How Thrifting has changed my Life

By: Lauren Crupi

During my childhood, shopping at thrift stores was a regular occurrence. I often reminisce about the days I would spend at my grandparents’ house, which were filled with Salvation Army trips and lunch stops at McDonalds. My parents are both hardworking individuals who never failed to provide for our family. They have always shopped smart and instilled the value of a dollar into my life at a very young age. 

I have always had a love for clothing. For me, fashion is a way with words. I was a bit introverted and quiet, but I found that my outfits could speak for me. At first when I began thrifting, I was on the lookout for brands such as PINK, Hollister and Abercrombie (since I was a middle schooler struggling to fit in and could not persuade my mom to purchase a hoodie for $60). Sooner or later I was sick of seeing every girl wear the same thing and decided to start shopping for “myself”.Thrifting allowed me to try out new styles that I never would have before since the price was right. Thrifting allowed me to develop a sense of style that I never had before.

I believe that highschool was my breakthrough for style. Although everyone’s highschool experience was different, I believe that my choice in attending a vocational school greatly influenced the way that I began to view myself and others. I never had a huge group of friends until I was accepted into the health assisting shop, which is basically pre-nursing. I was surrounded with 26 hardworking and bright women who empowered me and others everyday at school. Simple compliments about my outfits and just compliments in general allowed me to feel acceptance that I had never felt before. Although I am not continuing my career path in the health field, I credit my health assisting girls for instilling me with confidence that I still try to carry with me today.

The number one thing thrifting has taught me to not care about is size. For years I have struggled with body dysmorphia. I would panic when I would have to take pictures at an outing with my friends or family because I was ashamed with what I saw in the mirror everyday. It wasn’t until I looked at those photos that I appeared totally different from what I saw in my reflection. Thrifting has allowed me to focus on the piece, not the size. With vintage pieces especially, I’ve had to size up with most items and it has made me not worry as much about the size I am, as long as it fits and makes me feel good. I discovered that it was easy to personalize a piece to my liking, whether it was cropping a shirt or cutting jeans into shorts. These simple adjustments have not only helped me keep fashion fresh, but they allowed me to finally accept myself the way that I was. Thrifting has made me embrace and love the body I was given.

I believe that everyone should try to thrift something once in their lifetime. Thrifting gives back to the community and prevents waste that accumulates from fast fashion retailers. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been on the hunt for a certain item and ended up finding it or something extremely similar at the thrift. I remember when I thrifted my favorite pair of vintage Levi’s for five dollars and felt this rush that I soon knew I wanted to reach again.  Thrifting fashion is one of the ways that I try to reduce waste and help the environment. I know thrifting isn’t for everyone, but I recommend everyone to try it. Whether you attend a yard sale, flea market, or thrift store, you are impacting the world and community in a sustainable way. Thrifting has changed my life and it could definitely change yours too.

Pride 2020 Makeup Looks

June is Pride Month. I have been fortunate enough to have openly out, safely and proudly for almost a decade now. Normally, at this time in the year I would be gearing up to swap out my perpetually dark and alternative outfits for a more colorful ensemble to hit the streets for the New York City Annual Pride Parade. Pride month as well as Pride parades are chances to freely express all your gay self as loudly and flamboyantly as you’d like to. 

This year, Pride parades everywhere were cancelled for the global pandemic, as they should have been. When my workplace decided that last week would be a Pride spirit week, my coworkers and I rejoiced. Although it was entirely digital, it warmed my heart to see photos of my coworkers, gay, straight and everything in between, decked out in a different rainbow color each day. I did my own spin, because I genuinely only own 5 colored shirts max, so I decided to do a different makeup look everyday for the last 9 days of Pride month. Here they are!

Day 1: Red- Life

For day one, I went with a bold sparkly red eye look, paired with an equally bold red lip. Red represents life, which is why my “Vagina is not a dirty word” shirt comes perfectly in handy for this look. Finished off with a red bandana for a little Rosie the Riveter vibes and voilà!

