The halls are silent after lunch. Each patient sent to their room for “reflection” as though we are small children learning to figure out exactly what it is we have done wrong. Some patients shower during this time – asking the nurse for their “hygiene bucket” before disappearing to their rooms. The contents of each bucket varies only slightly, all have soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant- some have a brush, feminine products, conditioner, lotion. Pulling my own bucket off the counter that divides patients from staff, I am reminded of the fragile nature of this place – where a travel size bottle of baby soap must be locked away for safety. What kind o death would that be, I wonder. A slow, painful agony, i imagine – being cleansed from the inside out.
As I sit in reflection, my thoughts are interrupted by the yell of “Nurse! Nurse!” I never know what the caller needs, only hear the nurse say, “I’m going to close the door if you yell again.” Once more I am reminded of childhood, sitting in my bedroom door frame just inside the edge of my captivity crying to be allowed out – my mother calling from the next room, “Be quiet or I’m going to close your door.”
There are things we say to keep the world in a familiar order, in its proper place. Things that helps us keep sense of otherwise chaotic lives – unruly children, patients on a mental ward. But the similarities must end there. Because we are not children – simply souls who have lost their luster and are fighting, some harder than others, to get it back.
Perhaps it is the nature of a mental hospital or a factor of being locked out of one’s own bathroom; refused pens, drawstrings, under wire bras, the outdoors; or the freedom to eat, take our meds, or brush our teeth without first asking, – being here makes me think of ways to off myself. Things I’ve never thought of before and feel a desire for only as a function of my presence here. I wonder how sturdy the shower bar is, how I might sharpen the end of my toothbrush, whether the plastic covers on the food would break cleanly and prove a sharp enough edge. The mental hospital is making me crazier – more transfixed with my own failings, but also more at peace with them. Beyond the animals, house, job, and husband, there is only me, sitting at this desk, contemplating my own mortality.