August 2, 2008
I turn twenty-three today and it’s the worst birthday of my entire life. I receive no presents and no cake. The only person who wishes me a happy birthday is my mother. There’s nothing happy about it. There are no candles to blow out that year, so I don’t make a birthday wish but if I did it would be to die or to at least be anywhere but here.
The misery I’m feeling is in stark contrast to the beauty of my surroundings. I’m in a rustic house in the woods surrounded by the lakes and mountains that make up the landscape of Couer d’Alene. Turns out there’s more to Idaho than just potatoes. Of course, no one dreams of spending their birthday in a residential treatment facility, but all things considered, Innercept had seemed like it would be a rather nice place to be. That’s why my mother had chosen to send me there. The brochures and the website made it seem like a nurturing and relaxing atmosphere, an environment that engendered insight and healing. Looks can be deceiving.
The staff here seems bent on the “tough love” approach. My therapist, Darlene tells me I’m too old to be living with my parents and informs me that she’s convinced my mother to kick me out of the house. The things I tell her in therapy sessions are often met with looks of incredulity and contempt. At the end of one session she tells me she doesn’t really care what happens to me because she’s not the one who needs a life. She has one.
A few months ago, I had a life too. I was attending college in Florida and participating in extracurricular activities. My twenty-second birthday had included cake, singing and friends. I’d struggled with depression and other issues in the past, but I was doing so much better now.
One day in the school cafeteria a friend of mine had talked about how he’d struggled with depression, but he did not believe in taking psychiatric medication. I’d decided he was right and that I did not need to take my medication anymore. Things went downhill from there.
A black cloud spread over my life, but I refused to seek help until the day I went to a school counselor and told her I wanted to kill myself. She decided I needed to take a mental health withdrawal and that if I wouldn’t willingly go in to a mental hospital, I would be legally forced in to one on the grounds that I was a danger to myself.
A few weeks after my twenty-third birthday I’m sitting alone in the back ward of a mental hospital in Idaho. I’m not allowed in the main ward because it’s thought that my behavior would be too upsetting to the other mental patients. After withdrawing from college in Florida I’d willingly gone to a mental hospital in Princeton, but I’ve been forced in to this mental hospital. A residential counselor from Innercept told me I was going to the regular hospital, so the doctors could make sure I was okay after the episodes of vomiting, diarrhea and fainting I’d experienced at the house
“That’s what happens when you eat out of the garbage,” the director of Innercept had said to me contemptuously when he learned of my episodes
My depression had resulted in loss of appetite and by the time I’d arrived at Innercept I was quite underweight. I was given medication to increase my appetite. It worked a little too well. Their plan of giving residents appetite stimulants and then limiting their food intake was about as well thought out as their plan of providing residents with a high fiber diet and then writing them up for “passing gas in public.”
Not that my own plans were particularly well thought out. Food out of the garbage wasn’t even the only inappropriate item I ate while I was at Innercept. I also ate a dead snake I found by the side of the road. Nor was inappropriate eating my only form of inappropriate behavior. I also displayed inappropriate hygiene, inappropriate affect and inappropriate touching of myself. I engaged in acts too disgusting to mention. Bodily fluids were involved.
I willingly got in the white van with the male residential counselor who told me he was taking me to the hospital to make sure I was okay just like a few weeks ago I’d willingly gotten in to the van with the female residential counselor who told me we were just going for a ride. It turned out that lady was actually taking me to a place called stabilization, which was a separate house in the woods owned by Innercept, where misbehaving residents were brought to spend some time in isolation. This man was also bringing me to a place of solitary confinement, but he had not been lying when he said I was being brought to a hospital to check on my physical well- being. He’d been telling a half truth. At first, I was brought to the hospital, where EKGs were placed over my heart but afterwards I was brought to the dungeon of the adjoining hospital for the mind.
The mental health professionals felt compelled to find an explanation for my behavior and the simplest, most logical explanation was that I was psychotic. They were shocked to discover that my reality testing was perfect. A few staff members noticed that I “seemed to be responding to internal stimuli.” They asked me if I was hearing voices and when I said no they seemed skeptical.
“Why are you behaving like this?” Darlene had asked me.
“Because I want to shock and horrify people.”
“Why do you want to do that?”
“Because I get a sick pleasure out of it.”
