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What About the Healing
I’m sweating, and I’m not sure if it’s because of the building’s poor air conditioning battling the soupy august heat, or the anxiety - dialing up my body temperature. My dad is staying in the car, he’s on a work call. So I’m sitting in the waiting room alone, on one of those couches that could swallow you whole if you’re not careful. The room is like every other tan and grey, cardboard cutout, scratchy waiting room I’ve ever been cooped up in. It makes my skin crawl, like little ants are marching up my legs, crisscrossing my chest, and up across my shoulders. I start bouncing my knee, then lacing and unlacing my fingers. I hate waiting. From down the hall I hear a door open and then the soft thud of heels against the carpeted floor. I slip my hands under my thighs and quiet my knee, ever doctor I’ve met has told me those nervous ticks are a bad sign. A woman turns the corner, appearing in front of me. My eyebrows flinch upwards a little, she doesn't look anything like any of the doctors I’ve ever met before. She’s tall, easily 5’10 or above, broad shouldered, half shaved head, purplish red hair flipped to the left side of her head, clipped back with a black barrette. Studded ears, the bottom of a tattoo curling out from beneath the sleeve of her short sleeve button down shirt, the same color as her hair, and black dress pants.
“Jane I’m assuming?” She says, resting her hands on her hips, lips curved upwards in a half smile. I’m caught off guard, she is not what I had been expecting. I snap out of it pretty quick though,
“Yeah that’s me, you’re Jesine I presume,” I respond, crossing my arms over my chest, in response to her stance.
“Yes, c’mon let’s go to my office,” She says and flashes a bright white smile, her canine’s are slightly pointed.
“Okay,” I say, as I scoop my bag off the floor. Slinging it over my shoulder as I stand up. She smiles again and I follow her down a hallway whose walls look like they were made out of flimsy cardstock and could collapse on me at any second. We stop at the third door on the left side of the hall. On the right were two doors, one closed, and the other slightly ajar to reveal what looked like a little kitchen. She opens the door and holds her arm out,
“After you,” she says, motioning for me to go inside. I pull my lips into what’s supposed to be a smile, but it’s definitely more of a tight line. Jesine’s office is like her, not what I was expecting, and the exact opposite of the waiting room. There’s two big windows on the wall opposite to the door, white sunlight shining through the panes, casting shadows across the red carpeted floor. There’s a plush grey couch on the wall to the right of the door and two chairs of the same color next to the windows. There’s a desk on the wall to the right of the door, dark brown under layers of papers, notepads, and files.
“Take a seat,” She says, turning towards her desk and pulling a desk chair towards her. I choose the couch, dropping my bag on the floor and sitting in the right corner with my legs crossed and arms folded.
“So Jane, before I actually dive into the logistics of the group and everything, why don’t you tell me why you’re joining,” Jesine says, crossing her legs, clicking her pen open and flipping to clean page of a notepad she pulled off her desk.
“Uh, didn’t my psychiatrist and psychologist explain that to you already,” I ask, slipping my hands under my thighs and clearing my throat. Jesine puts her pen down and looks up at me, instead of making eye contact I focus on the silver cross resting on her collarbone, it takes all my willpower to not start fiddling with my own. She has those kind of eyes that remind me of an x-ray, if I look into them she’ll see everything.
“Yes I’ve spoken with both your psychiatrist and psychologist and read your medical history, but now that you’re out of the hospital, you need to keep learning DBT coping skills,” She says shifting in her seat, my eyes move from the cross to the black barrett, holding her purple bangs out of her face. All I can think is oh god what have I gotten myself into.
“Okay so you know everything already, right?” I ask, my eyes flickering to hers for a second, then back to the barrett. I don’t want to go through this all again.
“Actually Jane, I want to hear it from you. Tell me, in your own words - not some synopsis from your doctors, why are need this group,” Jesine says, clasping her hands together. I don’t need this group, to be a part of it is the last thing I want at the moment. I want to get back to the person I was, before I spiraled. My eyes dart back to her face, and they stay there this time. I try not to squirm under the look she gives me.
