• Mair Elliott

Can you tell me why you're here?

*TRIGGER WARNING* - self-harm, suicide, psychiatric hospitals/care, emetophobia, eating disorders, mental illness.

I wrote this poem about a particular occasion when I'd tried to seek help for suicidal thoughts and feelings a few years ago. I wanted to get my journey with mental illness on paper and express how the attitude of professionals can affect someone who's seeking help, particularly someone with mental illness.

Can you tell me why you're here?

Tick, tick, ticking, waiting room clocks,

with its clinical plastic face, it mocks.

Old magazines stacked, decomposing.

Hospital smells, hospital noise imposing.

Faces bowed down, no one looks,

waiting in silence, pretending to read books.

“Ms Elliott!” from the triage doors.

My shoes squeak against the polished floors.

A doctor, mildly egotistical yet exhausted.

I’m waiting to be questioned and accosted

“Can you tell me why you’re here?”

Asking, but without a listening ear.

Where should I start? My history?

In its entirety, its one hell of a story.

Should I start at the beginning? tell him about

my 6-year-old self racked with doubt.

Doubting my place in this social world,

realising I’m different, into survival I was hurled.

Or what about the breakdown of the ‘perfect’

girl with good grades and no issue or defect.

The crushing despair which broke my mask,

hiding such pain was too much of a task.

Anxiety, panic, impending doom,

I began to feel I was buried in a tomb.

Should I tell him how my brain broke?

Torment enough to make anyone choke.

Imaginary devils and voices coming to life,

peace came from the blades of a knife.

Should I inform him of the hours spent

sat in waiting rooms during my descent?

What about the ping-di-pong song of IVs?

A tune I can still hear and brings unease.

The vomiting after handfuls of pills,

the times I ran from school to the hills.

The blood stains, burns and bruises,

hallucinations people thought were excuses.

The psychiatric hospitals, anti-psychotics,

the “necessary” drugs acting like narcotics.

What about the times police came looking

when I jumped hospital fences and went missing?

I should probably tell him my collection

of diagnoses, or maybe just a selection.

I’d better tell him about the self-inflicted

starvation, to the numbing I was addicted.

I can list all of the therapies I’ve tried

and all the times I’ve cried.

I can tell him about being restrained

and the hospital stays “to be contained”.

After all this time, I still feel the guilt,

the feelings of shame have built;

I don’t want to hurt anyone,

or be a burden to someone.

I must explain I didn’t choose this,

and hope that this doctor won’t dismiss

my feelings and thoughts of suicide.

All this pain would disappear if I died.

I look into his eyes, and realise

he won’t understand or sympathise.

So, instead I make an excuse, and simply say

“Don’t worry, I’ll be out of your way.”

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