“No Strings Attached” 09.22.23

Upon committal to a psychiatric ward, there are sacrifices beyond freedom: No personal items. No choices. No colored pencils. No jewelry, shoe laces, or draw strings. If you want to retain certain articles of clothing, you must weigh their value against your attachment to the strings.

Such was my life for six months, ten years ago. Doctors told me that it may take a couple of years for my brain to heal from this trauma, but how very wrong they were. I am followed by details. They cling to me, as I reminisce in waiting rooms. Nostalgia floods my senses and memories flow through me in strange pieces. These feelings are impossible to explain. Every time I step into a hospital I run the risk of witnessing a stretcher rolling past with two orderlies, a ride so familiar I can almost taste it. The scent of hospital food causes waves of anxiety, crashing through me like spikes of adrenaline. I remember how the staff sometimes passed out menus, allowing us the illusion that we had free will, then serving us nothing we desired.

When I was little, I frequently experienced ear infections. My mom and I often visited the emergency room for this reason. It was an exciting adventure to leave the house in the middle of the night, and while I waited my turn I rummaged through my mom’s purse. She carried many interesting and seemingly irrelevant items everywhere she went. I suppose the candle stick was in case the power went out and the flashlights were low on battery.

After these appointments, we would head home; Mom attempted a return to the realm of dreams. I loved wearing the hospital bracelet and kept it on for as long as possible, feeling special and important. Oh, how the tables have turned. Now, having worn that bracelet for months, it feels like a handcuff.

Several years after the age of two, I have come to the conclusion that whether or not I wear the bracelet I am tethered to the place I try so desperately to forget. Leaving, escaping, moving on, I will always have strings, but they loosen with time. I hope that in my future, these strings will be easier to cut than the ones I surrendered from my favorite sweatshirt.