Day 2: Orange- Healing

For day two, I decided on a very graphic and experimental orange winged eyeliner, outlined in black. Orange meaning healing, I wanted to represent the tough journey that healing can be with some sharp edges and guarded wings. This is my least favorite color but one of my favorite looks in this series. Paired with a muted shiny copper lipstick, an orange bandana and sheer polka dotted top, I think this risky combo was pulled off in the end.

Day 3: Yellow- Sunlight

For day three, I chose to focus on a more golden palette, doing a graphic doubled-back eyeliner on a sparkly gold shadowed lid. I wanted the eyeliner to emulate the cycle the sun makes through the sky every day to give its light to us. I paired this look with some sun shaped gold earrings and a mustard colored striped turtleneck.

Day 4: Green- Nature

For day 4, I went with a very basic black winged eyeliner on my lid, and reflected it in green in a half circle above my lid. I wanted this to represent the balance in nature. I wore an off the shoulder olive green crop top and kept the rest of my face and jewelry clear for a more natural look.

Day 5: Blue- Harmony

For day 5, I completely switched it up and did my regular eye look, and a striking blue lip. For harmony, I wanted to create balance between the blue of my eyes and the blue of my lips. Dressed in a denim shirt, large hoops earrings and my hair twisted back, I felt like the perfect harmony of masculine and feminine in this fit.

Day 6: Purple- Spirit

For day 6, I went BOLD, because purple is my favorite color. In the spirit of drag culture, I did a large sparkly purple wing outlined in white and black eyeliner, with drawn on bottom eyelashes. I put on my beautiful purple velvet cold shoulder turtleneck shirt and tied my hair up in a bun.

Day 7: Black + Brown- Black and POC Queer People

For day 7, I wanted to focus on showcasing these two colors as boldly as I could, with a brown and black smokey eye with a black and metallic brown lip to match. This day was to recognize and celebrate the two incredibly necessary black and brown stripes added to the Philly Pride flag in 2017. Pride was a riot started by queer people of color and their representation on the LGBTQ+ pride flag is so very important.

Day 8: The Pansexual and Nonbinary Flag

For day 8, I wanted to represent my own identities. I went with a simple blended eyeshadow look, my left eye including the colors of the pansexual flag, on my right the colors of the nonbinary flag, and a winged eyeliner with accompanying dots. With a lot of color on the eyes, I kept the lips a light neutral pink, and the outfit a simple black tank because black is my favorite color.

Day 9: The 2020 Pride Flag

For day 9, I wanted to go all out and recreate the 2020 Pride Flag on my lid. Complete with 6 rainbow stripes, and a chevron including the black and brown stripes for black and POC queer people, and the white, blue and pink of the trans flag. Complemented with a dark berry lip and sparkles galore, I think this look perfectly wraps up my Pride looks for the year.

Although we could not do what we might normally do to celebrate pride this year, it is in our hearts every day. It was fun, even just for myself and a small part of the internet to celebrate in my quiet, personal way. All my love to the LGBTQ+ community and allies; Happy Pride Month, this month and every month.🌈

Honor, Trust, and Selflessness: Supporting Someone with PTSD

Disclaimer: this article discusses and mentions topics such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and sexual assault, which may be triggering for some.  

art print by kikicastel
art print by kiki castel

There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ way to love somebody, but there are common morals and responsibilities that we should bring into every friendship and relationship: trust, compassion, respect, and communication. When you love somebody who has been diagnosed with PTSD and gone through considerable trauma in his or her life (warfare, car accidents, assault, etc.), it can require even more patience and selflessness to establish a sense of safety and love between the two of you. More than anything else, it’s a reminder that it’s not all about you: it’s about keeping your partner safe and respecting their boundaries, their feelings, and of course, their trauma.

Another reminder I’d like to point out (and this applies to all types of relationships): is to remember that you are not your partner’s therapist, and they are not yours. Of course it is important (and frankly necessary) in any relationship to have a sense of open communication and unconditional support, but that does not mean you have to disregard your own emotional needs. Love is give and take!

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and with that in mind, I want to talk about why dedicating nurturing patience into these relationships is so important, and, from personal experience, what we can do to make our partners feel safe and protect their vulnerability.

