By Jes Schefe
*Trigger Warning: Contains self harm*
A constant poison that had always filled me with venom, my mind had regularly betrayed me. I was as much of a patient there as anyone else, but in the beginning, I had moxie. Group therapy sessions were always difficult, and I introduced myself with an admission of terrible anxiety, and an apology for any future incidents that I might cause. My own darkness and chronic depression were simply things that I filed away in my stay there, that deep sea of unhappiness, never knowing how to swim.
I had constructed somewhat of a boat, you see—made from words and thoughts that were shared in the sessions. I was trying to steer it in the direction of the doorway, but I never quite made it.
Slouched in the cold aluminium chair, polystyrene cup of water in hand, I stared at my dirty grey cotton socks. That hue came from pacing halls that many people and objects travelled back and forth along every minute of every day. Crash carts and pathology trolleys, patients, visitors… they always call it names like ward, but I know better. Time is always marked by portioning of meals, medications, meeting rooms, cold thermometers. The status of being able to wear your own clothes wasn’t ever afforded to anyone like me. Masses wandered the wide corridors in off-white gowns that never quite tied up at the back. The furniture that wasn’t hard aluminium or plastic didn’t ever exist here.
The water made tiny waves. He sat across from me, rapping his fingers on the table. Three. Four times. I kept my eyes on my socks.
“How do you feel this week?”
I felt much worse. Like I was falling. Always deeper and deeper into a bottomless ravine.
I have no rights here. Nothing. I can’t leave, I can’t choose when to rise or when to lay in bed—there is always a schedule to everything. Always a nurse for everyone. My body is a cage. I can’t refuse the pills that make my mind slow and my speech drawl. If I try, they hold me down, sedate me, and force them down my throat. Only people with electronic identity cards can open doors. There is no rest from screams from inside isolation rooms. There isn’t one person who doesn’t fear me at least a little, after I broke that pencil in half and stabbed my arm’s main artery with it so I could make sure I still bled thick red blood. Crazy is as crazy does.
When they don’t know what to do with you, they put you in here. The prison for the sick. They take your dignity along with your clothes, speak to you as though you are a challenged child and always feed you mush from packets in tiny grey portions, so that if you ever may actually have an appetite, you lose it instantly.
They watch you. Always. They record you. Always. They make note of any negative response or emotion you show, and praise passive behaviour. Always.
He pressed me.
“What say you try and tell me what exactly is wrong?” he blinked.
I explained that I can’t keep food down. I can’t sleep. There was no joy anymore.
I didn’t tell him how good it felt to use my broken pencil to open my thick blue vein just long enough. Because there isn’t one word that wouldn’t be taken as insane.
My existence was scrutinized, emotion taken as a sign of imbalance.
In the place of locked doors and barred windows time was ever so slow.
I glanced at the door.
All the time we’d been sitting in discussion there, my father sat outside by himself.
Perched on a plastic chair, he stared at his feet.
“Would you like me to fetch your father?”
He didn’t wait for a response, stood up and went to open the door.
They shook hands, then both walked inside.
“I’m considering a few more weeks and a few more shock treatments, Mr. Campbell. We can only expect a positive result after we have endured some unpleasantness.”
My father’s face relaxed.
“So, we can expect some improvement soon…?”
“Oh, I’m quite sure of it.”