My friend, R, was talking about her daughter taking her SAT’s. She got the results recently and has chosen a fine school. Yesterday, went and got my haircut with my favorite stylist, K, and was jabbering away as I’ve been wont to do. The conversation drifted to her son’s college expenses and, again, the SAT’s.
While I spent much of my high school years in psyche hospitals there was the occasional effort to fit in with the crowd. At some point, between feeling depressed and useless, I made arrangements to take the dreaded SAT’s. When time came and I woke that Saturday, not in any shape to do ANYTHING but stare at the walls, my father insisted I make it to school on time and take them.
“I paid for you to take those tests and you’re going to take them,” he said.
I didn’t dare mouth off back to him and dragged my ass out of bed to the senior high school. Once the preliminaries were gone over and I’d received my two sharp number two lead pencils– I didn’t have the forethought to bring my own–I proceeded to color in the dots.
Boy, I was one smart cookie. I’d finished before anyone else in the room. It’s what happens when all you do is color in the dots. I didn’t read a single question. Honest. I don’t recall my scores but can tell you Kutztown State accepted me. Ha! What were they thinking?
At the end of the school year, five days before graduation, I was thinking, “Jesus, you are so screwed.” I didn’t have the required units to graduate. I was like four short. Without them, no diploma. It kind of didn’t matter to me on one hand because I’d just been discharged from a hospital and my mind was still mush.
On the other hand, there was my father to consider. How he hadn’t figured I wasn’t prepared for graduation, I’ll never know. I skulked into the guidance counselor’s area and my counselor wasn’t there. Shit! I found this guy named G.R. We’d not met. I sat across from him and spoke to him as though we’d known each other for years. Like he knew my whole psyche history.
“I got out of the hospital five days ago,” I said. “I don’t have enough credits to graduate and if I don’t get my diploma my father is going to kill me.” I kept saying the same thing over and over. He stared at me as I sobbed heavily. “I’m serious,” I said. “He WILL kill me if I don’t get my diploma. You don’t know my father, he has a temper,” I cried.
“You will not graduate without the eighteen required credits, however…”All at once this man I’d never met took a marker of some type and proceeded to fill in grades for me.
“You were in the hospital and that counts as a health requirement so, there you have a ‘B’.” Now I was the one staring with my mouth open.
“You got an ‘A’ for three semesters and you probably would have gotten an ‘A’ so, there, you have an ‘A’,” he continued.
And so on for the other missing credits. He showed the document to me, signed his name to it and, WHOOSH, I graduated. It’s a good thing, too, besides having thoughts of my father actually hurting me, there was no way I would have passed the GED’s. I was, plain and simple, fucked up. Not a fuck up, but…
Had I not had people like G.R. on my side, I wouldn’t be here. It’s not because he allowed me to graduate and ultimately lied in order to do so. There was little hope for me back then. My diagnosis was scary but my prognosis even worse. There was a giant, glaring lack of understanding of mental illness then. Not that some people don’t still put a fair face on the illnesses and what they really are comprised of. We’re not kidding, folks, mental illness and the damage it’s done and does is no joke.