'We Are Not Who You Think We Are': A Poem About Psychiatric Hospitalization
My name is Eileen, I am currently 18 and I have spent almost a year of my life in psychiatric hospitalization. This is a poem I wrote about a year ago, during my nine-month hospital stay, about some of the people I have met and the friends I have made during that time.
When you say the words “psychiatric hospital,” we often picture a sterile, white environment with locked doors and screaming patients. Yes, that sometimes is the case, and yes, I have previously been one of those screaming patients, but I have also been a friend, a singer, a dancer and a student. All within those same four white walls.
You see, there is so much more to psychiatric hospitalization than medication and mindfulness – there is friendship, vulnerability, so much support and yes, there are happy moments. Sitting in the communal area with friends just being silly, playing “Just Dance” on the Wii for hours on end, bringing in a guitar and singing, making hot chocolates and doing jigsaws together. It may be a sterile and cold environment, but it is us, the patients, who come together and make it our home, make it warm, friendly, comforting and most importantly, bearable. Without the companionship of my fellow patients, I have no idea how I would have made it through my months in the hospital.
Here are the words to the poem:
My friends and I live on a supermarket shelf
Inside jars tins and boxes our labels announcing that we are
50 percent depressed, 30 percent psychotic, 20 percent suicidal
100 percent mentally ill, check the lid for the “best before” date
And although we live under lock and key
My friends are the bravest people you’ll ever meet
We may be shattered but that doesn’t mean
That we can’t still gleam
In the sunlight
Tarnished silver still shines
In the right light
And so do we
The pain may be constant but we are not
Always screaming, crying, shouting
Hitting, kicking, throwing
Pulling, pushing, scratching, scarring
We are not wrong because we “malfunction”
Because we missed the right junction
In our lives
Why should we be cast aside for the mess
In our minds which could be tidied
Up with the sweep of a brush or failing that,
Some strong soap and elbow grease?
Get down on your knees
My friends and I, we may be partners in illness but we are partners
We laugh and we dance and it’s about time
We were recognized
Not as symptoms or fears
But as kids who lost a couple of years
To illness and hurt but that doesn’t mean this defines us or makes us broken
Or at least not irreparable.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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