“I’m really not good at explaining all of it,” I murmur, still shifting under her gaze, like a bug under a magnifying glass.
“Just try,” Jesine says, leaning back in her chair and clicking her pen once again. I sigh and pull my hands out from under my legs, they’re bright red, swelling a little bit against my rings. I breathe out through my nose and lean forward to grab my over the shoulder bag, off the ground.I pull it into my lap and unzip, I can feel her still looking at me - but I take my sweet time.
“I’ve never been good at verbalizing out loud what it all feels like, you know what “brought” me here,” I say, using air quotes around brought me here, and start to dig through my bag. Jesine nods but doesn’t say anything. A few stray earrings poke my fingers as I dig through my bag, and the smooth silver of some rings graze my fingertips as I continue to dig.
“So my therapist and instructors at the hospital told me to start writing it all down, because I’m better at describing it that way,” I continue, finally producing a yellow notebook with light purple diamonds and designs across the cover, it was a christmas gift from my Step Dad that year.
“I haven’t read it to anyone yet, but it isn’t really written as a diary - more as poetry I guess,” I say, gripping the notebook hard and looking up at Jesine.
“Start whenever you’re ready,” Jesine tells me, I nod but the little devil on my shoulder screams no, and for some reason the little angel has not appeared. I run a had over the cover, and open to one of the pages from over the winter- during the worst of it. I run a hand over the paper, covered in my shaky scrawl, only ever written in black pen. It’s my brain melting across these pages, my heart crawls into my throat. I already regret this, but I lick my lips and begin,
“It was the entire month of January when my skin was sandpaper and I had the permanent feeling of coffee on an empty stomach. And everytime i crossed the street I never looked both ways because I thought I’d disappear before I reached the sidewalk, like Holden Caulfield. And it was New Years Eve when I ran home in the cold and the dark when all the sadness I thought I had swallowed was climbing back up my throat and streaming out of my eyes, soaking my cheeks. And when I finally got home, I tore off my jacket but what I couldn’t tear off was the darkness and the cold weighing down my shoulders. Everyone always says new year new me, but when the clock struck midnight 2018 - I was still stuck in my own head, stuck in my bed like I had been sewn into the sheets and it felt like I was going to be stuck this way forever. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Because all those times I screamed and cried and begged to a God that I wasn’t even sure existed because I thought I was dying, I never got an answer and the cross around my neck started to burn,” My voice cracks a little bit at the end and I’m gripping the notebook so hard my fingertips are white. Every word makes me want to choke. I glance up at Jesine, she’s not looking at me, she’s too busy scribbling in her notepad. I feel my cheeks flushing into a rosy pink, so I stare down at my feet, willing it to melt away. I hear her pen stop moving, but I don’t look up yet.
“Read me another please,” She says, my eyes dart upwards and my cheeks get hot again - not out of embarrassment, anger this time.
“Why,” I snap, the anger in my voice heats my words like a fire poker. Jesine breathes out through her nose, I hope I’m annoying her,
“I need to hear more, that one doesn’t tell me everything - just one of the puzzle pieces,” she explains. I bite my tongue, the temperature of my face fluctuating.
“What piece do you think that was?” I ask, wishing I could dunk my face in a bowl of ice water - like they had taught me in the hospital.
“The depression,” Jesine says, in a tone so casual it feels like a slap to my face and all I can think is f*** you, but obviously I can’t say that to another doctor. For a second I’m not longer glued to Jesine’s couch, and I’m back sitting in my twin bed at the hospital, my hands shaking so hard I can barely grip my pen and I’m pouring my liquified heart onto the pages and I feel like all my organs are leaving my body, and my bones are into turning into the silly putty they tell as to play with when we’re anxious. I wish I hadn’t brought the stupid notebook with me, because it’s me covering those pages and so far she has reduced me to one goddamn, 10 letter word, - depression. For all the certificates lining her office walls, she’s dense. Most of the time, when the topic of depression bubbles to the surface, it’s followed by the same solemn nods and heavy eyes, or plastic flower smiles and styrofoam promises that it’ll all get better with the new medication or if you somehow find the inner strength to get out of bed.
