Caring is the New Cool

by Eric, Former Devereux Texas Client

I always wanted to be cool. I thought I was cool, and then I came to Devereux Texas. I came to Devereux when I was a skinny, cool, 14-year-old kid who knew everything. My parents brought me and when it was time to say goodbye, I did the “uncoolest” thing ever. It may have been 5 years ago, but it might as well have been 5 minutes ago. I regret that day. I always will. When it hit me that my parents were leaving me, something came over me. I just stood there at the residential unit door and a horrible panic came over me. All the sudden I reached out and shook my mom’s hand. I remember her looking at me strange. Then I shook my dad’s hand and said to both of them, “Bye.” I turned around and walked to my room. I sat on my bed. I put my head in my hands and started crying so hard. It felt like I cried for years. I thought to myself, “What did I just do? Why didn’t I hug them? I love them. What did I just do? Why did I have to act cool?” I didn’t see my mom and dad for a year.

I learned something during that year from my teachers, therapists, and Direct Support Professionals (DSP’s). I learned that acting cool can hurt people. It can hurt people you love the most, like your parents. Now, I didn’t like them telling me this. I was too cool for them to tell me that my way of acting cool wasn’t cool. I liked acting cool. It helped me feel less afraid. I was afraid a lot when I first got to Devereux. My teachers taught me that learning is a wise cool. My DSP’s taught me that self-control is cool. My therapist taught me that taking responsibility for my actions is cool. I didn’t like that acting cool hurt my mom and dad. I thought about it every day for a year. I knew I needed to face them as a man with this so, when I saw them, the first thing I said was, “I’m sorry I had to act cool that day. I’m sorry I hurt you. Can I give you a hug now?” My parents gave me the best hugs that day, and I gave them the best hugs back. If I hadn’t listened and learned from my Devereux family, I wouldn’t have been able to make it right with my family.

I used to think I didn’t belong at Devereux. I thought it was just a place I was staying–like camp. There were depressed people here. I wasn’t depressed. There were bullies here. I wasn’t a bully. There were people who liked to fight. I hate to fight. I just like to be the innocent guy who stays low and doesn’t get involved in physical incidents. There were people here who refused to take their medicine. I had to look in the mirror at that one. I was guilty. I refused to take mine. Why? To be cool. When I look back at the young dumb 14-year-old me who refused to take his medicine, I want to tell him, “Take it. You will feel better–I promise. Stop making life harder on yourself!” I hated that it took time to get all my medicines just right. I like things to happen right now. My medicines weren’t that way, but now they are right and I feel right. And, about the bullying–I had to admit to myself that I was bully after all, and it wasn’t cool. All those times I was calling people names or making ethnic jokes, that was bullying. I hope I am better at not doing that now. I know I try to be.

Another thing I would tell my 14-year-old self, “Figure out how to step up your game faster and get off STOP.” These new kids have it easy now at Devereux. This is a cakewalk. I used to be on unit restriction (UR) for a whole week. I just kept getting on UR week after week. One day, I finally had a talk with myself. I told myself, “All they want me to do is mind my own business, stop making inappropriate comments and work my program.” I thought if I couldn’t do this stuff now, I was never going to be anybody in life. I thought about something. I thought about my parents picking me. I’m adopted. They could have picked any baby in the whole world, and they picked me. Then, they put in the best place ever to get me help—Devereux Texas. What was I doing not stepping up my game for them? So, I really stepped it up. I was able to a job off campus at South Shore Harbor Resort. I also worked on campus at the Dining Hall and the Coffee Spot. I volunteered at the Galveston Food Bank. I haven’t been on UR in, I don’t know, forever? I don’t get in trouble in school. Now, I admit, I still put my nose in other people’s business, but that’s a hard one to break.

The hard thing about Devereux being my family is I have a lot anxiety about leaving. Sometimes I think about ways to make it so I can stay. I know that isn’t the way it works, but I get afraid. It is like a puzzle. I came in as a scared 14-year-old kid, and now at 19, I am scared to leave. That’s funny, isn’t it? I made a family at Devereux, I have aunts and uncles, cousins, sisters and brothers here. I have grandparents. I have people who care about me. One time a kid was on the unit and his mom came to visit him. He was the meanest kid ever here. None of us liked him even a little bit. His mom was really horrible to him. She didn’t care at all that we could hear her and she told him she didn’t want him back. She said she wasn’t coming back to visit. She wasn’t calling and he was not allowed to call her. It made me mad. I wanted to tell her, “You need your mom rights revoked.” She just left him crying at the table. I mean crying—like, crying loud. We were all peeping out of our doors, a little scared. We had never seen him be anything but mean and scary. All the sudden, I had an out-of-body experience. I went over to the table and put my arm on his shoulder. Then a few more of us came out, and we all were there for him. He was glad. He was so glad. You see, we were his family that day. We understood. He needed us. No matter what, we were all we all had. Even when he started being mean to us again, none of us ever regretted being there for him that day, and every one of us were there for him at every phone call time and holiday when his mom didn’t call. And, on those days he was glad. My 14-year-old self would not have ever had the courage to come out of my room to be his family that day. Thank you, Devereux Texas, for teaching me that caring is the new cool.

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health specializes in the care of children, adolescents and adults with a wide range of emotional, behavioral and cognitive differences. The Devereux League City campus provides intensive long-term residential treatment for adolescents ages 11-22.

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