Back in 2007, I found myself in a place that was becoming all-too-familiar in the worst possible way. Once again, my mind and body had betayed me, and several weeks removed from the flow of my life was the result.
From the barred window of my room in the intensive psychiatric unit of Bellvue hospital, I could catch a narrow glimpse of the original facade of New York City’s first “pavilion for the insane”. Here’s a truth that perhaps you’ll understand better these days, having lived through this year and the pandemic. When you’re locked up inside, with none of the expectations and pressures of every day life to contend with, time stretches.
The effect is compounded by a lack of electronic devices: no computers, no phones, a single fuzzy old-school tv that you’re only allowed to work with assistence. Paper and pen become your best friends, the only way to really escape. So I watched the street from my window, drew portraits of the other patients, wrote scraps of stories that I wasn’t sure I would ever find the end of:
It was only years later, and after several more encounters with the mental health system in the US, that I finally found something that worked, to some extent: a little round pill — ten milligrams of some unpronouncable chemical compound — that balanced the dopamine in my brain. It took the edge off of the darkness and prevented me from spiralling into the deepest of my moods, so long as I made sure to take it every day. It was at that point, as well, that I finally looked back over all my old stories, and found a few things to salvage.
Like Clockwork turned out to be the story of a girl who felt the way that I did, locked up in that mental ward all those years ago. A girl who wants the freedom of exploring everything that life has to offer, but finds her own body turned against her. Worst of all, even the people most concerned for her welfare seem intent on thwarting her ability to live a free and meaningful life.
Mira’s story was one of the first I ever wrote, and now, after five years in publishing limbo, I’m so excited to be sharing it with you, courtesy of the wonderful editors and volunteers who run Ember, a Journal of Luminous Things. I sincerely hope that you enjoy it.