Time in the Loony Bin

Foot down hard, I flew
A week later than I would’ve preferred
To see you
Bearing gifts of books and love
Cards from family – mine (and by extension, yours.)
Worried, anxious about what I’d find.
Would Nurse Ratched be presiding?
Would I find you unhinged – my dear girl, interrupted?
Would I be scared? A tourist? Attacked?
I pulled up, mind and emotions aflutter
Wanting to be there for you
Yet not knowing if ‘you’ were all there.

I was naive, my friend, and you taught me
In at the deep end, for you’d forgotten about my arrival
And laughed at my shock as one of your new friends told me
In broad Irish brogue,
How he’d tried to cut out his heart
Yet had no sense of anatomy and cut the wrong side
He’d do better next time, he said.

As though the ground were shifting under me
Waves rising, I floundered.
Should I laugh? And thereby condone?
Should I remonstrate? Offer a sane view?
I hedged and clung to the fence, trying not to offend or approve
Didn’t understand the gallows humour
But he’d already moved on.

You were giddy – not like I know you, but you, amplified
You were brash and crude
Overspilling with the force of your personality
The social conventions (and the gloves, and all bets) were off
You loved your presents
You loved the cards
You love my family and I’m glad that in a way, they’re yours too.

Then we chatted
And you calmed
Felt normal to me
(and I normal to you – I fitted right in)
Honesty and affection flowed
And I was glad you were alright.

You made us a cuppa
A stunningly normal occurrence in our relationship
Now juxtaposed by the lunacy of us being here
And gradually my edginess wore off
You told me about ‘your people’
And how being among them was good for you
As the day wore on, I became proud to be counted as one of ‘your people’
For they were like me

The guy you said was anorexic
“Cigarettes, tea and nothing else”
And four grown-up children nearby
None of whom had visited

The guy who punched and stabbed
To deal with the anger which consumed him
Who calmed down after an upset
When you hugged him and told him to make good choices

The girl you called ‘Virgin Mary’
Whose eyes were sad and whose smile was beautiful
Who spoke foreign languages with us
But kept leaving inexplicably
Then returning

The guy whose Irish reminded me of Husby’s home
We talked Dubliners, accents, drinking and fun
He shook his head in confusion as to why
After nearly amputating his own arm
He still couldn’t get sectioned.
He didn’t want to go home.
Didn’t want the front door to close behind him
Incarcerating him with his thoughts and no-one for company.

These were your people
Bewildered by life
Just taking some time to rest
And recover from the harship
Of Being Them.

And the ‘nuthouse’
The ‘loony bin’
The ‘scary box of mad people’
Was a refuge
A haven of clean peace
And quiet
(But for our laughter and singing)
It was Home

Those souls who struggled to manage ‘normal life’
Were nestled here like baby birds
Vulnerable creatures, helping one another to grow
Making each other laugh
Doing Good for one another

And I was jealous
For in the long-ago hours of my Darkest Times
I needed this
And knew not that it existed
But today,
Quite serendipitously
I came to see you in the ‘place of crazies’
And discovered the kinship of fragile souls
And healing
For both of us.


29 thoughts on “Time in the Loony Bin

  1. So, I say I’m terrified. But my true fear is me losing it. Me having a mental breakdown from which I can’t recover. It’s been a fear since I can remember. I remember laying in bed as a little girl wondering if I was truly crazy and the world around me was all in my imagination.

    But a few years ago one of my closest, dearest, best friends had to spend a few weeks on the psychiatric floor of the hospital. Of course I had to go see her immediately. I was terrified to go but I was MUCH more terrified for her and what she was going through. And what you write here is familiar. She kind of lit up the place. She had done makeovers on some of the other patients and even organized a dance contest. She’s amazing like that. I hope your friend’s doing well. I hope you’ve found kinship of fragile souls ( I love that phrasing by the way ) in this world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a healthy kind of fear, and as long as you have it, you don’t need to worry about it happening. The true concern should be when it starts appearing an attractive prospect – to let the hinges in your mind snap, and to float off into ‘other’. I’ve nearly been there a couple of times. The world isn’t in your imagination, or the food would taste better.

      My friend is doing better now, thanks. She still struggles (Bipolar and Emotional Intensity Disorder) but she hasn’t had to go back to stay yet, but both of us look upon that place as a bit of a haven. I hope your friend is doing well too – it sounds as though she did brilliantly once the constraints were off, and she was allowed to just *be* for a bit.

      As for the kinship of fragile souls – definitely. Definitely. They keep me going – and isn’t everyone a fragile soul in some way or another, G?


      • So, my friend was diagnosed as Bipolar also. That manic episode that landed her in the hospital was kind of shock and turned her world upside down. But like I said, she’s amazing. She’s one of my heroes. She’s doing ok, still trying to sort out meds and life (and that was about 5 years ago).

        It’s funny that you say that as long as I have that fear it won’t happen. That’s kind of how I view life. If I worry and cover all the options and scenarios and escape routes then it won’t possibly happen. Of course, I’ve taken it to an unhealthy level, but I’m working on that! And yes, the food would taste much better! 🙂

        And yes, we’re all fragile souls. That’s what I love about all the people we connect with on here, we’re not afraid to admit it. Have a wonderful weekend Lizzi.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You too, my friend.

          I think part of the reason we’re here (in the Blogosphere) is because we’re a bit fragile and we need those connections.

          I think awareness is key, and if you know that you have these patterns of behaviour and you know that it’s unhealthy, you’ll manage it all much better. I’m sorry you have the fear though. I have Alzheimer’s coming to me, I think – both my grandmothers had/have it, and I sometimes worry about my mum. So there’s that. I figure by then I’ll be so blotto I won’t know that I’m mad.

          Your friend sounds incredible. I’m glad she’s doing well.


  2. I wonder if most of society just plain doesn't know! I certainly think times are a-changing (for the better) with regard to how the public at large views people with mental illnesses.

    As I understand it, the aim of these places is to 'release' people once they're no longer in a state of mind where they might harm others or themselves. And I guess that depends on how severe the problem was in the first place and how quickly and effectively it can be managed with treatment, so I'd say it varies from person to person. I don't think these places are the 'mental institutions' of yore (or of Eastern Europe) where being admitted is to have the remainder of your life signed away.


  3. This was great. I've never visited such a place, but I'm hoping it would be this fun, peaceful, and reflective. I guess most of society views these places, these “nut house” locales, and the people residing within as dregs, which is really unfortunate 😦

    I've been to a psyche ward of a hospital before visiting a friend, but even there there were different security level floors. The one I visited was mainly for depression/suicide/etc I believe.

    I'm glad whomever you visited seemed to be happy with where they were at. I always wonder once admitted can one ever be released? I'd imagine so, but am unfamiliar.

    Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink


  4. It was an absolute pleasure to visit you – a real eye-opener and a very touching, humbling day. I adored seeing you and I'm so glad you have such a wonderful, chilled haven to spend time in and come back to.

    The volunteering sounds like an amazing thing to do – you would be doing SO MUCH GOOD! 😀 You're a star and I love you *HUGS*


  5. Aw Kim, that must be such a struggle, as no matter how lovely it is, no matter how accepting, it's still a clear sign that something, somewhere is not being coped with. *hugs*


  6. Mate. I am bowled over by this. It was a pleasure to see you here. (For the benefit of the rest of the readership, I am the one in the nuthouse.) This is definitely an incredible place to be and when I'm out, I will be looking into coming back in a volunteering capacity.


  7. Aw fanx *blush*

    I guess if you ever need more for Our Land on the topic of mental health, I'd be happy to be included as a 'twoser'

    And yes – that recovering from being ourselves…sometimes so important and yet we try too often to carry on as if nothing's wrong.


  8. Wow. Wow. I got emotional over this one as well. You, my friend, are an amazing writer. This is one more reminder that the land of empathy and wonder applies everywhere. I suppose there are times when all of us need to recover from being ourselves. Beautiful and amazing, once again, Lizzi. Truly.


  9. This was very hard for me to read without getting emotional. My mom is in a nursing home, so your piece really resonated. So much of what you described, could be every visit I share with her…I cannot always find the positive when I see her. I'm glad you were able to.


  10. I'm sure if there were nice places available for people to just take some time out, without prejudice, for a time, there'd be less crime, fewer desperately unhappy people. Yet for those of us without mental health problems (for now, anyways) we are trapped by the structures of our lives more surely than any caged animal.


  11. This is so powerful and heartbreaking at the same time. That there are so many 'lost' souls who just need a safe place to recover from what this world does to them. Sometimes it is hard enough being you, without all the censure that is involved. Kudos to you for showing the light (along with the dark).


  12. No worries – I getcha now!

    It's certainly something that's not talked about nearly enough, and thanks for your kind words. I was definitely moved by what I saw today, had my heart touched by the people I met, and was humbled to be able to share today with them – they were all utterly marvellous people.


  13. Wow. This had me in tears. I love how you speak about vulnerable people and people who struggle leading a normal life. How often doesn't that describe us all! You did one of the most amazing jobs I have ever seen of dr stigmatizing mental illness. I'm probably going to come back to your words many times


  14. I daresay they're not all this good – my friend is lucky that she's managed to find such a great place. I had a fascinating time, and the odd thing was (for all the evident deviance from what we call 'The Norm') there was community there and a large dose of very normal, human interaction, but without the frills we often add.


  15. Wow, truly had me pondering what a trip to a place like this would be like. Very interesting and truly unique. Thanks for sharing and sounds like you had very interesting encounter here.


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