One thing remained the same: the room names, each named after a city in Europe. I moved into Brussels, and joked with the other girls about telling everyone back home that we’d spent the year traveling to Munich, Barcelona and Budapest.
Our treatment program was grounded in art therapy, so nearly every wall was covered in art. Because La Europa was short on money and often didn’t have canvas, most of the paintings were done on cardboard, little images of bananas or a brand logo showing through the paint if you looked in a certain light. Even our teachers were artists; the walls in the entryway were lined with portraits of girls who had completed the program that our art teacher, Jane, had lovingly drawn for them as graduation gifts.
Looking at them was like some kind of hope: yes, you were in a treatment center. Yes, you were likely going to be here for a year. Yes, it would be hard. But also: yes, you’d make it out of here, and like those girls on the wall, you’d be happy.
Ispent the days before I was admitted with my parents in a house we rented in the mountains of Park City. We watched movies and my dad made me crepes that were fat like pancakes from the altitude. My mom wrote me a song, recorded it on GarageBand, and sheepishly handed it to me on a CD to listen to when I missed her.
Knowing I would be apart from them for months on end, we soaked up our time together as if we were a normal family on a regular vacation. All the struggles I’d been experiencing that led to our decision to admit me to La Europa were, just for a moment, not so loud.
Though only a few months prior, it was almost as if my parents hadn’t brought me to the emergency room after they found out I’d been cutting myself; as if I hadn’t explained to the doctor evaluating me that I wanted to die; as if I hadn’t overheard that doctor whisper “we think your daughter may be suffering from borderline personality disorder” to my parents in a hushed tone. I could pretend that night in the emergency room didn’t result in a weeklong stay as an inpatient at a psychiatric ward, pretend that the nearly six weeks I spent as an outpatient at the same ward were just a bad dream.”