Editor Note: this post was originally published on our sister site Mad in Sweden and is shared here with permission.
Author note: This story is inspired by my experience with Psychiatry, how I and other people I saw during my brief visit into the destructive system got silenced by doctors, nurses and also by our own family members. How a medical journal and doctors notes can become a lethal weapon and tear down your credibility, relationships and ownership of your body.
Writing has been my way of making sense of a system that produces traumatic experiences and torture, which I think more belong in a horrific thriller or science-fiction drama novel. So by writing and mixing fiction with real experience it was a way for me to safely communicate and process the system as a whole.
Today I am working with a functional doctor to recover my health. I have a good support network that helped me escape from the destructive psychiatric system. I am free. I am working on healing my trauma and nervous system and body mentally, spiritually and physically.
And my vision is to work to help others do the same.
The first time I met Alicia was at the swings in the schoolyard. It was her first day at my school. It was also the first time I understood that she was special. Not only in my heart but that she was not like other children.
I had fallen off the swing with a loud bang in the sand. My hands were bloody, scratched and sandy. I was miserable and crying, but grateful that no one else had seen me. Or so I thought. Alicia had come up to me and asked if she could hold my hand, so it would get better.
My hands itched and chafed with a burning sensation. Despite the embarrassing feeling of having fallen out of the swing — not to mention in front of a girl with such beautiful green eyes and light straight hair — I did as she said. Maybe just because her friendly gaze did not feel judgmental at all.
Softly she cupped her hands over each of my palms. It stung hard, but she kept my hands in a very firm grip. Being weaker than a girl who wouldn’t hurt a fly should also have been embarrassing, but I had gotten used to it by now. To be made fun of. It did not matter. My gut told me it was okay.
She let go of my hands. I looked down at my palms and gaped. No blood was left anymore. Not a scratch. Just clean soft fine sand. Alicia smiled at me.
“Promise me you’ll not tell anyone?”
I looked deep into her green eyes.
The day the universe decided that Alicia and I would become friends was the day my life changed…
I was still an outsider, as I always found myself head pressed down in a toilet, on the ground with kicks in the stomach — or eating from a lunchbox filled with dirt in the school cafeteria.
But now I was not alone. In any case, not for a while.
It was a hot summer day when she told me her mother had become ill and ended up in the hospital. And that her stepfather would move. She had to move with him. The thought of her stepfather made my face burn with anger. The sun was chilly compared to how I felt inside.
Although Alicia was able to help me with all the wounds, scratches and pain from my everyday life at school, she could not help herself erase the bruises he had given her. In any case, not completely. Her ability was not as strong when it came to herself.
We were lying out in the grass and she had picked a withered flower for me. In her hand, it had been given new life. I tried to persuade her that day to run away. Or to tell someone.
But her mother was in the hospital because her stepfather paid for it. If she were to tell, it would mean the end for her mother. I had to promise to keep quiet once again. She gave me the newly born flower.
“Promise me to keep it. It will never wither. As long as our friendship remains. Even if we never see each other again.” I cried so many tears that night that I thought my pillow would drown me.
After all the school years were over, and my grades found themselves in the abyss, I had taken a job as a janitor at a hospital. After all, I was very familiar with toilets, dirt and all the hiding places that rubbish used to look for.
The job was also a good extra for smuggling drugs. One of the gangs I got involved in was very grateful for my position. I also realized quite quickly what the hospitals really meant for a large portion of the patients. Storage space for those who did not fit into society’s expectations. Also, a place of sale for medicines, where the doctors were matchmakers of drugs, and just as bad as the drug thugs dealing on the street. “The drug dealer of the state,” the gang called them. They were no better than us, but at least the drugs we sold made people feel something positive, and our customers knew the risk-benefit ratio much more clearly.
“hospitals did not save people”
And in one of the wards where the psychiatrists worked, there were medications that should not be called anything other than poison. I was often there and saw young mothers and young adults who had gotten into some sort of crisis and came out as zombies. There were also whispers of abuse from the ward staff.
It was when I started cleaning at the top of the locked wards I realized that in many cases hospitals did not save people. They broke them down, seemingly without any warning or way to find out before it was too late.
I needed to get out of there. I felt involved. I knew what was going on.
A doctor named Oskar, who had become my friend, and been part of the smuggling had quit for the same reason. His education was a complete lie, he told me on his last day. The same lost faith in the system was what started the smuggling business.
“You have not been to university, so you do not have to wash yourself clean from all the brainwashing. Get out of here, too. There is nothing we can do here other than to be part of harming these people.”
