“We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters of our minds.” ~ Pema Chödrön
from When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times
The time comes when I need a safe environment. I need protection from myself. High away – no escape, no contact. High away. Plastic windows and bars to protect those inside from themselves, and to protect those on the outside, too.
Administrators make attempts to brighten our environment – primary colored lounge furniture, pictures on the walls – but none of that offers protection from the hurried words, the rigid restrictions, the mind-numbing drugs, the incessant blare of televisions and radios. Or the voices that only I can hear.
~ based on journal entries, 1990
The photographs that make up the Barrier Series are a set of photos that symbolically follow the story of my spirit breakdown and healing process. The photos are not related to any specific places where I might have had treatment. The series metaphorically correspond to the phases I moved through during recovery, as I focused first on staying alive; second on regaining basic functions, and finally on regaining my wholeness.
This photograph represents a difficult time in that process. Unrelated events led to an awakening, necessary but brutally painful, that led me to assess the reality of my past. It was devastating. I was suicidal and extremely ill; I required in-patient psychiatric care. And although it was a difficult time for me, it was excruciatingly painful for my family, including my husband and small children.
The place I stayed is a place no one would want to stay for any length of time. And yet, I was fortunate to be in a hospital that provided me with my greatest likelihood for survival. At the time, I was not appreciative of the efforts and time my caregivers expended on my behalf. But as I look back on those years, decades ago, I am overcome with deep gratitude for these people. They worked with dedication to keep me safe and protect me until I was ready to take over that work myself. It wasn’t an easy job for any of us.
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. This is the fourth in a series of twelve photos from my portfolio “Barriers” where I explore my journey with mental illness using photography as part story-teller. For an introduction to this project, please see my post on “heading in a new direction”.