Drawing by Li Gao, OMS-I
By Tammy Tavdy, OMS-I and Polina Pinkhasova, OMS-II
Haiku written by your fellow medical students (because study breaks
without Netflix are sometimes possible)…
When fed – you’re rising
When starved – hide in the cell
My sweetest pleasure
Muscles contract gracefullyOur
freedom to move
With REM you’ve risen
To αlpha on coffee waves
Soft pillow δelta
Innate is first-pass,
Adaptive for memory
By Elizabeth Stachtiaris, OMS-III
The mind is a forest – a vast, endless abyss. They say that those who are lost in their own minds are gone, vanished forever and suddenly nobody’s home in that blank expression staring out into the lonely once-loving world. Throughout time many have tried to outsmart the mind by capturing it in theirs: psychoanalyzing and medicating until the mind loses its very essence. They tried to take away the mystery from the mind. But that’s the funny thing. No matter how far you travel into the mind, you can never capture it. You can never hold it in your two hands. And that’s what’s wrong with some doctors these days. They think they have captured me, drugged me, and taken away my very soul. But they haven’t. They can’t.
And here I sit. Motionless. Unable to move, unable to walk, unable to scratch an itch on my nose. And yet I can travel so far. I can spend hours lost deep in my mind. The question is- can I find my way back?
I can still figure out where I am from time to time, but I quickly realized that it doesn’t matter anymore. No matter the location in the real world, I am still in the same subconscious place. Scared, alone, errant. Sometimes when I see the light and return to real time, it all makes sense: why I’m here, who I am, who loved me. Sometimes I resurface to find that the real world is just as scary as my mind. And a majority of the time, I return to the world to find that my senses are blurred by a strong cocktail of whatever drugs they put me on. Now I spend most of my time voluntarily wandering, a vagabond who doesn’t walk, but merely floats in her own thoughts. Although the subconscious life is frightening and lonesome, it is not as painful as when I resurface to the now.
When I revisit the world, not much has changed. I feel the cold of the floor I sit on and concrete wall I lean against seeping through my thin gown and straightjacket. I still see the same four padded walls, blurring together in a solid eggshell-cream color, absent of adornments. I see the wiry metal bed frame to my right with that uninviting paper-thin mattress lying atop it, reminding me how much better off I am just sitting on the floor instead of being pricked by its sharp nails and teeth. The sink and toilet are on the opposite side of the small square room, though ever getting up to use those facilities is a blur. Gauging the size of this room, I could probably walk from one end to the other in four strides, but what’s the point in getting up and testing that out? Across from where I sit is the door, heavy and metal with what seems like ten different locks. I often wonder if they are keeping people out of my room or intentionally locking me in my thoughts. Sometimes through the small window in the center of the door I see blurry shadows pass, but I am not sure if that is reality, the drugs, or my mind tricking me. And then I look down at my person, donned in an off-white straightjacket. The stains on it tell different stories which I no longer remember. My regular clothes have been confiscated, just like every other freedom I used to possess. I long for the most simplistic things, like my cotton camisole, instead of this hard fabric. My body has gone to waste. It’s lifeless, atonic. I’m surprised I ever have strength enough in my legs to raise myself from my seated position.
When they do escort me outside, they act as if I should be grateful. They come in and grab me by the arm, hoisting me up, leading me like a dog on a leash. I force my coherence enough to comply with their rules. In the absence of a mirror, I rely on passing a window to peek at my appearance. My disheveled hair hasn’t been combed in months, though I distinctly remember bringing one here among my other belongings upon my commitment. Whatever odor I emit doesn’t faze me. They feed me sloppily and wash me occasionally. Whenever I muster the strength to utter even two words, they ignore me. I’ve learned to keep silent.
But mostly I just sit here, wasting away. I’m not even sure if the door is locked. The mental challenge of begging myself to get up is too hard to overcome, so I just accept that the door is shut. That’s fine with me: going outside this hole-in-the-wall is overrated. I’d much rather reflect on the life I once had. I know it was so much better than this. I wish I knew how good I had it. I wish I had seen the signs that forced me aboard this insidious downward spiral. Maybe then I could have hid them. Maybe then I could have feigned sanity and kept to the status quo. Hindsight is 20/20, and there’s no way I could tell the difference between reality and fantasy back then. I can’t even tell the difference now.
I remember my marriage. My husband treated me like a princess from the day we met. From college sweethearts to soulmates, we experienced it all. My first love, my first lover. I never wanted to be without him. And he never wanted to be without me. Or so I thought.
I remember the birth of my first child. Sharing the nine months of pregnancy with my husband only brought us closer. I vividly remember the pain I went through and the joy when I heard the first cry of our newly born child. When we brought her home, I thought I’d never sleep again, not because she was a needy child, but because I just wanted to keep staring at something so perfect. He loved her too; he was the perfect father, the perfect husband. We were eager to have more children, and within no time, I was pregnant again.
I remember when he left me. Unannounced. I was halfway through my second pregnancy, and in the blink of an eye, I was abandoned, alone, fat, undesirable. I suddenly became the sole provider to my household of two soon to be three. I had no idea how we would survive, but we did. I was determined to give my girls the best lives I could. That was when my mind was strong. Or so I thought.
And how did I end up here? I spent my older daughter’s youth telling her not to be afraid of monsters. After her nightmares, she would crawl into my bed crying, claiming there were fiends in her closet or under her bed. “There’s no such thing as monsters,” becomes a common mantra for a parent. That’s because adults know that monsters are never really there. Not the gigantic hairy ones with sharp teeth and claws, of course; and those are the ones that children are afraid of. But little do parents know that monsters do exist, but don’t take that intimidating form. In fact, a monster could be something as innocent as a little girl. And when a little girl plays with something as complicated as the mind, it makes you question the hackneyed quote and think that maybe monsters really do exist.