Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Reflections on Being Institutionalized

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m doing life correctly. Because of PTSD, I tend to live the past a lot. It’s unintentional, due to flashbacks, triggers, and panic attacks, but it happens. I have a lot of trouble with being still and clearing my mind because people, responsibilities, and distractions are all vying for my attention.

“Be still and know that I am God.” My pastor recently preached on how to keep the Gospel alive within us. Being still, mentally and physically, were definitely a part of that equation, for meditation cannot happen if we are bustling about constantly.

That is one of my greatest struggles.

Even though I spend most of my time alone, I am rarely, if ever, still mentally. My brain always seems to be racing 100 miles per minute. I think the only time in my life when my mind was calm and quiet was when I was institutionalized for an impulsive suicide attempt six weeks before I graduated college.

It is ironic that a psych ward, full of depressed, suicidal, angry, seemingly unwanted people and addicts, is both a scary place where patients are heavily medicated and physically restrained for acting out, yet simultaneously a place of rest and refuge. I will always be indebted to a particular staff member for giving me the Bible that kept me sane those four days, especially in the wee hours of the morning when I was supposed to be asleep but couldn’t drift off.

I didn’t realize until recently that UBC was the only place that offered total complete silence and a pause button on life as I knew it. While there, I didn’t have to concern myself with homework assignments (but I did have to make up some writing critiques), plans for my future, graduation, or even flashbacks/panic attacks (although I did have one upon getting to the facility and another when a patient triggered me). I don’t think I’ve ever felt closer to God than when I was locked up, unable to leave until they discharged me.

I admit, being in there was traumatizing and I don’t make plans on ever returning, but that unprecedented time with God was one good thing that transpired from the madness. And for that, I’m grateful.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Survival of the Fittest

They tell us not to talk about the “s word”

as if that alone could trigger a final avalanche,

or push someone over the edge of a bridge,

make them fly solo, so beautifully, one last time,

til they hit the heavy sidewalk—a final crescendo.


They tell us not to talk about the “s word”

because in talking about it, we could

trigger ourselves back in time to that time

when we felt like every other “suitable” option was unsuitable.


They tell us not to talk about the “s word”

but if we must, we must do so not in blunt, sharp shouts,

but in metaphorical whispers

like if we screamed of our pain too loudly to others,

they’d look at us with judgmental eyes that were stained

with misunderstandings and uncomfortability.

And, clearly, we’re not strong enough to handle

—sorry, ignore

the misunderstood opinions of others

who have never tip-toed

in a slow dance with death, willingly.

Clearly, we who are survivors

of the deepest Hell should be wary

of offending people with our stories of valor and glory.

It’s survival of the fucking fittest—and we made it out alive!

Shouldn’t that count for something? for everything?