Othered Moods and Muses
My first night in the hospital, I made it through only by recognizing the fact that language can rewrite reality, rewrite it by renaming in my mind what was happening to me. I was cold and scared and every 15 minutes that whole night, the orderlies were checking on me, cracking the door open, letting the light in, watching me. I’d been scolded, stripped naked, checked for scars, told that everything I did or said was a symptom. I wondered why I had believed them when they said this would be a place to rest and recuperate—a place to go so that I would not have to be alone while I suffered. But then it clicked. I had the thought that, even though I was in a psychiatric hospital, this was an adventure—one of the scariest but most important of my life. I was a researcher, an explorer, not a patient— certainly not a mental patient. Time and again as those nine days wore on and the years after them, I would be reminded of where I had been and how being there marked me with a diagnosis. I would be overtaken by shame and self-loathing. But for the moment, that one little thought warmed me enough that I could finally find some peace.