About 26 years ago, I worked inpatient for two years. It was considered an ‘open mental health facility.’ That meant the doors were not locked unless we had a ‘runner’. Those ‘runner’ nights-days were tricky and hard. I felt the floor change from real to empty; the labels were dished out like candy. It was a learning for sure and if I could I’d find each person and thank them. But laws are such and ethics are good. I hold these abridged memories and have slightly change them to keep privacy true. Here’s my thank yous….
The gentleman who waltzed with me. Thinking it was 1933; I met him in his mind-space and we danced on linoleum but it was the finest ballroom. The noisy florescent lights became candles. He heard music and I felt it too. ~thank you~
A certain schizophrenic also found music and played the ratty piano until the keyboard fell in tune. I listened at a short distance because he needed space. (I did too.) The magic he played infused ever fiber I knew. He stayed shy, until one day he shared, “I once played at Carnegie Hall.” I believed him. He teared and shuffled to get another pill. I cried too. ~thank you~
The sweet woman in room, whatever. I don’t remember but it was diagonal to the nurse’s station. When I got near enough she reached for my hands and asked, “Braid my hair. Your hands are fine and strong.” I tried. She laughed. “My child, you must be white but thank you. Pull up a chair and I will tell you the truth. I see rabbits and chicks and I don’t swallow the pill because I lose my friends each time. I know you won’t tell. She was blind. And just that moment I saw them too. ~thank you~
A woman came in completely distraught. I was up for the next intake but before I could finish she was given meds. I cringed because I just knew there was more but I was so young and unsure, but I knew enough to try sign language. I said, “I love you” and my name is…spelled in very slow spastic letters. My fingers forgot what my child-mind had remembered from the encyclopedias I cherished. She understood and cried and laughed a loud monotone. She was deaf. Not psychotic. Within hours we had a translator and that night she went home. ~thank you~
I could go on. I share these memories because we all have gifts in what seems to be our weaknesses. And as I write this I know these stories needed to be told because they taught me. So many times we are mislabeled and each person treated the same. It can’t be that way. Humanity is incredibly beautiful, precious, sacred and real.
~ Much love & respect & thank you, Carolyn
About Carolyn Riker
Carolyn (Riker) Avalani, M.A., LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor, teacher, writer and poet. Over the last five years she has written for numerous online journals and has been in five anthologies. Her first book of poetry and prose, Blue Clouds was published December 2016. This past September, 2017 she co-edited Hidden Lights: A Collection of Truths Not Often Told, which holds 54 writers and their stories, poetry, prose, photography and artwork. Between sips of coffee, navigating life with copious writing and daydreaming, Carolyn offers creative writing and private counseling. To find out more please visit her website.
Carolyn Riker is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) who provides counseling and coaching services. She is an author of two poetry books: This is Love and Blue Clouds. You can also follow her writing on Medium.
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