April 29, 2010
Convincing my therapist, walking down my school’s halls, everything is okay.
Sitting at home, drenched with the weight of my heavy life, nothing is okay.
April 28, 2010
There’s just something about you.
I can’t pinpoint it,
But I love it.
It makes me shut my eyes,
And smile at the world
It make me careless,
And oblivious to anything but us.
It brings laughter to my voice,
A warmth to my soul,
And color to my life.
Whatever you’re doing,
Please don’t stop.
April 19, 2010
by Lilly Veritá
A rush of air, rich with sunshine, flooded my senses when the locked door before me swung open. The staleness that plagued my lungs and skin washed away, replaced with the warmth and freshness I had been yearning for. A few paces ahead of me, rummaging through her purse for her car keys, my mother glanced back at me. “Are you coming?” she asked. Legs shaking, I took a deep breath and strode out the door, eyeing a strip of grass across the parking lot. The uneasiness swept away with my eagerness to jump into the new world around me. Quickening my pace, I made it over the hot pavement and stepped onto the lush grass. I was alert to every sound, a slight breeze, and an aroma of life swelling around me as I lowered myself to the ground. Lying on the fresh lawn, I closed my eyes and felt the sun warm and rejuvenate my pale face with a smile. Impatiently waiting in her car, my mother glared out the open window at me. “Let’s go Lilly!” she yelled. Not moving an inch, I felt the blades of grass slip between my fingers. For the first time in a long while, I truly wanted to exist.
Six days before, I had wanted nothing more than to die. Lying in bed, I wished I would drift off to sleep, never waking to my pain-ridden life again. “I need to talk to a counselor.” I mumbled to the office attendant of my high school. I couldn’t help but stare at the poster hanging behind her, a sunrise with “Cherish the Moment” printed below it. Busy arguing with a stubborn parent on the phone, she motioned for me to take a seat in the waiting room. After sitting for a good five minutes, a cheerful woman peeked from behind an office door and smiled. “Come in, sweetheart.” She beckoned. Numb to my movements, I sighed and lifted my dead weight up off the chair and shuffled towards her office. Standing motionless just inside her door, I looked her in the eyes with tears streaming down my face. “I’ve made a decision.” I confidently informed the woman situated across the room from me. “What have you decided, sweetie?” she asked, her forehead wrinkling with confusion. The floor seemed to drop from beneath me as I realized the next words out of my mouth would change my life forever. “I want to die.” I whimpered to the stranger before me.
A small room contained only two bulky chairs, a doctor, and I. Sitting with his legs crossed, he held a pen and a clipboard filled with applications, each one containing my name and birth date at the top. His ease made me anxious, my body slumped over and my eyes resting on my tattered shoes. The impassive doctor bluntly spat out questions regarding my mental health. “Have you tried to kill yourself?” he frankly sighed. “No” I mumbled, keeping my head down. I heard him scribble some notes on the paper. Twenty questions of this nature composed our awkward conference, vital and personal questions nobody had ever thought to ask me. “Come with me.” He instructed, standing up and placing the clipboard under his arm.
Leading me through a hall filled with mountainous scenic paintings, he opened the door to a slightly larger office. My heart sank when I saw my mother sitting across from a lanky man with wire-rimmed glasses. “Take a seat.” He insisted. More and more of these monotonous orders were being spat at me by these strangers. I sat next to my mom, scooting the chair as far as I could away from her uncomfortable gaze. The doctor tossed his clipboard on the mahogany desk separating me from the slender man. He picked it up, flipping through the many pages, reading my answers to the doctor’s questions. I could feel my mom staring at me, but I couldn’t bring myself to look at her tear-stained face. The man looked up from the stack of papers. “Ms. Veritá?” he said, snapping my mother out of her transfixion on me. “Based on Lilly’s psychological evaluation, I think the next step would be to admit her to our facility.” he told my mom, sliding a pamphlet across the desk to rest in front of her. Entitled Mountain Crest: Mental Health Center, it included a photo of a smiling teen standing in front of a snow capped mountainous backdrop. Nodding a few times, she pushed the pamphlet a few inches away from her. “Ms. Veritá, please stay here while we get her admitted. Lilly, can you take your shoe laces off please?” The man asked while organizing the papers scattered in front of his computer. I snapped my head up, perplexed at his request. “We keep our teen ward completely free of any potentially harmful objects and substances, including shoelaces.” He explained, noticing the confused look that flashed over my face. I walked out of the office following a female escort, imagining myself hanging from the ceiling with a shoelace constricting my neck.