I’m not sure that wanting to shock and horrify people is the best explanation for my behavior or that sick pleasure is the best description of what I’m getting out of it, but I do know that I’m feeling shocked and horrified myself-by what I’ve done to myself, by where I’ve ended up. I do know that sometimes when people are in great pain they feel the need to inflict that pain on others, to spread it outward.
By the time I get to the back ward of North Idaho Behavioral Health there’s no one left to shock or horrify because I’m kept in isolation and there’s no pleasure to be had, sick or otherwise. Now the misery I feel inside is matched by the misery of my surroundings. My world is enclosed by sterile concrete walls. I spend the day pacing aimlessly between those walls as mental health technicians take turns observing me from behind a glass window. They interact with me only to give me my meals, which are cold and encased in plastic. I sleep on a mattress that has been placed on the floor, covered by a thin blanket. I do not bother to change out of my pajamas or to wash myself. Waking up in the morning is the worst moment of the day because it means acknowledging once again that all of this is not a nightmare; it’s my reality.
Innercept decides that I can’t come back because my behavior is too upsetting to the other residents. They send my mother a bill for the mattress I soiled during the vomiting/diarrhea incident and tell her she has to fly down to Idaho to pick me up. Before she arrives, Darlene pays me one last visit.
“You’re in the back ward of a mental hospital,” she says in a belittling manner, pointing out the obvious.
“So, when I call your mother a year from now she’s going to tell me you’ve been permanently locked up in a mental hospital?’’
I shrug again.
When my mother arrives, she tells me I’m not stable enough to stay at home now so she’ll have to find another mental hospital for me. My case is now too severe for the mental hospital I went to in Princeton a few months ago. My mother tried to get me in to McLean, the mental hospital where Girl, Interrupted takes place but they wouldn’t take me either.
November 4, 2008
“Obama’s going to lose by one vote,” my mom jokes to me.
She’s referring to the fact that I can’t vote in tonight’s election because I’m in a mental hospital. This time it’s Payne -Whitney hospital in New York City. She was able to get me in here after we got back from Idaho by bringing me to the emergency room.
It’s one of the few moments of levity we experience in this place. The other time was when she told me the psychiatrists were having trouble diagnosing me and I replied, “Why don’t they diagnose me with Crazy-NOS?” (not otherwise specified.)
Eventually I’m diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, despite my perfect reality testing. I’m put on anti-psychotic drugs, which send me in to a zombie-like haze. I sleep a lot and when I’m awake I’m lethargic. My eyes are glassy, and my hair is matted. My reactions are slow, and my affect is limited. I don’t talk much, and I don’t smile much. Not that I have much to smile about.
The zombie haze is distressing for my loved ones to witness but I can hardly complain. I’ve already adopted a kind of emotional numbness as a defense mechanism and maybe a zombie haze is what I need to survive this situation.
Before she leaves on election night, my mother reaches forward to hug me, but a nurse stops her, telling her hugs are not allowed here. My mom looks at me forlornly.
“Oh, honeybunny,” she says, her eyes tearing up.
My mom has brought a friend with her to visit me tonight. The friend starts sobbing.
“This place is so horrible. Seeing Kira like this is so horrible,” she sputters through her tears.
My dad visits me that night too. He spoon- feeds me green beans. That makes no sense because I can feed myself and I don’t like green beans but nothing in my life makes sense at this point.
I have more space to wander about in this mental hospital than I did in the last one. I have a TV to watch and therapy groups to attend. I’m surrounded by other mental patients. But I don’t watch the TV, I don’t pay attention in the therapy group and I don’t interact with the other mental patients. In my mind’s eye all the mental patients are the same-they’re all Hasidic Jewish men with black caps on top of their heads and curls on the side. All the days in this mental hospital are the same too. They’re all permeated by the same drab hopelessness that radiates off its walls. They are banal yet horrifying.
I know others have experienced worse horrors but the feeling of waking up in this mental hospital every day for weeks on end is so far outside my previous personal realm of reference for horrors, that it seems like something that cannot be described by any words in the English language. It’s a feeling I suspect people who have never woken up in a mental hospital will never be able to understand.
The worst part of this horror is knowing that it’s a self -inflicted horror, that it’s all my fault. Why did I make such terrible decisions? How did I fall so hard and so fast?
