Saturday, February 25, 2006

Shadows and Light

The lights were bright. The walls were bare. The furniture was grubby. The people were scary.

A young man sat in a dirty, torn up armchair. His arms were covered in deep livid scars. His face looked just as livid. He just sat and stared.

An old lady, in a filthy nightdress, with long dank grey hair, was wandering about, a thin arm raised, pulling at her hair, whilst she implored her long dead Daddy to take her home.

In the hallway, just off this main room, a man was screaming into the phone on the wall. 'The Nazi's are coming! It's a raid, a raid!' Another man, his identical twin, was trying to get the phone off him so he too could yell about the danger we all faced.

In another chair, her black filthy hair just hanging like dead seaweed on a rock, was another woman. Her face was blank, her mouth hung loose. Still. Perfectly still.
Three members of staff walked up to her. Two grabbed hold of her firmly, whilst the third pulled her hair back, so as to force her head backwards. Her mouth was forced open and an amber liquid was poured down her throat.

This place was to be his home for the next year. This place that was supposed to be a hospital, a place of safety and care. Instead, it was a place more like an ante room for Hell. Strange noises all day and night. The screaming, the garbled speech, the violence that brewed and boiled over. The staff who vented their own shit on their hapless charges. The staff who practiced their need to control on those much weaker than themselves.Or at least those who appeared to be weaker.

One very early dark morning, a toilet trip led to the discovery of a body hanging from the piping.He was only a teen, burdened beyond his understanding. And later the same week, another body. Found drowned in a shallow bath. How desperate, he thought, she must have been to have been able to drown in a few inches of water.

Thinking was hard. He too was force fed the amber liquid. Oh, not physically, just by threat.The thick sweet liquid made him gag and left a terrible foul taste in his mouth and throat. Ooccasionlly, he would be held down whilst someone pulled down his pyjama trousers and injected a substance into his buttock that burned like hell but took any fight out of him. They kept him quiet. No one wanted to hear his secrets.

His stay made him well. He kept his secrets to himself. In fact, he came to realise that his secrets were lies after all. He had made it up and what he didn't make up he had deserved.

However, secrets, real or imagined, have a habit of rising to the surface. So when after a year he was released from this place, he only had a year out before he was back. Different location, different hospital, same staff and inmates. Same horror.

And so it was like this. In and Out. If only he could accept his badness. If only he could accept his feelings were not real. If only he could accept his secrets were lies. He sunk. Deep down inside himself and he stayed there. He got out and he stayed out. He found his own medication and he kept away from the 'angels' in white coats with smiles on their faces and the keys to Hell in their hands. His own medication, marijuana and booze, kept the demons at bay, kept them locked down good and tight.

All things come to an end and so did this.

When the lid finally blew, a true angel was there to hold him. Was there to listen to his secrets. Was holding him every step of the way whilst he slowly and excruiatingly
pulled himself up thru the darkness, battling and destroying his demons on the way. Death nearly overcame him and indeed seemed preferable to this agony. Yet he was drawn upward toward the light that filled every corner of his soul, bringing forth the truth. It laid bare the truth and that in itself was very nearly all he could bear. Yet his angel trusted him and believed in him and knew he had the strength to get through . And he did. Bit by bit, over 5 years, he worked it through. This time his secrets were seen for what they were - the truth. His secrets were met with compassion and empathy and understanding.

Seven years later, he still does not take his medications. Neither his own nor prescribed. Drug free for the first time in many years, since he was 15 in fact, when he was first prescribed a mood altering substance so that no one need hear or see him. Today, he battles his demons with a clear head and he mostly wins.

He wasn't mad and bad after all.

Was he?
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