From the moment I was admitted to my first psychiatric ward, I was desperate to get out. I hated the smell, the food, most of the staff, the routines, the magazines. I hated the sagging mattresses, the glassless funhouse mirrors, the furniture, the isolation rooms. But as much as I despised the place, there was one saving grace for me there: the other patients.
Many had absolute horror stories. Stories of abuse, self-mutilation, combat, rape, starvation. Stories that made this liberal lawyer reconsider taking up criminal prosecution. But others had stories like mine. Happy childhoods. Mild traumas possibly but nothing extreme.
In the end though, we were all the same. We were all seriously ill; we all desperately needed help, and we all resented the fact that we needed it. What’s more, we were all acutely aware of the classified, top-secret nature of our conditions and whereabouts. This wasn’t paranoia. It was self-preservation. People tend to look unfavorably upon the mentally ill, especially those of us who’ve ever been hospitalized.
I’ve had many humbling experiences in my life, including voluntarily going homeless for one week every year as part of an awareness-raising project. But my most humbling experience so far has been being unemployed.
Since I left my job in October, I went from being the man-of-the-house to the man-in-the-house. My new househusband role begins at 6:45 am when I wake up to make and pack my wife’s lunch. By 7:15 am, I’ve also ironed her clothes. At 7:30 am, I’m warming up the car to drop her off at the train station fifteen minutes later
After that, phase two begins. I make sure the house is clean, the laundry is done and dinner is made while also searching and applying for jobs. It sounds easy enough, right? Let me tell you, it’s one of the most difficult jobs I’ve ever done and I’m still trying to get it 100% right. I have a new respect for women and men who take on the role of homemaker. And, I can only imagine the work it takes to be a stay-at-home parent.