The elevator crawls upward, creaking and squeaking, and gives a slight jerk as it stops at the seventh floor. The doors slide open and I enter into a small claustrophobic room that has no windows to the outside. To my left sits a table and a couple of chairs. A bouquet of artificial yellow flowers lie in the center of the table, I’m not sure if they are there to cheer me up or make this room seem cozy, they just don’t belong. To my right is a locked, heavy duty, double door each with a twelve-by-twelve, one inch thick glass window. There is an intercom and a doorbell on the wall to the right of the double doors. Peeking through the small windows I can see the nurse’s station and a visiting area. The nurse’s station, shielded with thick glass, is centrally located for monitoring patients, visitors and the two locked doors, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Time is of the essence and visiting hours are from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM — exactly, not one minute more or less. Except for special circumstances, the doors stay shut to any visitor prior to 5:00, and precisely at 6:00 visitors are booted out with no exceptions. My nature is to be on time, so of course I wait in this small lobby ten minutes early and will stay until I am no longer allowed.
Precisely at 5:00 PM, I ring the doorbell, identify myself, and explain that I’m here to visit my son (I announce his name) in the junior ward. I hear a loud click which slightly startles me, unlocking the doors. I walk quietly through the visiting area and turn to my right toward a second set of double doors that lead to the junior ward. The halls are large, barren and dark, I feel as though the dim lights are deliberately designed to increase the already dismal energy that encircles those who dare enter this facility.
My every breath is heavy, my pace is sluggish and my stomach churns uncontrollably. I want to turn around and run, I have that choice, but if I do then I will have failed my duty as a mother to support my son. I desperately need to be with him to comfort his fears and to reassure myself that he is still with me. There is no going back, I must keep moving hoping this nightmare will pass.
I reach the entrance to junior mental ward, the chasm of mental anguish. I walk through the doors as they mutate into a large mouth swallowing me into the murky darkness of Dante’s Inferno where there is no joy in Life. It feels more like a place of punishment rather than a place of healing. I don’t see how anyone can be restored to health in this place.
Exhausted, holding back my tears and trying to control my shaking body, I search for my son in the midst of a dozen or more young teenagers going through the same torment as he. There I see him, sitting alone at a table toward the back wall, looking in my direction in a daze, staring at, what seems to be nothing. I know he is confused and frightened but there is something else that is disturbing and I don’t know what it is yet. At first he doesn’t notice me, but as I approach he slowly turns his head and looks in my direction but not at me, he is looking through me as if I am not there.
The sequence of events that I just described became routine for most of the summer; my son suffered through several psychotic breaks which landed him in the hospital each month for seven days at a time. The daily trips to the hospital were more than a nightmare; I relived the feelings of being alone and trapped in permanent torture, I can only imagine what my son was going through. I was hopelessly lost because I did not understand what was happening and I did not know what to do to help. I could not believe that my son’s brain was sick with something called mental illness. With what little energy I had left, at home I spent hours into the night on the internet researching mental illness and desperately looking for something else that would be causing this drastic change of behavior.
I was in complete denial. I so wanted my old life back because this just is not fair…
´*.¸.*´♥ Peace & Light