Psych 101 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

November 18, 2010
By , Columbus, OH
It's tradition to write a suicide note. Or so I thought.

But it was too late, because I was already slumped in hospital garb with an icy draft playing peek-a-boo with my backside. There were seven of us. Three overdoses, one self-mutilation, two anger managements, and one depression with the extra label of “fall risk.” It was the longest, most life-changing sleepover of my 17 years on this planet.

We were prisoners. We were served our Great Value Peas and Carrots on sectioned trays. We even walked like inmates; arms down, waddling like penguins. And we introduced ourselves with “What'cha in for?” Before long, I figured out the culture of that place. Troubled kids with drug problems, foster parents, dead parents, imaginary friends, and eating disorders would inhabit my social circle until the fateful day of my discharge.

I woke up on the first day in a room with two beds and immediately prayed that my roommate was not hallucinating or some sort of animal torturer. She wasn't; she'd actually been stabbed by her mom. Maneuvering toward the sink, my sock skimmed the cold wood. In the hallway, the sound of rubber soles passed my door – nurses.

I splashed my face with cold water and adjusted my ponytail. My mind told me to stay in this room, but my feet strode confidently with purpose. A table with several teenagers came into view and I quickly slid into the vacant chair.

“Hey,” someone finally greeted me.

“Hey,” I mumbled. Five kids stared inquisitively at me, some eating breakfast with forks that had to be checked out and returned after every meal.

At the end of a table sat a silent figure. She stared into space with empty eyes and barely acknowledged those around her. She never spoke, ate, or made a single move until someone took her wrist and guided her to the next activity on the schedule.

I scanned the table again. At once, the conversation resumed and I gathered that some of these kids were here just because Child Protective Services couldn't find a place for them to go. Sadness filled my heart until it overflowed and drowned my innards.

I was soaked with guilt.

These were kids with real problems who made me realize what a crybaby I was. This, along with the realization of the true value of my life, gave me the resilience to withstand several trials since then. My seven days in the psychiatric ward taught me to never waste a moment that could be spent exploring the treasures life has to offer. Every person, place, and thing incubates myriad interesting truths that are just waiting to be discovered.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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