I half-opened my eyes to the sound of the heavy door opening, a faint light shining through. A diminutive figure shuffled into my room, slumped onto the only other bed, and sat in silence.
Blinking myself more awake, I whispered to the small boy who I guess was my new roommate, “Don’t be afraid, I’m cool.”
He didn’t say much, but instead made a vague sound of affirmation and lay down. I did the same and wondered how this turn would affect my stay in this dismal place.
I was woken up the next morning by a middle-aged woman opening the door and yelling that it was time to wake up. Pleasant. That’s when I got my real first look at the newcomer. He was just a kid. Heck, who I was to talk? I was barely 16 myself. But he was a real kid. Maybe 13 at most. He stayed silent, as if still in shock from whatever event brought him into this place. In him, I could almost see myself just a few years prior if I hadn’t survived for so long. But like all emotion I had felt for the past four years, I locked those feelings down and tried to proceed along my day as if he wasn’t even there. Loneliness was a curse, yes, but also a comfort to my broken mind.
Nobody said much as the rest of the kids filed out of their rooms and sat to an almost inedible microwaved breakfast. It was just another day in the facility. I almost caught myself laughing at the scene of us trying to eat this mess. We’d have to be crazy to be here. Oh right. Supposedly we are.
I was told to take a pill after breakfast, and after seeing there was no option, I took it. My sci-fi enthralled mind was waiting for a sudden change to come over me, but I was left disappointed. To go along with the pill, I was sent into a room of very professional looking people. You know. The kind of people you can tell have several letters after their name, letters that don’t include jr or sr. The asked me questions which I tried to answer as best as I could, but no matter how hard I tried to be honest, they never seemed to believe me.
After some “school”, exercise, and “lunch”, we were given some quiet time. Sounds nice, right? Well, when your mind is plagued with thoughts of recent events, not such a great idea. I could still taste the powder from the airbag mixing with the dirt and dust. I could feel the panic that set in as I made the decision that would forever change my life. I could see the disgust in the paramedics’ eyes as they tied me to a gurney. I stopped myself before I went down that road again. How about a book? Yeah, that’s much better.
But for some reason I’ve never understood, good things can never last. Right as I was finally gathering some peace in this massively uncomfortable place, a nurse popped her head in and informed me and my silent roommate that it was visiting time…and that my parents were here.
I had no idea what was about to happen. We’ve barely spoken since…it happened. Every shred of peace I had was gone. Shaking and trying to control my breathing, I stepped out of my room to see them sitting at a table on the opposite end of the room. My body and my surroundings felt trapped in slow motion while my mind raced uncontrollably. Guilt and fear flooded my emotions, adding to the chaos of my thoughts. I somehow made my way over to them, and will never forget what they said to me. They told me that they now knew that I was suffering from a disease called Major Depressive Disorder. That they loved me and were there to help me get better. This was not at all what I was expecting. Though, to be honest, I didn’t know what I actually expected. My world was spinning in a tornado of emotion and new information, and I had no idea how to absorb it. When our time was up, they handed me some cards that my siblings had written for me and left with an awkward hug. After the brief interaction, I barely remember what just happened. I had so many emotions, yet so little feelings rushing through me. I was experiencing an overload of senses, yet was completely numb. Only a broken mind, could possible create a situation like this.
One more attempt at a meal and day one was over. Only two more days left to go. But something had now changed. I wasn’t just doing stuff to survive, I now had a goal. Somewhere to be. I now saw that I was sick, and I didn’t want to be sick anymore.
Day two passed mostly like day one had. Eat disgusting food, take a pill, answer strangers’ questions, do some stuff that I believe they thought was school, eat more “food”, exercise, quiet time, parents visit, and dinner. Just another normal day. Haha. Normal. That’s funny. But something interrupted the routine that day. It was right after lunch. One of the boys (let’s call him Mike) was super annoying. This kid obviously had issues unlike the rest of us who were trying to maintain our cool and pretend we weren’t in a psych ward. They let us watch TV after lunch, and we were sitting quietly when we heard yelling behind us. If you’ve never been in a place that’s essentially a prison for teens with severe psychiatric disorders, trust me when I say yelling and conflict do not go over very well.
We all turn around to see Mike arguing with a nurse about probably nothing, and he was not backing down. Immediately we’re forced into our rooms while they deal with this. Oh, and you should know something about me. I hate conflict. Just writing about this half-an-hour long confrontation gives me anxiety. Next thing you know, I hear a thump on the wall followed by what could only be Mike punching the wall over and over again. Alarms are ringing, people are yelling, but finally it all goes silent. I gave a small look at my shaking roommate. He was not doing well.
Finally, our door cracked open, and we were told to come out. To this day, I don’t know what set him off or how they calmed him down. But at the moment, that wasn’t my concern, I wanted to get out of there even more so now. When we finally saw Mike again sometimes later, he played it off like he was a bad boy who just got in trouble. Looking back, I can see how much pain he was in, and I wish I had the compassion that I have now.
I had made it through the second day. Finally. Dinner was over and everyone had left the table except for me and a young nurse who was sitting just a few feet from me. She looked at me is if confused, visibly thought for a few seconds, then leaned closer to me and asked me something that changed the course of my life.
“What’s a good kid like you doing in a place like this?”
I was shocked. I had thought of myself in any way positive in more than four straight years of crippling depression and definitely not attached the adjective “good” to myself or anything I did.
I mumbled some kind of answer along the lines of “I just made a bad decision”, but that question still follows me around. The fact that someone I didn’t know looked at me and told me I was good was unbelievable. I thought everyone hated me. I thought I was a burden who wouldn’t amount to anything. I wasn’t able to focus on the movie or anything else for the rest of the night. The next day was spent seemingly out of my body, not really focused on what was going on around me. I saw the sadness and pain in each of the children around me. We were just kids. Children in horrible circumstances. My roommate was 13 years old. I couldn’t stop thinking about why each of the others were in here, what they had gone through to have this extreme measure of imprisonment taken, and if something could have been done to prevent this.
I was informed that I’d be released the next morning since my three days of assessment were up. They had concluded that I was no longer a threat to myself or anyone else, but they mandated medication and regular therapy appointments.
My parents stood in the hallway that morning and without hesitation, I gave them a hug, collecting my things, and walked out with them. I said one final goodbye to my peers who had known so briefly, but had such a profound impact on me. I was taken immediately to a therapist my parents had found, and as I shook his hand and settled into the couch. I began to share my story.
“I’m Luke, and on December 3rd, 2012, after four years of suffering from undiagnosed major depression, I attempted suicide by driving a 12-seater van at 60 mph head-on into an oncoming vehicle. I want to feel better, and I want to help my peers who are suffering like I am.”
My therapist smiled understandingly and replied, “Luke, I’m so glad you’re still here.”
More about Luke:
Hi, I’m Luke! …and when I was little, I wanted more than anything to be an astronaut. Now, I’ve left such childish dreams behind…for much bigger ones. After suffering from undiagnosed Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) for four years as a teen, I survived a serious suicide attempt (watch my story video for more details). Once I was told I was suffering from a medical disease that I could overcome and that more than 1 in 4 of my peers were suffering like I was, I made it my mission to heal not only myself, but support others along the way. And so on September 7th, 2013, with the simple tagline of “Unashamed. (Period)”, U Can’t B Erased was born.
Check out his website here! https://www.ucantberased.com/
A video of Luke sharing his story on You Tube: https://youtu.be/yM3ayaNaehs