I was lost in my safe place far from the
world and those around me. At the age of sixteen I had done it
all and taken great pleasure in my own destruction. I had crossed
the line one time too many and now my punishment was this. My
Mother, God love my dear sweet sainted Mother, had locked me away
in a treatment center with nothing to show of my life, but the
healing scars on my wrists. How I hated and resented her for what
she had done. Didn't she understand the way I felt inside? Could
she not see how desperately I wanted the one thing I never
received from her?
"It's for your own good," my Mother had
said as she left me in the admission's office.
"My own good," I spat at her as she tried
to escape as quickly as possible, "Since when do you worry about
what's good for me?"
"You'll thank me someday," she said never
looking back at me.
"Yeah, right," I screamed as she closed
the door, "Thanks a heap!"
My life was filled with days of sessions,
treatments, and group. My, wasn't I the busy little bee? It
wasn't bad enough they made me sit with a bunch of twits and
crazies, so we could share our stories and problems, but they
tried to mess with my head with their drugs as well. I cursed my
Mother every day. It became a ritual with me. The cherry on top
was Mrs. Sunshine as I appropriately named her. Three days a week
she was my mentor for what they dubbed relaxation techniques. I
remember it all too well.
"Today, class," she would say with her
heavy Yankee accent, "We will be practicing our breathing
techniques. Now follow my lead."
On and on it went till one day I had
enough. My insolent and rather obnoxious side came bubbling to
"Could I please go to the Dollar Store?" I
asked her in mid-breath.
"What did you say, Miranda?" she replied
smiling that sugary smile of hers.
An evil and sadistic smile had made its
way to my lips. Was I going to be in trouble for this little
stunt? At the time I could have cared less. After all I was
mentally challenged or so they thought.
"I said," I answered, clearing my throat
and looking straight at her, "Could I go to the Dollar Store and
buy about a hundred balloons so you can blow them up for me?
Seems you have enough air to fill at least that
Wild hysterical laughter erupted from the
group. A look of horror appeared on her face and I could see
something that looked like fear in her eyes. She clapped her
hands together several times and regained control of the
"Outside now!" she bellowed as she pointed
her finger at me.
I sauntered toward the door and out into
the hallway. She closed the door behind us. I waited staring at
the clean sterile floors and the freshly painted walls for the
explosion. It never came. Instead a sigh escaped from Mrs.
Sunshine and she pulled me close in an embrace.
"I know it's hard," she said to me, "but
it will get better if you just try. I was where you were
"Sure, sure," I snapped at her, "I just
bet you were."
She pulled the sleeves up on the baby blue
turtleneck sweater and extended her arms so the wrists were
visible. There barely discernible were marks identical to the
ones on my wrists.
"Our secret," she said as she pulled the
sleeves back down, "I really have been there."
She led me back into the class and I
watched her as she finished the day's lessons. I felt a kinship
with her. This woman so bright, alive, and happy had once been in
the same hole I was buried in. Somehow she had turned it around
and maybe there was hope for me as well.
After class was over with I waited till
the others had left to watch television in the main hall. I stood
before her and wanted so desperately to tell her how sorry I was.
I could not find the words. They just would not come. I think she
realized my frustration. A radiant smile appeared on her cherub
like face and she touched my arm giving it a gentle squeeze. I
tried instinctively to pull my arm away, but
"It's okay, Miranda," she finally said
smiling at me, "I understand."
My stay at West Side was short, but Mary
and I became friends. I found out later Mrs. Sunshine's real name
was Mary White. She told me of her struggles as a teenager and I
told her mine. Mary had grown up with an abusive Father who had
raped her at the age of fourteen and her Mother had ignored it
all. Mary began to rebel against her parents. I remember one
conversation we had walking in the grounds one summer
"I had no friends or family who cared for
me," Mary had said sadly, "I started using drugs at age fifteen
and running with the wrong crowd. I stole, lied, used men, and
finally one night in a fit of desperation tried to end it
As she spoke the words I spied her gently
holding one of her wrists. A pensive look was on her face and I
could sense a deep remorse for what she had
"My Mother found me and they took me to
the hospital," Mary said, "They patched me up on the outside, but
my insides they couldn't fix. I became a ward of the state when
the authorities found out what had happened to me. My Father went
to jail and my Mother and I never spoke to each other again. She
blamed me for all of it."