The bed underneath me felt like a cardboard box draped with sheets. Rolling over to my right, I could see the silhouette of my roommate sleeping soundly on the other side of the room. Light poured in from the hallway and through the air vent connecting my room with the neighboring one. Reflecting off the tiled floor, it illuminated the air around me with a relaxing glow. I stared at the small red light flashing above our bathroom door. A video camera recorded us at all times, displaying the images up at the nurse’s station of the adolescent ward. A feeling of being watched was always sitting in my subconscious, even while fast asleep.
After three days at Mountain Crest, I had become accustomed to all of the strange routines. I came to recognize the day staff from the night staff, and knew some by name. I had acquired a specific resentment for the night nurses, their flashlights shinning into my room every fifteen minutes throughout the entire night. The resulting dreams of flashing lights had become a nightly occurrence. I had not touched a door since my arrival. Before entering any room, a staff member had to unlock it for every patient. This included the bathrooms in everyone’s rooms. The only exception to this was the door leading out of the adolescent unit. The large sweeping doors could only be opened by a highly secure switch in the nurse’s station. Every morning and evening, all the teens lined up behind a door leading to the nurse’s station. Each patient took a cup filled with pills and a Dixie cup of water- swallowing the colorful array of medication. One by one, we took the pills that would calm us down and help us get through the days and nights of our stay.
Although much of the schedule there was structured, some was sporadic and unique to each patient, throwing me off balance for the rest of the day. On the morning of the fourth day, I was awakened by the voice of a man I recognized as Terry- a nice, early shift nurse. Terry wore the standard teal scrubs, but his neon green sneakers and tattoos trailing up his arm accentuated his personality unlike the rest of the nurses. “Lilly? Time to wake up honey.” He whispered, sitting on the edge of my bed. “What’s your birthday?” he asked, pulling on a pair of latex gloves. “November fifth, ninety three.” I groaned by habit, lifting my arm up to him so he could scan my wristband to confirm my identity. Groggy, I sat up and slipped on my shoes, not awake enough to wonder why he was waking me so early. “The doctor has ordered some blood tests, so I need to draw some blood, okay Lilly?” he asked. I nodded, trying to open my eyes and wake up. He tied my arm to cut off the circulation and punctured my skin. Immediately, I saw the vial start to fill with blood. Once filled, he twisted it off the needle and asked me to hold it for him. He eventually filled three vials with my blood, handing them to me one by one. Only after handing the warm vials back to him did I fully realize what was going on. The room started to spin, making me sick to my stomach. “Just lie down; you will be okay in a minute. You did well sweetie.” He smiled, bending down and resting his hand on my knee. I couldn’t believe someone had just stabbed a needle into my arm and I didn’t cry; I even complied to hold the tubes of my warm, red blood while he finished. After my dizziness vanished, I laughed with the realization of what had just happened. I never knew what to expect between the ritualistic events of each day, but this one topped them all.
“Tommy Boy or Pretty In Pink?” Dale yelled over his shoulder, pulling two VHS’s off of a shelf underneath the television. “Tommy Boy,” Shay answered, lounging in the chair next to mine. Popping in the movie, Dale took a seat near us. The common area was a large room that branched off from the small dorm hall. It contained six extremely heavy chairs encircling a wooden coffee table, names carved into every inch of its surface. Each chair weighed just enough so it was difficult to move, intended to stop enraged patients from throwing them across the room. A small TV sat elevated in the corner of the room, just outside the ring of chairs. Shoved into another corner was a foosball table and a whiteboard filled with quotes written by patients. The most recent one read, “It’s not about getting out, it’s about getting better. –Abby.” I wasn’t sure who Abby was, but she was right: you only got out into the real world again after getting better.
