when i checked myself into the hospital for severe depression and anxiety, i went through a long and emotional entrance evaluation. this was concluded with a sudden and unannounced picture taken of me. at one of the darkest moments of my life. one minute i’m being asked if i want to kill myself and how, and the next minute a flash is going off. i was told it was for my “paperwork.”
i remember feeling mortified – as if nothing could make me feel worse, i got to have picture day at the mental hospital. my lowest low captured on film for all of posterity. (really just for a select few doctors and nurses). i imagined the picture like a cross between those photos of people screaming on roller coasters and a gritty criminal mugshot.
i was feeling so many emotions at that moment – terror, sadness, despair, loneliness. i was crying and shaking. i had tears and sweat running all over my face. my hair was disheveled. i had wiped my nose on the collar of my shirt. i felt like hell and i looked like it, too.
i never got to see the picture. i have thought about it from time to time. at first i felt embarrassed when i imagined other people looking at it: a portrait of insanity. i wanted it deleted, thrown out, shredded.
but now i have grown to think of it as a battle scar. a portrait of a warrior. dirty, gritty, raw. at that moment i was fighting for my life. whatever got captured in that photo was real and honest. in my mind, i wave the picture like a flag for anyone to see. the beautiful, unflattering reality of a woman pushing through a mental health crisis. unframed. unfiltered.