When I refer to a survivor of sexual abuse as ‘vulnerable’, I do not mean it in a sense that they are weak or defenseless. What I do mean is this: PTSD entails a wide variety of devastating symptoms, including flashbacks, disturbing thoughts and feelings, mental distress, suicidal ideation, and increased fight-or-flight response. Survivors of repeated, prolonged abuse may exhibit ‘fawning’ symptoms, or a display of people-pleasing behavior to subside conflict. In a general sense, individuals with PTSD can feel an overwhelming desire to mirror the expectations and desires of other people, and neglect standing up for themselves. With all of that in mind, here are ways you can support your loved one with PTSD or a background in sexual trauma in a way that is encouraging, supportive, and gentle.

Perhaps one of the most important things to remember when approaching a friend or partner with trauma: respect their boundaries. While clear communication and honesty is extremely important in any friendship or relationship, that does not mean your partner is obligated to tell you every detail or answer every question you have about their trauma or incident. If he or she is visibly uncomfortable with the conversation and wishes not to speak about any subject, respect that and switch topics immediately. Additionally, if a conversation about trauma does come up, you should not be the one dictating that conversation – it is up to your friend or partner if they choose to start speaking about it. If your partner or friend struggles with anxiety or depression as a result of their PTSD, do not force or coax them into situations which may heighten these illnesses. Signs that someone may be uncomfortable with a situation or dealing with anxiety include sudden quietness, nervous ticks, or obvious discomfort from their body language. It is always important to establish your boundaries at the beginning of the relationship, and make sure your inner circle is aware of these boundaries as well to avoid uncomfortable situations. 

Arousal does not equal consent. Ask for clear, verbal consent before engaging in any sexual activities with your partner. If he or she expresses discomfort with any activity or expresses a need to stop, it is your responsibility and obligation to respect that. Your partner does not owe you an explanation for this! Their safety is more important than your satisfaction.

Offer emotional support, resources, and positive affirmations. Remind your partner that they are strong, valued, appreciated, and honored. Thank them for the little joys and favors they bring into your life. Text your partner or leave them notes reminding them how beautiful and important they are. It’s a small effort, but to someone who may be struggling with anxiety, depression, or negative body image, these small reminders can mean the world. Emphasize to your partner that there are resources available and countless people who love him/her, if he ever needs additional support.

Before making a decision together, double-check that your partner is okay with this choice and make sure their voice is heard. This ties back to the fawning behaviors and tendencies sometimes exhibited by individuals with PTSD. Your partner may be afraid to tell you how they really feel about a decision or admit that they don’t want to do something, because they are afraid of letting you down or not pleasing you enough. Remind your partner that his or her voice matters, and ensure as much as possible that they can say ‘no’ any time they feel uncomfortable with a decision or frankly just not up to it. 

Be wary of triggers. Like I said before, survivors of trauma may experience flashbacks or uncomfortable feelings when their memories or PTSD is triggered. If your partner has a negative body image, avoid talking about your weight or comparing your body to theirs. If your partner has attempted suicide, don’t make jokes that you’re ‘going to kill yourself’ when something goes wrong (For real, please don’t make jokes about that in general.) If you’re planning on seeing a movie or watching a show that may contain triggering content, make sure you and your partner are aware of this ahead of time, to the best of your ability. 

I hope this article is helpful and informative for all of you! I’m not an expert or a psychologist or anything like that, but like I said, I have been able to improve my relationships and maintain healthy communication with my loved ones through taking these actions. And like I said, most situations are not one-size-fits-all, so please be flexible and adaptable with your loved ones depending on their exact situation!

If you are a survivor of sexual assault or any debilitating trauma, please know that there are resources available for you! The national hotline for sexual assault (US) is 1-800-656-4673. Additionally, if you suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts, please do not go through this alone and reach out to an outlet or person you trust. The national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Stay safe, everyone, and love each other! 

