These Scars Don’t Define Me

Note: This piece contains graphic depictions of depression, an anxiety attack, and self-harm.

blurred portrait photo of woman
Photo by Elina Krima on

You know it is funny. When you see solitary confinement in the movies they show you a white padded room with a “crazy person” in a straitjacket. It is dramatic with men in white coats and in slow motion with lots of screaming and strategically aimed camera shots. Or it is quiet with an emotionless blob of a human in a ball looking tired and sad.

            My experience was somewhat similar in both accounts. It was not exactly solitary when I got to the Beverly Hospital Emergency Room, in February 2012, for my psych evaluation. After sitting on the kitchen floor for an hour screaming about not taking my medication and threatening to scar up my wrists again, or worse, my mother called my counselor who told her I needed to go to the hospital as I was “a danger to myself and others.”

            I didn’t want to go. There was a possibility I might not come back home, but I was led out of my house into the family car. I felt like I was kicking and screaming, but at that point, I was probably a quiet numb of indifference. My mother gently holding my arm in what she hoped was reassuring, but I knew she was scared of me. No… no scared… terrified.

            I don’t remember much else, except in fragments. A nurse in a blue lab coat asking me questions about my physical health… An IV of what I assume was a sedative so I wouldn’t hurt anyone… Being wheeled to the “mental health observation wing” or the white-walled cinder block room that still haunts my nightmares.

            They didn’t exactly call it “solitary confinement,” but I knew that is where I had been put. My mom and dad stayed with me as we were all watched by the men outside staring at their computer monitors with us on them. I remember screaming and punching and crying, but also watching myself as if out of my own body.

            It was after midnight by the time I stopped. I would guess maybe two in the morning. I curled up in my mom’s lap and cried.

            “I just want to go home,” I repeated over and over as she stroked my hair, but it was too late. After that display of a sixteen-year-old temper tantrum, I might not be mentally stable enough to go home.

            I want to go home.

            I thought about my sister, Cara, lying peacefully in bed sleeping.

            I want to go home.

            She might wake up to me not there.

            I want to go home.

            I thought about leaving my mom.

            I want to go home.

            Not waking up to a hug every morning.

            I want to go home.

            I thought about this one girl named Andria… and her abusive boyfriend… and all the other people who needed me…

            I NEED to go home.

            They brought my parents in first and I laid down on the bed knees pulled up to my chest and tried to rest my eyes through my tears.

            Then they call me in…

            “Why should we let you go home with your parents?”

            “Because they need me. My sister Cara and Andria need me.”

            When you come out of a panic attack it’s like walking out of a misty rain very slowly into a cloudy night. You’re disoriented and confused and conative function starts and stops and stutters like an irregular heartbeat. They let me go home that night. Two weeks later I met the love of my life.

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