Rejoining the Living

Seven years ago I was late to school. While I lay in bed, I heard my mom swear as she rushed up the stairs to hurry me along. I tried to smile, but could not. I felt her shake my body in a vain attempt to wake me. I strained to open my eyes, only to feel my mom check for my pulse; I could not move. Her response was to hold me. This experience would irrevocably alter the rest of my life. I shifted from a kid who had dreams, to a kid who had a burden. I stopped being described by my passion, but instead by my darkness.

Depression is what the doctors called it. I explained the shift as a loss of clarity. For the remaining eight months of my freshman year I slept, dreamlessly, occasionally waking to clutter journals with thoughts that were too upsetting to speak about. The novel I had so cleverly boasted about to my classmates was finished with a more dismal turn than originally intended, and then shoved to the back of my thoughts, as well as the hades of cyberspace on my computer.

The last remaining evidence of my passions became obsolete as I lost the ability to comprehend the books I read. Instead, magazines were bought, pictures cut out that reminded me of happier times and happier people. Those pictures went into a book of characters I would one day write. My older sister came to my room to bring me back to the light; I stared at her neck while she screamed, uncomprehending how her vocal chords could work when mine had so clearly been severed.

Summer came and it was determined I would re-start freshman year in the fall. I had failed to rejoin the living. The book of characters I hoped to write laughed at me and my silence, so I broke it. I asked to be sent to a place I had been told would save me: Silver Hill Hospital. In August of that summer I started writing again. Determined to be on the predetermined ‘right’ track of being a teenager, I continued on in school as if nothing had happened, “a bad case of pneumonia” spewed out of my mouth at those who questioned my absence the year before; the lie felt like ash chalking off my tongue. The day came when I accepted normal as overrated, realizing my story was more than simply standard.

‘Therapeutic boarding school’ became a frequent term in my vocabulary, slowly peeling back the layers that had been built in my mind. I started a new book venture, one that saw me through my years of abnormal high school, which rekindled my love of writing words. Occasionally, I close my eyes to remember that place I was in five years ago, and appreciate the difference between whom I was, and who I have now become, shining in my light, instead of dissolving away into the darkness.

Stefanie Kaufman