You tried suicide; this is your punishment. Six months labor at the farm in the Berkshires, six months of isolation in this place of beauty. Maple syrup laps at your feet. You tried suicide; this is your punishment.
You are alone here in the presence of others. It is the place of Babel. You speak to the others, try to reach out; all you receive are grunts in return. The guests are medicated. You are medicated. The nurse brings each guest his own medication in little envelopes at each meal, is own private words, to swallow alive. This is your punishment; this is Hell.
You disappointed your parents and so they sent you here. There were delighted with this work farm. They talked to the director in hushed words behind the door. You will stay, they told you. This is the answer. This is the Miracle Cure. Arbeit Macht Frei.
You remove your boots to find frostbitten toes. You don’t dare tell your supervisor. Your back aches from shoveling snow six hours a day. The others have been shoveling cow dung. You tried suicide; this is your punishment.
One man, though, is not like the others. He doesn’t grunt. He speaks, in your language. He is handsome and talented. His artwork fills the walls of his room, and spills into the hallway like a bathtub overflowing. House-parents put restrictions on both of you. Close friendships are discouraged here. Don’t let them talk, ehrenmanner, they’ll plan a riot. They send him to a halfway house. You feel that you will die of loneliness.
You tried suicide. Now, contact with the outside world is further limited. The only telephone is a pay phone for which you have no money. You call your parents collect. You beg them to send you to a hospital.
They pronounce you well one day, release you to the world. What good has it done to be shut up on this farm, only to be thrown to the wolves? Now, you cannot bear the brightness of it, the reality of freedom: A car. Roommates. Electric bills. For the farm, in all its cruelty, sheltered you from the world. The Farm, like the cruelest state hospitals, became a routine, as all prisons become. You learned every loophole, every weakness in the system, every “way out.” And now, you had nothing to fight against. You were like the kid with the bag of Halloween candy who ate too much. You didn’t know what the do with this freedom that now was turned against you
You tried suicide; this is your punishment.
This is an excerpt from my wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness, which is now available in e-book form from Chipmunkapublishing. Click here to download the .pdf file. To read excerpts at my home site, click here. The book will be available in paperback form in May 2011.
To read my other article about Gould Farm at this blog, click here.