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Leaving Something Behind, by Ruthie


My story is about leaving something behind.

I was the youngest of ten brothers and sisters. I grew up fighting with my brother Tom and going to rock concerts out in the country, catching lightning bugs and letting them off in the house. I remember walking on rail road tracks and through fields of white daisies.

I was born in 1962. By the time I was 5 or 6 I had witnessed a lot: hippy parties, skinny dipping in rock quarries, Vietnam on the television.

It was not long before I became a teenager and drank my first beer and puffed on my first cigarette. I began “experimenting” and then that’s when things started to get really crazy.

It all happened so fast. It felt like an itching and burning inside. One night, when I was about eighteen, I came home to an empty house. At first I was afraid, until I heard my mom and sister talking in the back yard. They were talking about me. I could see my sister smoking her cigarettes, and mom drinking white wine. They could tell something was wrong with me. They felt I was out of touch with reality. I was somewhere else. That’s when I came out and asked for help. My mom gave me a choice and said I could tough it out and go to college, or go to the hospital. So, I spent my freshman year in Our Lady of Peace. The only good thing about that place was the food – I got really fat. They put me on heavy drugs and expected me to find god. After my mom and Dad’s health insurance ran dry, the hospital put me out.

When I came home, society expected me to be normal, but I wasn’t.  I was angry and unhappy with myself. My neighbors and friends rejected me and that made me really sad. I  Felt lonely, homeless.

It gave me some relief to pick something up and throw it across the room. I ended up trashing my whole apartment. Glass on the floor, broken picture frames, broken tables. Things I really liked and wished I could have kept.

My father prayed for me on his hands and knees asking god what to do. I had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The voices in my head were critical and condescending. “You’re no good”, “you will not amount to anything”.

With the help of my family I started to get better. Through all of my breakdowns my mom was there for me. She held me when I cried continuously – moms are good for that. I took the medication that was prescribed and began to see a little white light at the end of the tunnel. I realized without medication I could end up homeless or back in the hospital.

One day I took a really good hard look at myself in the mirror. Hoping that I would find what I was looking for, whatever that might be. What I saw was a person going through a lot of hell. Then I told myself the words “I’m o.k., I am an o.k. person” All the guilt and shame: that is what I left behind.

Today I live a wonderful life, not a perfect life. Like my sister Amy says “Everyone f***s up at least once or twice”. I still struggle with the hard times, but now I am able to take care of myself. I even get to help other people. I work at the Recovery Zone. I help other people with mental illness feel like they’re not alone in life. I help them to feel that things will get better. I move step by step towards my recovery. It took all these years to come to a place where I feel I belong.

I paint, work, and live in a beautiful place I call life. God knows I have struggled and this is his reward. I LOVE YOU ALL!!!