Darlene did not call my mother a year after I left Idaho like she said she was going to but if she had she would have learned that I was not permanently locked up in a mental hospital. I was back at home. The gray house I resided in with my mother, my father and my stepbrother was spacious but confining. My stepfather told me he found it unnerving when I paced so if I was going to do that I had to stay in my bedroom My stepfather also crowded the house with junk. Everywhere you looked there were boxes filled with the sports memorabilia he’d collected over the years-baseball bats, autographed basketballs and Wheaties boxes spilling over the edges. Then there was the emotional junk we all crowded the house with.
Although I was no longer trapped in a mental hospital, I was still trapped in an emotional prison. I was still depressed all the time and still in a haze from the antipsychotics I was taking. I still took little pleasure or interest in anything.
Around that time, I saw an elderly psychiatrist named Dr. Wineapple, who probably should have been retired since he could not seem to remember my name or my appointment time slots. He did, however, give me an invaluable gift. He questioned my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, saying that if it was schizoaffective disorder it was much more affective than schizo. He took me off the antipsychotics and suggested I undergo a procedure known as Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), also referred to as shock treatment. It involves passing a small electrical current through the brain in order to trigger a brief seizure. It has been shown to be effective at treating depression.
This was not the first time ECT had been suggested for me but the first time it was suggested my mom and I had refused to consider it. It’s a very controversial procedure with a brutal history and some serious potential side effects including loss of memory. It has been characterized as barbaric and inhumane and there are people who want it outlawed.
This time my mom was more open to the suggestion and I agreed to the procedure. I doubted it would help me because I did not think anything could help me at this point, but I also didn’t think I had much to lose at this point. If ECT destroyed my memory or my brain that hardly seemed worse than the state I was in now.
If this were a work of fiction that portrayed ECT in the typical way, ECT would have been the end of me. I would have been subjected to a horrifying and painful treatment at the hands of cruel and controlling people. Afterwards all the life would be sucked out of me and I would essentially be a vegetable.
If this were an upbeat work of fiction ECT would have completely rid me of depression once and for all and I would have lived happily ever after.
Real life falls somewhere in the middle. The first sign that ECT was working for me was when I picked up a book and started reading. For most of my life I had loved reading, but I had not touched a book in ages. Depression had sapped me of my desire to read.
Before each ECT treatment anesthesia was administered to me through a mask placed over my nose. In the few seconds before the anesthesia took effect the edges of my world would become blurry, my head would feel as though it was starting to float away and I would be enveloped in a haze that was not unpleasant. This anesthesia induced haze led to the clearing of the mental haze that had enveloped me for so long. As the treatments wore on I continued to show renewed interest in life. I talked more, I smiled more, I became more engaged. I took classes at a local college and I volunteered at a preschool.
During and after ECT I continued to struggle with depression, but it was not as severe. Never again did I fall in to that level of catatonic depression that left me unable to enjoy anything. I did not experience significant memory loss, but I did lose some memories. Some of the horrible things I did at the treatment center that I related earlier in this narrative were things that I saw written in reports but that I have no memory of. I think I was better off forgetting those things anyway.
I still hear people talking about how horrible and inhumane ECT is. I’m sure those people would rather see depressed people sent to cozy treatment centers in beautiful, rural areas than be subjected to brutal electric shock treatments but if you ask me my ECT was much more humane than the treatment I received at Innercept.
September 5, 2010
When I wake up that morning my mother and stepfather are standing in front of my stepbrother’s open bedroom door, speaking and gesturing frantically. I peer in to the doorway and see my stepbrother laying sprawled across his bedroom floor
“Brett’s dead!” my mother gasps, placing her hand over her mouth.
I hope my mother’s wrong.
“My son’s not breathing,” my stepfather breathes in to his cell phone.
I hope the paramedics will make him breathe.
The paramedics arrive and carry Brett out of his bedroom on a stretcher.
I hope he’ll get better at the hospital
Downstairs in the kitchen a woman from the police department is speaking to my stepfather. She’s talking about the lists of drug deals found in Brett’s room. Then she’s saying something about police procedures and toxicology reports.
Finally, she says, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
I know then that Brett is really dead.