At the table behind me, Ellie and Sarah were having a heated discussion. “I completely disagree! Religion is just a coping mechanism. Everyone has their own way of dealing with life.” Ellie explained, tipping her chair back on its back legs. “Nah, that’s not right. When we went through training, we were taught every kid uses religion in their own unique way. Not every kid…” Sarah ranted, famous for her ability to win in every discussion with all the patients; Ellie was convinced she could win at least once during her stay. Pointing the remote at the television, I turned up the volume to drown out the sound of the bickering between the counselor and Sarah. By the fifth day, I had started to genuinely like it at Mountain Crest. The other patients were just like me: broken. Instead of the dismal environment I had expected upon my arrival, the unit had a sense of optimism. Everyone knew they were in a safe place away from the wrecked life that brought them there. Inside jokes were made between every resident, laughing was not uncommon, and incredible human bonds were formed out of trust and understanding.
Group therapy was mandatory at Mountain Crest, but most of us didn’t mind the chance to work on our emotional and mental states, a never-ending task. A circle of patients sat quiet on the floor of a dim, secluded room. “With your eyes closed, think of a terrible situation. A situation that you can’t control: one that makes you anxious and upset.” The counselor instructed, strolling around the circle with her arms crossed behind her back. With my eyes shut, I could hear one of the girls start to sob lightly, a sound that brought a melancholy tone to the room. Wandering through my life’s events, I settled on a particular day: a day that would never escape my memory. My mother had me trapped in her car, throwing words in my face like “ungrateful” and “manipulative.” I sat quietly until the sentence “Sometimes I wish I didn’t have you.” filled the car, shocking me into anger. I broke my own silence, screaming back. I didn’t cry, I couldn’t allow myself to cry, to show weakness. Instructed to stay at my father’s house, I slammed her car door and ran into his house. Closing the door behind me, I leaned against the wall and allowed my body to crumple to the ground, choking on my tears. My recollection of this day was interrupted by the counselors light words. “Now think. Was this situation your fault?” she mumbled, hardly audible. “No” I thought, my racing thoughts halting immediately. The counselor stopped, standing next to me, her arms still crossed behind her back. “If it wasn’t your fault, then you had no control over the situation. If you had no control, then why should it still be terrible to you?” My eyes opened, releasing a tear to run down my cheek. I couldn’t control my mother, so why should I be unhappy about her choices? For the first time, I thought about my mother and smiled. I had control over me. Nobody else did, only me. The counselor rested her hand on my shoulder, squeezing it slightly. I was going to be okay.
“Have you had any suicidal thoughts today?” asked Dr. Tanner. “Nope.” I answered, eager to get back to the lunch I was missing out on because of this daily meeting with my psychiatrist. Watching him scribble on his paper, I thought about the hundreds of documents that would be filed under my name by the time I was discharged. Under his breath, I barely caught Dr. Tanner’s words: “Well, I think you’ll be out of here sometime tomorrow.” I inhaled quickly, my eyes widening and a brilliant smile came across my face. “Really?” I asked, full of disbelief. “Yup. You’re doing well Lilly, and I think you’re safe to go home” He beamed, aware of my happiness to this news. Boasting into the conference room, the group therapist and patients turned towards me. “What happened?” Sarah asked, referring to my grin. Slowly lowering myself into an empty chair, I shrugged my shoulders. “Nothing really. I just get to go home tomorrow.” I answered nonchalantly, grinning and glancing up to see everyone’s reaction. They all burst with excitement, shouting congratulations and standing up to give me hugs. “Awe, no fair!” Sasha, one of the long term patients cried. “You were my most sane roommate so far.” My heart warmed and my smile grew larger with the realization that these people really cared for me and my happiness. “Thanks guys.” I replied, a sadness swelling in my stomach: I was going to miss these people and the unit that we all shared day after day.
Holding paper bags filled to the brim with my belongings, I stood in my room gazing out the window at the beautiful green field behind the hospital. I could see the sun, but yearned to feel it on my face again. I felt alive, about to be released back into my life with new skills; skills that had taught me to love myself again. My shattered soul had been mended, cherished and carefully sewn back together. Behind me, a voice beckoned “Your mom’s here Lilly.” I turned on my heels, smiling at the day nurse. I hurried out of my room into the hall, then turned around and stared at the nametag taped to the door, “Lilly” hastily written across it. I pulled it off the wood and carefully folded it up, slipping it into my pocket. I caught up with the nurse at the main doors to the adolescent unit. “Are you ready?” she asked, smiling at my obvious vivacity. I nodded, waiting nervously to walk through these locked doors for the last time.
