I don’t know, should I tell you a very personal story? Shoot, why not? You already read all of the strange notions that pour out of my head onto the comic page, and you know I’m an adult who plays with toys.
I can really relate to Ronald here. When I was a young teen, I became so concerned with body image that I mostly stopped eating. I shrunk down to a bag of bones and thought it looked awesome, because I thought “thin” equaled “healthy and attractive.” My parents were obviously terrified for my well-being, and could not convince me to please eat a damned sandwich, so they tricked me. They told me they were driving me to see yet another therapist, yet I learned when we arrived that they were actually dropping me off at a mental health facility. And I wasn’t leaving until I got better or the insurance ran out.
Thus began one of the best experiences of my life. I kid you not. Unlike Ronald, I quickly accepted the situation ( at least that’s how I remember it). I realized that I had gone too far and was wrong, yet it still pained me to eat a full meal or not sneak in push-ups whenever no one was watching. I was confined to a wheelchair until I put on enough weight. That wasn’t the good part. The good part was that I was surrounded round-the-clock by kids my age. Whereas I had always felt like an outcast at school, I naturally became a part of this large, diverse group – even popular! Sure, we all had serious problems that had led us there, but we faced it all together. I think that kind of experience somehow put everyone on a level playing field, and you had to socialize in a specific space, so connections formed that might not have elsewhere.
When the insurance did run out after two months, and I was mostly better and had been allowed to walk again, I didn’t want to leave. I had to say goodbye to my friends, and I was not supposed to keep in touch with them. However, my naive younger self thought this new social situation would carry over into my life outside, and that my everyday existence would be better. I was sadly mistaken. Back at school, I quickly went back to feeling unnoticed and rejected. This continued into high school, and (to my regret) I never went to live in a dorm at college. While I’ve always been blessed with a handful of great friends, the distance and separation that’s just been there as long as I can remember persists into the present day. Except for that one time. It’s sad to say, but I sometimes wish I could go back and relive those two months, or to try and take more from it that I could apply in the years going forward. The life-threatening reason I was there seems almost incidental, even though I’m certain that facility (and my parents) saved my life. The social experience was what really mattered to me, and it at least proved that it’s within me somewhere to meld into a larger group. It just took being locked inside a hospital wing to do it! I own the fact that I could have tried harder over the years, even if it felt like the deck was stacked against me. When I think back on that time at the hospital, it does feel like an alternate universe, another life that carried the fresh scent of a new beginning.
So Ronald, don’t overlook this opportunity. Even when the demon you face is a giant, hungry Thunderbird!
Speaking of the Thunderbird, I’ll have more to say about that topic next time…