May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout May, many organizations, led by the National Institute of Mental Health, will be hosting events, benefits and teach-ins to bring awareness and compassion to serious mental health illnesses and issues including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders. Today at the Neighborhood Writing Alliance, we’re honoring mental health awareness by posting NWA writer Allen McNair’s piece “Under Construction,” which describes the struggle to control mental illness through the metaphors of construction and building.

NWA Writer Allen McNair

Allen McNair

The psych ward is under construction
As the patients restructure their lives.
The maintenance crew is restructuring the ward.
Internal emotions change, as does the wing.

Furniture of the mind is uprooted
As physical furniture is uprooted in the unit.
Objects in the objective world are moved around
As the subjects of the subjective are also moved.

Hopefully the unit of the hospital is improved
Like the individuals undergoing treatment.
Through counseling and group therapy
We can get a better handle on ourselves.

Medication helps to stabilize the patients,
Just as setting furniture in a different place
Will stabilize the various rooms on the ward
Where we strive to better cope with our lives.

The hospital is initially turned upside down
As our lives, at first, are upset when brought
Into this hallowed institution as we make
A valiant attempt to right ourselves emotionally.

Some of us want to reconstruct our lives
Which started out in desperate disarray.
Others are still under reconstruction,
Struggling through a mess of difficult emotions.

The hospital unit is slowly put in greater order.
The patients are also slowly becoming more orderly.
Just as external order is ongoing,
So internal order progresses in minds and hearts.

 “Under Construction” was originally published in “I Am Here,” the Fall 2011 issue of JOT.

  • John Bruvoll

    Hello Allan.
    I don’t know if you got any answer from Gerd Hønningstad. I know that her father was on board “Selis” when the ship was bombed up on Grønfjorden in may 42. My grandfather, Gjærløv Bruvoll, was also on bord then. He was wounded and sent down to Scotland whit an airplane. I wonder if you have any more information about “Operation Fritham”. My grandfather survived the war, but in 1952 he lost his life during fishery on board a small boat at the coast of Finnmark. Yhe name of this boat was “Viking”.
    I’m looking forward to hear from you or other persons who knows more about this. I really should like to know more about the life of my grandfather during this periode.

    Regards from John in Norway.

    • John Bruvoll

      I’m sorry. This message shoul be written to you Gerd. I misread all from the beginning. My e-mail is if you have any more information about this item.

      Regards from John in Norway.

  • Gerd Hønningstad

    I write to you about something quite different. I am wondering if your father was on board on SS Chumleigh in 1942 when the vessel was bombed at Svalbard?

    I saw an Alan McNair on Siri Holms war sailor site.

  • Jan McNair Schoenherr

    Wow! Thanks for that, my dear cousin, Allen!