One of the greatest things about being in the psych ward is the first time I see a fellow patient smile or laugh.
Imagine (if you’ve not been there before):
When I enter the ER for a psych visit, the nurses and doctors watch me for awhile – I think it depends on how many beds are available up in the psych ward, or about keeping me in a confined space so that they can evaluate me to see how stable I am before sending me to the ward.
We’re not allowed to wear clothes for a day – or more. Red Socks with white treads for falling risks, Grey Socks with white treads for the rest of us. [Another story, another time]
A group of us are in this space, and we walk around while many of the staff are behind glass. When I am able, depending on why I am there and how capable I am, I make an effort to attend programming. By showing up to Poetry -or- Dance Appreciation -or- Groups, I show that I am making a commitment to get better, that I am trying, for goodness sake, to reset.
Many of the programs have art themes. When I attended a Chair Yoga class on Day 2, a quiet patient who kept her eyes down most of the time, smiled. Then she laughed. She didn’t want to try the Chair Yoga, but she loved the music. Her eyes just lit up with wonder. She giggled. It was wonderful to watch, and I started to feel better just watching her joyfulness.
I saw it again when a patient having a tough time was given a guitar to play by the glassed-off staff. He didn’t quite smile the first time he played, but I saw who he was on the outside, on a different day. I felt clearer and proud when I attended a Poetry class and could write again, after holding a journal for five days but without writing anything down with my golf pencil.
Studies have been done, and it’s pretty common knowledge: Mental illness and creativity – even artistic passion – are closely related. I saw it in the ward – every visit I’ve had, every outpatient program. Art connects us to one another, and to a part of ourselves that we may not otherwise be able to reach, in a ward with white walls and locked windows. I know that it is one of my favorite parts of being in the psych ward. I look forward to it, even when I am checking myself in.