I’ve watched Jacob for the past half hour or so. He sits in a corner across the room from me, a bustling high-ceilinged common space where patients are carefully monitored whilst being encouraged to interact with one another within the norms of accepted social behaviour. The main ruckus of the session, a pool table dispute leading to a farcical cue-duel between a couple of the residents, temporarily disrupted all the patients from the activities they were engaged in. All that is, except Jacob. Throughout it all and since then, he has sat there next to the window and alternated between absently picking at the flecks of white paint peeling off the windowsill and staring into a distance that I suspect neither I or any other being would ever be privy to.
I wonder if everyone’s inner, unseeing gazes eventually reach and converge at just this one horizon.
Jacob’s hope and his loss play on my mind. From previous patient experience, I’m acutely aware that regardless of whatever the facts may be, the power of the psyche to make intangible nothing into concrete reality is a phenomenal one, and one that my patients may forever be locked in battle with. But like every one of us, Jacob has to grasp onto some lifeline within himself in order to gain first footing in this fight. I’ll try and provide him with the tools to hold on – if he’ll let me.
I finally manage to make direct eye contact with him and I smile. He upholds the gaze unflinchingly, just for a few seconds, and then turns back to beyond the window as the crimson sunset turns into dusk.
contributed by: Nadia Khan
There is this blinding explosion of red.
I watch the spectrum of infinite colour, flung far across the black holes of the universe come together and converge in space and time right before me. Right before my very existence. And in this moment I wonder how I could have ever despaired of the madness, if this is its gift and my reward.
I would forever gladly endure their presence, I would plead and scream and beg that they continue their torment if it meant I would come to know this again. Colour sears through me, and I’ve waited for this anguish for far too long.
I mean it. I mean it. I meant it. I’ll endure anything, everything. They hope to share in the madness of my mind, never quite realising that they are already a part of it.
Agonising blood torment crimson searing white blinding —
And as suddenly as it came, it’s gone. I’m left here blind again.
contributed by: Nadia Khan
Jacob is sleeping in his room right now. He is at rest. But really, he has always been. The words above are the first time he’s said anything or communicated in anyway in the last six weeks. Those words were transcribed from what he said to himself in his room after returning from a routine walk outside. He was alone in his room at the time and I was standing just outside.
I’m not sure how I should react. I am not shocked nor surprised, though we have not been able to pinpoint his condition, we know to expect something like this. Still, I am dismayed. Not because the words don’t reflect the outer reality. His room is spacious and there are a few windows. He is in control of the lighting and there is hardy ever any darkness. His sleeping patterns are, for the most part, regular. I am dismayed because there is someone in him who would say those words. And further dismayed because there are people everywhere who would share his sentiments.
Hope cannot be torture for that is not the nature of hope. Torture is the absence of hope. Hope is yours to keep and yours to drop. No one else can take hope from you. But how do I tell him that? How do you communicate with someone who not only does not think like you, but sees a different world? He sees a different reality. So when I hold his hand, I wonder what he sees.
I’m not sure what I do next, there are no guidelines for this. I need to figure things out. I have to do something.
Sometimes you’re awake for so long you forget if you’ve ever slept. I don’t remember what sleep feels like. I just feel an emptiness. But at some point I know I must have.
I think it’s supposed to wear me thin. But I’m not sure what I’m supposed to think. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel. Why won’t they leave me alone? Is this a punishment or a reward? Do they have any idea of the madness in my mind?
Every time I see the sky my first reaction, my first instincts are to cry. And I do. A chance for my tears to touch the free air, a chance for them to be free. But I can’t be like this for too long. I don’t want them to see me like this for too long. It’s just me, it doesn’t really matter what they see. They see everything anyway.
But why? Why do they let me see the open sky? Why won’t they just let me die in this enclosed shell, in this darkness? I have to re-familiarize myself with the darkness, with the silence over and over again. These are punches that leave no bruises, they only leave pain.
This is torture. Hope is torture and death relief.
I need to sleep.