I shouldn’t be so proud of the fact that I ended up in a therapeutic boarding school at sixteen years old.
Life has never been easy for me, and I’m well aware of that. Maybe I’m just proud of the fact that someone at my normal secondary school saw that I might be able to actually finish my education if given the right attention. I think I’m at least a little excited about being able to prove myself a decent enough student – I’m not stupid. I know I’m not stupid. I just… get so lost in my own head sometimes. My old counselor, the one at Northumberland High School, likes to call my little problem ‘getting lost in my head’.
…I’m actually going to miss Mr. Stamford’s office at Northumberland. I’ve been thinking about everything I’m leaving behind there, and, in all honesty… there isn’t a lot. There’s my older sister Harry – we haven’t got on well since our parents died, and probably never will. Mr. Stamford was basically my second father at Northumberland, one of my few friends, considering how bad my disability had gotten over the past year.
Apparently, therapeutic boarding schools are a big thing in America, according to Mr. Stamford. They exist so that teenagers and children with mental problems, delinquent tendencies, and other such problems can get both the help they need for their issues, and manage to pass their classes. Though there was only one such school in the London area, it came with glowing recommendations from many health-care professionals, not to mention a government pension that would’ve allowed me to go with a minimal financial burden. After the last episode at the grocery store with the self-checkout machine, Mr. Stamford, Harry, and I decided that a therapeutic boarding school, as opposed to a continuation school, might be the only way for me to get over my crippling Social Anxiety Disorder without losing all contact with the world around me.
Social Anxiety Disorder.
It sounds rather serious, doesn’t it? Harry thinks there may be an element of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to it all, but I wasn’t in the car when my parents died. She was.
I’ve never been very good with people anyways, even when our parents were alive. I keep my nose down, I go about my business, but the pressures of social interaction… they’ve always been insanely hard for me to navigate. Panic attacks are frequent and painful. My hands tremble when confronted with the idea of dealing with people, meeting new people, displeasing people… hell, my own mother, God rest her soul, sometimes gave me panic attacks on accident.
Primary school was bad enough. Secondary school in Northumberland was like being stuck in my own personal war zone. Everything seemed louder, more magnified, more intent on getting me out into the real world. Physical education alone gave me a panic attack a week. Changing in front of others was just too much to handle. On and off this went for years, right up until Year Eleven, when the administration – Mr. Stamford in particular – decided that something needed to be done to help me.
Harry and I couldn’t afford to go to a psychologist. Or a psychiatrist. We were living off of our parents’ saved money and the meager salary Harry made locally at a mobile phone store; a psychologist’s bill would bankrupt us. Dropping out of school wouldn’t do anything to help, and would only make our situation worse.
And that led us to a pamphlet sent directly to the counseling office at Northumberland – one for the Baker Boarding House, on the outskirts of London, advertising its wares and how it could help poor sods like me get back on some sort of normal living path. I can’t say that I was totally enthused about the idea of sharing a room with someone, or going to a completely new environment, but Mr. Stamford continued to explain to me what the school would and would not do. The school would only put me with one roommate, understanding my need to acclimate slowly, given the Social Anxiety Disorder. They would not throw me into everyday school life without any help – I would have a therapist assigned directly to me that I would meet with every day and who would be there whenever I needed them, in addition to that. They would allow me to retake Year Eleven, considering how much school I missed due to my constant panic attacks. No medication. Nothing that would have an additional cost.
Harry had other things in mind when she looked at the brochure. She wanted me to get out and do more, always. She barely understood what was going on in my life, it seemed. She fussed over how it was an all-boys’ school, and how there were a lot of extra-curriculars and sports to partake in. She wanted to make it seem like everything happening was normal, I suppose. Harry was more like our father, anyways. I took after our mother. Probably why, like our late mother and father did before us, we fight fairly consistently.
But it wasn’t before long, only a month or so, when all the arrangements were made. A few beds had recently opened up at Baker, and once I was placed in one, I began to receive all the documentation I needed to get started on August 14th. My new therapist, a certain Dr. Sally Donovan, corresponded with me by letter, introducing herself and what she did, hoping that it would be less stressful for me to read about her and her qualifications and what she hoped to accomplish with me in a letter, as opposed to being bombarded with it at school. The school sent me a welcome packet, maps, and all the normal school information – Harry noted it was like a university in that respect. I was also to get in touch with my eventual roommate, a certain Sebastian Moran, online, and he, like me, seemed fairly sedate. He likes video games, reading, and music, which hopefully meant he’d be fairly quiet.
But standing here, in front of Baker Boarding House, an imposing building of brick and mortar and austerity, I can’t help but think that, yes, I am lucky to be here. Proud of myself for even speaking to my soon-to-be roommate without feeling that constricting tightness in my chest, or feeling mildly nauseated, too.
I also can’t help but think that something is about to go horribly wrong in my life, but I always think that. It’s the nature of being socially inept.