Visitation Day

Tue, 08/13/2013 - 18:55 -- asavell


Visitation Day


A long hall with locked doors on either end

Some unfamiliar face through a window has to buzz you in

“Welcome to West Hills”, they say

A small sign displayed: “Visitation Day”.


Walking to the corner where she sits.

You honestly don’t know how this all fits,

What happened, what didn’t happen, that got her… here.

You quietly gaze because you know what to really fear.

What will happen when she comes home?

When you are left with her alone.


Asking questions never ends in a good night’s sleep… but you do it anyway


What if she lies like she has so many times before?

What if you find her, again, passed out on the floor?

What if you find her hanging?

Neck broken by a noose, peacefully dangling.


Back to reality.


Thirty minutes of her tears have already gone by.

Thirty minutes of you asking what-if and why.

Visitation time is over.

Her return one day closer.


A week later and she’s back.


You lock the bedroom door at night

Out of fear of violence—fear of a fight.

Two o’clock, three o’clock, four o’clock wake up calls

Wailing from just up the stairs… that’s all.

“Don’t listen to it. Go back to sleep”

But you know that your night is now hers to keep.


Six o’clock. Time for school.


No one here knows… or, for that matter, cares.

Which is fine because you honestly don’t want to share.

“Oh God, there she is again… hide hide hide”

Yes, she is at your school… in your classes...

This is her world, you are just along for the ride.


People judge you on the spur.

Ignore them. Ignore him. Ignore her.

“Oh, if they only knew what I go through.”

But they don’t. And they won’t. And you sit and stew.


You remember what happened as you try to forget.


But forgetting is no the way to solve a problem:

“Every experience will make me stronger”

But honestly, you don’t know how much longer,

You can take getting stronger.


Then you remember what your teacher said,

“There’s no rest when there is a mental illness in the family”

No rest… that resonated.

Someone understood. He related.


Mental illness is an unspoken disease.

It isn’t kosher—the conversation will freeze.

The stigma radiates through every pore.

Your throat is sore… from almost confessions.

You try to talk about it, and you almost do,

And, for once, you actually want to.

Stigma stabs you still, cold and sharp.

You see that look in their eyes:

Disgust and surprise.


The potential is inside us all.

Something snaps and then you fall.

You can hope and pray that her illness will just go away…

But deep down inside, you know it’s here to stay.


Mental illness never rests.


Mental illness deplores your happiness.


Mental illness never lets a bad day retire.


Mental illness doesn’t care if you are tired.


Six weeks ago today.

Over and over, again it plays:


A long hall with locked doors on either end,

Some unfamiliar face through a window has to buzz you in.

“Welcome to West Hills”, they say.

A small sign displayed: “Visitation Day"



Inspired by my sister's mental illness and the experiences it has brought both my family and myself. This poem addresses the stigma of mental illness and is written from my perspective. During this very hard time, poetry was my coping mechnism. I hope that someone will read this and understand that being a mother or a sister or a sister of someone with mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. I hope that they can read my poetry and relate. I have submitted this poem for several scholarships so it may or may not come up as similar to another one of my applications on other sites. Thanks so much for reading.

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