Is this Life or Death?
At the age of 15, I found myself in a very small private mental hospital. My parents sent me there because I told them I was sad. They asked me why, and I said I didn’t know. Their solution was to put me in this hospital. They referred to the hospital as “resort-like” and that I would love it.
This past weekend I started to struggle with a particular memory from the “Resort”. One of the things they did there was to place you in “seclusion” or an isolation cell, to prevent your from hurting yourself and/or as a punishment for inappropriate behavior. Of course, it was never referred to as a punishment but was referred to as a place to “think” about your behavior and/or cool off.
See Day 42, 43, 44 (The Resort I, II, III) for the back story.
Most of the time, my clothes were removed. Usually, I was allowed to keep on a t-shirt and panties only. The only accessory was a cold, hard mattress on the floor. There were no pillows, or blankets, or any thing to help you stay warm.
Anyway, as I’m thinking about this memory this weekend, I remembered what it was I was thinking. It’s so weird because I always claimed to be numb during that time. That’s the lovely thing about PTSD. In one second, you can have a flashback that includes sounds, smells, and reactions as if it was happening at that moment. In a sense, it is parts of my memory that are coming back little by little. I’m trying to think of it as a necessary evil, so that I can start processing feelings and emotions.
I remember how cold the seclusion cell was. It was a little damp. It felt really dark, even though there was a very bright light in there. The ceiling was low. The walls were all gray. The mattress was a weird gray/blue color. Everything was dull.
As soon as the giant door closed, I felt as if I had been abandoned. How could they walk away from this room knowing how badly I am hurting inside? But that wasn’t the worst feeling. I was actually kind of used to being alone and not depending on the comfort of adults.
Most of the time, we were given a colorful liquid mood medication. I remember at times feeling like I was floating or swirling around the room.
The heaviest memory was the feeling of being in a grave or tomb. It felt very much like what I thought death must feel like. I wondered if life and death were actually the same experience. It brought me a weird type of comfort. I never feared dying or pain.
In today’s session with Mrs. A, I was able to tell her about this memory. And then came the overwhelming sadness. How sad to be 15 years old and feeling like your life simulates death and not know if they are, in fact, different experiences.
The sadness is where I draw the line. How can I be sad for the experience and not feel sorry for myself? Or should I feel sorry for myself?
Questioning life and death at 15? Is this what most teenagers think about? Was I tragically different than most teenagers? Was my trauma a death of sorts? Did my life die in that cell?
All of these are questions I ask myself. Because it’s my story.