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My parents first had me committed when I was six years old. They found me floating above the tiled bottom of the pool, with the pockets of my sundress filled with rocks. The second time, I was eleven. I jumped off the lower deck of the cruise ship we were holidaying on, in the middle of a wicked storm. Now I am seventeen, and have just been dropped off at the Royal Alexander Centre for Mental Health for the third time in my short life. The process has remained the same; Mom hugs me, all tear-stained and snotty, my brother stares at me, his eyes brimming with tears as he wrings his ball cap, and Dad stays in the car. My doctor, an attractive man in his mid forties, Rick, takes me to his office. An orderly is undoubtedly putting my bags in a room, after thoroughly searching them of course.
“Sit,” Rick orders as he points to a well-worn leather sofa. I obey, popping my sandal-clad feet on the coffee table and unwrap a candy from an old-fashion jar. I take a deep breath, enjoying the familiar scent of the old books he stocks his shelves with, but doesn’t read. “I saw you last month; you were fine. What happened?”
“I just needed to be in the water,” I murmur as I stare longingly at his aquarium. If I were a fish none of this would be an issue.
“I know you need to be in the water,” Rick says as he reaches for a sucker. “But you also need to breathe.”
“I don’t,” I protest, feeling a sense of familiarity as we slip into a conversation we’ve already had. “I was only down there for six minutes; I would’ve come up if I knew they were there.”
“You were in a public pool,” Rick replies, clearly exasperated. “The lifeguards found you, floating face down in the deep end. Mothers wailed, kids screamed, people thought you were dead.”
“I was just trying to catch my breath,” I protest as I rip the candy wrapper into confetti.
“You fought against the lifeguards when they tried to pull you out. You kept diving back into the water and swimming to the bottom. It took three of them to restrain you until your parents got there.” Rick’s blue eyes drill into mine, wordlessly asking for an explanation I’ve already given a hundred times.
I sit in silence, remembering the bliss of being underwater. The call of the calm, blue, serene pool was too much to ignore. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be around water unsupervised, but I just couldn’t help it. I had meant to come up before the morning swim class got there, but I lost track of time. I maybe have overreacted with the lifeguards, they were just trying to help, but they took me out too soon. People don’t understand that I need to be in the water. Rick and my family have classified my need as a number of different things ranging from suicidal tendencies to schizophrenia. I’ve tried to tell them the truth, but it makes Mom cry more and Dad mad. My brother used to believe me, but not anymore; he’s all grown up now.