April 16, 2010
A Latin phrase, Tabula Rasa translates to Blank Slate.
Everyone is born with a blank slate, knowing nothing of what the world plans to teach them.
Slowly etched with morals, our slates start to look fairly similar.
Our experiences carve different traits, years upon years adding clutter to the surface.
By the time we are in our teens, we notice the overwhelming facets of life engraved on our precious slates.
We try to erase them, wanting to construct our own priorities.
It doesn’t take much time to realize the etchings cannot be removed.
Giving up, we try to ignore the strangers writing our Tabula for us.
This is the mistake made: you can erase your Tabula.
Leaning what the world has to teach, our slate can be completely filled, leaving a new untouched surface.
With knowledge comes the ability to construct our own life, priorities, and morals.
We are all born with a Tabula Rasa.
Fill it with the world’s insights, then start over and fill it with your own.
April 16, 2010
Something about trees has always fascinated me.
Maybe it’s their black veins branching out against a sunset canvas.
April 15, 2010
by Lilly Veritá
Waiting rooms are, by all accounts, designed for comfort. This particular one was no different with its solid blonde and purple chairs, lined up for battle across from a youthful receptionist. Her inattentive nature put me on edge, the first indication that I shouldn’t have been there. Sheepishly ducking into Roger J. Matlock’s psychotherapy office, I was hit with a sudden wave of anxiety. The past three years of my life rushed over me, causing my forehead to tense with concern. Every anticipated withdrew from my mind. The patronage I expected was gone, replaced with a feeling that I was making the wrong decision. Thoughts whirled in my head, getting tangled in the already wryly mess of emotion: “What can this stranger do to help me? How can my sleepless nights possibly be terminated by this ordinary man in this orthodox office?”
The pounding vibrations resonating in my head were suddenly interrupted by the sight of a man crossing the threshold of a door. Crumpling an empty coffee cup in his fist, he tossed it at a nearby trashcan, failing to notice it landed a good distance past his target. He strode over to where I was standing, taking large eager strides with one hand reaching in my direction. “Hi Lilly, I’m Roger.” He smiled, more enthusiastic than I had expected a therapist to be. My attention was drawn to a clip-on tie barely hanging onto the front of his starched white dress shirt. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, so happy and easygoing. He gathered secrets of broken lives, was supposed to mend shattered spirits, things that were not displayed in his cheerful smile. Built up in my head was the image of a savior, here to fix my wrecked and suicidal mind. Contrary to my delusion, in front of me stood a lanky man with a seemingly optimistic outlook on life. Holding out my hand, I realized I was shaking uncontrollably. He either didn’t notice or ignored my unease, shaking my hand with his, moist and hot, leading me back through the door from which he entered.
To say Roger’s office was normal would be an absolute lie. My apprehension of a ruby red chez lounge waiting in an insipid room was nowhere to be seen. Instead, a shameful excuse for an office loomed at hand, making me stop in my tracks. To the left was Roger’s desk, a wooden, box-like pathetic work station. Directly above it hung a mass produced poster; a tacky southwestern scene composed of pastel blues and pinks. A cracked leather tan sofa sat resting adjacent from a single recliner, used for so long the wood veneer had begun to peel off of its handle. The only object disturbing communication between these two seats was a dreadful coffee table, new and cheap, resembling the wretched desk. All of these furniture pieces would have seemed haphazardly thrown in the room if they hadn’t been tied together with a common theme: Vines entangling each one of them. Plants were set on every available surface, plastic leaves flowing out of their multicolored pots onto the retreating furniture below. I felt trapped, unable to move in this jungle of an office.
Dodging around me, Mr. Matlock threw himself into the recliner, his momentum sending it creaking back and forth. Transfixed on the scene in front of me, he had to motion for me to take a seat before I could bring myself to move. Fully entering the room would be my way of submitting as a casualty to his job of “professional psyche fixer.” Afraid, threatened, and desperate, I shuffled to the couch, stiffening and growing apprehensive while taking my seat. My body remained stiff and ridged, rapidly answering his basic questions about age, school, and other extraneous inquires. Glancing over his glasses, ensuring himself that I was listening, he murmured “What do you like to do, Lilly?”
