Hey readers! This week, we’re doing something a little different for News Day Tuesday.
I stumbled across Anna Schuleit’s beautiful BLOOM project from 2003 (yes, I know I’m super late to the party). Today, I want to celebrate that project.
In 2003, artist Anna Schuleit installed 28,000 (28,000! Yow!) potted flowers throughout the psychiatric ward of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC).
Anna Schuleit’s installation project was created within the entire building of MMHC, on all floors, inviting former patients and employees, staff, students, and the general public, to re-visit the historic site once more before its closing. There was also a symposium at a nearby venue, and an open forum on the front steps of MMHC, during which the patients were invited to tell their stories. The events were dedicated to the memory of the thousands of patients of MMHC, and included as many of them as we were able to contact, as well as the doctors, nurses, support staff, researchers, students, and the general public. The project was a non-profit effort run entirely by volunteers and all of the events were free and open to all.
As people living with mental illness, some of us with more than one, we know the therapeutic power of telling our stories, of having a voice when we’re so often voiceless. Mindy Schwartz Brown wrote some beautiful poetry about her experiences at MMHC, which you can read here. One poem in particular, “Asylum,” touched me deeply.
How did this edifice become “home” to its inhabitants-
the renowned multiply degreed,
the haplessly homeless dually diagnosed,
the walking wounded,
the worried well,
the happy go lucky who cleaned floors,
took blood pressures.
How could it contain all of the
the disintegrated, the inflated,
occupying one space in parallel play?
Tell me in this soup, where does one find one’s ME?
DSM IV, Anybody going for V?
What’s the code for those who close hospitals
then open prisons for the sick?
We all feel so much better now,
knowing our brains are
faulty and we are not.
Structural errors ,
So now can we all be friends?
Can we do lunch?
Just as we would with a diabetic?
October 3, 2003
Mindy Schwartz-Brown © 2003
The pain of not being recognized is one we know all too well. The lines “We all feel so much better now, / knowing our brains are / faulty and we are not” struck a chord with me that resonated all the way through my body and down into what some people call the soul.
We are the ones who are forgotten. We are the ones who are hiding in plain sight, not out of our own desire to be invisible, but of the desire of others to make us invisible. We make others uncomfortable, particularly when we don’t outwardly fit the mold of the “mentally ill person.” Whenever I reveal that I have bipolar I and CPTSD to someone, I am typical met with one of two reactions. The person either recoils–the discomfort in their eyes is stark and harrowing–or they tell me how “brave” I am.
I am not brave. I simply live. What choice do I have? I do not want to die, though there are plenty of people who view living with a mental illness as a fate worse than death–and I find that more disturbing than anything going on in my attic. There have been countless times when the hauntings have gotten so noisy that I feel as though my mind may literally split in two. Still, I live. Our lives have worth. We have worth.
I’d like to end by including a few photos of Schuleit’s installation. I spent a great deal of time yesterday perusing the photos and reflecting–not on my own experiences, as I have never been inpatient, but on what others’ experiences might have been like as they lived out their day-to-day at MMHC.
All images above copyright Anna Schuleit.
Tell me your stories, readers. It’s important.