Crisis

Crisis

My roommate drove me to the Crisis Center. It was chilly and grey outside, but my sweater was protecting me from more than that. I was shaking from the moment Stacie told me to leave. By the time we got there I could barely hold the pen to fill out the needed paperwork.

We sat in the waiting room for too long–the longer we sat, the more real this became. I was having a hard time grasping it (did I really want to die? Did I really feel unsafe enough to risk being committed?)–I could only imagine how my roommate must be feeling.

When they finally called me back the crisis counselor asked me what was going on. I cried when I tried to tell her, and already I knew it was worse than last time. Last time I was preventing what by now had already happened.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being very little thought, and 10 being planning suicide, how suicidal are you?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I guess 7.”

I asked for my roommate to come. She called in another counselor to keep the numbers even, she said. They asked me again. On a scale of 1 to 10. I said 7.

“Why 7? What does 7 mean?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know.”

How had I been feeling? What lead up to this moment? Had this ever happened before? I held on to my roommate and she rubbed my shoulder. I broke down more than once, unable to answer, sobbing into her shirt.

They couldn’t help me until I gave them more information. What was 7? Why was it 7?

Finally I broke: “Because I never want to say it’s more than that.”

They asked me to pick again. I told them 9.

I could feel my roommate reacting beside me. I felt awful. The counselors were dragging things out of me I’d never admitted to anyone, and I told her almost everything. She was hearing for the first time about my suicide attempt from the previous summer, hearing more information about my past, my history, my fears, my feelings. Things I never wanted anyone to know about me. It all had to come out. All on the floor, so they could pick through it, spread it out, smear it everywhere. I felt raw, exposed, vulnerable. Dissected.

They asked me if I could keep myself safe tonight. I said I didn’t know.

In that case, they told me, I should let myself be committed.

My roommate and I sat for at least two hours total during the visit to Crisis. The counselors kept leaving to work things out, then coming back for more information. Finally they told me all of the spaces were full at the treatment center, and the only way for me to get in would be to go involuntarily. And given what I had been saying, they thought that would be a good idea.

So much for avoiding the police car ride. I was questioned again, searched, patted down, dragged away from my roommate, cuffed, and lead to the police car, where I couldn’t even buckle myself in. I had to sit sideways so my cuffed hands didn’t dig into my back when pressed against the plastic seat. This was my second police car ride this year.

The officer was as nice as possible given the situation. He talked to me about my roommate, saying she seemed like a wonderful person. She was, I emphasized, the best I knew. I couldn’t think of anyone else I would rather have had with me at that time.

He asked me if I needed any number from my phone, and when we were at a stoplight, he asked me to walk him through opening it and pulling up my contacts so he could write some down for me.

When we got to the treatment center, he helped me out, and the first thing he told the staff upon our arrival is that I had been very cooperative.

I was relieved that my experience with the cop had been so positive. I was lucky that I’d gotten one of the campus officers who knew me from RA training. He was the one who had taken me to Crisis this summer. I hoped he wouldn’t have to do this with me again.

I was processed like a human, and I think it’s kind of sad that that surprised me. When they saw I was cooperating, they took off my cuffs. A nurse lead me into a small office and read me some paperwork, explaining what would happen while I was here and what my rights were. I signed a lot of things. They checked my vitals. They took away my shoes. They let me keep my piercings in. They gave me a tour. Showed me my room. The door didn’t lock. The bed creaked loudly when I sat on it. They gave me toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant. They had mango water. I went through ten paper cups. They gave me soy milk with a vegetarian dinner. At 6pm my roommate was allowed to see me. I cried again. She hugged me. They wouldn’t give me the pants she brought me because they had a drawstring. I couldn’t keep my phone. They let me keep my gel pens and my coloring book and my journal. I told my roommate what had happened so far. She offered to contact all of my supervisors for me to let them know I would not be at work this week. I was scared. They said I would be here for 72 hours. I couldn’t see my cat. I could only see my roommate once a day. My friends didn’t know where I was.  My cat would be worried about me.

My roommate said she would reach out to my closest friends to let them know what was going on, without giving too many details. I couldn’t stop crying and hugging her. I just wanted to go back home. I wanted to be okay.

She had to leave. One of the nurses held a group for those of us who were there. I met some interesting people. Not all of us were scared. Some of them had been here for a long time. I felt selfish and scared. I didn’t want to be here for that long.

I went to bed early. Every time I moved, even a little bit, my bed creaked loudly. The door didn’t lock and they checked on me every fifteen minutes. I worried that someone might come in and try to do something to me. I tried to analyze how I felt. I was scared and lonely. But I couldn’t tell if I still wanted to die. I could barely feel anything.