“I’ll wait for you to pick another one,” Jesine tells me, clicking her pen once again. I crack my knuckles, knowing I can’t say anything to Jesine to finesse my way out of this- like I normally can with the other doctors, always playing my cards right. If I was to say anything at all, it would probably make things worse and I bet she’d try to ship me back to the hospital. I leaf through the pages again, turning to a one with orange flowers bordering my writing. I sigh, then start again,
“ It’s when my body vibrates with the sheer force of my manic high, when I swear to god I can spit fire and move mountains, and I will never die. When all my reasoning has seeped into my shoes and my impulses are running with wild horses. It was when my best friend moved away and I swore that all of my ribs were missing, and I thought filling my pockets with unpaid for jewellery and the broken hearts of boys alike would somehow fill the void. When I slipped through my grandparents fingers like sand and they were left pacing their art covered halls whose eyes followed their every move, when I melted into New York City for 2 days. 5 days before my 15th birthday. And while Santeria played and I slipped into the graffiti splashed across building walls and got another piercing in my left ear and a belly button piercing that glinted like my evil eye pendant, by a woman in the back of a tattoo parlor who spoke barely any english. And even if she could have, she wouldn’t have asked me how old I was. I didn’t get the tattoo of the angel, I had always wanted, I didn’t have enough cash. And a boy I had met just a day before held my hand as the needles were shoved through my naive skin and I thought I loved him. But I was stupid and of course I didn’t, it was just the rose colored glasses tinted by the magenta mania fooling me. And when it all fades, all that’s left of me is an empty shell, a skeleton in a t-shirt, because the electricity that made my skin shimmer is all burnt out, and this time I swear to god, I might be dying. Because you know, falling always feels like flying till you hit the ground.” I finish and I know my voice was shaking, I know Jesine hears it too. I close the notebook again, wishing I could chuck it out the window or will it to spontaneously combust in my lap so all of the parts of myself I could never say but poured into it’s pages could never be used against me again. Jesine's pen still twitches across her notepad and she doesn’t look up at me. I swear to god my skin is rippling, but I don’t know if it’s anger or embarrassment. The pen clicks again and one of the muscles in my quad twitches.
“That was the mania,” she says, as she flips the page of her notepad, it’s not even a question.
“Yes,” I say, the word sharp in my mouth. My eyes flit around the room but there are no clocks, I can’t even calculate how much time I have left in here. It’s not even about me being impatient and not liking to sit still. Talking to Jesine is like when you’re at the Emergency room and they wrap the band around your arm until they find the right vein to push a needle into - Jesine's the needle.
“Another one,” She says, still not a question, not even looking at me. I clench and unclench my fists.
“That’s all I’ve got, the mania and depression,” I say, the whole sentence tasting bitter like a lemon in my mouth . Jesine looks up from the notepad.
“What about the healing?” She asks, this time it’s a genuine question. I open my mouth, pause, and then close it. My brain is TV static for a second.
“I haven’t written that yet,” I say, not bothering to hide the defensive tone in my voice. Jesine turns slightly in her chair, tossing the notepad and pen onto her desk.
“Then that’s why you’re here,” She says, interlocking her fingers behind her head and leaning back. The TV static comes back, I try and blink it away.
“What do you mean?” I ask sitting up straight for the first time the whole meeting.
“Yes you were in the hospital for two weeks, but those two weeks didn’t heal you, coming to this group will teach you the skills to mend. That is why you are here,” Jesine says, leaning forward, resting her elbows on her knees.
“Oh,” I murmur, looking down at my toes.
“There’s a lot of hurt in there, we’ve got to add some healing,” Jesine says - pointing at my notebook, then rising from her desk chair and moving to the door.
“We start next Thursday, see you then,” She says, opening the door and motioning for me to leave.
