Even though you’re a former psychiatric patient, working in psychiatry doesn’t bother you. Nobody knows about your secret past; you don’t want anyone to know. You have a special feeling for the patients, because you know where they come from.
At your first week of work, your manager asked you if you knew the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. You wanted to laugh! You wanted to tell her that was the first thing you learned in your life, but you thought better of it, and let it slide.
At the Zoom meetings, you love listening to the patients’ problems. You love knowing you’re not as sick as them anymore; you feel badly, but it makes you happy. You’re not happy that they’re suffering, but that you’re not.
On the second week of September, a lot of the patients were being sent to Maclean, which is the hospital in the same system of the one where you work. It’s the high-class hospital, a world-famous one, the one that’s mentioned in all the books and movies, not the one you were a patient in. You’re not jealous that you didn’t go there, but your problems happened a long time ago.
“There’s a long wait time at Maclean,” the young psychiatrist said.
“If that’s true, you can also send them to Arbour Health services,” the other psychiatrist said. “They have a shorter wait time, and it’s just as good.”
Arbour Health Services. The Arbour Hospital. Your alma mater.
You’re not a person who gets triggered, but you have not heard any of the doctors around you mention the Arbour before. You think back to your crazy days.
It was summer, and you were sitting in the courtyard in the back of the Arbour. You were looking for a blue tree. You’re not sure why, but you thought if you found a blue tree, that would solve all your problems. You thought you couldn’t wear shorts in the hospital, because people shouldn’t see your legs. When you ate tomatoes with a lesbian, you laughed because you believed tomatoes are like vaginas. You didn’t tell her that, though.
You spend time in outpatient. Too much time. You should have walked away, and told them all to go to hell. But you didn’t know what else to do. You saw your brother’s friend in the cafeteria, and you heard that he couldn’t take it, and just left.
You haven’t been in the hospital for such a long time. Now, it’s been twenty-seven years. And most people would never know you had been insane. You like to keep your mouth shut about it.
You hope your history doesn’t show on your face at the mention of the word Arbour during the Zoom meeting. You hope they don’t see reflections of the trees, and the hospital in the shape of a castle. That always confused you; you thought you were a princess in a magical castle.
But that was all psychosis. Real life is now, and you deal with other people’s problems. You don’t think you’re helping people, but you have a job, and get paid for it.
When a person leaves the hospital, they tell you not to come back. Not because they don’t want to see you, but they want you to get better.
“We won’t miss you,” they say. “Don’t ever come back.”
I never went back.
About the Author
Shannon O’Connor holds an MFA in Writing and Literature from Bennington College. She has been published previously in Wordgathering, also in Oddball Magazine, The Wilderness House Literary Review, and others. She lives in the Boston area, and works at a hospital. In her spare time, when she is not writing, she enjoys playing the tin whistle, watching Star Trek, and photography. She can be found on her blog mshenreviewsthings.blogspot.com.