Anxiety transformed into tears, a wave of bottled up emotions tearing open my hard, well-built facade. The brick wall I had constructed to protect myself from more emotional agony crumbled. Tears streamed down my face, landing in my lap. I gazed up at the man I was about to completely confide in. I was sure he could read my mind by the way my eyes pierced his shallow pretense. “I enjoy not being in pain, Mr. Matlock.” I sharply whispered.
The barrier between professionalism and human emotion was broken by that question, and the look of curiosity on his face encouraged me to continue. I kept talking, ranting, about everything that had made the past three years of my life a living Hell. He sat, motionless, just another object awkwardly seizing my thoughts. Flowing out of my subconscious came the story of my shattered family, my repetitive and maddening transition from one home to the other and back. The guilt for plaguing my family with my inevitable misery bubbled over my lips. Words justifying my resentment for living unfolded before us. I tried to illustrate to Roger what living in a home cursed with cancer, death, and disease felt like. I blabbered through my tears and sobs about sleepless nights and foodless days, loosing weight without intention. Spilling my contents across the coffee table to this stranger only made my anxiety amplify tenfold.
Gasping for breath, I suddenly noticed that the feeling of sympathy I expected in Roger’s eyes was absent. Instead, a canopy of confusion covered his face. I stopped mid-sentence, searching for a sign of understanding in the grey eyes of my one and only hope for a painless life. I anticipated his response, his prescription in a simple slight bottle, and his words of advice, fixing this crippled and humiliated teenage girl. Instead, Mr. Madock retreated, leaning back in his chair. A shallow man’s voice rang in my ears, coldly uttering “I’m sorry Lilly. That must be terrible for you.”, words wrapped in rehearsed fluidity.
A lack of interest, care, and concern threw me back into the yielding sofa. “You seem to be a very insightful person Lilly, and it was extremely nice to meet you.” Roger explained, his eyes burning a path in the floor from me to the door. Only then I noted the large, gaping clock clinging to the wall behind me. I was cutting nearly eleven minutes into what must have been his precious lunch hour. Still tear stained and shocked, I stood, numb from head to toe with disrespect from this stranger. Like a soulless zombie, I shuffled my pathetic self out his door, through his waiting room, past his oblivious secretary, and into the virtually empty and vast parking lot. It wasn’t supposed to be this way: so immoral, heartless, and inhuman. Inhaling for what seemed like the first time, my lungs stung with the crisp evening air. My daze was broken by the wheezing start of my mother’s car nearby.
Staring out the window into the cloudy, ominous sky, I could see my breath fogging up the frosty glass of the passenger window: the only indication that there was still a soul in my comatose body. All of my hopes for a content life had flown away with Roger’s last few meaningless words. Exposing myself to the judgment of one man had caused me nothing but disappointment. A sense of deep numbness engulfed me, bringing me to begin planning my early escape from this painful life. The awkward bout of silence strung between my mother and I was broken by her hollow attempt at communication. “How do you feel?” she inquired, a displaced tone of nonchalance ringing in her voice. “Better,” I claimed, not quite sure of whom I was trying to convince.
April 4, 2010
Let’s do something delirious.
Take the car and drive nowhere.
Fall in love with everything.
Find ourselves by loosing the customary,
Erratic decisions driving our will.
April 2, 2010
Street lights illuminate your profile,
Warming your striking features,
Dulling the airs frigid edge.
Your beguiling voice shapes words,
Their distracting tone memorizing,
Loosing their intended meaning.
Just as I grasp what you have said,
Your lips rest upon mine,
Erasing my mind completely.
An air of ecstasy churns between us,
Composing a moment of intimacy,
An unparalleled instant of bliss.
April 1, 2010
Stars are splashed onto a canvas of dark cobalt overhead.
Surely only feet above, clouds drift and morph into numerous shapes.
Our imaginations kick into gear, placing names to the peculiar silhouettes.
My body convulses from the night’s chill, bringing your arm to tighten around me.
Emerging from it’s icy catacomb, the aroma of greening grass fills the air.
Moments blend together, turning into an endless string of uninterrupted conversation.
The facets of this night are carefully stored into my subconscious.
The sharpness will never fade, and the details will never distort.