"How are you feeling today, Kailin?" asked the hospital's middle-aged child psychiatrist. He gazed at me through his oversized glasses—pen to paper, ready to start scribing.
"I want to go home," I said loudly.
"Unfortunately, we can't let you do that right now, Kailin. You were hurting yourself at home, remember?"
My eyes narrowed at his conniving face. My insides were boiling. I needed to get out of this place. Whether they were trying to help me or not, being held against my will was not what I wanted.
It was late at night by the time I made it to the children's psychiatric hospital in the back of an ambulance. I thought that was pretty over the top—making a girl ride strapped to a gurney just for a few cuts on her arms. But, perhaps my relaxed perception of self-mutilation was part of the problem, to begin with.
Upon arrival, it started to sink in that I was being locked up. It didn't fully click until my parents were leaving the building that I was in a strange place with zero connection to the outside world. I didn't yet have a cellphone and had no access to a computer.
All potentially sharp objects were confiscated and I was forced to use plastic silverware. Any item resembling a rope, like a shoelace or a belt, was taken from me so I couldn't make a noose and hang myself. I realized really quickly that this place was not fucking around.
The first few days were really horrible for me. I couldn't stop crying and uncontrollably shaking. I never spent much time away from home and was completely traumatized.
I wouldn't confide in or trust the staff because I felt they looked at me like I wasn't human. This was about the time the "crazy" label started being part of my personal brand. But, in my heart, I really felt like I didn't belong there.
I wasn't out of my mind like these other kids.
My roommate had multiple personalities and severe self-harm. Her arms looked like something from a slasher film. I had to call her different names depending on the time of day. One girl held a knife to her mother's throat because she wouldn't let her see a boy. The kid down the hall did nothing but scream himself to sleep at night.
"I'm not crazy," I said to the doctor.
He let out a long sigh—resting his clipboard on his lap. "No one said you're crazy, Kailin, you just need a little help balancing the chemicals in your brain."
"My brain is fine. My surroundings just sucked." I looked him straight in the eyes.
"I swear to you, I'm not trying to kill myself and I'm not delusional. I've just had a hard couple of years. I get that what I did was wrong and I don't need any more help."
"Are you taking your pills?" He picked back up his pen.
"Dude, I don't have a choice. They check under my tongue every time. I'm under arrest here, remember?" I put my wrists together resembling handcuffs—trying to be funny. The doctor didn't laugh.
This trip to crazy-town marked my kick-off with the one-size-fits-all miracle pill competition. You know, the pharmaceutical cocktails doctor upon doctor began prescribing me for my "broken" brain.
After a week or two of ingesting chemicals, participating in group discussions, telling the doctors what they wanted to hear, and eating all my vegetables—they let me be released.
At this point in the story, we're going to travel through time a little bit.
I didn't really learn or heal anything during my hospital stay and because of that, I was, in turn, handed the same repeating hard lessons over and over again for many years.
I couldn't face going back to school after everyone knew I went to a psych ward—so I moved to Maryland to live with my dad.
It broke my heart to leave my best friend Shanise, but it just so happened she ended up moving away shortly after I did. We stayed in touch long-distance, talking on AIM every single day like always.
Speaking of those repeating lessons, I started making some sketchy new friends in Maryland. I got a boyfriend, did a bunch of drugs, got dumped, and wound up with 15 thin slices down both of my arms one day before school.
Back to the loony bin.
This stay was at a different hospital, but all the same jive. They changed my meds. Slapped a few new possible diagnoses on me—bipolar II, generalized anxiety disorder, adolescent depression, etc. My cocktail transformed, adding in mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, and Benzodiazepines.
At this point, I started to forget what being me actually felt like. I just felt like a shell of something that may resemble a human being. I couldn't face going back to my new school in Maryland after crazy-town trip numero dos, so I moved back home to PA with my mom.
Shanise was no longer living there, so I had to face the high school halls alone. I felt invisible and like everyone hated me, so I began refusing to go to school and my relationship with my mom completely deteriorated.
I bounced back and forth again between my dad's new house with a girlfriend he met and her 4 kids, back to my mom's, then to my grandma's.
Grandma lived in a small income-based apartment for seniors and I was not supposed to be there. I hid out for months snorting her pain pills to get high and meeting random dudes on the internet.
