Monday, April 25, 2011
It is time to leave the stigma behind and openly explore the topic of mental health.
Welcome to the Nicholls Building. I'll be honest, this is not my first visit.
The building was constructed in 1970 as a nurses residence for the adjacent Civic Hospital, in Peterborough, Ontario. Only three years later, in 1973, the nursing program transferred to Sir Sandford Fleming College. In 1978, a $1.5 million renovation converted the former residence into a psychiatric services facility known as the Nicholls Building.
My first few visits to this facility occurred in the early 1990s as a 13 and 14 year old boy. Drug overdoses and suicide attempts brought me here, but I wasn't even close to ready to discuss or even consider root causes or diagnosis or solutions to my escalating of states of manic depression at that time. Phrases like "Held for observation", Form 1" and "Danger to self or others" were commonplace. I owned those terms and wore them like anchors chained to my psyche. I don't remember much from my traumatic experiences here but for the fear and loneliness, and the unparalleled perceived truth that death was my only option. Yet I survived.
In November of 2009, the building was closed as the transition across the parking lot to the newly constructed PRHC was completed.
Throughout the spring of 2011, with demolition notices taped to the doors, the Police were using the building for Emergency Response Training.
On Mother's Day of 2011, my brother (who also spent time here) and I found our way inside the old Nicholls Building once again, only to discover a security guard walking the halls. We played cat and mouse with him for hours, quietly exploring the entire facility with a sense of victory that felt decades in the making.
In mid-October of 2011, demolition was underway, and I was inside what remained of the building playing a much more dangerous game of cat and mouse, this time with a security guard and an active demolition crew.
In mid-November of 2011 all that remained was a pile of rubble.
By the end of November all that remained were a town's memories and a muddy field.
In 2014, held on a "Form 1" in the PRHC psych ward across the lot, I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and properly medicated.
Today the grass is green where the Nicholls Building once stood, and I have found balance on that very same ground.
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