I was twenty-one when I encountered my first adult experience in the care of “mental health professionals.” I felt no humanity. I felt judged. I felt young, child-like again. Buck teeth. Embarrassed of myself. Angry as hell. All of this anger came out in the way I judged those around me who were struggling with severe mental illness.
If I could say one thing to my twenty-year-old self, I would say child you have a long, rough road ahead. Age and accumulated wisdom changed the confused, judgmental young girl into a woman who knows what it’s like to be the one being judged. When I wrote this I was lost inside my head, lost in a dark hallway. It was like when I stumbled through the darkness of my childhood home, terrified of the shadows, sensing my mother lurking in corners, waiting to hit me. Lost in my teenage self. In this post I believe my voice matches that of my twenty-year-old self as close as memory will allow…
The man seemed like an ass, right down to his too-smart black glasses and mono-toned voice. “Well, you have Borderline Personality Disorder,” the psychiatrist said. His tone sterile and cold; someone who can’t wait to clock out of work in the next five minutes.
Ok, and? God that damn lady down the hall is crying again! Ironically, I can’t stop focusing on just how nuts this lady is as she sits at the community pay phone wailing her old eyes out. Oh boy, here comes the lady (I think she is detoxing) who likes to complain about her roommate touching her items and then clings frantically to her boyfriend each time he leaves her. Pathetic, I silently think.
Mr. Happy in the sterile white coat snaps me back to reality. “Here is a book about your disorder. Your assignment is to stay in your room and read it. You re on lockdown.”
I’m sad, really I am, but I can’t say why. All I know is that I’m so empty inside that I would not be full if I devoured another human being whole. Maybe Mr. Happy recognized this and thought it would be best to leave me to my own devices. Besides, as I would later find out, “Borderlines” are notoriously impossible people to cure, and a general pain in the ass for the mental health system. I don’t want to be a pain in the ass nor do I mean to be one. It just happens, just like taking a shower and brushing your teeth does for most people. These “normal” people see me and run screaming in the other direction.
“When you leave this hospital, DO NOT make friends with any of the other patients here. You must surround yourself with normal people. That is the only way you will improve,” the lovely intake counselor tells me stoically as she asks me the same damn questions the last ten people did.
Ironically, this counselor was misinformed. I’m not a “borderline.” I have PTSD. The mental health system was and continues to be a tangled mess of misunderstanding between staff and patient. Also, I’ve found it helps to connect with other survivors. We’re a group of like-minded people here in the blogosphere who give one another hope, and are empowered through the magic of words and art to express our hurt and advocate for change and understanding.