The Toolkit and First Aid Kit – A Poem

It seems that the more I draw,

the more I sketch the sensations

that arise from riding this emotional rollercoaster,

the more I realise that hands and faces,

cannot heal me anymore than my attempts

to disfigure the same hands and faces.

Self-destruction presents itself in these sketches,

and also in starvation, compensation, self-deprecation.

It is not a simple case of eat, or smile, or stop –

these have never been felt centrally at my core.

These are not things that can simply be enacted,

but rather must be relearned, as a new skill,

new additions to the toolkit beside my first aid kit.

Sketches are plasters that cannot heal my wounds,

but only cover them, protect them,

and just momentarily.

Until the next time I pick up a pencil,

or a blade, or step onto the scales,

and fall into the abyss sideways of the rollercoaster.

Sketches From a Psychiatric Ward

They’re strangely aesthetically pleasing.

In 2017, I was admitted to three separate psych wards, for a total of six weeks. It might not seem like a lot, and sure I had 46 weeks of non-psych ward living, but these were my first three trips to the ER, and first three admissions to hospital for any reason. In Western Australia, it is much more difficult to seek help for depression. If I had gone to my local ER before leaving Geraldton, it is likely I would have been turned away, told to stop attention-seeking, or sent five hours away by ambulance to the nearest psychiatric facility in Perth.

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Which is sad, because the psych ward is not what I had expected. And not what most people would expect, I imagine.

Let’s talk about that third and final admission for the year. I was discharged exactly one month prior to writing this. I was suicidal, and this time I was going to do it. Fortunately, I was already at the hospital for an eating disorder assessment, and was admitted from there, which made things simpler, and far less anxiety provoking.

Being admitted involved a lot of tears, emotional exhaustion, silence, withdrawal, scratching (a form of self harm), anxiety, screaming (not from me), locked bathrooms (because of the bulimia), quiet conversations in side rooms, and meetings with various doctors, nurses, psychologists and occupational therapists. It’s not fun, and it’s certainly not a place I ever want to be, but it kept me safe. And I gained a lot of insight into how my depression, borderline personality, self-harm, and eating disorder function and protect me.

The psych ward also involves a lot of dissociation, board games, card games, drinking tea, sharing with other patients, making good friends with other patients, watching television, doing Sudoku, and drawing.

Drawing is my lifesaver. I hadn’t picked up a pencil or a canvas since year 10 of high school, because I channelled all my energy into the singlest most greatest distraction in my life – study. But now that I’ve picked one up again, I can’t put it down.

These drawings are raw, they are real, and they illustrate my mind in it’s most distressed state. Behold, sketches from a psychiatric ward. They’re strangely aesthetically pleasing.