By: Dominique Stratton
Her smile was lukewarm. I would know, because I have conjured up the same energy needed to make the corners of your mouth turn upward; what similarities we shared.
"What's your name?", I asked, as we walked out of the 2 pm group meeting.
"I'm B", she said with that smile. I felt special to be able to have witnessed that smile, because when you are suffering in your mind, it's hard to let anyone 'in', and that smile was an in of sorts.
"Did you just get here?", she continued ('get here', meaning the hospital; we were in the psychiatric hospital). "No, I've been here since yesterday, I was brought to this side of the hospital by a tech, so I could attend this group session; I like the 'groups' (psych hospital slang) over here.
She smiled again, this time sound proceeded the upward gaze of her mouth. I chuckled as well.
"Are you from Nashville?!", I asked, but why did I ask that question? I'm unsure, it just felt like the natural progression of the conversation.
She told me she lived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and I told her how long I've lived in Nashville, as well as my history about how I got 'here'. It was soon time for me to be picked up by the tech from my unit to go back, but while I still had time, we continued to talk.
It appeared that we felt safe in that conversation, safe to be open about our past, present, and unknown future.
She was an interior designer, drowning in beautiful oversized lounge clothing, not making my mind guess for too long that she struggled with an eating disorder. All I could do in that moment was pray for her, pray for us, silently.
I thought I was the only 'professional' in 'here', you know, the one with established careers that would never be in the position I was in at that point in my life (my second hospital admission). But, here we were, two professionals having a conversation about our successes, and how damaged we were.
I felt better in that moment, not better in the sense that I was happy that she was suffering too, because God knows I didn't want anyone to suffer as much as me or more, but it felt good to know that hey, I am not the only one who has it all together, but really doesn't have it all together; I felt safe and free.
She was depressed just as I, and though her lack of eating ( thanks to depression) had far exceeded my then 20 lb weight loss, we were alike in so many ways.
And she wasn't the only 'professional' I met during my time there. I've met, PhD students, college students, nurses, deputies, owners of companies, and famous people with unimaginable talents, and more, in the psychiatric hospital. The world became much smaller when I denied my fears and received help, the help that these beautiful people needed too.
Finally, it was time, time to return to my unit where I wouldn't be forced to talk to the other 'professional' patients, but to where I wanted to talk to others. It felt like a sense of community and union once I sat down and listened to, as well as received attention from the very people I had walked silently amongst, for the past 24 hours.
I'll never forget B, because she helped me see when I was blind.