The anxiety group gives me more anxiety.
do not let me sound like some of these people—
Hollow and pathetic.
I should show empathy. Pain is ubiquitous
And it’s not a competition about who feels worse, or why.
I will try to be nice.
In my thoughts and in my deeds.
But there is still so much that I have failed to do.
What are they panicking about?
A boss who doesn’t like them or a toddler not eating his peas.
I have real panic.
I think—and always have—about serious existential questions.
The world is reaching a boiling point; Late-stage capitalism
Is destroying us from within; The president is a criminal;
And the normalization of prejudice is returning in an unprecedented state.
I am very unsure that we will survive, or will want to endure,
the painful death knells
of the patriarchy.
Meanwhile, this one over here recently tried to kill herself
for saying something stupid.
She took handfuls of pills and waited to die.
Then, when the pills did not work, she went to the hospital
where she had to stay for weeks
before they would let her out.
She had to play the game. The three-times-a-day group therapy game.
Now, she is obsessively coloring with pencils
and not making eye contact.
Pills are such a wuss move, I think.
Taking pills almost never works:
No one has enough, and no one has the right sort of pills, either.
Tylenol isn’t going to cut it.
You’d have to take a trillion milligrams of Benadryl to die.
I don’t want to be the cliché in the group,
the angry button-pusher character from every movie set in a psych ward.
So I say nothing
Another tried to hang herself—with a cell phone charger cord.
She passed out in the process.
You will poop yourself, she informs us--I guess in case anyone has a similar plan.
I laugh out loud, surprising myself with the sharp burst
of my guffaw.
Then everyone laughs for several minutes.
We are all thinking about poop.
Maybe we shouldn’t discuss suicide methods,
one nervous college student says, interrupting the laughter,
wringing her hands
Not talking about suicide is exactly what you’re not supposed to do.
I know this because my own child
has tried to commit suicide.
You have to talk about it.
You have to ask for specifics about methods and plans and attempts
even when talking about it feels dangerous,
acutely uncomfortable. Even dead wrong.
I say this, all of this.
The group leader nods.
He is otherwise mostly useless, but sometimes he nods.
Nodding is an easy way
But I refuse to discuss my own suicidal ideation
because I will gladly, eagerly die
before I will ever go to a psych hospital.
There is no point to hospitalization.
I’d lose my job. Then I really would wish that I were dead.
I have seen
the uselessness of daily group therapy.
I have seen
my own child in a few different behavioral health hospitals.
None of them made her better.
Each hospital stay then required its own recuperation.
And the “steps” down?
It’s a racket; it’s months of this pointless shite.
Everyone I talk to
going to the hospital.
One, who signed herself in after realizing she was in serious crisis,
was forcibly cavity searched.
It was traumatizing, humiliating.
I won’t let that happen to me.
There is one young man here, the only guy tonight.
He had been drinking too much and thinking about killing himself
all the time, he explains.
He tells us about this girl. She sounds…not good for him.
He assures us she is perfect.
“We still text. So I texted her, ‘Can we get back together?’” he says.
There was no response from the girl.
This pisses me off. I am pissed off for him.
But he really should not be texting, ‘Can we get back together?’
That is awkward as all Hell.
He just spent a month in the mental hospital.
He and this girl were apart for several months before that.
After a long break in a relationship, especially this kind, I don’t think you should lead
with Can we get back together?
If they were to magically click again, it would have to happen organically;
that’s the only way.
She did not respond to his earnest question. It has been days. He has been waiting.
Typical, I think.
What should I make of this? he asks, waiting to hear our answer.
All the women in the room glance quickly at him then look at the floor.
There is a lingering, stifling silence.
Finally, I speak, because no one else volunteers.
I tell him, first, it troubles me that this woman, this love interest, did not respond.
(I don’t want to be a downer, but I am not optimistic.)
I say, she should know and respect how fragile you are.
(For Christ’s sake, she could have responded.)
I can only imagine that she didn’t know what to say.
(Anything, any words, would have been better than nothing,
so I can actually imagine much worse about her than simple,
how do you say, confusion.)
This young man has a perfect aquiline nose
and beautiful skin that I can see despite his beard.
(I have a weird beard phobia.)
But if I feel anything, I feel maternal.
Nothing seems wrong with him except this gnawing
neediness, this perseverated longing
for a girl who can’t be bothered to return a text
from an ex-boyfriend hanging on
by his neatly trimmed abalone shell fingernails
He nods, thinking.
“We’ll see,” he says, nursing an ember of hope,
or perhaps reliving
the bittersweet memory of this on-again/off-again love.
He steps outside for a smoke.
A train screams in the near distance.
Meanwhile, I need something.
I cannot get a psychiatrist on the phone to save my life.
No one ever picks up when I press three, the
menu number for
It’s the only reason I’m in this group--access to the p-doc.
(And this is why people go to the hospital: it is the fastest way to get meds.)
Another young man appears the next night.
His face is pale and waxen. Both of his legs
I am a huge ball of anxiety, he declares.
I am a total fucking mess; I can’t even sit here.
I so, so get this.
What have you taken for the anxiety? He is asked.
Antihistamines. That’s what they give me: antihistamines.
(He should be sneering, but instead, he is merely forlorn.)
But not anything for anxiety, I interject.
Exactly, he replies. Nothing for the actual problem.
His legs are bouncing so much I can’t believe he isn’t airborne.
Why are the benzos suddenly verboten?
It’s like the passive voice in writing: sometimes that’s what you truly need.
Nothing else will do quite the same thing.
This new No Benzo Protocol is doing more harm than good.
Which boardroom of schmucks came up with it?
I feel a new drop in my hopelessness quotient.
A lurch in my stomach.
Later, I suck on a vape in a too-small bathroom stall.
This processed yellow oil is probably doing nothing
but at least it thrashes my lungs
as a reminder, however bleak, that I am still alive.
I soon realize that most of the people here
were court mandated to attend after their release from the psych ward.
A further judicial humiliation
when what they need is care, and love, and rest.
I am voluntary,
but when I miss a few meetings because I have to work in the evenings,
and also because sometimes I just can’t sit here for three hours,
three long, ass-numbing hours
for a sum total of five minutes of helpful words,
I am threatened with being kicked out.
The irony of this makes me laugh again.
The utter irony
of how being here, in this room, makes me feel even more suicidal
with the bleating train right outside
the screeching of the brakes;
of the wheels.
This is probably the best place to do it, I decide.
I can just go out the door,
cross the parking lot,
climb over some weeds and walk onto the tracks.
The window isn’t high enough to jump from.
That is mostly what I think about during group therapy:
The proximity of the train tracks.
--E. Collins 2019