Sunday, 8 February 2015

Angelina's Story

Dark red, tan and white. The room was overwhelmingly decorated in these colours. They reminded her of an Eastern European setting, the cool-tinted warm colours a mixture of vibrant and neutral. She had always felt there was something missing from this palette, perhaps a purple or a green, but her requests for change were repulsed. She was reminded that she was not the head of the house, and when she was, then she could bring changes into effect. Angelina lay on the longest of the tan sofas and began to tell her story. The circumstances weren't perfect, but she couldn't wait for them to consume her. She had to rise above them.

How many more people would be shut off in a crowded facility with little to engage them as they pondered their darkest thoughts? Sedation and dehumanisation. The occasional art supervisor came once a week with crayons and paper, but what good was this pocket of spiritual nourishment when her demons told her it was an inappropriate place to go? There were board games and puzzles stacked up in a little-noticed corner of the compound, but Angelina had more pressing things to do, like walking around incessantly, picking up the messages from the swivel of an arm or the droning of the television. On rare occasions she would take refuge in the massage chair, but it was never long before another loud noise compelled her out of her seat and back to stalking the corridors.

It took a special kind of person to pierce the doom-filled bubble she had been floating in. A person who cared about her psychological well-being, not someone invested in a chemical cure. Someone who valued her emotional experience, at least to some extent. It was astounding how easy it was to break free once such a person had shown up, and terrifying to note the neglect that had kept her silent for so long.

She wanted to make a difference, but felt like she lacked the social capital to do so. She was one of the 'others' now, a being so far gone (outside the mainstream) that there was almost no way of coming back. She savoured much about this state, but it also left her ill-equipped to change the system. She feared she would have to rely on outside momentum. Or would she? Anything was still possible, because Angelina wasn't resigned to her fate, and sometimes what was possible became the driving focus of her efforts for social improvement. If so, the cruelty that lay at the heart of the psychiatric system would have to transform itself into something new. Something more befitting visionaries and secular saints.

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