by Fielding Goodfellow
I have wandered through this life travelling the roads less traveled, more often traveled, and, at times, the road that hasn’t been traveled at all. In the haze brought on by years of semi fabulous addiction, I have confronted my demons and come out on the other side of the madness relatively unscathed, with the knowledge that the choices I made would forever be my cross to bear. For those, who through no fault of their own, find themselves drowning in a world they can neither control nor understand, there is little hope that the faint aroma of sanity that lingers in the air while they stumble around in the darkness, will provide any relief for their tortured minds. There were times when I found myself tasting clarity and hope, and there were times when all I could swallow was the confusion and fear. I paid it very little mind however, as I sailed through an imaginary world housed in a sky of blue and a sea of green, that I created with the help of psychedelic hallucinogens.
But the kid is not having it so easy. Unable to out run the unrelenting darkness that often controls her thoughts and envelops her mind like a coastal fog, she has lost her way. Sometimes it just gets too overwhelming, like a thousand voices speaking at once, overloading her senses until the sound is indiscernible. It just becomes noise. That’s how she explains it. That’s what she lives with everyday. So, she sits in an off white and gray room on the 17th floor of St. Michael’s Hospital, as they seduce her with a variety of psychotropic medications in an attempt to stifle the sounds in her head. She tells me that there are four thousand, three hundred and sixty-two dots on the ceiling tiles, which she has counted several times, and I believe her. She is for now, free of the overwhelming thought that her life is not worth living.
The problem, aside from the shit that’s going on in the kid’s head, is the system itself. It is completely fucked. In the name of progress, which is peculiarly subjective, it has become nothing more than a catch and release program, sending those who have wandered in dark circles out into the light armed only with a pharmaceutical cocktail that leaves them confused and bewildered. She is on the wait list for psychotherapy, and could possibly be waiting for twelve to eighteen months for someone to sit down with her and help work through the disoriented thought processes that have led her to the precipice. In the meantime she attends groups on mindfulness and goal setting and continues to scarf down handfuls of assorted pills designed to combat her anxiety and depression. There’s nothing else to do. The unit is bland, and the boredom and desperation that drifts through the corridors is enough to fill anyone with despair. You think that they would try to bring some life and laughter into this circus. A clown or two, or perhaps a couple of puppies would certainly brighten the disturbing melancholy. But the residents of the 17th floor at St. Michael’s Hospital have little else to do other than wander up and down the hallways sharing their stories of depression, anxiety, and angst with each other.
The issue, as I see it, is to discover the cause of those feelings. This is not a new problem. The kid has been on anti-depressants for years, and has been involved in therapy for the customary eight session regimen with no improvement. After almost a decade of suffering she had finally had enough, and stepped out into oncoming traffic. She said that she couldn’t resist the overwhelming urge to do it, but once out on the road, facing the oncoming traffic, she suddenly realized that she didn’t really want to die. Not then, anyway. She continues to ponder taking her own life, as the fear and uncertainty that she must combat daily, continues to strengthen, leaving her very little energy to practice her mindfulness. I continue to visit her, hiding my fear, and anxiety, and guilt. There is an awful lot of guilt, floundering around in all of the what I should have dones and what I could have dones, overshadowed only by the fear that she may try something like this again. I know that she will be released at some point in the near future, and it scares the shit out of me. I don’t know how to keep her safe. and I don’t even know how to talk to her anymore. She just seems so fucking unhappy all of the time. I am afraid that the system will fail her, like it has failed so many others and I am fearful that I won’t be able to fix the systemic problem that permeates mental health treatment. There is no clarity. The waters have become murky as we devolved in the name of positive change that should be of benefit to all, yet the cost of that change is so often far beyond the reach of those who would benefit the most.
I wait with very little patience, trying desperately not to shout “wake the fuck up” to the pod of psychiatrists that, while amiable enough as they swim by, are just fucking dickheads. The kid has begged me not to speak with the doctors or nurses for fear that I might embarrass her when I tell them what I really think. I sit quietly, profoundly concerned that she won’t to talk to me, as she works on a ‘feelings’ crossword puzzle. I imagine that she thinks that I’m ashamed or angry. I am neither. In fact I am surprisingly proud of the kid for realizing that she needed help. It took a great deal of strength, and a significant amount of courage to admit it to herself. I think I’ll tell her, and despite the Interns and nurses who seem to spend most of their time tripping the light orgasmic in the storage closet, I think she’ll be alright.