When I was 13, I was put in a psychiatric hospital, where I had my first exposure to very real, very intense mental illness. I remember thinking that everyone there was nuts. I didn’t understand them. I didn’t want to. I stayed distant from everyone because I wanted nothing to do with crazy people. The idea of being surrounded by people “like them” was terrifying. Just a few months prior to this, Isaiah had told me that he wanted to die for the first time. I didn’t know how to react or how to help. I felt useless. I knew what it was like to want to die, but I didn’t know how to express that to Isaiah. Somehow, in my mind, I separated Isaiah from the kids in the hospital. I knew Isaiah. He was “normal”, he was on The Outside. It was different.
A few months after my discharge, I found myself in that hospital again. I honestly don’t remember much of that hospitalization. I think I’m trying to repress it (or I just have a really shitty memory). Regardless, I do remember the outpatient program that I went to after my hospitalization. That’s when I met a couple people that remain very important parts of my past and present. That’s when I realized that people in hospitals weren’t just random crazies that I would never be able to identify with. They were kids like me. The primary catalyst in this epiphany was a boy from my school named Dakota. I had only talked to him once or twice before the day he walked into the day hospital waiting room. He was the first person from The Outside that I had ever seen in one of the therapeutic settings, and that’s all it really took for me to realize that even “normal” people needed help sometimes.
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