I avoided the patients at the ward like the plague because I did not want to see them break down. Did not want to see them scream. Suffer. See them get misunderstood.
And I was about to quit.
Oskar had talked about taking a sabbatical away from all of society before he would try to work for a change in the system. I had promised to think about it and had received the address of a cottage he had rented somewhere out in the woods.
Then came the day when a new patient had come to the ward, and I heard the usual gossip accompanying new patients. But this time it was something that caught my interest. Something that made me listen, that I could not push away, by being just a robot in the grinding gears of society.
A young girl who thought she had some sort of powers. Depressed. Thinking she could talk to the flowers and the birds. Believing she could cure others from illness. Someone who surely thinks she is Jesus? As sick as her mother. It runs in the family. Worried stepfather. Worried and hard-working.
Some comments had also been vulgar and suggestive. That was when the words ‘beautiful green eyes’ had been circulating in the coffee room inside the ward.
Somehow Alicia had ended up in the ward. I knew that. And I knew it was my turn to save her. I needed to leave the death factory for good.
How Oskar and I had managed to get Alicia out that night is all in a haze. She had been rolled out in a wheelchair and together we had driven her to the little cottage. It had taken some time to get hold of Oskar and Alicia had been heavily drugged before we managed to execute the plan. The fire that warmed the cottage that night was fueled by heaps of journal papers from the hospital. We had decided to take every single piece of paper we could find and set fire to the lies.
The words inside Alicia’s burnt journal gave me nightmares that night.
Young girl, depressed over her mother’s death. Blaming her stepfather, who took care of the family since the mother also fell ill with mental illness and delusions. Imagining having special powers. Claims to be able to heal the mother’s head with her powers that have only become stronger over the years. Denies abuse from her mother. Blames stepfather who supported the family and has always been there for her. Refusing help. Suffers from severe delusions. Suggestions for treatment; electric shock therapy and neuroleptics.
Oskar’s background as a doctor made it difficult for him to understand that Alicia’s powers were anything else than fabricated in her head.
He knew very well how harmful the treatments in the ward were. That they did not work other than to turn the patients into zombies that were easy to handle. And no matter what the patients thought or felt, they did not even deserve such treatment. But he would see, just as Alicia showed me that day in the schoolyard.
The journal papers had been all used up and we spent the days chopping wood and cooking the canned foods that were in the house, together with the fish we hunted in a lake nearby. Oskar had had an accident during the fishing trip and received a nasty wound from a hook. Alicia had been asleep as if dormant for several weeks. Only during a brief few moments did she wake up to eat the food we served. She did not know who any of us were. Her memory erased. Oskar was unsure if it would ever come back.
I mentioned to him that she might be able to heal herself. His respect for my feelings and his concern for Alicia made him not say anything about it, but I knew he did not believe in her abilities.
But one day when he served the fish soup to her in bed, she asked him to hold his hand with the wound. He asked why, but I looked at him and nodded. When she let go of his hand, he gaped wide. All the years as a doctor had now drained of him. He now felt completely clean from all brainwashing. And his hands felt clean too. Cleaner than they ever felt in years.
From that day on, we continued to cook and chop wood. From time to time we took Alicia out for a little while in the sun in the wheelchair. And we encouraged her to hold her hands to her head as much as she could.
The days passed and slowly she began to utter a few words. Then whole sentences. The green eyes became clearer and clearer. Words were transformed into sentences. And she staggered forward as she told more and more what had happened to her.
It all became clearer. Her “mentally ill” mother had been imprisoned against her will by her manipulative stepfather who controlled her with drugs from the doctors. Who boxed her into a prison of psychiatric diagnostics, while raping Alicia in the evenings.
When Alicia’s powers had grown stronger over the years and she had visited her mother in the hospital, she had begun to heal her mother’s memory and mind with just her touch.
Alicia’s mother had started talking about the abuse during a visit when her stepfather was present. The stepfather had made sure that she soon died in an overdose before anyone would start to ask questions.
And Alicia broke down.
She tried to tell the doctors what had happened and begged them to call the police and arrest her stepfather. But instead she ended up in a psychiatry ward herself. Her story was just a sign that she, like her mother, was ill, unable to see her own illness. She chose to blame her caring and responsible stepfather, who only had done his best to help their mother financially to be able to stay in the hospital and receive care. Hospital care that ensured that she no longer engaged in strange behaviour and delusions.
Bit by bit, Alicia came back. And one day she was the same old Alicia I met that day in the schoolyard. That Alicia I know now saved my life. My life had taken on a new meaning. She was the first one our little trio rescued together.
But that was just the beginning.