. Nothing would be worth remembering, even if I could remember it, or wanted to, or had the energy to.”
“What have you got to lose?”
“Not much. Besides, nothing could be much more boring than this.”
Sullen grunt with tiniest hint of an embarrassed grin behind it.
“Let me introduce you to hypnosis as it was meant to be practiced, actually has been practiced, for thousands of years: for relaxation, for focusing, for peace and comfort, for healing and for concentration. Did you know that hypnosis is used by many athletes who want to control their bodies more efficiently, and by people who want to focus better or pass their bar examsâall sorts of things. It's also used to control pain and/or to help people fill up the emptiness that, on occasion, may come into their lives.”
“Can it really control pain and stuff like that?”
“Absolutely! It can also bring reality back into focus if a person gives it a chance.”
“Are you ready?”
me, not through me, for the first time, thought for a moment, then got to his feet and shuffled out.
“First I gotta go to the bathroom.”
SUMMARY OF SESSION
Samuel did not return from the men's room.
He is in a major depressive state, in a mode where he could easily endanger himself.
I am deeply concerned about him. Although I know it is unprofessional, I sense that I am somehow blaming myself for what I should have done, might have done, etc. Hopefully, Samuel will think things over and come backâ
Five Days Later
Paula Gordon Chart
Friday, April 8, 9:35
Paula Gordon phoned. Samuel has disappeared. She is distraught
Friday, April 8, 4:30
PAULA GORDON, mother of Samuel Gordon
“I'm Paula Gordon, Sammy's mother. I'm worried crazy to death about him. He hasn't been home for
five days. I can't eat, I can't sleep, I can't think. In fact, I'm afraid that I might accidentally do something to endanger a patient.”
“Relax. It's normal for you to be worried. That is a part of being a loving, caring mother.”
“But I'm such a bad mother, always waffling, being too strict or too permissive, never being absolutely positive about anything I do regarding him. I'm sure that many of Sammy's problems are my fault. For the last few months I've been so fearful of offending him or demeaning him or lowering his already-low self-esteem thatâ¦it's like I'm almost
of him. Is it possible to be afraid of your own son?”