 

Rainy Day Diaries: Sustainable Fashion Edition

By: Lauren Crupi

During the last couple of weeks, I have found myself ridden with boredom. Scrolling through Instagram gets old quick, and thus has forced me to think of better ways to spend my time. As a fashion major, I’m constantly trying to stay up to date with trends as well as pieces in my own closet. There are too many times I buy something with a vision, but that vision never comes to life. During this freetime, I have taken it upon myself to rework some pieces I own into articles that will become weekly staples in my wardrobe. 

  1. The Recycled Rucksack

The first project I wanted to attempt involved many pairs of pants. On a few thrift trips, I gathered some awesome pairs of jeans, all of which didn’t fit me. The material was too good for the price so I purchased them anyway. After these sat in my closet for months, I finally found a use for these gorgeous pairs of pants: a backpack. I have attempted to make backpacks in the past but have failed miserably. This time around, I didn’t base it off of a particular tutorial, but instead picked parts from different videos I’ve watched in the past. I feel that tutorials can be quite intimidating, especially when you’re a rookie seamstress (like myself). If you have the mindset that the finished project doesn’t have to look perfect or like the one in the video, you won’t be as hard on yourself. This allowed me to take risks and design the bag to my liking, such as using the corduroy as pockets and straps for my bag. Overall, I’m more than happy with the turnout. If you would like to try to make a bag similar to the one I have here, I have found this tutorial by Dub Dub to be the most helpful:

  1. Distressed Denim

Although this is not something new, I find distressing denim to be timeless and worth the results. The distressing process alleviates my stress and allows for me to completely focus on the outcome. The pair of shorts pictured here were once a pair of jeans. I tried the jeans on and marked where I thought a good short length would be, and a bit further down to allow for some room because I like to cuff my shorts. After I cut them, I ran the edge of my scissors against the edge of the legs to fray the hem a bit. Finally, I  tossed them in the washer and dryer! Poof! A new pair of shorts! This is a great way to repurpose old denim in your closet that you want to keep, but don’t know what to do with.

  1. Easy Tie Dye Hoodie

This project is for the people who have too many hoodies that they don’t know what to do with them. While cleaning out my closet, I realized the hoodie abyss was real. This Post Malone hoodie was one of my favorites, but I haven’t found myself wearing it lately. I couldn’t depart with it, so I decided to bleach it instead. I pinched the center and twisted the sweatshirt clockwise until I gathered all of the fabric into a spiral. Then, I placed three rubber bands around the sweatshirt to keep the spiral intact and poured bleach all over the piece. Keep in mind that bleach can be messy to work with and can ruin the clothes you are working in. Whenever I bleach something, I wear a shirt that I bleached in the past so nobody can tell if bleach gets on it. I love the bleaching technique because you can apply it to so many articles of clothing and accessories,and it’s cheap!

  1. Simple 2 Piece Set

I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes I like to make things from scratch. As much as I love to reuse and upcycle clothes, sometimes I forget about the hoard of fabric I’ve accumulated over the past few months. In the pile of fabric, I picked this stretchy soft knit material that looked so cozy. I thought it would be the perfect fabric to make a cute and functional loungewear set. I made the tanktop based off of one I already owned. I folded the tanktop I had in half and placed it on the folded line of fabric. I traced the shirt but left a few inches for seam allowance. I folded the shirt in half the other way to get the backside of the shirt and repeated the same step. Finally, I made hems on the armpits, neckline, and bottom of the tank and sewed it together. It came out a little lopsided, but you can’t tell when it’s layered with a cardigan. As for the shorts, I followed ThePolkadotter’s tutorial on YouTube on how she sews a pair of shorts by only using 5 steps. I found this tutorial super easy to understand and follow compared to others. I am satisfied with the result and realized my errors. This will be a staple during these coming warm months.

ThePolkadotter’s Tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyUktOAc7bw&t=299s

  1. Painted Denim Jacket

Everyone needs a little paint in their lives. I have seen painted denim jackets in recent drops, on Depop accounts, and all over Instagram. I painted this jacket a few months ago but still wanted to include it. There are so many ideas for painted denim. I chose the Magical Mystery Tour album cover by the Beatles. I also sewed on painted patches I made out of a canvas bag I didn’t use anymore. I used acrylic paint, which was my downfall. As a broke college student, that was my only option at the time. But, if I planned it out better I would have used fabric or textile paint. Acrylic paint tends to come out in the wash and also makes the denim stiff. Put on your favorite playlist and paint! I never paint, but I found this project super fun and relaxing.  