"Here, I thought I had it bad," I
answered, "My life is a pleasure cruise compared to
I could hear a songbird singing a melody
high in one of trees as we walked the path back to the building.
The sun was warm on my back. I began to realize just how bad
others lives were in comparison to mine. We stopped for a moment
and rested on one of the ornate wrought iron benches just outside
the main entrance.
"The state put me in foster care and I was
fortunate," Mary said as she continued her story, "They placed me
with a woman who had gone through pretty much the same thing I
had gone through. I am sure it was not easy for her. You see; I
had lost faith in everyone and everything. She was there to help
me work it out and I finally saw what caring for someone meant. I
was withdrawn, temperamental, and hateful toward her. She just
overlooked it all and loved me anyway. It took time, but I came
around. I will always think of her as my real
I could feel my eyes becoming misty and
hollow. Mary pulled me close and I buried my face in her strong
shoulders and cried. I could not remember the last time I had
cried, but it felt good. My heart needed healing and so did my
soul. I will love her till the day I die for the things she
taught me in that short period of time we spent
"You know," Mary said after I had stopped
crying, "Your Mother does love you Miranda. She just doesn't know
where you are right now. She is terrified of losing you. I think
you need to really talk with her about things. It might surprise
"You may be right," I said drying the last
of my tears, "I'll think about it."
I completed my therapy and was discharged.
My last day at the clinic, Mary came and said good-bye to me. She
gave me one of those bear hugs she had mastered over the years. I
hoped I would see her again, but under better circumstances. I
had decided to try for her and myself to have a better
"Thank you," I said to Mary as my Mother
and I walked toward the entrance, "I will try."
"You take care of yourself Miranda," Mary
replied waving at me, "Just remember who you are and what you
My mother drove in silence. We had a two
hour drive until we would arrive home. I sat looking out of the
window as we traveled down the freeway. The drone of the car
engine was the only sound. I glanced my mother's way and shivered
"Are you too cool?" my Mother asked as she
noticed me shivering, "I can turn the air down if you
I shook my head in a negative manner and
went back to watching the passing buildings along the roadway. We
arrived home and I settled back into my life of a recovering
teen. I went on to make new friends at school. Good decent
friends that I still have today. I immersed myself in schoolwork
and school activities and stayed busy. My Mother and I had
established a type of restrictive relationship with one another.
Life seemed so much better and easier. I still experienced
moments of doubt and confusion, but remained
It was the last part of my senior year in
high school when word reached me that Mary White had died. A
massive coronary the newspaper stated. She was only fifty three
years old. I was stunned. It just could not be, not her. Tears
trailed down my face. My Mother who walked into the kitchen saw
my distress. Until that moment she had never touched, hugged,
held my hand, or kissed me. We had been polite to one another,
but never affectionate. She came and pulled me close to her and
stroked my hair as if I was a little girl again. The tiny chunk
of ice I had left embedded in my heart melted. It was like being
reborn and coming back stronger and more resilient then
"I am so sorry, Mom," I told her trying to
fight back the tears, "I never meant to hurt you all I wanted was
for you to love me."
"I do love you Miranda," she answered with
tears in her eyes, "I just did not know how to cope with what was
going on inside your head. I have always loved you and always
She hugged me again and we sat together in
our embrace. Sunlight filtered through the white lace curtains
and somewhere in the yard a songbird was singing. It was strange
but I felt as if Mary and I were there again outside the clinic
on that bench sharing our lives once more.
Years have gone by. My Mother and I stay
in close contact with each other. We finally learned the most
important lesson life can teach which is what we need is usually
what other's need. The most important need is to love and be
loved. I went on to college and became a child psychologist. In
my professional and personal life I have encountered many young
adults, both male and female, with the same problems I had
growing up. I only hope I helped a few as Mary White had helped
me. I learned at an early age how hard it is to grow up in a
world where we assume we know everything, especially at a young
age, when in actuality we know very little about the inner
workings of the human heart and mind.