Act I Inpatient
No time passes slower
than the minutes that creep into hours
during a hospital intake.
All the questions! The re-questioning! The inquisition!
Where do you fall between 1 and 10?
You weigh your answer like a miser weighs his gold-
(with the utmost interest…)
for 3 to 1 will get you 1 to 1
and no one wants 1 to 1.
The hospital is a dreary place.
The only brightness within is the staff,
who carries your light for you
until you are strong enough on the inside to carry it all on your own.
They shelter the embers within their steady hands-shielding it-
even when you try to blow it out
with the winds of your own despair.
Still, a hospital is a lonely place-
distant and removed from the world-
a place where your last decent night’s sleep, your last cup of strong coffee and your last friendly, private phone call
as you step off the elevator.
It is a place that runs entirely on its own time, which means…
Everything runs late
and where the lateness of a meeting on the outside
is a welcome chance to catch up on work,
the lateness of an art therapy group
or a meal
gets all built up into a major offense-
in a mind that desperately craves distractions.
Still a hospital is a safe place,
where the only real threat is the hostile takeover plot
of the mutiny of smokers who become unhinged when anything
(and I mean anything) cuts into their break.
It is a place where you cannot cease the heart that beats within-
where we all can take a break from the exhaustion from plotting our own demise-
and for that,
despite all of its imagined and trumped up injustices,
I am grateful.
Act II Outpatient (Partial)
The pain in the room is palpable.
Dark circles, red eyes, air dried hair and not a stroke of make up
(oh wait, that’s me!)
Still, overall exhaustion lies behind our eyes.
We feel the heaviness of just being alive-
the pain of trying to control
the unruly chemistry that confuses our minds.
We pray to the altar of CBT and DBT,
as though an acronym alone could aleve us.
We are mindful (until that too becomes an obsession).
We breathe deeply in traffic.
Count our blessings-
starting over and over when destructive thoughts
cause us to lose our count.
We huddle here
in a makeshift circle
and bear our scars to the only ones
for we all know the sharpness
of the mental anguish that caused the original wound
Finding comfort that we are all “in the same pot”
we help each other climb out when the water
begins to boil
for if we lose anyone to the fire
the flames win
and for this cause alone
we bond together,
a motley crew-
mentally holding hands
following each other
out of the dark.
Act III Discharge
Do you feel ready?
Leaving, at last, the cocoon of safety?
Abandoning a place,
where explanations are unnecessary,
as just a glance into each other’s eyes
conveys the stories of our souls.
I leave the circle to lead meetings of my own.
Discarding my role of someone in need
and donning instead the cloak of
“Trust me. I’m fine.”
I wear a mask of makeup
and re-enter the land of the living
armed only with a dry erase marker.
In time, the protective circle
fades from memory.
Sadly, the faces and names recede as well.
But, this mental erasure is
for if we never leave the sphere,
we will forever ride through our lives
with training wheels welded on tight-
afraid to travel without precautions
Am I ready?
Is anyone ever really ready?
But finding one’s balance should never be
for certain safety can only cement us to the ground
so as I leave these rooms,
I am reminded of the baby wren fledging outside my window:
one must first fall
By Michelle Hurrell