One Woman Talks About Mental Health

Romy writes a touching recollection of life in a mental hospital:
One day at lunch during my second week Geneviève stood up and announced she was leaving. Geneviève was an electroshock success story. She had been in the hospital for five months. I'd watched her leave for the shock treatments, twice per week - the shock people left in a single-file line, grumpy and nervous. Their empty and unmedicated stomachs made them snap sluggishly at our Daniel, always on shock-patient duty. They came back subdued. Sometimes they were brought back in wheelchairs or on guerneys, before the sedation had worn off : skin papery, eyes vacant, lips thick and mumbling unintelligibly for water. Geneviève was a woman transformed by the electric currents shot through her cerebral cortex. At lunch this day, she had rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. She had styled her hair and put on a tasteful floral blouse, a powder-pink cardigan ; her glossed lips shone even in the yellow dining-room lamplight. "Je vous encourage, je vous promets que vous allez guérir ... fin, que c'est possible". (I encourage you all, I promise you will get better. Well at least, it's possible.) She smiled. I still had stitches in my left wrist and a vaguely puffy face from the things I'd swallowed and the things they'd given me in the ER to counteract them : her promises felt slim and distant, like day-old blades of grass between the fingers that you can't pull on too hard. They could break.

Blue touches blue, touches black, then expands,
All the tears and the years in the palm of my hand
Do you think you can tell me what's wrong and what's wronger?
I need to be stronger.
I need to be stronger ...

But the question of whether or not I could be cured was less important than the fact that a space had just opened up at a better table. One with light. One closer to the large double-glazed shatter-proof window that overlooked the courtyard behind the building, where the kittens lived, and the small field between our building and the next.

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