On my 17th birthday I, for the first time, tried to kill myself. It was an extremely dark and trying time for me. Though I was the one that told on myself after I took the pills – well, that didn’t mean I wanted to live. It didn’t mean I could live. I felt both empty and so unbelievably sad all at the same time. It felt like no one understood me – I was destined to be alone. So alone.
I had hoped that my admission to the Adolescent Psychiatric Unit might help me. That someone there who worked with teens all the time could connect with me and guide me in some way. I had high hopes. Those were quickly dashed. The unit was staffed by Nurses who supposedly had some kind of training to hold down the jobs that they had. Whatever that training was it didn’t come through when they spoke with me.
“You can trust us. Did something happen to you? Just tell us” in this pressured demanding tone
“You can talk to me anytime” then when I ask to talk to them, after a few minutes she said “This is what you wanted to talk to me about?”
They would spend hours in their staff room while a bunch of troubled teens “entertained” themselves. Oh man some of that was not very pretty. It was extremely boring – I found out later that they were supposed to have a Psychologist, an Occupational Therapist and an Itinerant teacher but at the time I entered the unit they had none of them. Then after Christmas a nurse took me aside and told me that a new Psychologist was starting and they thought it would be good for me to see her – to have an assessment. I jumped at the chance – finally someone that might be able to help me.
I still remember vividly the day I met her. The unit had been in group – everyone was talking about what their goals were for when they went home that weekend. I had no goals. I was a good kid – I didn’t smoke, drink or have sex. I didn’t commit any crimes or do anything that would make someone question my maturity. I was 17 going on 30. Anyhow, I had no goals and the nurse leader kept prodding me to come up with something. John sitting beside me whispered something and I broke out laughing, half out of embarrassment of being put on the spot. Once I started I couldn’t stop and soon John and I were both doubled over laughing hysterically for absolutely no reason. The nurses face went red and she tried to reign us in to no avail. Finally she pointed to the door and yelled “Be quiet or leave”.
I looked at her and for the first time in my life, right or wrong, I stood up for myself. I literally stood up, gave a nonchalant shrug and said “ok” as I walked to the door. John followed me. We laughed all the way to the unit. When I reached my room I broke into tears – deep, gut wrenching sobs. I went in to the bathroom and locked the door. I sat on the floor and just wept. Eventually there was a knock at the door and my nurse was asking me to please open the door. I didn’t comply and she asked nicely a few times. Then her tone changed and she laid into me through the door “Listen MISSY, I will get the key and open this door and then you are going with Dr. Mary like you said you would.
What a predicament – I wanted to meet the new Psychologist. I wanted to try to get to the root of what was making me so sad. But I just couldn’t open the door after I took a stance. Soon the nurse opened the door with her key. She took one look at me huddled on the floor and turned and spoke to someone I couldn’t see. “Maybe you can do something with her” she sneered as she walked away.
A face quietly and unassumingly peaked into the bathroom. “Hi, I’m Mary” she said. I said nothing. I just couldn’t find my voice after all that crying. I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to help me – I didn’t want to risk feeling disappointed yet again. She stood there for a few minutes just smiling and finally she said “I see you have paper beside your bed, can I use some?”. I shrugged and she went over and sat on my bed and began to write. I couldn’t help but wonder what she was doing. Soon she brought over a note to me that basically said “I know sometimes it is hard to talk. But for many people writing things down helps. We could do that if you want”. I felt like my heart exploded in that moment. YES finally. Someone who understood that I could write words I would never have the courage or the ability to say.
I came out and sat on the bed and we messaged back and forth several times. Finally she asked if I felt ready to go do some of the testing. I agreed and for the first of many times I walked down the hall to her office. We did all sorts of tests, including the ink blot one. I remember worrying at the time how I had done – thinking in my teen way that it was a pass/fail kind of test. Just being in her presence made me feel calmer, there was something about her.
A week or two later she had the results. I was shocked how much she knew about me from those tests. Never did I feel so connected with someone. When she offered me private counselling sessions I jumped at the chance. At first I saw her three times a week then two times then finally down to one. Those sessions were some of the best times of my life. She understood me in ways no one else did. Right or wrong she was a mother to me in a way that my own mom couldn’t. I put her through the wringer – multiple suicide attempts and admissions along with an intense dependency on her.
I feel I grew most as a person in that office of hers. She was the first one I told of my molestation’s at 7 and then again by someone else at the age of 12. She sat on the floor with me while I sobbed into her pillow (which had to be thrown away after) and she was patient with me as I tried to get a good friend to be a boyfriend – over and over. At the time I couldn’t imagine my life without her.
But she did what a good therapist does. She slowly helped me to wean off of my sessions with her. I was feeling stronger and ready to tackle University though the day before I was set to leave I sat in her office and sobbed that I wasn’t ready. That I couldn’t live without seeing her. She gently coaxed me back to being excited about University. I left her office firm in the knowledge that I was as ready as I was ever going to be.
I think of Mary often. I think of how she taught me to dream (aka stop being so damned serious) and to put limits on my relationships with people.I learned that I was deserving of someone’s interest and concern. Through her concern and caring for me I felt cared for.
I felt loved