we are children sprung for recess.
We are wailing, soiled babies too.
Our behavioral health needs are met and managed
with antipsychotic shots, mood stabilizers, benzodiazepines, and more.
We are safe. We are monitored. We can allow our emotions to soar.
Or can we?
Poked and prodded, we submit our brains, become lab rats.
We line up for small, white cups filled with pills,
colorful, fruity, Skittles in various shapes and sizes.
Mindfully, dutifully we obey. Some even shuffle over.
For them it’s become Pavlovian.
Placed in seclusion, restrained,
made to participate in group when we just wish to be alone,
not permitted to sleep during the day, even when Ativan crushes us
into a warm, white haze.
our vitals checked every morning.
Some, like me, are weighed like hogs priced for market.
Days become weeks. They tinker with our meds
until mouth and brain synchronize, and we say what is expected.
We learn to be good for tapioca, for popcorn treats,
for chalky coffee served in a Styrofoam cup.
We learn not to cry, and we learn not to scream.
As time drones on, a few disappear. Seizures.
The images of them haunt us, thrashing on the cold white floor,
stiff limbs contorting,
When the rest are made well,
most, though not all, will go home,
or to a half-way house.
One kid goes to jail. Handcuffs clamp wrists, replace white bandages with their bite.
I am finally freed,
alive, unseized, I’m home!
Unbroken, but with pieces missing.
Colleen Wells writes from Bloomington, Indiana, and is a past contributor to The Voices Project. She is a writer, activist, mother, and crafter. She works as a Life Enrichment Associate with the elderly population. Her work has appeared most recently in The Gyroscope Review, The Ryder Magazine, and Workzine. She values poetry because she finds freedom in it as well as structure. Wells believes writing has the power to heal both self, and to assist others in their own healing journeys through providing a platform to share traumatic events and subsequent growth with one another. Wells is a certified Community Health Worker / Peer Recovery Specialist in the state of Indiana.
She is the author of Dinner With Doppelgangers - A True Story of Madness and Recovery. Wells earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Spalding University. She frequently writes essays and enjoys journalism as well. To borrow a cliche, Wells believes writing about the truth is often stranger than writing fiction.