9 Years Ago

Nine years ago today, I was in the psych ward.

I was in 10th grade. I had been struggling with clinical depression for at least a year, probably more like two or three. When I had tried to get help the year before, the people who were supposed to help me didn’t take me seriously. I gave up and went back to pretending I was fine, determined I would just deal with it on my own. I did a good job hiding it, but things only got worse. I started cutting myself. My suicidal thoughts became more serious. I reached a point where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to live or die.

One of my best friends convinced me to tell the school counselor. I had been talking to her on a regular basis anyway, and I trusted her. I told her that I thought I might need to be in a hospital or something. She agreed, and she called my mom. My mom and my aunt showed up at school and drove me up to the cities. I spent 8 hours in the emergency room, waiting for a bed to open up.

I spent a week inpatient, and then two weeks in the outpatient day program.

It was right around the time of the Riverbend Dance Arts spring concert. I think it was the end of my first week outpatient. It was the year I did a dance with my friend Alex: “The Mirror Only Does What It Wants To.” I had to talk to my dance teacher about changing our costumes slightly — my arms were all cut up, and I didn’t want anyone to see, so I had to wear long sleeves. I remember trying to explain to Alex where I had been the past couple of weeks. It was kind of awkward, because we didn’t really talk about serious stuff. So I told him in a way that I hoped would make him laugh. “Um…remember a few years ago, we did a dance called ‘Welcome to the Nuthouse’? Well, now I’ve experienced it. I was in the psych ward.”

This is me after the dance concert. NOT me in the hospital, despite the scrubs. That was my dance costume. Really.

Nine years ago tomorrow, my cousin “Joe” was born. That’s not his real name, but his middle name is Joseph, so that’s what I’ll call him here. It’s hard to believe he’s going to be nine tomorrow. He was born on the Thursday of my week in the psych ward. On Saturday, I got a pass to leave for a few hours, and my mom took me to see him.

The first picture was actually used on his birth announcement that my aunt and uncle sent out to everyone. It was kind of weird for me, seeing it. It was cropped, and I know no one could tell it was me, but if you looked closely, you could see that the arm holding him was wearing hospital bracelets. I’m sure no one thought anything of it, and just figured it was my aunt holding him. But it was me.

It’s also kind of weird to me, looking back, that I was wearing short sleeves. Obviously you can’t see my arms in the pictures – thank God! – but if you could, you’d see the still-healing cuts.

But the weirdest thing of all to me is remembering when my aunt asked me if I would be Joe’s godmother. I didn’t understand. They wanted me to be his godmother? Me? The girl who was so messed up that she was in the freaking psych ward when he was born?! Why would they ever want someone like me to be his godmother?! I felt so honored. Loved. Valued. Believed in. Even with how messed up I was, they still believed in me. There’s a reason Joe’s mom has always been my favorite aunt. 😉

My godson turns 9 tomorrow. I can’t believe how fast the years have gone by. He’s growing up to be a great kid – he always has been a great kid, and I’m so proud of him. He’s smart, and he’s funny, and him and his big brother “Michael” are two of my favoritest little cousins ever. (Admittedly, I’d say that about all of my little cousins, but that doesn’t make it any less true!) =D

And as for me, I’m so far beyond where I was 9 years ago. The cuts that were on my arms then have faded into old scars. At the end of the month, it’ll be 3 years since I last cut myself. I’ve learned how to deal with my depression in healthier ways. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been suicidal.

I even look healthier now. The past couple of years, my mom has made a lot of comments about how I need to lose weight, but I don’t agree. I know I’ve gained, and I’m not as thin as I used to be, but when I look at those pictures from 9 years ago, I’m glad. I don’t just look skinny in those pics, I look sick. Sure, I could stand to lose a few pounds now, but I think I look good the way I am. I’m pretty sure my mom is the only one who thinks I’m overweight. (Not too long ago, she actually offered to pay me to lose weight, but that’s another story. I turned her down. I need the money, but not at the expense of my health. Nooo thank you!)

Anyway, my life isn’t perfect, and I’ve still got a long ways to go, but when I look back, sometimes it amazes me how far I’ve come. Life is good. =D

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2 Responses to 9 Years Ago

  1. Russ says:

    Your story is inspiring to those of us who have an anorexic daughter (she was subjected to the “treatment and therapy” of Mercy Ministries as well but has not yet processed her experience and realized what it really was). You remind me so much of my daughter, and I hope one day to hear that she has come to the point that you are at now.

  2. Michelle says:

    I remember that dance. Have to admit I laughed a bit at the way you told Alex… Remember “welcome to the nuthouse” that was clever. Also a good dance. When I first found out you struggled with cutting I actually remembered this dance costume… and thought “that explains the long sleeves” because frankly if you don’t have to, no one chooses a heavier dance costume that is warmer on stage. I love Riverbend and the various “costumes” that surfaced there. I wish we would have been closer back then. I always thought you were so much fun, and your signature pose in most of your routines was cute.

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