I woke up. I didn’t want to shower. But I did get dressed. Good sign. I was less scared. Still nervous. I colored my book. Breakfast was pretty gross. One of the patients asked if I wanted to be friends. When I said yes he kept trying to touch me until I yelled at him to stop. Another asked for help opening her food. She couldn’t stop shaking. Another kept murmuring to herself about machines and wires. She said she had PTSD. I wondered what had happened. She cried to another patient who told her to talk to Jesus. Everything happens for a reason, she said. I lay in bed and listened to them and felt angry. Sometimes things just happen.

They asked us to do chair yoga which was silly because we still used our legs. I was the only college student there. The third group I went to was run by an exasperated man who didn’t now how to talk to us. I felt I could have done better after only being here for a day. I wrote a letter to my roommate. They took my vitals again. I talked to a doctor, a psychiatrist, a social worker. They called my roommate. They asked for my insurance. If they could call my parents. I almost yelled no.

My counselor called and asked if i was okay. I told her I felt better. It was true. I wasn’t planning anymore. She said she thought I would be okay. She told me to tell the truth. Don’t lie to get out faster.

The third time I saw the social worker I cried when she told me I could go home today. I called my roommate. She was picking my up at 3:30. I missed a group because I was talking to the social worker. They got to go outside. I heard them come back and one of the patients said “It almost got scary.” I felt bad for missing and almost wanted to stay a little longer to be with these people more and learn their stories. I felt very privileged. One of the nurses talked to me about that. I was an easier case, she reminded me. I was actually pretty okay. I felt that now more than ever. I was going home. Most of the others had to stay. I packed my things and sat on the creaky bed waiting. I jumped up when they came to take me out. I hugged my things. Dropped most of them when I ran to hug my roommate. I felt like a child. But it was okay because I was going home.

I Wore the Mask I Thought I’d Left Behind

I Wore the Mask I Thought I’d Left Behind

On Monday I was planning suicide. I woke up with a grim determination that it was time for my life to be over. I felt nothing. Not when my roommate said good morning. Not when my friend walked to work with me. Not when I taught Safe Ally Training to a bunch of wonderful people with one of my closest friends. Not when I tutored one of my own students, not when my boss joked around with me. I was wearing the mask my mother had taught me to use after years of her isolating me when I showed emotion.

I laughed. I smiled. I engaged in conversation. I was productive. But inside I was numb, burnt out by pain and loneliness and self-hatred. Inside I was convinced my friends had never really loved me, that my close friends would soon cease to love me. Inside, I was ready to die.

A few friends reached out. Noticed I was upset. I felt nothing. I went through the motions. I counted the hours till I could escape.

I thought of asking for help. Calling Crisis.

It never occurred to me to tell a friend. Never occurred that there were people who cared. I was convinced no one did.

I decided to go to work first. The last job of the day. My kids.

As I got ready to go, thoughts of self-preservation left in favor of writing out a will. I left my wallet, my money, and my cards on my desk. I5 gave my cat extra food, extra love. I snuggled the bunnies that didn’t like me. I conversed briefly with my roommate’s boyfriend, pretending I was invested, pretending I wasn’t about to leave and never come back.

When my ride dropped me off after work, I decided, I’d walk away and never come back. I’d find a bridge. I’d jump. It would all be over.

I wore my mask all the way there. Engaged in pleasant conversation with my ride. No one was allowed to see what was going on inside me.

I went through the motions at work. Laughed with my co-workers. Pretended everything was fine. They had no idea.

Then it was time to check in my kids.

I walked into the room where I was supposed to be to check in my 12 kindergartners. Incidentally, the teacher had let them out early today. Over half of them were already there, and they were looking for me. Under the table. Around corners.

They yelled my name when they saw me, and one ran into me for a hug. Several asked where I had been. I laughed and told them I hadn’t known they were there.

“Were you worried I wouldn’t come?” I asked one of the more vocal kids.

He tilted his head in consideration, then shook it definitively. “No, I knew you would be here,” he said.

That’s when the feeling came–for the first time–guilt. Worry. Regret.

How could I leave these kids behind?

I heard them saying my name with enthusiasm. I saw their excitement at seeing me. I saw their pure joy when they received new shoes as part of the programming for the day. I witnessed their sadness and fatigue when they encountered difficulties during the day. I listened to their needs and allowed them to skip homework. Instead, we played quiet games and colored pictures until it was time to go home.

I smiled and laughed with the parents, telling them about their child’s day, saying goodbye to the kids and hearing them chatter excitedly about what they had done and how excited they were to come back.

What was I thinking? I couldn’t leave my kids behind.

I rode back with my ride, in silence this time. I loved my kids. But I couldn’t shake what I had been feeling all day. I made a deal with myself: if she dropped me off in the parking lot, I’d run and find a bridge. If she walked back to the building with me, I’d make up some story about “forgetting” my ID and let her let both of us in.

