Firstly, I'm not bashing It's Kind of a Funny Story whatsoever. It's a quality portrayal of a teenager who has lost his way but finds it through the beauty of the healthcare system. Read the book. Watch the movie. Enjoy it. Laugh. Zack Galifianakas is in it; if that does not tempt you I'm not sure what will.
I was sitting crisscross applesauce, locked inside a bare room wherein everything was bolted down, besides the pillow without a case. A video camera was pointed at me sitting on the bed in their polyester, oversized shirt and pants, and one size fits all socks with grips on both sides (so one was unable to slip purposely or accidently thereby harming his or herself) attempting to calm my hyperventilation in the psychiatric wing of Halifax hospital. Unlike Craig Gilner, my adult treatment was not due to an operation on the "teen wing" (there is no teen wing at Halifax; it is simply adult or child), but my eighteenth birthday only six days before. The big black orderly with a friendly smile opens the door and says, "You don't look like you belong in here honey".
I have spent my life attempting to be the girl I thought everyone else wanted me to be and passing it off as authenticity; passing it off so well in fact, that I myself believed it. And not to be arrogant, but I am talented at it. I have always referred to myself as a "people person". To use my music taste as an analogy: I fit in at a Braid Paisley concert, a Menzingers concert, a off-Broadway Wicked performance, a Chance the Rapper and Mac Miller concert, and a Weezer concert, and I know because I've seen all of them and known every word to each one of their songs (except Chance and Mac), within the last four years. That is not to say I throw away my morals while associating with different crowds of people; I simply know how to present them differently to different groups of people.
At the sound of his voice my chin instinctively jerks up and I flash him a grin as I say, through a chuckle, "Yeah they must've just displaced me".
They hadn't. In fact, they mandated (by threatening to Baker Act me) that I stay in the ward.
When I tell people that they are always flabbergasted. One of my teachers told me it seemed outlandishly surprising because that did not seem like the student he had liked for the past four years. To tell you the truth, it appeared that way to me as well. A huge part of the problem with my anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies is that while I'm freaking out, dreaming about ways to die, longing to drive my car off the highway at 100 mph, I know it's entirely insane. I know people like me, people care about me, I'm not a total failure, life will go on if I get terrible grades, the world wouldn't actually be better off without me, yet somehow it just does not get through to some portion of my brain.
So I went on. I lived. I did all the things I was supposed to, as much as I possibly could. I did my homework, swam 6 days a week, attended morning weight training before school, went to my officer meetings every day at lunch, raised my hand in class, made my teachers smile, joked with my friends, did housework...and all the while inside pieces of me were slowly eroding and floating away.
I was that phone that you dropped all the time but miraculously did not show a single scratch. One day it got just a tiny hairline fracture, and you were like "eh it was bound to happen at some point" and you just brushed it off like nothing happened, you couldn't even remember when it did if you tried. But then it took a pretty big hit and you were surprised when you picked it up to find only a tiny portion of the corner was broken, still your wonderful almost invincible phone. Later, it just barely dropped, like a two-foot fall at most, and you picked it up, the entire screen was shattered. You were sad, it took you a couple days to get used to it, but you persevered. Eventually it was so terrible that chunks were missing, glass sometimes got stuck in your fingers while trying to swipe right on Tinder, the lock button didn't work, people looked at you in disgust when you unveiled the wretched machine from the safety of your pocket, and enough became enough! Dammit Dad I know it's not my turn for the upgrade but I can't deal with this anymore!
So I was sitting staring at the screen of my laptop attempting to write a biology internal assessment that I put off until the day before it was due (like any self respecting certified procrastinator) and I realized I had to be upgraded. I was broken beyond tolerability.
There was a buzzing that had been slowly filling my head, preventing me from doing my work, along with thoughts of ending it all and all of a sudden I was physically incapable of typing up this stupid report on the "Effect of Caffeine on the Growth of Pisum sativum Measured by Biomass". All I could do was imagine ending my existence. I was not looking forward to anything anymore, because suddenly I was incapable of everything, except driving my car off the highway.
So I was in the hospital. I was supposed to be there. It was not a fluke. I was sitting in this room, stripped of my belongings, trying to figure out how in the world I ended up there, alternating between bawling my eyes out and counting ceiling tiles.
Lab coats and scrubs filed in and out of that room faster than I could learn their names. They all asked me the same questions. With the constant repetition of my answers one would assume it became easier for me. However, the tornado in my mind twirled too rapidly for me to grasp everything inside; with every attempt at explaining I became more and more upset.
Then, abruptly, they are satisfied with their analysis of the cogs inside my head. They leave me alone in the bland room with two magazines, one with recipes and one with unrealistically photo-shopped women. (Odd choices when, by 17, seventy-eight percent of American females experience body dissatisfaction, and they already knew I was dissatisfied with at least some part of myself.) An infinite amount of time passes before they give into my pleas to let my parents in to visit, one at a time, for a couple minutes each. After a late lunch of world-class hospital food, my friendly orderly finally takes me to corridor 27.
In 27 I met some cool people. A boy with Tourette’s who sang me Green Day songs, a woman who could barely speak but had some dope coloring pages she shared with everyone, a man with bipolar disorder who could play some mean guitar (I did not witness this act but I'm almost entirely positive he was telling the truth), and so many more. When we had therapy sessions, though, it was with corridor 26 and those were the "mental cases" that were a lot worse off. One man told me he cured five hundred people of AIDS and was only in there because he yelled at his mom; he also wrote me a rap and graduated from the IB program from Spruce Creek (those two are true, I swear).
I'm rambling, and if you are still legitimately reading this, honestly go you; I would probably be skimming by now (because we're Millennials and that's what we do). There are a few things I thought Gilner's story did injustice to however:
"Tell them I love them"
"The doctor said maybe tomorrow"
"I'll be out by Thanksgiving I just know it"
"I love you"
"I miss you like crazy"
They also become very angry if you hog the phone.
3. It takes a day to get personal belongings processed (including the novel and sweater I begged for and am still bitter I did not receive before bed the first night).
4.They wake you in the middle of the night to check your vitals. This sucks if you're an insomniac who finally got to sleep (as at least seventy percent of patients in there were).
5. If you tell them you are a pescatarian, they will still give you chicken. Meal requests are real; however, they lag a day behind and are not always followed.
6. I did not fall in love. Although the thirty-something year old man who wrote me that rap said he was in love with me. However, I did realize how much some people on the outside loved me.
7. It felt unreal. It did not cure my illness. I did not walk out with an entirely new perspective. My college applications, mountains of schoolwork, suicidal thoughts, and ridiculously high standards for myself did not vanish, or even diminish really.
In reality, I am not an iPhone screen you can pay (what I think is an insane amount of money) to fix and be done with it. I have a lot of freaking problems. Sometimes it's way too much to deal with them. Sometimes I feel completely empty; other times, like a bomb in the process of exploding.
Here is what I have learned since November and am still trying to get through my head (I know this looks long, but if nothing else read these):
I wish these past few months were a funny story, but, honestly, they were awful. I wish I could pinpoint something that made me this way. I can't. It just is. Life keeps going. The world is still turning. We are all actually insignificant in it. That being said, the world will miss you and I when we are gone. So we should just take our time, find things and people we love and pursue them. The struggle is real, but in the end it will be worth it.
Breneman is a contributor for The Millennial Times.