It feels like it was yesterday. They opened the door and I walked out of the building. When I had entered the institution, it was under a grey autumn sky, overcast and foreboding. Now, an April breeze caressed my lungs with my first breath of fresh air in seven months.
It’s been ten years, but it feels like it was yesterday. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the months I spent as a teenager imprisoned against my will in a “therapeutic boarding school” for “troubled teens.” Ten years ago, I left the facility. I’d say that I haven’t looked back, but to be completely honest with you, there are still times that I can’t look away.
Let me tell you a secret. Sometimes I still wake up at 3:48 am, thinking that I’m there, thinking I need to wait with my hand raised in the hallway for permission to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Some nights I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking about all of you who are still there.
I want you to know that you’re not alone. I want you to know that there are people out here now who know what you’re going through and are working to change it. It might not feel like much with everything you are enduring, but know that I am sending you strength and love and light to get you through.
I don’t know what you’re feeling. Maybe you’re playing tough, like I did. Maybe you’re resigned. Maybe you’re terrified. Maybe you don’t know how you’re going to make it through another night.
Don’t lose yourself there. This is vital. Keep yourself whole. They will try to break you down, flatten, and destroy you. Don’t let them. We need you in all of your vibrant passions and bright idiosyncrasies. Do whatever you need to do to make it out of there, but keep your self close, wrapped tight in your ribcage between your lungs. This is what kept me alive.
Breathe. Laugh whenever you can find the opportunity. Even if you have to laugh silently, laugh. This will keep you alive.
When you leave, you will shake off their punishments and structures, their shame and abuse, their taunts and bruises. You will unfold yourself and stand tall and proud, surrounded by all of us who have walked these paths before you. Stay strong. We’re out here, and we can’t wait to meet you.