By some miracle, after a few months of drug addiction and reckless behavior, Shanise moved back to our hometown. It was the blessing I needed because having her friendship lit back up the forever dark cloud I kept being trapped under.
I finally had my best friend back! looked up to her and admired her free spirit so much. Shan was outgoing, spontaneous, and the first of one of us to get piercings and tattoos.
She rocked the most stunning platinum blonde hair, had her tongue pierced, and was super into live music. Her all-time favorite band was a hardcore group named Thursday.
Like a badass, she had their band logo (a dove) permanently engraved on the top of her foot.
After our long awaited reunion, every day was the Kailin and Shanise show. I swear there was not one time she couldn't cheer me up. Whenever I'd slip into a negative headspace, she'd make some ridiculous joke, referencing a silly inside story that only we would understand. She was my sister, my best friend, and my caretaker all in one.
By the time Shan and I were both 18—my pill addiction started coming back with a vengeance. One night after running out of drugs I started having strange withdrawal hallucinations.
My grandma was able to calm me down, but the next morning I ended up in a breakdown. This was the first time I actually asked to be taken to the hospital.
When I got out, I really wanted to make a change in my life. With both of us ready for something new, Shanise and I asked my cousin in New Jersey if we could move out there for a fresh start. She agreed, and like two peas in a pod, we packed up our belongings and moved to "Joisey".
We moved in and it was working well. We both got jobs, but within 2 months, my cousin decided to sell her house. During that short time, I met a guy 2 years older than me who I was really fond of.
When we realized we couldn't stay with my cousin anymore, Shanise was forced to move back home. I didn't want to leave, so I asked my new boyfriend of 2 whole weeks if there was any way I could stay with him. He convinced his parents to let me live in the basement with him and just like that—an entirely new chapter began.
2 years went by. I had a good job and was off the hard drugs. Although, my relationship as you would guess turned toxic. We loved each other, but our own personal traumas and issues battled each other like two fighting bulls.
He was extremely controlling and kept me from having friends or seeing my family. I was an emotional wreck and extremely co-dependent, never getting enough attention or love to fill my bottomless cup.
Things weren't great by any means, but I'd been through much worse, so I tried to just focus on my job, keeping my boyfriend happy, and not feeling horrible.
Suddenly, everything that was even beginning to resemble "semi-normal" in my day-to-day came to a tragic stop.
In one phone call, my life changed forever.
On Sunday, June 3rd, 2012, my cell phone began to ring in my pocket. I was 20 years old, standing outside of Theatre 7—working as the Manager of Staff at a popular dine-in movie cinema.
I looked at the caller ID to see it was Shanise's sister. Thinking nothing of it, I answered the phone with a big hello. Immediately, I could tell something was wrong.
"Kailin, I'm so sorry to tell you this—but Shanise passed away this morning."
I heard the words, but could not wrap my mind around what she was saying. I immediately responded, "What?! No. Are you...? Wait, are you serious?!"
The room began to spin rapidly.
She went on to explain that they didn't know exactly what happened. All she knew was that her boyfriend woke up that morning next to her... and she didn't.
He called 911 and the coroner declared her dead at the scene. Her family and boyfriend were on their way to the hospital for more answers.
Someone at work saw that something was obviously happening and came over to help me. They told the general manager and he sent me home. My boyfriend picked me up, and in silent shock, I rode back to his parent's house.
It wasn't for a few hours that it all began to feel real. I thought I'd felt extreme sadness and grief already in my life, but the dread in my heart that day was something completely different.
There was a literal hole in my soul.
Everything in my life that ever made sense no longer held any truth. My understanding of life and death was thrown up into the air, shattered into a million parts, and falling down all around me like a labyrinth of distorted puzzle pieces.
I couldn't even find the energy to hurt myself, as I was paralyzed by the confusion, overwhelm, and excruciating pain that resonated through my entire being like a poisonous river of fire.
A message to my other half, shortly after her death.
July 19, 2012
I miss you so fucking much, dude.
I miss being complete idiots together and not giving a hell what anyone else thought because we found each other completely hilarious. We knew we came off annoying to other people, but we didn't care less because we were happy.
I am going to miss the friendship we had forever. I miss laughing with you until I cried. I miss riding around in the Blue Beast and blasting whatever dumb song was on the radio, singing it word for word with so much passion we could have won a Grammy.
