No Escape – Barrier Series # 3

This post is the third in my photo/story series on my journey of healing and recovery. See the introduction and complete series at My Healing Journey.

Barrio Brewery

No Escape © 2012 Bo Mackison

“We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters of our minds.” ~ Pema Chödrön

The time comes when I need a safe environment. I need protection from myself. High away – no escape, no contact. High away. Plastic windows and bars to protect those inside from themselves, and to protect those on the outside, too.

Administrators make attempts to brighten our environment – primary colored lounge furniture, pictures on the walls – but none of that offers protection from the hurried words, the rigid restrictions, the mind-numbing drugs, the incessant blare of televisions and radios.

Or the voices that only I hear.

~ based on journal entries, 1990


The photographs that make up the Barrier Series are a set of photos that symbolically follow the story of my mental and spirit breakdown and healing process. The photos are not related to any specific places where I might have had treatment. The series metaphorically correspond to the phases I moved through during recovery, as I focused first on staying alive; second on regaining basic functions, and finally on regaining my wholeness.

This photograph represents a difficult time in that process. Unrelated events led to an awakening, necessary but brutally painful, that led me to assess the reality of my past. It was devastating. I was suicidal and extremely ill; I required in-patient psychiatric care. And although it was a difficult time for me, it was excruciatingly painful for my family, including my husband and small children.

The place I stayed is a place no one would want to stay for any length of time. And yet, I was fortunate to be in a hospital that provided me with my greatest likelihood for survival. At the time, I was not appreciative of the efforts and time my caregivers expended on my behalf. But as I look back on those years, decades ago, I am overcome with deep gratitude for these people. They worked with dedication to keep me safe and protect me until I was ready to take over that work myself. It wasn’t an easy job for any of us.

Next: Four Walls and a Bright Light

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Dear Bo, I’m following you as a photographer though I like to call myself artist, as my creative photography is all about my healing journey too. More importantly because of my circumstances, my daughter is severely bi-polar and much of what you say here applies to us, we are going through this together, it is extremely difficult to deal with. I have always had mental health issues myself, like you I have had some success in dealing with my problems but when my daughter had a major breakdown about a year ago and more recently an ‘episode’ this becomes exhaustive.

    Thank you for posting about this most sensitive subject, I know it helps all concerned! x

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thank you for commenting, Sue. Dealing with mental illness is a difficult course, it must be doubly so when a child is also involved. My best to you and yours as you also walk this journey.

  2. God bless you for your courage in sharing such painful areas of your life. You will probably never know how much you’re helping others but be aware that you are. Like ripples in a pond, may your work and your words expand ever outward.

  3. We talked about this series of posts, and I had my trepidations. I marvel at your courage to share. I am grateful for your determination to make it through that painful part of your life. It was not easy for any of us, but most difficult for you; and you did not give up even in the darkest times.

    As always, you have my love and all that goes with it.

    I expect you will share some other difficult issues with some of your upcoming posts. You survived and are thriving. You did it, and I know others can also, even when the path is darkest and most daunting.

    Love always


  4. Bo, thank you so much for trusting us all enough to share this time in your life here. As has happened many times before, I have read Sherpa’s comment before mine, and realise the strength he offers to you. You are so loved. xxx

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Joanne, I would never have survived without the steadfast love from my husband and family. