Letters From the Eastside – Letter Nineteen

Dear Mother Directional,

I wanted to come clean with you. Here and now. I want to share more about where I am and why. Not to mention the reasons behind where I am; but more, I wanted to send you this to explain what it was like from day one, up until now, and into the foreseeable future, I want to tell you more about what I see when I hopefully go forward.
They say that we have nothing but time here. Yet again, time is only slipping away. There is us, the people inside of these walls, and then there’s the rest of the world or the so-called “normal” people – then there’s life, which seems to go on.
But for us, the patients or inmates or whatever you want to call us, there is only time or the waste thereof. There’s only the slow-moving time that we spend within this small place.

I was trying not to refer to this place at all in my letters. However, now that I am closing in on the end of my stay, I think now is the time to explain what I have seen here. Of course, you know this is not my first breakdown. I am no stranger to this or to the ideas of depression. I have lived with anxiety throughout my entire life. In fact, I understand this life. I understand this more than I would (or could) understand anything else in this world.
I suppose now would be the time to tell you more about the motivation behind these letters. This is to help me come to a decision of sorts. This is a collection of my old suicide notes; and all the while, as I was writing to you – I wondered if you noticed this. Did you sense it? Could have?

I suppose the first day here was the strangest day. This place is nothing like I have ever seen before. I’ve only assumed about places like this or believed what I saw on movie screens or in television shows.  I have never been in a hospital like this and no, my last ventures into the psych wards were much different and certainly a lot shorter.
The people I’ve met are unlike anyone I’ve ever known before. I know this is strange coming from me being where I am – coming from a place where I am supervised for my own protection. I know this is uncomfortable, coming from me – your son. I know this is hard to read, coming from someone in a place where the doors are locked and the corridors are paraded by people like myself, walking around in hospital gowns or pajamas and robes, or sweats, or anything that makes them comfortable.

Some people get visitors here. Some don’t. Some talk. Some don’t. Some sit and drool, looking off into the outer space of their mind as if they are gone, somewhere else; but wherever they are, they’ve gone too far and the people here on Earth wonder if they’ll ever be coming back.

There was a longhaired man who was here before my arrival. He was said to be violent at home but there was something about him that appeared fake to me – or perhaps the words attention-seeking are more appropriate than fake. He would walk around with his jacket on and on occasion, he made a run for the door but the orderlies brought him back in. Eventually, he got his wish. He got out and now he’s somewhere in a jail cell because of an aggravated assault charge.

There was another young man who was equally as eager to escape. But he was slightly different. He was mainly thin and mostly pale. He talked about his time in foster care and in boys’ homes. He talked about how he was beaten for his sneakers. He was otherwise racist until someone of a darker color and who was much larger offered him a shot at the title – that’s a challenge to a fight, if you didn’t get the reference. Somehow, this settled the conversation.
He talked about getting wound up and freaking out, just so they would dope him up – like how it was back in the days of a drug called Thorazine and how this was used on the so-called crazies who were medically made to become meek – wandering the hallways in the psych ward, dragging their feet and doing what is otherwise known as the Thorazine shuffle. Spaced out of this hemisphere and drugged into submission. To some people, this is just a way station. For some of the people here, this is a way of life. This is just the course of doing business. But I don’t like this business. Not at all.

I have been sending you these letters to diagnose myself – or perhaps there is a better word for this. Maybe diagnose is the wrong word. Maybe understand is a better word. Maybe my time here at Edenbrook Mental Health Facility in a hospital, which I used to pass each day on the way to work, is enough for me to finally understand the missing pieces. Maybe I can get well. Or maybe not. But either way, I am away from myself. I am not stuck in the same habitual routine anymore. I am not lost to social media websites, scrolling through pages and wishing my life was more like someone else’s (or anyone else’s).

The place is mainly quiet. There are some freak-outs and some arguments which bleed out into the hallways. There’s a young man whose face represents a picture of a young American Indian I once saw. Only he is Mexican – or perhaps Incan or maybe Aztecan by descent. He has long black hair and deep eyes which are sad. He hardly speaks and often lays in bed. They say he was badly abused. They say he was hurt. I say he just wants to be free. But freedom isn’t a choice for him. At least not right now.

There is a girl here who was nearly dead. But fortunately, her overdose was not fatal. The more awful part of her troubles are the damages to her arms from the needles she used. She said she didn’t know what she was doing. I told her not to be so harsh. I said most people don’t know what they’re doing.
They only think they know.
I suppose the hardest to see are the elderly and the forgotten, the homeless and the unwanted. It’s hard to see people who have scarred wrists or necks or those who’ve been in places like this before or for nearly their entire lives – and they live here to the point where this is their reality.
Maybe they get an extra snack or an extra jello. To them, that’s their biggest thrill. And sure, there are some people here to get better. Some people are here to beat the streets or avoid the homeless nature of their lives. There are people here from all ages. There’s a man here who witnessed his father beating his mother.
So, in response – he shot his father in the chest with a shotgun. Somehow, he talks about this openly. No shame or hesitation, He speaks about this with the disbelief of his sentence, which was only ten years of probation and now he’s here with me inside “The nut house” as he called it.
He told me that he thought he should have gotten more time. But the self-defense was true to the core and that because he killed his father in self-defense, the courts went easy on him. But he remains guilty in his heart so any other judgments are inapplicable. The only judgment that really applies is his own.
He said this happened years ago and not a week goes by that he does not have an audio or visual hallucination of the night when he gunned his father down.

I think that more and more – the more I understand about myself, the more I see the difference between surface level thinking and superficial wounds as opposed to the depths of our heart and the deeper dimensions of our true pains. I can see this now.
I can see where I’ve come from and why this has become who I am. I am a tale of my past and my secrets. Or better yet, I am the sum of my equations. I am a compilation of my history, which repeats itself because I live in a constant loop of old information that keeps recurring because it is me who keeps this alive. I see this as a self-propelled issue. I keep this going. So, then how do I get better? This is the real question.

I paint myself in the corner or create my self-fulfilled prophecy. I am no better or worse or different from anyone else. I have a heart. I have a mind. I have dreams as well as nightmares and terrors.

I have met people here who lived through the worst of circumstances yet they are still alive. I have started these letters to you which I’ve asked you to keep as a record of my time here. Though I never want to regard this place again, I have to regard why I am here.
I have to regard why I survived myself. I have to regard why I think or feel the way I do. I have to acknowledge this and accept this because otherwise, I will never learn to  move beyond it.

Mother, I am sorry if I am a disappointment to you or to anyone else. I am sorry that I have had such a hard time because I know how this hurts you. I know that watching me go through this is painful for you. I don’t blame you – and I don’t blame anyone else. I don’t blame the world for my place in the family tree – the lost child, the scapegoat or whatever else my version of self has grown to be.

I am nearing the end of my time here at Edenbrook. They say they will let me leave, which is why I’ve begun these letters to you. This is my way of dismantling my attitude and disarming the argument. This is my way of unscrambling my thoughts – to smooth the path from here on in – to live or to decide or to be anything better than this, a patient at Edenbrook. 

I’ve met people here who I’ve never seen before and, somehow, through this journey of denial or self-destruction, it would seem as if we knew each other forever. We say that we’ll keep in touch and I suppose that we mean it too. Then again, some people have what’s called recidivism, which means they’ll come right back. Some people don’t make it back. Some people leave here and on that day, they quit. They go back to the needle or to whatever it is that keeps them sick. And me, I just don’t want to be sick anymore. I suppose the question is – do I know how to not be sick?

That’s the question . . .

I love you, Mother.

Thanks for listening. I don’t think anyone really listens anymore – and even if they do, can we trust them? I doubt it. Does anybody really care?
Who knows? But I know you care and I want to care too.
I guess the only person who I can trust is the person I should trust the most – myself.
And I’m working on this, Mom.
I promise that I am.

Love always,

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