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Hostage Situation

A Mental Health Experience


This is from a real video. It’s from exactly ten years ago; April 2007.

Earlier on this day that this video was made, I had an important meeting at school with the board of education to examine my progress the last four years of high school and determine my future from this point. This is probably the moment where I realized these appointments at my doctors, these annual meetings with my councilors and these advisors, were like being an inmate and meeting the judge to see if i was finally being released.

My mother was supposed to be there but she couldn't make it. I attended a special class for one period a day for students like myself, and my teacher of the last fours years of that class sat with me instead. I smiled, I said hello, I listened, I answered their questions. Some of what they said was "translated" to me by my teacher. By the end of the meeting one of them closed with "So for next year …" and, as he continued out loud, in my head I lost it. 

"Next year?! There is no NEXT YEAR! This was it. This was supposed to be it. I did everything I was supposed to. I was finally getting As and Bs in my classes. Sure, 9th grade was terrible and that follows me I guess .. but isn't there a reason I’ve been seeing a doctor and taking medication? Isn't there a reason I didn't have a lunch period for the last 3 grades and leaving my beloved activities and hobbies behind... the fundamentals of self-discovery? What happened to the "no child left behind act" they told me about? I don't expect special treatment but, hey, you put me in treatment!" They closed their notepads and folders. They came to shake my hand and smiled on their way out like I was a 50 year old businessman in a suit and tie in the boardroom and we struck a deal. I smiled back, shook hands, but I was livid. I felt cheated; fucked over if you will. There is something so infuriating about having to spend all year long going to different classes for different grades in a single day to make up all that you failed or missed long ago in order to catch up and graduate come June. There is something so infuriating about spending the last 8 years on a variety of medications (that your parents paid for and often argued over) to go to school and people refer to it as "the smart pill" and "the happy pill" and it STILL screws you over. No parole.

All the other students in my grade were preparing for the senior prom, the senior trip, the Senior BBQ on the football field, and of course: graduation. I remember hearing the music, screaming and laughing from the BBQ outside my class window and felt as if I was going to react like Edward Scissorhands watching Kim and Jim arguing out in the yard and storming down the hall clawing the walls and the bathroom... I could've done that and popped those balloons lining the fence. I know I could’ve done better, I know I could’ve worked harder. Half of me wishes I didn't skip some Fridays to go into the city the year before and the other half knows how many wonderful unique memories I have from being 16 and doing so±like the saying where the opportunity for money will be there but memories won't be. You're only young once, right? My father sat me down when I was 13 and informed me that, when I got to be 16, and if school was still a struggle for me, then I had his permission to drop out. But he passed away before I got to junior year. Oddly enough, I didn't want to drop out. I wanted to see myself succeed, I wanted to be proud of something. I knew people expected me to be long gone by now but I stayed and wanted to graduate. I also wanted to be with my friends because they didn't have that same permission I had and if they had to be here then I wanted to be with them. I didn't have anywhere else to go, anything else to do, and I made it this far, so I told myself to finish the year.

But I felt like a total failure, completely worthless. This is the beginning of the rest of my life… where I was lead to believe that I was supposed to find myself and the success I have here is supposed to lead me to a successful and stable adulthood. I was angry at myself, my doctors, and my school. I emptied out my locker and went home where, after hours of what I can only describe as not being ok, I wrote a series of messages on the back of my school ID card on camera, revealing each message on video, cut it up into pieces and threw them at the lens. A week later I had a nervous breakdown in the nurses office at school.

Maybe it’s not such a big deal. We all lose it sometimes because we’re human, right? But I’ve never experienced something like this in front of people. I was always known as the quiet one in school, especially in class. I think I was already in so deep that I didn’t want to sabotage myself. But regardless of social deviance I was also that kid who silently prayed for the teacher to avoid picking me to answer the question. That’s what ADHD does. Thats the kind of anxiety and distance it can put on us patients.

But I cracked on April 11th, 2007.

Word had sort of gotten around to my teachers that I wasn't planning on returning to school as required for September. My brother, who was an honor roll student for most of our youth, left school in the fall due to depression—and there’s another example of what depression can do to someone, anyone for that matter. Kids in the hall would ask me where he was, when he was coming back, and I didn't have any answers. Teachers got on my case for my erratic behavior I was displaying lately. I had stopped taking my medication a short time ago... but no one knew this. Some of them started guilt tripping me with my fathers death, “What would your father think if he were here to see you make these choices?!” ...not knowing he was the one who permitted me to make my own choices. Coincidentally, the two year anniversary of his death was coming up in a couple of weeks at this time.

On 4/11/2007, as I sat in history class, I started to have a panic attack right before the bell rang. I headed to the nurse's office. Now, to be honest, the nurse was the mother of a friend of mine, so I had expected to be able to weasel my way into going to home. But she wasn’t there that day. This is a day that haunts me when I look back on it because of how calm I appeared when I approached her in the room... which was strange because I could’ve sworn a panic attack was manifesting just a few minutes ago. She looked up at me pausing from her phone call. Without hesitation, “I’m depressed and I need to go home,” is what I said to her in total confidence. I'm on the verge of making demands. After asking me if there was someone I could call, I told her my mother is at work. 

