Day 9W-3 by Bette Howland
Chapter 7 (p. 125–145, to end)
October 27, 2022 by Lynn Steger Strong
The book keeps asking us to look, but what for? It is asking us to inhabit this murky, awful middle space. How is it asking us to experience time's passing? How is it recalibrating our relationship to mental illness both as it is treated and its embodiment?
Mental illness is suffering. If all the rules and definitions were changed tomorrow, it would still be suffering. If we were supposed to be so terrible, if there was something dark, demonic in ourselves—out with it then! What was it? For God's sake where was its energy?
This was limbo. Who would not rather be in hell?
The psychiatrists are meant to come in to fix, name, and diagnose, to differentiate, except they almost never come, except, like so much else in W-3, it is their absence, the constant anticipation and disappointment around their lack that defines most of what they are.
We believed that this business of seeing the psychiatrist was the chief business of life, its most significant feature; that we spent all the rest of our time waiting for it to happen—that this was what we were in the hospital for.
"You? Who is this You? Is there a You? Who says?" Maybe some of the looking has to do with a desire to see, to find in one another what they are unable—and no one is willing to help them—to name or understand about themselves.
This was supposed to be a madhouse wasn't it? It had to be somewhere, the raging in these walls? In there you could see God knows what. And we needed to see it; needed this expression, the alien, energetic, authentic forms of madness.