In mid August I spent some time in a local Behavioral Health Hospital due to the sudden onset of severe panic attacks. I continue to write about it as a way of processing the experience.
Every new arrival receives the same tour –
here's your room, your room mate.
This is the nurses’ station, the meds window;
here's the bathroom and shower,
a towel and washcloth, a blanket,
all bleached white.
The newest is heavyset, balding,
with stringy dark hair. He wears jeans
and hospital-issue paper top,
the kind they hand out in the ER
when the clothes you wore upon arrival
were torn or bloodstained.
He carries the rest of his belongings
in a brown paper bag tucked under one arm.
A shower is the first order of business
for every new arrival, then meds.
Standing behind him at the window
I notice the band aids on his wrists.
No one is ready for eye contact
on their first day, each one jittery
like a wild animal, trapped and wary.
But on the day I will be discharged
he shows up in Group and tells us all his name.
His words come slow like his voice has gotten lost
somewhere deep within his body, a small sound that fell
deep into a chasm of fear or pain or despair, but now
he speaks, sitting at the end of the table,
every syllable a step toward resurrection.
He is Lazarus, we all are, here in this tomb
of dying and learning to live again,
and the therapist at the opposite end
of the table calls us out each by name.