On Being 'Broken'

Think about it. An artist would never use an entire tree to sketch his lover — only a chip of its limb burnt into charcoal. A mosaic would not be near as expressive if it was only a slab of impeccable, whole porcelain. And if a song was just one long note, never interrupted for breath or the crisp crack of a drum, something more would be lacked.

Late last year, I spent two weeks in the psych ward, one of the most “broken” places in this world, and I am here to tell you that being “broken” is possibly the most uniting human experience. As humans, we have a certain amount of pressure that we can withstand — the death of a twice-removed cousin, dysthymia, a family member’s lost job. And then we have the metaphorical twisty straw that makes us snap: one too many griefs, bankruptcy, our own minds finally becoming the hell we always prayed they would never become. And we break. Hard. Sometimes, it’s right down the middle, and sometimes we shatter, but either way, we need to be put back together.

Throughout those 14 days, I met quite the motley crew of people. It wasn’t hard for me to see the beauty in all of these people who felt as if they would never be completely whole again; I felt a palpable connection, even if we were not going through the exact same thing. After their first few days I saw hope replace the glassy, fearful sheen that once filmed their eyes. Soon, we began to laugh in spite of ourselves and almost forgot what it was like on the outside where everyone pretends they are that faultless mosaic or that single-note hum.

I’ve been back in the “real world” for more than six months, but I’m writing this to tell you that if you have ever found yourself hospitalized, do not forget that feeling of interconnection. And if you have never been in the psych ward, look around, ask questions and learn everyone is just as fractured as you are. Everyone has been struck by someone they thought they loved (physically or emotionally), and every heart has fallen from the top shelf and been carelessly grouted back together so it is no longer the flawless crystal ball it once was.

Learn that we are banded together in this skirmish to lift each other up. But more than that, everyone has that one shard that no one could find, the sliver that will forever be lost, and that’s OK. It’s like baby teeth — life knocks loose parts of us; sometimes many, but not all those parts are necessary for survival. New parts will emerge to replace them. It just takes time. Will we always remember the fall? Yes. But we are also more than capable of healing, if only we give it a chance.

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