The Quiet Room: My Experience in Solitary Confinement (Part One)
When I was born, I felt like a warrior. I knew I had died at the tip of a sword or the barrel of a gun the life before, died on some open field with bloodied bodies scattered about my feet. I grew up a happy child in relief. I knew how easy I had it. It was so simple.
As I grew up, the warrior slid into pockets of flesh and buoyed my skin until I started a war on myself. It didn’t feel so simple anymore. And I realized the demons of my past may not come to strike me down, but in this life, they don’t have to. I am all-too ready and all-too willing to cut my own skin and create self-inflicted wounds of not enough. Not-not enough. Not-not enough. As though a terrible drumbeat were always hissing in my ear.
As I grew older, the comparison of lifetimes stopped. The past was forgotten and replaced with more recent memories, plastered over with fresh traumas. The war I started waged on for more than a decade. The West of my world fought for success. It valued ambition. The East of my world fought for peace. It valued freedom.
The war ended the day I woke up naked in an industrial-sized shower within a hospital. I knew the beautiful nurse (like an angel she was to me) bathing me, because I remembered seeing her kind face through the 12–by–12 window of the thick, steel door from the inside. Solitary confinement, although; I have always called it The Quiet Room. The room where I died, and the warrior was born anew. This room would haunt me for years to come, and I would fight to have the practice abolished. Yet it was here that I came to see my self. In rare form, as a maiden, a mother, and a crone, I had no choice but to surrender. I fought, I pleaded, I bargained, and I begged with the single camera in the corner of that oddly shaped room. I remember sitting against the back wall on the small foam mattress. I looked across the room at the damage I had done: blanket thrown about, tray with partially eaten food in the corner, a puddle of piss I couldn’t recall creating two feet away. I remember pausing to feel guilty for having made such a mess then stretching out my legs, putting my hands behind my head, leaning back against the wall, and thinking, “fuck you.”
I can’t say for certain how long I was in there. I know it was at least two days, because my mom came to visit, and they wouldn’t let her see me. But it felt like a lifetime all its own. The last thing I remember is laying on my stomach with my hospital robe tucked between my legs to protect myself. And I remember accepting my death. I gave thanks to the simple life I lived. “It may not have been easy,” I thought, “but it was a good one.” It wasn’t that I felt like I was going to die; I thought I was going to die. I had survived two weeks in and out of hospitals before this moment. The battle field of a life gone by stretched across my view:
I laid on the ground, belly down, hand to my side covering the gushing wound. The smell of burnt flesh and gun smoke filled the air. But the sun was setting below a distant horizon, and had you been looking, you would have seen a faint smile betraying my hardened face.
I closed my eyes.
When I woke up, I was relieved to see the kind face of the beautiful nurse before me. I had no shame in my nakedness. It was a body I was in after-all. One cannot be so picky about such things. The journey to recovery would be a long one, and the roller coaster of Bipolar Disorder would never truly end. But in that moment, in this moment I would remember, none of it mattered at all. None of the tragedies or traumas of life could change the immense fortune of physical manifestation, of having a body. I have a body, my body. I have a mind, my mind. I have a soul, am soul. I never slipped away; I only went beyond. But I came back. We always come back. Because life isn’t about wandering in the ethos. This Earth-thing shouldn’t be undervalued. It’s not about ascension or Nirvana or heaven. It’s here. Now. Always.
*originally published on connerleecarey.com.