At 4 am as I walk down the same hallway that I have walked up and down thousands of time my mind’s eye begins to think
At 4 am as I walk down the same hallway that I have walked up and down thousands of time my mind’s eye begins to think about the many events that had taken place in the different corners among the faces, nursing staff, and patients.
The seclusion room
Each place in the hall has an event that took place that reminded me of the good and the bad. The room that is rarely used anymore called the “seclusion room” sits quickly with the door shut and locked. The bare mattress without a sheet or bedspread leans alone against the wall cold and uninviting. The mirror that hangs in the top corner of the room next to the ceiling no longer looks over someone standing on the inside peering out through the peephole in the 4-inch thick wooden door. When I look at the door, I can hear voices of the past screaming, and cursing. The pounding sounds on the door screams of anger, and confusion, from the illness that captured the person.
The “back porch”, known as the smoking area that is no longer used for smoking. The conversations that took place over morning coffee watching the sunrise for the day. The sliding of the iron chairs that screech across the concrete floor. Not every morning was quiet – not every cigarette smoked was enjoyed. The porch was a place where fights would begin for those that did not have cigarettes and wanted to smoke, but could not. The porch was a place people met to exchange sexual favors, pills not swallowed, and money for contraband items.
The shower room
When I turned to go back down the hall passing the shower room reminded me of the many patients that used the private time not just to shower and refresh the soul but to place harm on themselves thinking, staff was not looking. The young lady who took the inside of an ink pen and began threading it under her skin, the young lady who ran a full tub of water in the claw feet shaped tub with plans to submerge herself too far. Once again staff watching over her removed her from the tub safely. The tubs are no longer used and the knobs that turn the water on have been removed for safety after one patient successful drown – whether she did it on her own or another patient did the deed for her…no one will ever know.
The TV room
The recreation area or “the TV room” holds lots of laughter and smiles as we sang Christmas carols with churches that came to visit in the holiday season, laughter over the movies watched with popcorn and juices, a place to sit and fill the empty stomachs with three meals a day, a room to listen as the treatment team give their view on a patients treatment and when discharge from the hospital is possible….or not.
Becoming a nurse
When I stepped on these halls for the very first time I was 23 years old. I had my own issues of being freshly divorced, biter at the hand that life had handed me…or that I had dealt myself. Young and wet behind the ears as a nurse I walked like I was six-foot-tall, in reality only 5’7 (and 1/2 don’t forget the half). I was bodybuilding at the time and thought physical strength was all that I needed to work in that environment. I learned so much from the mentally ill, and now I have more to offer the world than I ever would have without them. I healed along with them – I grew up – I became a nurse that listened with compassion and ability to feel their pain and see the anger on their face.
The walls, that holds the memory for thousands of patients and past employees …if they could talk. What would they say? Would they laugh, cry; be angry for the things that happened inside their corners. The strength of the paint, which keeps the walls from talking and fills the cracks. The memories fade fast for some but not the ones that once walked under that roof.
The fear that fills the community with the words “mental illness” – what they do not know is part of their community that lives day to day with mental illness stands right next to them on their jobs, sits by them in churches and drives down the same highways as they do.
Oh yesteryear, where did you go? It seems like only yesterday.
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