By Jenny age 16
12th of April 1872.
That’s my guess on today’s date. That means its day 386. I squint up at the small lick of daylight coming from the only window in our ward. My guess is 8:30am. I scribble this information into the diary I keep hidden under my mattress right next to the sharp spring that has broken through the fabric. I hide the diary away quickly before the staff come in with our morning meds. Any form of books are strictly forbidden at Sunshine psychiatric hospital. As I look around at the dark dreary ward and the glassy eyed patients, I don’t believe that ‘sunshine’ is how I’d describe this place.
“Good morning everybody.” In barges Celia with our meds. She looks around waiting for a response although she knows nobody has the capability to respond. Except me. But she doesn’t need to know that. As she begins to make her way around the ward giving everyone their juice I notice my diary jutting out from the side of my mattress. I begin to panic and begin attempting to shove it further in so that it is not visible. Celia turns around with the sound of shuffling. I freeze. Nobody is used to much noise or movement in the wards here. As she turns back around I give the diary one more push and at last it is hidden.
Celia gradually makes her way to my bed at last. She comes to the side of my bed. I look at her hazel eyes and her sickly smile as she hands me a small paper cup just like she does every morning. “Here’s your juice dear” she says with a grin. I stay frozen and wait with lifeless eyes until she leaves. I look down at the orange glossy liquid and swirl it around the cup. How anyone truly believes that this is merely orange juice is beyond me. I can still recall the only time I drank from the cup. I still remember as it burned my throat as I swallowed the thick liquid. As i gagged and coughed in an attempt to ease the pain in my throat I can remember being comforted that I simply wasn’t used to the sweetness of the drink and that I’ll be looking for more soon. 385 days later and the thought of that liquid with its stench of liquorice still is not appealing. I pour it down a vent I had located over a year ago just a few inches from my bed and take a quick look around to see if anybody noticed. Who was I kidding, the women lying in the beds around me can’t even recognise their own bodies let alone the existence of those around them.
As Celia leaves, the ward goes back to complete silence. I am yet again left with my own thoughts. A sometimes very dangerous practice. Day by day however, I seem to think of a new way to entertain myself. On day 34 I decided to count every brick inside our ward. On day 93 I found that if I push my ear really close to the air vent I can just about hear music from the nurses humming from the room next door. This was always the biggest comforter I could receive in here. The sweet sound of any tune or rhyme was all I need to keep my positivity up for weeks on end. But what I did most in my time was think back to the precious memories I had before I came here. Walks on the beach with my sisters. The feeling of the fresh sea air on my face and the smell of salt in the wind. I haven’t felt fresh air since I’ve arrived. Or the taste of my mother’s home cooked meals which i missed so much. The mixture of taste and texture which would dance around your mouth touching all your taste buds at once. The food here is just not the same. However, whenever I think back there is one powerful memory that I can’t help but bring to mind. As much as I try and push it away. It ripples back like stones cast across water. As all my happy memories begin to become more vague and the dear faces of my loved ones become more blurry that memory begins to stand out more and more clearly. I remember the argument so clearly. We fought over one small mishap. And that’s all it took for him to admit me here.
Just then there is bustling in the corridor. I look out the small window once more. About 2:00pm. That’s funny. It doesn’t look like tea time just yet. Just then a young woman is pushed through the doors strapped to a bed. As she passes I catch a glimpse at her eyes. I can see the fear racing through them. They move her to her bed and as she shouts and pleads hoping to prove her sanity I look at her. Young and pretty. Looks sane to me. My guess is her husband landed her here also. Just like most of us here. As the staff begins to leave I can see her looking around desperate for someone to talk to. She begins to call out asking someone for comfort. After a few moments I respond. My voice cracks as I haven’t spoken in so long and I sound hoarse. I can see the fear slowly leave her eyes as she comes to terms that she may just make a friend here. Her name is Elizabeth and her husband also admitted her here. I’m secretly happy that finally someone new has come in. I’ve only seen two others enter after me however I saw both of them slowly drift into an imaginary world due to the drugs that they dish out here in the bucket load and the lack of daylight or activities to consume boredom.
As night begins to fall I have one thing that I’ve been meaning to ask Elizabeth since she arrived and as the ward begins to drift to sleep, I know that this is my chance. “Elizabeth what is today’s date?” I ask scared to know the response. “The 12th of April” she replies. I lie back and smile with relief. Maybe there’s no escape. Maybe I will never feel the fresh air breeze or the taste of my mother’s cooking for quite a long time. However I have the strength of my heart and I have now been reassured of the strength of my mind. And I know that that is all I need to suffice.