I was quickly marched around my future school, one that was going to be my savior or my destruction, I still haven’t decided which. It was called a hospital school, kids there walked the hallways with crutches and looked pale and withered and there were other kids who looked normal, I later found out that they weren’t. Their illnesses were hidden away like mine. The teachers there were overly nice with calm soothing voices and kind eyes like nurses and the place smelled like coffee and new carpet.
I think it was only a few years old when I arrived, built on blocks as a wooden structure a little like a bungalow all on one level, for the disabled kids, and rendered Magnolia. It was all Magnolia and pea green inside except for the primary school room, the younger kids could boast an exciting red door to their classroom but that was about as adventurous as the decor got.
I remember my first day, I walked into the wrong door and no one shouted me to get out, they were all so nice. I felt awful when I found my classroom, a pokey four metre square room full of boys taught by a lady minister with a lot of patience. I was hoping I could hide at the back but there was no back, we could all see each other and I didn’t want to be seen. One boy was very raucous but you saw eventually that it was because he couldn’t understand it not that he didn’t want to, there was a boy with cancer there too, he sat quiet with a look of contentment on his face, entertained by the others shenanigans. He disappeared later that year I don’t think I asked why.
My counsellor was right to bring me here but I was wrong to stay as long as I did. I should have left but I never wanted to, the five person class suited me just fine, the older kids didn’t scare me, they ignored me or were kind to me, I didn’t mind either. The teachers didn’t sigh when I got the answers wrong and I never felt like running away and hiding at home.
It was when the others started to leave and go back to their previous schools when I caught on to the method there, when they thought you were better and happier they sent you back. I decided I was never going back to that, I didn’t want to disappear again into the hoards of over full classrooms with teachers who didn’t care who stole my stuff or hit me in the face with a pencil case because I was “ugly”. I couldn’t go back to running away.
My life was saved that day but it was also ruined. I needed help, I needed one to one lessons and people to tell me that it was okay but at the same time I was forever labelled as the crazy girl to anyone outside of my school. Isolated by the fact that I was now different or ‘special needs’ and in ensuring my lengthy stay there I became worse. To begin with I was exaggerating slightly but it later became the truth and then I was sad all of the time and there was nothing I could do about it. If I had forced myself to grow up like the other kids I wouldn’t have so much trouble now.
I think I blame the school for most of my problems. The cotton wool they wrapped me up in lasted only until I finished school after that I was the world’s punch bag and I had no tools or experience to deal with it. In my head all I could handle were sick people, mentally ill and the suicidal and depressed. These were the people I knew, we understood each other and leaving that place and being with normal people who flip out when you say something slightly too deep for them, or you’re too sad to be around you begin hating yourself. I was taught to be myself and that there was nothing wrong with the way I was but they never said ‘you mustn’t tell anyone what’s wrong with you because you’ll never have any friends’.