The house fills up with crying people. My mother asks if I’m okay. I know she’s worried that Brett’s death will destroy my fragile mental health and unravel all the gains I’ve made. A mourner asks me if I was close with Brett and I hate that question so much. Saying no seems cold and saying yes seems dishonest. It seems like a question meant to gauge my reaction to Brett’s death and assess what it means to me. But “closeness” doesn’t account for the shock of seeing someone dead on his bedroom floor after you saw him walking up to his bedroom with tacos and soda less than 24 hours ago. Closeness doesn’t account for what it means to have someone you never expected to be in your family to begin with suddenly subtracted from your family. Closeness doesn’t account for the experience of going from being one of two troubled young adults living under your parents’ roof to being the only one.
The concept of closeness or lack thereof cannot encapsulate all the unwelcome thoughts, memories and questions that are swirling in my mind now. I remember when my stepfather said to me “Brett’s kind of a disappointment but you’re more of a disappointment.”
“Who’s more of a disappointment now?” I wonder.
Brett was only two years younger than me. He died a few months after he turned twenty-three. The months following my twenty-third birthday was the most difficult period of my life. Brett’s demons were different from but similar to my own. I find myself thinking that it could have been me and it should have been me. But I don’t find myself wishing it was me.
July 15, 2015
My mom and I are sitting at a Starbucks in Illinois with my aunt. She’s showing us a Youtube video of dogs and telling us about stray dogs in Brazil, the country she recently moved from to marry my uncle. My mom and I have recently moved to Illinois to live across the street from my aunt and uncle.
Although my mother had long been unhappy in her marriage to my stepfather and with the way he treated me, I was afraid she would never leave him. Yet a month ago she did. My stepfather did not react well to the news that she was leaving him and returning to her hometown in Illinois with me. He said he was not going to let us take our dog, Dakota with us. He knew we loved Dakota and would not leave without her. Eventually he relented though and let us take her. So, in June we hopped in to the car with Dakota and drove halfway across the country to a home we’d never seen in person.
A month in to the move we both have to admit that it’s not going too well. The house is shabbier than advertised and the town has a sewage problem that leaves it smelling like raw eggs. It rains almost every day. We had envisioned a friendly, loving Full House kind of family atmosphere with my aunt and uncle across the street from us and other relatives nearby. My uncle has become moody and temperamental though. He often rages at my mother and at my aunt. When my aunt and uncle come over to our house it’s usually separately and to complain about each other. The convicted pedophile living in back of us and sharing our WiFi certainly doesn’t help matters either.
Yet as we head home from Starbucks I tell myself that all these issues will resolve with time and we’ll get our happily ever after. When we return home, Dakota does not greet us at the door like she usually does. I call her name, but she doesn’t respond. I walk towards the area where her dog door is and when I see her my heart stops. She is lying still on the floor with a Tostitos bag over her head. I dash towards her, an icy feeling of dread spreading through my whole body. I lift the chip bag off her head and her head flops back. She does not move. Her tongue is blue. I let out a blood curdling scream.
“What is it?” my mother inquires in alarm.
“Dakota’s dead!” I shriek
My mother tries to get Dakota to breathe but it’s hopeless. She screams.
I retreat to my room and sob. She runs across the street to my uncle’s house, disturbing the peace as she wails the terrible news.
We are two hapless fools belting out our grief to an indifferent world.
I Google “Dogs suffocating on chip bags” and find myself a member of a club no one wants to be in. It’s not uncommon for pets to suffocate on chip bags but hardly anyone knows about the dangers they pose unless they find out the hard way. When I was a child two of our family dogs were killed by cars. Since then we’d been rather paranoid about our pets and done everything in our power to protect them from cars and every other danger we could think of, but Dakota has died because we’ve failed to protect her from a danger we didn’t know existed.
I’ve never believed in God and I’ve never been one to question why things happen or why the world is cruel but as I cried myself to sleep that night, I couldn’t help but wonder. This turn of events just seemed ridiculously cruel and unfair.
I know you’re not supposed to compare animal deaths to human deaths and you’re certainly not supposed to be more affected by an animal death but if someone had asked if I’d been close with Dakota, the answer would have been a clear and unequivocal yes. She slept by my side every night and her absence now is agonizing. She was truly my best friend and I am truly heartbroken.
