Some of the more inspirational, reflective work I’ve recounted… I think it deserves another look.

I’m dedicating this to everyone who has ever been hopeless, afraid, full of despair, or just numb inside: it gets better. I promise.

Means to an End

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 Kelsey!” 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, staring at the tacky inspirational posters littering the wall behind her. Busy arguing with a stubborn parent on the phone, she motioned for me to take a seat in the waiting room. After waiting 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 sitting 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. “Yes” 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. I was becoming sick of the monotonous orders given to me by all 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 his slender physique. 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 paper. “Ms. Barnes?” he said, snapping my mother out of her transfixion on me. “Based on Kelsey’s psychological evaluation, I think the next step should 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 cliché photo of a smiling teen standing in front of encouraging snow capped mountain. Nodding a few times, she pushed the pamphlet a few inches away from her. “Ms. Barnes, please stay here while we get her admitted. Kelsey, 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 dorms. 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. “Kelsey? 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 answer. 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 Kelsey?” 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 him the warm vials 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 their surfaces. Each chair weighed just enough so it was difficult to move, intended to stop enraged patients from throwing them during fits of rage. 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 onto its back legs. “Nah, that’s not right. When we went through training, we were taught every person 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 stubborn 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.

“Have you had any suicidal thoughts today?” asked Dr. Tanner. “Nope.” I answered, thinking about the group therapy session I was missing out on because of this one 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 Kelsey, and I think you are 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, 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, Kelsey.” 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; “Kelsey” was 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 the locked doors for the last time.

 

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It started with your mother.

She referred to herself as my “future mother-in-law” while discussing traveling with family. It was funny and nobody really thought anything of it.

Then, we caught ourselves in the middle of  King Soopers flipping through a wedding magazine. “Who would EVER wear that?!” you’d say. “I know, right?”

At Whole Foods, we browsed the baked goods. “Best idea ever: wedding cheesecake.” You definitely agreed.

Walking through Walgreens, as nonchalantly as possible, you said “Our wedding is going to be Star Wars themed.” Without missing a beat, I replied with “I’ll wear a metal bikini.”

Sitting in your car listening to Dubstep, we discussed the developmental aspects of different children. “I can only see myself having one kid.” I said. “Really?” you said, surprised. “Yeah, I guess…” I replied. There was a long pause, then “We’re having a boy. I’ve always wanted a boy.”

This all should feel a bit premature, but it doesn’t. Everything feels right, and I’m not letting it go any time soon.

We’re different: we are us. And there is nothing I could ever want more than that.

Alone with you…

September 12, 2011

This is the definition of disappointment.

I feel lonely, depressed, sick, and sad.

You asked me how you could possibly help.

“I want, more than anything, to feel taken care of.”

And now, I hear nothing from you.

I’ve never felt so ashamed for trusting you.

:/

September 5, 2011

It’s getting to that point where little things are changing… problem is, I can’t quite put my finger on what they are.

We both have some difficult things to deal with daily, but I just hope more than anything that we can help each other instead of pushing each other away.

I love you.