"Phone is behind you," she pointed out. My mother picked up, answering as she always does by addressing her company and her name not knowing it was me. She was concerned at first but became pissed very quickly. She was pretty lenient the year before when I wanted to camp out for tickets that made me skip school some Fridays, but now she had one kid already at home, she was now a single mother bringing home the bacon, and I was already on thin ice with the Dean for leaving school grounds at lunchtime to visit my brother and she lost her shit at me over the phone. Yelling at me on her end but on my end I stayed quiet to avoid drawing attention in the room. Desperately I wanted to argue with her, and believe me, my stubborn, mood-imbalanced teenage self had a talent for arguing. She told me if I were to go home she would end up taking me to the hospital.

She hung up and I slowly put the phone down. Before I could even figure out what to do or say next while still staring at the phone, I felt someone grab me by the shoulders and lead me into another room. It was the nurse. Turns out she could hear my mom's voice during that call. The nurse lead me to a bed and suggested I lay down for a little while, telling me she’d be right back and left the lights off. The only light came from the overcast spring day outside the window at the foot of the bed. I stood up, looked around, and began to panic. I refused to lay down or even sit down for that matter. I paced around the room, another panic attack growing by the second, texting my boyfriend who was galavanting around Manhattan attending Avril Lavigne events with friends. I texted him that I was at the nurse and that I'm in trouble. The most he could do was express concern and wish he was there with me.

I really began to breakdown at this point, tears involved, the whole thing. The nurse reappeared, upset that I wasn’t laying down, also noting she could write me up for texting, but lead me back to bed. I sat against the wall on the bed was positioned in and she did the same wanting to know what was wrong. The tears became heavier, trying to speak through them as I revealed my list of troubles and she agreed that it was a lot. She pulled me into her arms as I completely fell apart. A minute or two later she unhooked me from her grip, once again needing to leave the room but reassuring me she would be back. She also instructed me to lay down, again, and I tried... but once again I found myself unable to and sat on the bed against the wall. I couldn’t calm down, I couldn’t stop crying and hyperventilating.

I waited a little longer this time for her to return, and when she did, there were more people with her. The door opened, the lights went on and I was surrounded by comfort, concern, legit medical attention and I probably looked like a cornered raccoon up against the wall, pulling my knees up to my chest. The guidance councilor tried to calm me down. He was someone I became familiar with in the last two years. You see, when my father died, everyone got involved. My teachers, my neurologist, the school councilors. I had to meet with him a couple of times and he would ask how I was doing since his passing, how group was going, how my schoolwork and attendance were being affected. When I had met him I was hopped up on anti-depressants, things were actually pretty great, I never felt more happy and confident and full of life in the last 8 years, with positive support all around me in the wake of my fathers death. Truthfully, I barely ever thought about my father... only to consistently tell the cast of Saturday Night Live how much I loved them for making me smile and laugh and feel better since the traumatic experience. So here we were a year later in this room, he was kneeling at my bedside and I was not OK, I was crying, hyperventilating, restless, and repeating the same thing over and over again “I want to go home, I need to go home.” But I wasn’t going home or even back to class. They wanted to take me to the hospital. I was not the same person from our meeting, I wasn’t the same person people had known at all. It was scary because it was just completely unlike me, like I was in the Twilight Zone.

I think it was the first time I reacted this way since my mother revealed my father didn't make it (which is another story). I had never really grieved since then and everything I’d been feeling regarding school, my family, my future, my worthiness, all just came hurdling at me at once within the last week. My father's death put much into perspective as well, realizing that he really was gone and I was finally doing better academically but he wasn't there to see it. Everything felt like such a waste of time and effort. I was told I was experiencing post traumatic stress disorder.

Even though I had calmed down and proceeded with the rest of the school year, my teachers were notified of my nervous breakdown and I was kept in close watch, often pulled aside in the halls to ask how I was doing. But I wasn’t going to be in school for much longer and it was the darkest beginning of a two year spiral.

I don't want pity, or sympathy, or *attention*. I feel that word "attention" is used wrong, especially by other women especially when they add "jealous" to the mix and make everything a competition. I believe everyone deserves to have something special about them and to be acknowledged for it. So if I get bent out of shape about my art, for example, it's not out of desperation or seeking attention, it's because it's something that means a lot to me, something I worked hard on, something I want to be recognized and remembered for and that one thing that I feel is special to me. I want to be heard... as a smart person, as someone who comprehends and has something important to say. But often I beat myself up because of the worthlessness I've experienced, the fear I in fact didn't work hard enough or the material itself is all wrong and then I fear I have nothing left. I spent so much time on the wrong foot growing up and it's wedged me between a habit and a symptom that I'm always battling my way out of and believing in myself more. 

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