A tiny desk light sits recessed deep into the wall. So deep that it is pretty ineffectual, really. Thick plastic protects it. It is firmly bolted to the wall. The desk is scattered with unopened food packages, wordless gifts of caring people. Pringles, Ferrero Rocher, the good things in life, gifted to keep me going.
The walls are covered with fragments of blu-tack and tacky areas of glue that someone has attempted to peel off. Places where former residents have personalised their space. Not me. I don’t want it to be mine.
I hear the sounds of the city, the motorways and the train lines, but also the sparrows and the cicadas celebrating the end of summer. There is a peace here, stashed out the back of the hospital.
I am in Te Whetu Tawera, the Auckland DHB Adult Acute Mental Health Unit.
Rolling a cigarette at my table at home. It’s the little rituals you miss when you’re sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Smoking is prohibited on all hospital grounds, even psychiatric wards, and that is a rant for a whole new day. They break the routine and the rolling and the breathing and the release, but “poor health outcomes” trump all. Shortsighted? No, that’s the wrong word. They see the distance clearly, but the up-close reality is lost on them. What does lung cancer at 50 mean to people who on average live to about 32?
I rolled, relaxed, wandered out onto my balcony in the glorious evening sun, lit up, inhaled deeply. Bright and dark tobaccos, soaked in port, brought peace as I exhaled the geyser of spent smoke.
The sun set over the Waitakeres, shifting tones of orange and pink and lilac and violet and all the half-colours and tenuous shades in between. The ranges stained deep mauve against the shifting light as the sun sinks down.
All this I saw from my balcony, my sanctuary. It was a tiny apartment, it had black mold, there was no extractor fan in the bathroom, and it was mine. It was always a bit messy. I am not a clean freak, though I tried not to keep a complete pigsty.
Sweet lovers and dear friends passed through in their times, nourished by my renowned cooking. There was laughter and passion and comfort and joy.
Depression is not forever.
I will walk through my front door, wrestling with the ridiculous Patient Property bags that they release you from the hospital with. The house will smell good – Mum always goes on a cleaning binge when I get sick, and cleans my apartment thoroughly.
They tend to let you out in the late morning, so I can watch the sun as it creeps across my living room. The arc of the sun’s path is altering from high summer to slower, slumbering autumn. The light slides slower, more sensually, with less scorching heat. I will lie on the freshly vacuumed carpet. I will roll around in pleasure. I can be free.
Depression is not forever.