When I was 17 years old I got into trouble. Junior year in high school had turned into partying and staying out late, drinking on weekdays, and trying new drugs like cocaine. It was supposed to be the year I took the SAT’s and applied to college. Instead of focusing on my future, which I was deathly afraid of for some reason, I focused on the moment and how I could escape from it. My body was changing, I was changing, and there was nobody to talk to about it because I pushed them far enough away so they couldn’t reach me. Silent, alone, isolated, that was my comfort zone where I existed for the last years of my high school career. But God had other plans for me. I was to be thrown into a world of crazy that shattered any illusions I had of the world and showed me what reality really was: a lost, scared little kid locked up in a psych ward.
My first time in the back of a cruiser was one I will never forget. Soaking wet jeans, wet socks, wait…where are my shoes? The rain had stopped, and the early summer morning air was hot and humid outside where the cop talked with the volunteer firefighter who called in a car off the road. I sat with my knees up against the plastic wall that separated the driver from the animal. They don’t make cop car seats for comfort. I was all done. My career of chaos and running wild had come to an abrupt end in the form of a stolen car and OUI, which stands for Operating Under the Influence. The volunteer firefighter found me sitting in the front seat, with the seatbelt still clicked in, and a car that was in a ditch. I could have run, made my escape, and never been caught. Why didn’t I run? Maybe I had enough and I knew that it would only get worse. If only I knew…
After I stumbled around the white line and followed the finger back and forth, up and down, I failed the field sobriety test and was put in the cruiser. When asked whose car it was, I had no idea, but replied it was a friend of mine’s car but he didn’t know I had it. Right on time the cop got a call about a stolen car matching the description of my “friend’s” car. Off to jail I went.
In the cell I laid on the plastic mat and stared up at the ceiling waiting for my judgment in court the next morning. The light bulb stared back at me. My clothes were still wet and I was shivering from the chill. Written and scratched all over the walls were names, crude sayings like “Suck my ****” or “F*** the police”, and random marks that kept me entertained for a little white. Time slowed down to a crawl across the dirty floor. Finally I could see the sky beginning to glow and the darkness recede. I wondered if maybe this was all a dream, a sick nightmare and I would wake up in my bed back at home safe and sound…then the guard came in with breakfast. It was real. I was in jail. The reality of what I had done had not really sunk in yet.
It sunk in quick when I was ushered into the courtroom in shackles only to look up and see two people who I had made miserable over the past few years: my parents. It was like getting punched in the chest and kicked in the balls, I just looked down and took a seat wherever the bailiff sat me and stared at the chains around my ankles. My socks and jeans were still wet. I couldn’t believe my parents were there sitting in the stands watching me sit in court in handcuffs. “Why are they here?” I remember thinking. I couldn’t understand why they would care about me, since I clearly did not care at all about myself. It angered me. I resented them for coming and trying to help me. I just wanted to be left alone.
The clerk called my name and I stood up. The chains made this distinct sound as I moved affirming that I was the criminal, I was guilty, I was the one who is on trial. They read off the charges. Drunk driving, larceny of a motor vehicle, destruction of property. Apparently I killed more than a few mailboxes in my drive of terror and destruction. I remember my mother standing up before the question of bail was even asked and offering money to get me out. The judge agreed on 1,500 dollars bail and before banging the gavel, she gave me a lecture on staying out of trouble and how if I kept on this road I was going to end up in jail…if only I knew.
As soon as the shackles were lifted and I was left to the custody of my parents, I broke down in their arms and I cried. It was a natural reaction for me growing up whenever I got into trouble. I felt bad about what I did, I wasn’t a sociopath, but I only felt the conscience attack after I did something bad…never before.
I returned to school an empty shell of a kid who no longer had the shield of innocence. I quit playing sports. My friends who I grew up with tried to help by hanging out, going fishing, and drinking. But it was as if I was not the same person anymore. My smile was fake, my laugh was forced, and I felt like an alien everywhere I went. My mind was filled with negative thoughts, wondering what the whole community was thinking of me. I lived in a very small town and it was like all eyes on me. Whether people judged me or not, which they did, it didn’t matter. I judged myself the worst, I criticized myself to the point of being nothing but a scumbag loser who had no hope of ever getting past this mistake I made.
I started seeing a therapist. She was a nice lady who lived with her daughter and ran her therapy office out of her home. Her daughter and I went to high school together. I would see her and she would see me and I would feel like a freak because I was the one who needed a therapist, I needed help, I needed to talk about my feelings.
One day during a therapy session that was an h0ur long, one hour too long, the topic was about depression. I told her I had never felt so depressed when I got arrested over the summer. I told her the truth that I felt like ending my life because I couldn’t face my parents, my friends, or the community after what I had done. I didn’t realize that what I just said meant something more than what I had intended, which was just feelings of guilt and remorse and self-pity. In therapy those words are loaded with action and fear. My parents were called in for a “family counseling” session. I was handed a pamphlet on a place called Brattleboro Retreat in Vermont. I reacted the way I always did: silent and awkward. It was decided for me to go to this place and get some help. Who knows, maybe I would even make some friends and get better!
The car ride consisted of the radio and the sound of the highway traveling north, my family and I, to a psych ward. What do you talk about? How does a family member express them self?