I hope these projects inspire anyone who is looking for something to do. Although we are going through a tough time right now, I want to remind everyone to stay positive and creative. Let any ideas you have flourish! Try something new everyday. Stay present. Stay focused.

I was Trapped…

Trigger Warning! This passage has mentions of Sectioning, Suicidal Ideations, and Self Harm. Please read only if you feel it is safe to do so.

I was always under the impression that you can trust health care professionals. They’re there for your best interests; to keep you safe and healthy. They would never force you into anything for their own gain or to save their own backs, right? That’s what I always thought, and I can safely assume that for a majority of doctors out there. However, there is always an exception to the rules.

I was going to see a free counselor weekly. That was my only treatment plan and, for a while, it was working. But sometimes talking is not enough and my counselor suggested I go to my PCP to ask for medication. I agreed and made an appointment with a doctor right down the street. I had been on SSRIs before, so I figured the prescription would be easy to renew.

Despite this, I walked to the appointment terrified. My mental illness was always one of my biggest secrets; I could count on one hand the people who knew. As I walked down the street, everything that could possibly go wrong spun in my head. One thought repeated itself more than the others. What if he doesn’t believe me?  That was the fear that was holding me back for years. I was always convinced that, if I were to express how I was actually feeling to others, they would either not believe me, thinking I was trying to be trendy, or, on the complete other side of the coin, they would believe me too much.There was such a stigma about mental illness, there was no way to know how people would react. 

I had finally arrived at the office and sat in the waiting room. At this point, I was shaking. As I was trying to think of any excuse to get up and go home, I heard my name called. I slowly stood up, briefly debated making a run for it, but ultimately changed my mind and followed the nurse into the examination room.

After she finished the routine blood pressure and weight checks, the nurse left the room and I was alone with my thoughts. There’s no going back now. I tried to shake the fear out of me. He’s a doctor, he won’t judge you. Eventually, there was a knock at the door and Dr. Johnson walked in. 

He asked me why I was there and I explained that I had been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder at age sixteen but had not been medicinally treated since I was eighteen, just over two years ago. I told him my previous prescription and that I wanted to start it up again. Then Dr. Johnson started asking the hard questions. 

“Have you ever cut yourself?”

“Yes. Routinely between the ages of nine and nineteen.”

“Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?”

“Yes. I’ve actually attempted it.”

“How?” 

“I… hung myself from a ceiling fan”

“When?”

“Two years ago.”

I then explained that I was in a very bad place back then, with absolutely no treatment plan and no one I felt I could reach out to. I insisted that I did not feel that way anymore. I explained how much my counselor has helped and how I have been opening up to my sister and boyfriend a lot more. I was actively asking for help.  I was no longer actively suicidal. 

I watched as he wrote everything on his chart. I was clearly scared, each one of my answers getting quieter and quieter. He then asked me if I currently had a “plan”. I told him that I did not, repeating again that I was not actively suicidal. He asked two more times and then said, “If you did have a plan, what would you use?” 

This seemed like a really weird question, but I figured it was routine so I played along.  I thought about it for a minute. I had not considered this at all, so I had to think of everything at my disposal. “A belt? I guess?” He wrote the answer in his chart.

“Ok. I am going to suggest that you stay overnight at the hospital.” I immediately started crying and objecting. Dr. Johnson explained it would only be for one night. This was the first lie. I refused again and so he came up with a middle ground. “If I bring a psychologist and they agree you should get further examined, would you agree?” I thought for a second. A psychologist must hear things like this every day, she’ll understand. Hesitantly, I agreed and Dr. Johnson walked out, saying he would be back with the psychologist. At least he believed me.

He returned a minute later not with a psychologist, but a transport team. I started crying even harder, scared and confused. The transport team tried to put me into a wheelchair, but I declined, saying I would be compliant and walk. A montage of movie clips flashed in my head of people refusing, just to have the doctor subdate them, eventually waking up strapped in a bed.As I was walking out, I asked Dr. Johnson if I was being admitted into the hospital. He assured me, no, I was not being admitted, I was just being brought to the Psychologist’s office.