For many years of my life, hanging out with you was the only happiness I had, and you knew that. Every day after you got off of work you would drive all the way to my grandma's house to check up on me and hang out. You let me stay at your house, fed me, and bought me something if I needed it because you knew that I couldn't.
You cared about me. You took on a roll that the other people in my life failed to live up to... and you didn't have to. You were the one to get me sober. You uprooted your life and job to move to Jersey with me so I could have a better life because you knew I wouldn't go without you. I owe where I am in my life right now to you, Shanise.
This is fucking horrible and my heart aches so badly that sometimes I don't know what to do. The only way I can talk to you now is through a fucking Facebook message that I know you will never read. I want my best friend back and there's nothing anyone can do about it.
You were such a gifted person and had so much potential to have an amazing, happy life. It was all taken away for no reason. I am never going to be the same.
You deserved so much more than this. Good things never happen to the right people. It's not fair. I'm so sorry. I miss you. I love you. If I could have one wish, it would be for you to be able to have the life you deserved.
I have to go to bed now, but I need to tell you one last thing. I may have found a small comfort through all of this, in some twisted way.
Even though I've lost you, I think I may still be the luckiest person in the world. For the first 20 years of my life, I had the best goddamn friend anyone will ever have.
I love you so much, Shanise.
Your best friend forever,
I spent 5 more years like that. Grieving, clasped desperately to my empty relationship—my boyfriend now being my only "somebody". I lost touch with my parents and brother over those years and was entirely closed off to most of the world.
I began developing chronic body pain that radiated from the middle of my back down my entire spine, neck, and hips.
I don't think I'll ever know the true origin of this debilitating physical manifestation (which I'm still dealing with today), but I honestly think it was birthed from a perfect storm of car accident injuries, self-harm, trauma, chemical cocktails, ongoing PTSD, and excruciating grief.
The doctors had no solutions to help me other than giving me muscle relaxers and pain pills.
Although, this ailment that still affects me today became a positive catalyst in the years to come, as the pain forced me to look into the sciences of holistic medicine for relief.
Not finding any help from regular doctors sparked my interest and study of the divine healing arts of yoga, meditation, and spirituality.
Dancing with death is one of the most well-known kick-starters for embarking upon a spiritual journey.
By 2017, I was a 25 year old young woman. With age and experience, the way I interacted with and viewed the world had begun to shift. My self-awareness began to grow, as well as my spiritual reflections and my perception of the world as a whole.
I started taking life much more seriously and meditating on my thoughts, actions, and behaviors. My experience with death inspired me to embody the truth that life is short and I was lucky to still be here.
I stayed away from hard drugs, partying, and reckless behavior. I stopped harming myself and put all my energy into being promoted at work. Thanks again for that, Shanise.
I was now working my ass off at a successful company—managing 17 employees across 3 different locations—making $60,000 a year.
I leased a new car and rented an apartment so we could leave my boyfriend's parent's house. I was doing my best to be "normal," dull the chronic pain in my back, and numb the echo of grief still inside my heart.
I was with my boyfriend, but our relationship had fizzled out at least 3 years before. He would not help me financially, struggled with his own demons, and treated me poorly. We fought every single day. Codependency kept us together, miserable, and feeling alone—even when we were in the same room.
My job and responsibilities became so demanding that my stress and anxiety began to spike again. I was losing sleep, fighting with my boyfriend to the point of physical altercations, and could feel my mental health beginning to spiral down to the depths of crazy-town again.
Things were really beginning to look dim. I felt trapped in my relationship and afraid that if I broke up with my boyfriend I'd never find someone who could accept all my flaws.
I had crippling self-doubt and any ounce of hope I had left was quickly fading away. I felt myself starting to slip back into the cold, dark caves of my soul.
One day, in what felt like divine timing—I randomly connected with someone online that I hadn't talked to since high school. This person would end up being the most vibrant, wise, and important teacher, lover, and protector ever to step into my life.
He had long, strawberry-blonde dreadlocks that flowed down his back like a sunny river. His smile was wider than the sky and gleamed like morning light. His eyes sparkled like tiny pools of seafoam diamonds—and his voice rang out like an angel's bell.
Before I knew it, this individual appeared to rescue me... right before I made another long descent back into the bottomless trenches of my mind.
This person would soon become my hero and savior.
This person's name—was Dan.
Until next Tuesday,
Kailin of Earth