But when she dropped me off at the parking lot, I walked back to the apartment slowly, and thought about the kids–would they miss me on Wednesday if I was not just late, but really and truly not there?

What about the class I mentored for? They were coming over on Tuesday. Maybe I could still around at least until then.

A stranger let me into my building. I knocked on my apartment door, and my roommate let me in. i bluffed it off. Pretended I’d forgotten. I was just tired. Went to bed.

Her friends came over and I went back and forth, trying to be social, trying to convince people I was fine. But I’d always retreat back into my room, feeling like crying but at the same time too numb to do anything but lie there.

No matter how many times my roommate asked me what was wrong, I couldn’t say anything. I was just sick, I lied, just tired. I didn’t know why I was so sad. There was no reason. I kept the mask on.

Tuesday morning it was the same. I skipped my 8am class. Too sick, I convinced myself, even though it was only a small cold I’d been living with.

I got up ad went to work again. Tutoring. I joked around. But inside I was seething. This time I was angry–angry at absolutely everything and everyone. I even hated being queer. I hated everything about myself and my life. I wasn’t looking forward to anything, I was just sticking around to do what I felt was necessary before I took the next step, whether that was suicide or calling crisis.

My supervisor decided for me. I stormed into the Pride Center, ranting about something or other. She asked me what was wrong. Said I didn’t look like myself.

I told her I wanted to die, but I kept waiting until my commitments were over, but they never were. I was living hour to hour with suicidal thoughts and it was only a matter of time before I did something.

She said, “You need to talk to someone.”

I said, “I know, I will, after tonight.”

She said, “No, I think you should talk to somebody right now.”

I pushed back a few more times. I needed to go to class. To see my students. To attend the club meeting for which I was co-president. Eventually she won.

“Should I see someone on campus?”

They would just tell me to go to Crisis, so I may as well just get a friend to drive me there and skip the police car.

Another friend was there and gave me a few pointers. What to look for. Where to go. I texted some friends, asking who was available to drive me. Within seconds my roommate replied, telling me to meet her outside the Union.

I gathered my things and walked outside. My numbness was wearing off as the situation became more real. Why was I doing this? Why was I so scared? Why did no one trust me to stick around?

I’d had the training. I should know.

I wanted to die.

I wanted to die, and my friends were trying to keep me safe.

Even if that meant going away . Even if that meant being processed by strangers.  Even if that meant admitting that I was a danger to myself.

 

An Open Letter to the Summer Camp that Broke my Heart

An Open Letter to the Summer Camp that Broke my Heart

Dear TRIO,

I’m writing to ask why I was not hired for the summer of 2016.

Is it because I refused to make the kids do pushups, instead taking the time to patiently explain camp policies and values?

Is it because I connected with the queer kids on a level no one else could, and was able to talk with them about their coming out, dysfunctional families, fractured support systems, and questions about their gender/sexual identities?

Is it because when one of the girls was in danger of harming herself, I was the one her friends told when asking for help?

Is it because I spent two hours of one evening answering one student’s fascinated questions about the lgbtq community, saying things some of the other RAs in the room didn’t even know about?

Is it because I made food for the kids and helped them out in the kitchen?

Is it because I made coconut ice cream for the vegan student when all the other students got ice cream?

Is it because every Wednesday and Friday I made sure there was a vegetarian option for the orthodox Catholics who couldn’t eat meat on those days?

Is it because after an argument with one of the girls about race and labelling others, I told her it was okay to be angry and walked with her as she explained herself and cried?

Is it because I told the kids that as RAs we were not infallible, and that we were learning from them as well?

Is it because I made boob jokes with the high school senior who later wrote to me thanking me for being the older sister she never had?

Is it because I had fascinating, productive conversations about gender theory with the philosopher kid no one could stand?

Is it because when the large, scary-tempered middle schooler got yelled at for not doing his homework, I took him aside afterward to thank him for reaching out and apologizing that I hadn’t helped him sooner?

Is it because when one of the girls showed signs of depression, I talked to her to find out what was wrong?

Is it because I asked one of our Latina girls to teach me phrases in her language?

Is it because I listened to the annoying kid’s rants in my class and thanked him for his contributions, seeing the big grin on his face when he heard those words from me?

Is it because I sat through a Batman marathon with the two kids that wanted to because no one else would?

Is it because on my days off I continued to plan activities with my kids and tell them I would be there to do things when they asked?

Is it because when one girl forgot her money, I secretly bought the gem stone she’d been admiring to surprise her with later?

Is it because I listened to all the random thoughts of the sweet little boy the teacher ignored?