“We’ll see about that,” I respond, flippant with hostility dripping from my words. I cross my fingers behind my back. Jesine's eyebrows raise and I can tell she wants to say something but my earbuds are in and I’m out the door before she gets the chance. My feet feel like they’re on my fire as I try to maintain my usual hip swinging confident walk while also trying to speed out as fast as possible. Unfortunately, keeping my composure is always a slippery slope. I don’t know if she’s pursuing me, but Casey Jones in my earbuds is soundproof. So even if I could hear, I wouldn’t care. I’m out the door, down the stairs, turning the corner, weaving through the parking lot to find my father’s car all in less than 3 minutes. I stop, standing still in an empty parking space. I don’t want to get in a car just yet, I need the sun - not through a window, and the summer air even in it’s sticky state - not the stale kind from the car’s AC system. Now an old Kenny Chesney song is playing but somehow the words don’t hold any meaning because suddenly I’m back remembering where I was a year ago. A year ago, I couldn’t feel the sun on my skin, because I couldn’t feel anything except an indescribable hollowness like I was one of those plastic dolls from my childhood. A year ago, I was deaf to my mother’s I love yous and afraid of my father’s touch. A year ago my siblings were strangers and friends were a threat. I felt like I was floating outside of my body, looking down at myself and hating what I saw because I didn’t recognize this person, I didn’t want to be this person - but I was riding a one way ticket at the speed of light that could only crash and burn. I remember a wednesday the 17th of January, failing two tests in a row and the look of disappointment painted across my teachers faces, made my shoulders collapse in on me. And I locked myself in a 4th floor bathroom because I lost the breath in my lungs and I was desperate to find it. I hadn’t allowed myself to cry in months because I was afraid all my ribs would crack, but sitting on the cold floor, I heard shuddering sobs that made my hair stand on end, and I was terrified of whoever those cries were coming from. But then I realized it was me, and I was terrifying. I don’t remember how long I was in there, the PTSD won’t let me. There are a lot of things I can’t remember anymore. But I remember a blur of my sister pulling me off the floor and cradling me against her, and stroking my hair. By then, all my ribs had splintered so I physically couldn’t cry anymore, but I was still shuddering and choking. Two days later, friday, January 19th was my last day at school for the rest of the year. And after 6 more days of manic yet depressive episodes because I couldn’t find my locket that I hadn’t seen since third grade, on thursday January 25th, I was sent to the hospital. And when I first arrived, I remember thinking to myself; I’m not crazy, I don’t need to be here, I didn’t try to kill myself. But I would’ve been lying to myself if I said I didn’t give my dad’s old prescription of Vicodin a second glance every time I saw it in the medicine cabinet or swung my legs a little too hard while balancing on my roof railing. I was there for two weeks and two days. I cried in the shower everyday for my first week, I didn’t speak, or eat, and no matter how hard I scrubbed with my lavender body wash - I couldn’t get clean, I couldn’t get the feeling of disgust off my skin. And it’s not like I suddenly had a come to Jesus moment and a light shined down on me and angels started to harmonize and I was “healed” and ready to “get better”. No that did not happen. But on the Sunday of my first week, I did realize something, that I was never meant to be this girl, a girl who gets sent to a psychiatric hospital because she doesn’t take her medicine, and runs away from home, and doesn’t care if she lives or dies. Or the girl who breaks her mother's heart, or makes her father cry, or scares her siblings, or abandons all of her friends because she cannot allow herself to feel and the emotional unavailability is wrapped around her spine, controlling her like a puppet. And that night I didn’t cry in the shower, and I ate cookie dough ice cream in the common room while some girl whose name I can’t remember played Ed Sheeran, and I spoke to one of the night staff for the first time. And it wasn’t that I was sunshine, honey, and hope - but instead it was that I knew, I could not be this girl. I would not be this girl, so if playing by all the touchy, feely, mindfulness rules could get me to the girl I wanted to be, then I was all in. I blink away the images of the common room, kitchen, classrooms, my bedroom, the showers, and all the other girls who are now nothing more than a faceless blur - and now I’m back in the parking lot, staring at the sun until I start seeing spots. I blink them away and head towards my car, I can see my dad inside speaking into his phone, the work call is still going - which means he can’t yet ask me about Jesine, which is the cross around my neck, saving grace because I have no idea what to tell him. Because Jesine and her group could be the gauze the nurse presses against your arm to stop the blood, or they could be they could be the whole pint drained away