Though we couldn’t leave the ward until we’d earned
to wear our shoe laces again, and the problems of the
news-worthy world looked like dreams in someone
else’s pig tail and Candy Land bouncing head, the adult
troubles of the world resembled either an afterschool
program for babies or a Wizard of Oz play put on
by 3rd graders. It’s not that we didn’t care about what
was happening beyond the breakproof glass and
padded safe rooms of the impatient psychiatric unit,
but that the news seemed to be a way of teaching
others to forget that what’s newsworthy
begins with someone with a mental health issue.
We hated all attempts to dismiss deep-rooted
problems for ones that could be all wrapped up
in 24 hours. We were the gatekeepers of the truth,
the givers of real life, and the writers of true love.
When we were ignored, it was because the world
wasn’t brave enough to be sick and begin the
radical process of deep acceptance and self-compassion.
Yeah, at 16 I did think about killing myself,
and manipulative snake that I am, I even think
I told a girlfriend I’d do it if she didn’t stick around,
a ploy her psychiatrist father had relayed to my own father,
who then asked a guidance counselor family friend
to come over and accompany me to my aforementioned
vacation spot in the tall pines of New Hampshire.
Being admitted against my will was stupid and dumb
and impatient counseling was for crazy people, not us.
Leaning back in a chair in the smoking room at the hospital
and burning up one of my father’s Lucky Strikes,
so proud I was of the fact that it had no filter,
even though it made me cough in my sleep and smell
like a back alley behind a restaurant.
They’d all get what was coming to them, unvarnished
and too raw to be palatable. That was the plan.
But what a mask I had on then. Even when I took one off
there was another mask under it.
When I threw up at night in my private bathroom
I saw my face in the toilet water covered in colors
even I couldn’t understand, like a frat buddy had
had fun with me in my drunken sleep. But I looked
savage and intimidating, and that was the point.
Each insult I hurled at others I thought were smarter
and dumber than me made me feel like I was being
evacuated from a self that was so angry it could have burned
itself down. Tragic flaw that I was, I was too strong
and too secure behind a piss-stained idea of power
and a door stop pushed under backwards for my own good.
Though I’d have preferred to walk on the crowded classrooms
of my youth like a Kaiju on top of a miniature Tokyo,
or a Jason Vorhees down a hallway that’s always fast enough
to get around the back of you, they made a healer out of me
instead. What flies and hits us aren’t our punches or tears
or catastrophic comments meant to call the cavalry, but our
feelings that, like geese approaching, get louder and more
beautiful the closer they get to us.