Is it because I explained to the girls no one likes what they were doing wrong, and continued to face their wrath at every step despite the fact that they showed that they hated me?

Is it because I hosted a hair dye party in my room when my queer kids initiated me into their peculiar brand of punk culture?

Is it because I listened to the boy with Asperger’s as he ranted or looked into the tiniest of things when most of the others ignored him or tried to get rid of him?

Is it because I listened to the white ghetto girl who didn’t know shit about diversity, but who still had things to say and needed someone to tell her what she missed?

Is it because I volunteered to teach my class even after being told I could not be paid for it?

Is it because I cried in front of the kids because I was beyond not showing them I was human?

I’m not dumb, I know none of these are reasons. But maybe when you read them, you’ll understand what you lost when you fired me.

I know you probably fired me because last summer I was struggling with depression, self-loathing, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. It’s probably because I needed a little extra support from my supervisors to get me through a week. It’s probably because I was honest with the kids and told them I’d been through a breakup and when my uncle died. Or maybe it’s because of my gender identity, and that’s why you can’t tell me about it.

Or it’s for other reasons I don’t know, which apparently are not worth telling me so I can grow from them.

I hope the first day of training goes well; I hope the new RAs get along with the old ones, and everyone has a chance to learn and tell their story. I hope you all have a fantastic summer–and even if it doesn’t sound like it, I mean that sincerely.

Because who could spend a summer with those kids and not chalk it up with the best days of their life?

You’re never going to read this letter, because it wouldn’t do any good if I sent it. But I hope at some point you reflect on the person you rejected and wonder what it would have been like if you’d kept them.

Because every hour of every day this summer I’m going to think of those kids. I’m going to wonder what they’re doing and ache over the conversations and experiences I’m missing.

Have a great summer. Tell the kids I said hi. If they ask, I’ll leave it up to you to explain why I couldn’t come back.

What are we leaving for them?

I came back from volunteering feeling weird today. Usually the group of forty girls I see once a week is lighthearted, rowdy, and fun. Not that today wasn’t; there were fewer of them there because of the weather and spring break, and that actually made it easier to have one-on-one interactions and laugh with the girls. But one of the activities really struck a chord with me. We had broken into smaller groups and I was facilitating six girls in a discussion about friendships and bullying. I asked the question, “How would you feel if you found out your friend was spreading rumors about you?”
One of the girls in my group was of special interest to me. She’d been incredibly shy on the first day and I had to repeatedly coax her back into the group. Since then she’s become much more outgoing, making friends and talking during activities, but she still tended to sit by herself unless I asked her to join the group. She’d asked me several times how old I was, at first mistaking me for one of the students. Sometimes she’d approach me on purpose to simply stand next to me, and I was usually able to invite her into conversations with me by asking her questions she seemed eager to answer in her quiet but energetic voice.
When I asked the question about the gossip and how that would make them feel, this girl put hr fingers to her head in the shape of a gun and said, “It might make you feel like doing this.”
I’m pretty sure this girl is eight years old.
I didn’t know what to say to that except, “That would be sad.” I made her meet my gaze and she did without flinching, and she didn’t seem overly upset about anything, but I was shaken. I told the supervisor what happened and asked the other volunteers to keep an eye on her and I was assured that the girl would b checked on, and that we would talk to all of the girls about what they should do if they were ever feeling very bad about themselves.
About a year ago I was in Pine Ridge and I learned about the three elementary school kids who had killed themselves that week. I remember feeling shocked, feeling helpless, feeling frozen with fear when the other kids brought it up.
Since then I have worked for summer camps where middle and high school kids have expressed to me feelings of depression, moments in their lives they’d considered suicide, ad seen evidence among the ones I was closest to of self harm and suicidal thoughts.
Since then I have been labelled with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and poor self-concept.
Since then I have considered my options more than once but thankfully I have always chosen to keep going.
Since then I have struggled with self harm and its aftermath.
Since then I have interacted with over a hundred kids from troubled households and heard so many stories of kids, each time younger and younger, struggling with thoughts and feelings that no one should ever have to deal with. I can’t believe how young some of these kids are that have these thoughts.
I’m scared for the girl that made that comment tonight and I wonder what she is going through that would make suicide the first reaction she would come up with. I wonder what kind of world we are leaving behind for our children. If seven and twelve year olds are having these thoughts, what will they be doing, saying and thinking as they grow older and more involved in the society we are creating?
I take in the feelings that are expressed to me and sometimes I worry how I will be able to handle the work that I want to dedicate my life to. But I can’t interact with kids like these and then just walk away. I need to do something with what I have learned.
I’m lucky that I have something I’m so passionate about to dedicate my life to, but it makes me indescribably sad to see the evidence of the need for the work I have to do.