No Flowers on the Psych Ward

“Psychiatric hospitals have a certain smell. Old urine hits the nostrils first and then the sting of bleach. As I unlock the metal doors, the smell lets me know where and what I am: a pre-doctoral intern at a forensic psychiatric hospital in Boston. As I walk down the white hall, I see a white woman in a Harvard sweatshirt, a Boston red-sox cap covering her curly ponytail. She screams, “If you are not crazy when you get in here, you are crazy when you get out!”

Perhaps I was naïve to think that healing was the intention, but on the ward, I find only its absence. The hospital functions as a holding cell for people not safe on the streets and not safe in jail. People rotate through. One of the regulars, an African-American man who whistles loudly tells me, “I was born in a zoo, and I’ll die in a zoo.” I tell myself otherwise, but it’s hard not to feel like a zookeeper.”



About The Rev. Thomas C. Jackson

Ordained to the priesthood in December, 2010.
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