The transport team took me across the hospital to the E.R. Admissions Desk.

The transport team gave the desk all of my information, while I stood silently behind them, tears running down my face. After a few minutes, the woman behind the desk printed out a bracelet and wrapped it around my wrist. I was officially a patient of the hospital. 

I was terrified and confused. I had never been admitted into a hospital before. I had no idea about the routine or procedure of the hospital, I had officially lost all control of what happened to me next. It seemed so much bigger than going to the doctors office. This was no longer a routine appointment, now there was something wrong with me.

I sat in the E.R for five hours before the psychologist came. The nurse brought me some coloring pages (I was in the pediatric wing), and I distracted myself as best as I could, having absolutely no control over what was happening to me.

Finally, the psychologist came in. She asked me about my medical past, reading my chart as we talked. I repeated the entire conversation I had with Dr. Johnson. Then, looking up from the chart for the first time, she asked, “What about the belt?” I explained that Dr. Johnson had made me come up with a plan, that I had not thought about anything until he asked me.

 The psychologist didn’t believe me.

She told me I was going to be in the hospital for at least the next 72 hours. When I said Dr. Johnson said it would only be overnight, she said that they don’t do that. The earliest I could be released was three days from now.  She then handed me a contract, saying that, unless I was seen as a danger to myself or others, the hospital legally had to release me after the three days. All of this seemed so sudden; I could barely get a grip on what was happening before a new piece of information was thrown my way. This was all new territory for me. I was barely an adult! I was not ready for these life changing decisions! My family was on the other side of the country, so I couldn’t even turn to them for support. I signed it, not knowing what else to do. 

After she left, another transport team came in and escorted me to the psych ward. I grabbed my bag, which my roommate quickly threw together when I called and explained what was happening, and walked to a conference room. A nurse walked in after us, sat me down, and explained the legal side of what was happening. He then said he had to confiscate my phone, which I was not expecting. I started crying yet again and explained that I need my phone, not to talk to people or go online, but to listen to something while I slept. I have awful night terrors and the only way to calm them is to distract myself with dialog. He looked me dead in the eyes and laughed,  “I mean I can stand over your bed and talk to you all night.” I didn’t think it was funny. 

I finally gave up my phone, still wanting to be compliant. On top of my phone, the nurse confiscated all my sweatshirts and my shoes; anything with a removable string. They brought me to my room and I laid down, terrified and still not entirely sure what was happening, and cried myself to sleep. 

The next day I was woken up at 6:00 am to get blood drawn. Afterward, I went to breakfast, where I met everyone else in the ward: A girl about my age who was completely monotone, a recovering alcoholic who had relapsed, a girl who was assaulted and started thinking of hurting her attacker, a man who had been paralyzed from a car wreck and started losing the will to live, and an old lady who was convinced she was dating a country star she had never met, who talks to her through pictures on Facebook. We were quite the Brady Bunch. Everyone seemed surprisingly normal, no one was in a straight jacket or rocking in the corner. They could tell I was not happy being there and started to comfort me, saying they all took care of each other. My eyes started to dry for the first time in 24 hours. 

I then met my team. It consisted of a doctor and a caseworker. We sat in the conference room and they explained their roles. The doctor was there to diagnose me and prescribe me medication, while the caseworker was there to find me an outpatient psychologist and psychiatrist. They then asked me to go over my symptoms yet again and I went over the same story I had repeated one thousand times in the past day. I then said something that piqued my doctor’s interest. I explained that I have thoughts that I can not control, as if someone else is in my head. I now understand that it is just my brain trying to conceptualize my illnesses, but I did not have the language to explain that back then. I had never told anyone about the “voices” back then, and stated, “I don’t want you guys to think I’m crazy.” The caseworker smiled and said, “We don’t think you’re crazy, do we, Dr. Miller?” This made me feel a little better, until Dr. Miller answered, “Well what you’re describing is psychosis, so in that case, you may very well be crazy.” I was shocked, unable to say anything. Was I actually crazy?

