A shooting at my “alma mater”

9 Mar

I was a patient at Western Psych for a number of months my 10th grade year of high school. My parents had admitted me – against my will – for anorexia. At 64 pounds, I was a walking skeleton, pressing on with straight A’s at school while battling some hardcore demons in my teenage brain. I still remember the day I was admitted. I was called to the office during study hall, and walked in to find my mom and dad sitting there – my mom near tears at the counselor’s table. I knew some serious shit was about to go down as soon as I saw them.

Before I could turn to run, they assured me that everything was cool. They were just there because a few teachers were worried about me. They wanted to take me to the doctor to be checked out – make sure I was healthy. In my naive 15-year-old mind, I actually believed them. I actually thought I could outsmart anything or anyone they threw at me. A few hours later, my mom handed me a suitcase and left me standing in the ‘admit’ area of Western Psych’s COPE ward – with no idea how long I’d be there, or what I was about to face.

Even then – some 19 years ago – I can remember almost every detail of that place, and that experience. The heavy clink of the door to our “ward” which locked in both directions – in and out. The light feeling of the night nurses putting their ears to my chest the first few weeks I slept to make sure I was still breathing. The humiliation of having nurses watch me shower … and use the restroom … for fear I would hurt myself or purge what I’d eaten. For an extreme introvert – and an extremely private person – I was nearly pushed over the emotional edge, just by the nature of being watched and examined so closely.

In the years that followed, I would lie to my parents thousands of times about my mental “wellness” just in fear of them admitting me again if they knew how sick I was. There were times in college that I would literally lay in bed at night holding my chest because it hurt so badly … praying to God to let me make it through the night – promising that the next day I would eat, I would do better. And the next morning, I would start my rituals of starvation all over again …

I realize that as of now, the motive for this shooting is unclear. It hasn’t even been announced whether the shooter was an employee, or a patient — or a prospective patient. If the latter, I feel an even heavier heart because I know first-hand the sense of fear – anger – frustration – that one feels when they’re at their deepest and most profound point of despair. I know that if I had had a gun when I was admitted to Western Psych that night, I wouldn’t have used it on those around me – but I may have easily turned it upon myself. That’s how far I would have gone to avoid what was coming to me.

I don’t write this post to get into a “gun control” debate. (Truthfully, in cases like this, there would be little reason to try to debate with me at all.) I’m thankful that I grew up in a house where I didn’t have access to a gun, and that guns never even occurred to me as being an “option” for the things I was going through – however difficult. I guess my point is – it shouldn’t be easier to find a gun than it is to find a friend. For all of our sake, I hope that changes.

Prayers for all.


4 Responses to “A shooting at my “alma mater””

  1. Sharona Guggenheim March 9, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Thanks for sharing this profound, turbulent and emotion-filled part of your life, Jessica. Glad you’ve made it 19 years and counting, with two beautiful children. Wishing you many more with mental clarity and emotional healing.

  2. Fran aka Redondowriter March 9, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing your deeply personal story. I am so sorry you had to go through that but your story has undoubtedly touched a lot of people who will read it. I have a friend whose granddaughter is struggling similarly right now and she’s only 13.

  3. Sangeeta March 22, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    I admire what you went through, Jessica, and your courage for sharing this story now. It will resonate with millions of women who may never find themselves in a psych ward but struggle with the feelings alone, all their lives. I hope they read your story. Hugs Friends Love, yes, and no to guns.

  4. svenz December 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    so very touching.

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