A Hospitalization in Three Acts

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 

all fade 

from memory 

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

who understand-

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,

band 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



or deterred

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

to fly.

By Michelle Hurrell


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