I explained my symptoms further and Dr. Miller decided I was, in fact, not experiencing psychosis. She decided my diagnoses,making it four in total now, and wrote me a prescription. She then explained that, because I was a student, she was going to write a note saying I could have my computer for an hour a day. My caseworker then explained that, while she worked to find me outpatient care, I had to find someone I could stay with after I was released. I agreed and we went our separate ways.

I immediately ran to the phone and called my aunt, she was the closest living relative and I knew I could turn to her. I explained the situation and she was rightfully shocked. She was not even aware of my MDD diagnosis, let alone my history with self-harm. She agreed to let me stay with her and came that afternoon with new shoes and games to entertain myself. 

The next few days actually were not that bad. I was starting to bond with the other patients and spent most of my time in the OT room doing arts and crafts. Art had always been a coping skill for me; a way to completely forget about the world around me and focus on my breathing. Despite being physically trapped in a single hallway, my mind was free. One problem, however, was the orderlies still refused to give me my computer. I could deal with that, though, until the third day, when my caseworker came up to me and said she needed to talk.

Nothing could ruin my mood that day. It had officially been 72 hours, I was finally going home. I was free. I smiled up at her and asked what she wanted to talk about.  She looked at me solemnly and said “I don’t know if you’re going home today. We still have some work to do.” My heart dropped. I stared at her in shock and followed her to the conference room. I sat down at the table, where Dr. Miller was already waiting for us. The caseworker then went on to explain that, even though they both agreed I was indeed not a harm to myself or others, I had to stay a little longer because my caseworker had not been able to find outpatient care for me. Apparently, the three days I was there, she had only made two calls, one to a psychologist and one to a psychiatrist, and they had not answered. I was bawling my eyes out at that point, barely able to breathe. We all agreed to drop the conversation until my aunt arrived.

An hour later, my aunt showed up and we all went back into the conference room. I asked the doctor how I could possibly be held here if they knew I was not a harm to myself. It did not seem legal. Dr. Miller then explained that if I did not agree to retract my contract, she would take me to court. I sat in shocked silence. This could not be happening; how was I continuing to be punished for someone else’s mistakes? She then continued to threaten me saying I could not leave until the court case was over, and it would take up to eighteen days just for the paperwork to be filed. This was the last thing I wanted to happen. I talked it over with my aunt for a minute and we decided it would be best for me to retract the contract. I signed the new paperwork and then turned to my caseworker. I asked her how she planned to ensure that I will be released as soon as possible. She looked me in the eye and said she would not make any more calls. She would wait until the two people called her back, and she could not guarantee that happening. She said I was free to do my own research and find my own doctors. My aunt stepped in at this point and asked how I was supposed to do that, I did not have access to my computer. Dr. Miller then admitted at that point that she never actually wrote the permission note to give me access to my laptop. My aunt insisted that she write and submit it right then and there. 

After the meeting, my aunt and I came up with a plan. She called my sister, who we were both in contact with the entire time, and we all agreed to share an excel sheet of every available psychiatrist and psychologist in the area. We split the sheet into thirds and spent the next day making calls. After each of us calling around twenty offices, I finally got two appointments for a week from then. Now, I just had to wait for the doctors to call the hospital and confirm our meetings. 

It took three more days, but finally, my caseworker called me into the conference room. “You’ve clearly done a lot of work in the past few days. A psychiatrist and psychologist have confirmed your appointments. We already called your aunt, she’s coming to pick you up at lunchtime.” 

Finally, I was leaving. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had control of my life. Looking back now, a little over a year later, I can see the way this traumatizing experience has helped me. It put me on the right track, and started a comprehensive treatment plan to help me get through every day.  Most importantly, it forced me to ask for help from people I never thought I would. A strong support team formed from that experience, and I know now I can reach out to my aunt, my boyfriend, or my sister and they will drop everything to help me. Because of the supports created there, my mental health has made a complete 180 and I am genuinely happy for the first time in a decade. It taught me a lesson that I desperately needed to learn: even in the darkest tunnels, there is always a light at the end.