I also know what Dakota’s death means for me and my mom. Dakota’s death has broken my mom as much as it has broken me. She has turned to my stepfather for comfort and he is offering it. He is preying on her current vulnerability to convince her to come back to him and she is convincing herself that he’s not so bad after all. She has booked a flight back to New Jersey for the following day .I know our time in Illinois is over. Their marriage didn’t survive the death of a child and their divorce will not survive the death of a dog. I will go back to living with a man who mocks me, belittles me and tells me I’m worthless. I will go back to living with a man who regularly threatens to have me institutionalized. Institutionalization is not some vague, unfathomable threat to me. I know all too well what it’s like to dwell within the walls of an institution. The problem is that as much as I hate the way my stepfather treats me, I suspect he’s right about me.
July 15, 2016
Exactly one year after the loss of my dog I experience another loss, but this loss is not a death. It’s not a loss in the traditional sense of the word. Many people feel I deserve it and many people feel it’s for the best but it’s shocking and devastating nonetheless.
I am banned from an internet forum that I have been a part of for twelve years. For several years that forum has been my main social outlet and my only social outlet outside my family. Since it was my only social outlet, I posted there a lot and became quite dependent on it. People got annoyed by how much I posted and by what I posted. They would target me in a cruel and humiliating manner. A lot of very hurtful things were said to and about me. There were many people who wanted me to leave the forum, but I would not leave because while I had a lot of enemies on that forum, it was also the only place where I had friends. I would put up with all the people who regularly told me I was annoying, rude and immature and I would put up with being called a liar, an imbecile and even a pedophile because the few people on the forum who would make me feel that I was a smart person with interesting things to say made it all worth it to me. I made it my mission to generate conversation on that forum because I needed a purpose in life and validation that I existed outside my bedroom.
Finally, after yet another onslaught of attacks from forum members that leaves me feeling humiliated, the matter is taken out of my hands. When I submit a message trying to defend myself, I am informed that I have been banned. The moderator sends me a message saying I have burned through everyone’s good will and am destroying the community. She says she feels for me because she knows I struggle but this place isn’t going to help me. It’s time for me to move on.
Before I am banned I am called a troll repeatedly and when I am banned a picture of a troll being struck by lightning is posted. I have been rendered as ugly on the outside as I feel on the inside and I have once again been shocked.
I feel unbearably lost and lonely now. I don’t talk about this loss with anyone in my real life because I never even told anyone about my participation in the forum to begin with and I’m ashamed. Shame rules my life.
October 12, 2016
My friend is waiting for me on my front porch. I open the door and hug her tightly. It’s been about ten years since I’ve seen her. It’s been about ten years since I’ve socialized with any friends. I’ve been too ashamed to show my face, even online. As devastating as being banned from that forum was, it ended up being the best worst thing that possibly could have happened to me. I was so lonely without it that I decided to take a risk and contact old friends on Facebook. The first people I contacted were my former special education teachers and therapists because they seemed like the best bet when it came to not judging me and from there I branched out.
I get in to the car with my friend and seventh grade special education teacher now and while I’m excited to see her, I’m expecting the conversation to be awkward since it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other.
“So, how’ve you been?”
“Miserable.” I fill her in on some of the details of my life.
“What are you going to do to change things?’’
I’ll have to get back to her on that one.
From there the conversation shifts to more pleasant topics like pets, funny memories and the upcoming presidential election.
I’m shocked by how naturally the conversation flows and how little the intervening years of silence seem to matter.
We meet another friend for dinner, who I have not seen since Brett’s funeral. She hugs me tightly and joins in on the lively conversation.
When I return home from dinner, I get a call from my friend, Ava. I’m excited but nervous as I pick up the phone. Perhaps I can relate to people who work in special education because they’re nonjudgemental by nature but how could Ava not judge me? In the intervening years I’ve been so ashamed and fearful that I’ve been downright rude to her. She’s tried to call me a few times, but I’ve refused to speak to her because I just couldn’t imagine what I would say. I’m not sure why she’s willing to give me another chance now but she is. We talk for about an hour and spend most of it laughing.
I’m shocked by how much I still matter to my old friends, by how much they still love and appreciate me. It’s the most pleasant shock I’ve received in a long time.
November 8, 2016
I walk in to the voting station with my mother, who’s dressed in a pantsuit in honor of Hillary Clinton. I was indisposed in a mental hospital in the last historical election, which resulted in the first black president but today I will make my voice heard in the election of the first female president. This election will symbolize new hope and new beginnings for American women, which jives nicely with the new hopes and beginnings I’m sensing in my own life
I watch the TV excitedly as the votes start to come in. I can’t wait to see that nasty, idiotic bully, Donald Trump defeated, and the poised, intelligent, articulate Hillary Clinton emerge victorious. This time it’s not just me but the entire nation that’s in for a shock.
