I should be perfect. After all, I've been here for so long. Fixed - that's what they were all hoping for. The perfect solution - if only I had been broken to begin with. Seventeen years old, and nothing ever changes. Bipolar doesn't mean stupid and it's these medications that make me so tired. They would give anyone mood swings. Just because I go to a special school doesn't mean that I don't understand things. If nothing else, this place has made it all too clear.
I was 16 when my grandmother and uncles decided to send me here - to an emotional growth boarding school. I knew I had problems. High school drop-out, sleeping around, a fractured family - well, what was left of my family. My father was an alcoholic who left when I was three. My mother died a year and a half before I came here, leaving my 80-year-old grandmother to care for my little brother and me. I was depressed and suicidal. My family came up with this seeming solution and that is how I came to be a student here.
Like the rebellious girl I am, I fought their "help" every step of the way. I missed my friends, my parties and my freedom. In fact, I again heard the words, "lucky to be alive," uttered by most who came in contact with me; but I could not have cared less. Slowly, slowly, my life (the one I was so lucky to have) fell back into some sort of place. I learned to deal with the anger over my mother's death, examined my "guy" issues, and I talked about how to help rebuild my family. I became something I never thought I could be - a respected leader. I had the right kind of friends and I worked hard to earn the credits for my high school diploma. I became the one people asked for advice; even my family could finally see me as an adult and not a crazy screwed-up kid anymore.
I'd been here for nearly two years when the nagging little doubts (the ones that never ceased to nag, but only lowered their voices) suddenly started shouting at me again in full force. Crazy! Not good enough! What's wrong with you? I was ten the first time my mother sent me away, 14 when she died. Since then I have trusted no one - especially people who say they want to help me.
In a few months, I am going to see all of my family for the first time since I was sent away. I am scared they won't like me. The tug of war in my mind never stops. There are days that I pause and look at this thing that I've created - this incredible life that is mine, if I can only open my eyes. Then there are days when even breathing hurts and I want to curl up in a dark corner and hide. Days when I tell myself that this is all a lie - a huge fantasy that I have created out of my loneliness and desperation. I become paranoid and think that everyone is watching me and that I never measure up.
So that is the story - my story - that I want anyone who has enough heart to listen to. I want to believe that I am not alone in this crazy thing that takes over my mind, without any warning when it disrupts. Manic depression, bipolar, mood swings, panic attacks, "seeing things," whatever - I don't know which one is at fault, or if they all play a role in this. I don't want to think that there is something wrong with me, but I don't know how not to think that.
I don't have any answers. I've been in two mental hospitals, I've tried medication, and here I am at the one place in the world where it seems like everything isn't always going to be like this and quitting is no longer an option.
I am a 17-year-old girl who likes to write, and has a large number of people who love her very much. Someday I want that to be enough, but for now, it is not that simple. I go to bed reading the notes my friends have written me, holding a stuffed armadillo for protection, with the hope that tomorrow will be better. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.