The Terrible Beauty of Freedom

Nobody tells you how terrifying it is to leave a psychiatric clinic. They tell you how much good it will do to go there, how comfortable and safe it is in there, how intensive the treatment you receive will be there. Making the decision to go is terrifying, because you finally have admit to yourself what you’ve been trying to avoid: you need help. But not a single person tells you that coming out of there will be almost as difficult as going in.

It took me three months to get to the point where I admitted this was something I had to do. During that time shit got rough, and increasingly so. I didn’t want to deal with any of it anymore. The clinic was so safe and sheltered. Physically and mentally you’re being cared for by a team of people who learn your name within a day. I hated having to go to classes with names like Life Skills and Coping Skills, but I was given very little choice. I hated it even more when I had to admit that those activities and everything else in the clinic had a positive impact on my well-being, that I had gained something valuable from them even if I couldn’t put a name to it.

Clinic wristband

Then I slowly came to the realisation that when I left that place I had to go back to everything I had left behind, everything that brought me there in the first place. Outside the clinic, nothing had changed, and I knew this very well. So what would be different this time? The answer, which dawned on me some time after the dilemma presented itself, is that I am the only variable in this situation. Well, me and my medication, which is an internal mechanism and therefore I guess still me. I had to make it work, because the world out there was still just as fucked as it was when I left it. The knowledge that you are going back into a place that drove you to your lowest, most extreme point, that brought out the worst of you, and that above all is inevitable and inescapable, is unnerving to the point of petrification. I almost decided to stay in the clinic.

My first outing was simple. On the way home we stopped at a grocery store to buy veggies for dinner. My heart was beating a million times per minute. I didn’t see the products on the shelves. Everything looked the same. I trembled when I had to pay. For the next few days I hid away and saw very few people. Only on the 5th day did I manage to go out in public again. I made it quick because I was still shaking when I had to interact with people. It wasn’t just that I was afraid of them, although I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t and am not, but also that I was afraid of what they would and wouldn’t ask me. I didn’t know what my answers would be. I still don’t.

Spending time in a psychiatric clinic has had one unexpected upside: I now know who the people are that really, truly care, and I am surprised at how many there are. In some cases I was even surprised by who did and did not show up. Being out here is terrifying. These people keep me in the game, not because they want something from me, but because they want me, simply put. As scary and as painful as this life is, they make it worth it, and without them I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’m slowly finding ways to make it work, and leaving behind what doesn’t.


    is a lot like sleep paralysis
there’s a demon at the door
shape black raw macabre shadow
it’s been there for hours-months-years-ever
    and you know it’s not real
    but it’s right fucking there

    lets you struggle and strain against
invisible chords keeping you motionless
    almost even breathless
as you try to say something
that will convince the beast to go away

    makes you think that it’s you
who’s not strong enough to fight back
    shrug it off
who’s the one that’s really dangerous here
    you bloody you
who opened the door for the lictor
and didn’t close it behind him

    grabs you by the ovaries and twists
while you fold in halves disgracefully
    an origami swan
    without the wings
braids the most poignant tragedy with
    your fallopian tubes
    leaving you barren
but for one thing:
    I will wake up.


Paysage aux papillons (Landscape with Butterflies)
Landscape with butterflies, Salvador Dalí (1956)

Falling in and out of depressive episodes is like slipping down a muddy slope. You know it’s happening, so you try to gain a foothold, grasping at blades of grass in a misguided attempt to pull yourself up. Instead you break an ankle and tear half the foliage down with you, ending up in a muddy puddle at the bottom of fucked creek. It’s cold and you can’t get up, and then a cow shits on your face. So you slither around in the mud half-heartedly calling for help, even though you get the distinct feeling that there’s no one around to save you, until eventually the clouds buckle under their own pressure and you finally get a chance to wipe the gunk from your eyes and enjoy the view of the valley from up here. That’s when you realise you’re not at the bottom of a ditch but on a terrace farm, only it’s badly planned and you have only half a meter between you and another bad break-up.

Maybe today you crawl 500 meters before you meet the farmer, who helps you get to town on his donkey, Kong. Maybe you rest a while in the rain. Maybe you lose your footing and end up a slope or two down. Maybe you take in the landscape and decide to swan dive as you watch it burn. I don’t know how this story ends. It’s raining and there’s cowshit everywhere.


a billion microscopic particles of light bouncing
simultaneously off my skin and that of my doppelgänger
end up finally cascading through my retina.
the enemy is at the door.
it is dressed as that natural ally of the sort of men
who read people like they read books
that they will put away on a shelf forty pages in
: featureless and anodyne it watches me
as i go through my ritual ekdysis
and am for a while naked.
it lifts eyebrows at the state i’m in
girl, your arms are way too thin
and your shoulders so slumped,
stand up straight!
and now i see my little ribs
carve their way down into charybdis
and then rip the whole thing outwards and upwards
revealing themselves as treacherous scylla.
i try to intervene in this never-ending war
but my heart has the final say
and i am defeated by her and her army –
who surely cannot be enough to protect her
looking as short as they do, and half-limp too.
there on the collarbone is a nice line
quite defined on which my greatest crime
sits beckoning. it is a circus up here
but they welcome me as one of them
until my gaze falls to see brazil get consumed
by a tribe of amazonian women
who have no need of men –
or have forgotten why we keep them around.
from behind their ranks a siren
screams in protest and causes an uprising
that reaches all the way to my thighs
from whence i see my feet –
immovable as they are –
find their footing in the same grotesque way
as the eagle grips its prey.
then I breathe it all in from my hip bones
to my chin and watch me
surrender under the onslaught of
a billion microscopic particles of light.