“How could this happen?” I ask myself once it has become obvious that Donald Trump will unfortunately be our next president. I think of all the statistical predictions that put his chances of winning the election at around one percent. I bitterly remember the time last year when I asked my mother what the chances were that she would go back to my stepfather and she claimed they were less than one percent.
July 12, 2018
I see an e-mail in my inbox from Chicken Soup for the Soul. Back in November I’d submitted a story to them about the Thanksgiving I’d recently spent with my family in the new house that I shared with my mom. I opened the story by making it seem like we were an intact, cookie cutter family but then I revealed that my parents had been divorced for a long time. My father was spending Thanksgiving with us at my mom’s new house because he did not want my mother to be alone for her first Thanksgiving without my stepfather. I talked about some of the illness, divorce, and death my family has experienced. I emphasized my family’s love and devotion to each other through the hard times. I concluded by saying that even though life can break your heart and shatter your family and become abnormal in a thousand different ways, sometimes things turn out all right in the end.
When I was at Innercept a residential counselor had asked me what I wanted to be “when I grew up” and I had replied that I wanted to be a writer, but I had no intention of actually becoming one. I’d been told that I was a good writer, but I hated writing. Yet as I began to emerge from the pit of mental illness, I began to feel the urge to write about my experiences. Remembering that joke I made years ago in the mental hospital, I called my blog Crazy-NOS. Writing became enjoyable and therapeutic for me. It gave me a sense of self-worth.
I’m shocked when I open the email from Chicken Soup for the Soul and see that my story has been selected for publication.
August 2, 2018
I forget to make a wish when I blow out the candles this year but if I had made a wish it would not have been to die or to be anywhere but here. I’m actually pretty happy with where I am right now. My dad’s girlfriend says she’s never seen me this happy before. As a gift she gives me a sign that says, “Home sweet home.” She says it seems appropriate since I’ve been living in this house for a year now and I like it so much.
This house is the smallest I’ve lived in yet in a way it feels like the largest. In this house I have room to grow emotionally and I am coming in to my own. No one in this house is trying to bully me or bring me down. No one is encroaching on my physical or emotional space. My mom tells me my stepfather sent me a birthday text, but I did not receive it because I’ve blocked his texts. I’ve decided I don’t have room for people like that in my life.
Yet I think of my stepfather often. One of his favorite ways to shame me was to remind me of my age and tell me how pathetic it was to be as old I was and to live and act in the way that I was. Now that I’m another year older he’d be able to up the shame factor. Perhaps he believed that in shaming me he would motivate me to change but shame has the opposite effect, destroying the mechanism that makes one capable of change.
Although in the year that I’ve been away from my stepfather, I’ve made some positive changes in my life, I’m sure it wouldn’t be enough to please my stepfather or Darlene either for that matter, should she decide to do a ten-year follow up phone call. After all, I’m still living with my mother. That’s okay though because I don’t live for the approval of others.
I think of my stepbrother often as well. Every time Brett’s birthday rolls around I think about how old he would be and today on my birthday I think about how thirty-three is a birthday Brett will never get to celebrate. I wonder what he would be doing right now if he were still alive. He might still be imprisoned by his demons, but I also know he could have recovered. He might not have recovered in a day or a month or a year or even five years and recovery isn’t always a permanent thing nor is it always an all or nothing thing, but recovery is possible, even when it seems impossible. I should know.
The talk around the table turns to my upcoming college graduation and the volunteer work I’m doing. My mom says I’m flourishing now and this is the best year I’ve had in a long time. When we first moved we thought that what we needed was to get far away from where we were. It turns out that what I really needed was to stay close to where I was and (re)connect with people who support me.
While I’m happy with the progress and accomplishments I’ve made, I can’t help but feel inferior when I compare myself to others. Most of my peers graduated college a long time ago. They have jobs and partners and kids. It saddens me to think that I may never have those things. Yet I know that comparison is the thief of joy and I think I’ve had enough joy stolen from me. Besides, I don’t really know what life has in store for me. Life has a way of shocking me.