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
“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 the surface.
“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 many.”
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 situation.
“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 once.”
“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
“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 couldn’t.
“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 afternoon.
“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 all.”
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 done.
“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 yours.”
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 Mother.”
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 together.
“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.”
“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 life.
“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 want.”
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 slightly.
“Are you too cool?” my Mother asked as she noticed me shivering, “I can turn the air down if you like.”
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 strong.
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 before.
“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.
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