I was taken to Geneva Hospital in the town of Geneva. There the doctor from the school seen me. Blood tests and IV’s were going in my veins, and the Dixie cups of juice had stopped. I was beginning to feel better and sitting up in bed when Mr. Holbeck and another man came in my room. Mr. Holbeck asked if I remembered him from Oak cottage, I did. He told me “We can’t help you at Geneva, we’ll get you the help you need.” I wasn’t sure what he was saying but I sat there mute as usual not saying a word. The other man was a Psychiatrist from the hospital, we were left alone to talk.

The Psychiatrist asked how long had I felt like dying, I raised my shoulders not feeling like I wanted to tell him anything. He asked me why I had attacked the girl at the school, again I raised my shoulders not saying “hey she was stealing my food every meal.” I wanted to but the words wouldn’t come. Then he asked me about my mother and how was she as a mother, again shoulders up, no words, no emotions. I wanted to say “my mother is a lazy witch and would of cooked me if I had brought her the pot”, but I didn’t. He asked if I felt like hurting people, I nodded my head. I didn’t answer any of his questions just sat there hoping his visit would soon end.

A black female was at my door the next morning to accompany me in the white van on a long drive to Kankakee Illinois. I remember it was a long drive and, I kept asking which way are we going? The black man at the wheel told me “still going south girl” chuckling each time I asked. I knew Hoopeston was southeast of Geneva because I remember seeing the compass on Pauline’s dash read Northwest. It felt like we drove forever when we turned in another gated community. This time no guards looked under the vehicle. A man came out of a small guard house and signed the clipboard the black driver handed him. I looked around and thought “Oh No they are taking me to another prison for stabbing Smokey.” We parked at a Limestone building. I could see the river behind it and other Limestone buildings on both sides, some larger than others but, no fence just the one at the gate.

Inside the Diagnostic Center there were children about my age and younger, some looked retarded and some looked scared, staring at me wide eyed. The driver left me with a nurse dressed in street clothes wearing a nurse’s cap. The cap didn’t look right with clothes. I had seen the nurses at Geneva they wore white uniform dresses, and white stockings with their nurse’s cap. This did not set well with me for a first impression of the place. I was given a tour and shown where my bed was and where the group meetings were nightly, then their dining room. The place was so much smaller than Geneva I can only remember seven other girls besides me at the time.

It was here during my first meeting with my new counselor Laurel that I began to face my demons. Laurel was on the unit everyday all day long talking to us girls and then meeting with us everyday after lunch in group. It was Laurel that bought me my first pair of jeans and a cute tee shirt to replace the over sized dress from Geneva and new white sneakers. I remember begging her not to take my state stompers I wanted to keep them, and she let me put them in storage but, the dress I hope they burned!

Laurel began my therapy by letting me ask the questions and I had so many. My first question was “where did December and January go?” It was February when I got to the unit. Laurel answered all my questions each day and for every three questions she answered I was to answer one of her questions the following day. I trusted Laurel and soon opened up to her asking her fewer questions than she was asking me.

Laurel told me I had a break down and was suffering from Post Traumatic Syndrome along with depression from all I had been through in my short twelve years. She told me I was over medicated with Thorazine while in Geneva causing me to become aggressive and have violent outbursts. The more I acted out, the more I was medicated causing malnourishment resulting in me weighing 52 lbs when I came to her. This explained the powdered mix in my milk and sprinkled on my food each meal.

One day Laurel surprised me with a wide rule notebook and three pencils asking me to write down something everyday, anything just write and let her see what I wrote at the end of each week. The first week I had kept the notebook tucked away in a drawer at the foot of my bed to make sure it stayed neat and clean. Laurel told me “take baby steps Brenda, but write something everyday.” As I began writing I felt tears in my eyes because my first words on paper were a letter to my brother Billy. Of all the questions I had asked Laurel I never asked where my brother and sister went when mom gave them away. I cried and cried with Laurel telling me “it’s okay, it’s okay keep crying don’t stop”. Laurel cried with me. I was praised in group for “taking baby steps” and asked if I wanted to share what I had wrote that day with the other girls in group, some days I shared, some days I didn’t.

The notebooks were coming two at time and sometimes I asked for more. I kept the filled notebooks in Laurel’s office on a shelf she had called “Brenda’s Baby Steps”. For the first time in my life I felt special.

Laurel told me she had located my brother and sister both were wards of the state. My sister was living in a foster home in Anna Illinois and my brother in a Children’s Home in Mt. Carmel Illinois. She told me both were doing well and she’d arrange a phone call to them if their placements permitted it. The day came I heard my brother’s voice he sounded so grown up. He told me he missed me but didn’t cry and said he talked to our sister every week and she liked her new home. Then I got to talk to my sister, she missed me too and said she loved me. After the calls I cried but they were tears of happiness.

Mid May Laurel told me my baby steps had paid off, I was now ready to leave her unit and return to Geneva. Laurel explained to me I had to do as the court ordered and return to Geneva for running away. She also told me there was no charges of stealing a bicycle or going into my friend’s house, I had volunteered that information to the policeman that picked me up at Hoopeston hospital after the dog bite. Laurel knew a lot and shared what she knew, I loved that about her. For the next few days Laurel and I talked about my fears of going back to Geneva. We talked about me being locked up and forgotten, of the scary girls there, the teachers, the world ending and my notebooks filled with secrets. She promised she would send my notebooks to me. I didn’t want to go but, Laurel said “remember everything we talked about and you will make it in Geneva.” My last question to Laurel was why do the nurse’s wear street clothes and a nurse cap? She smiled at me and said goodbye.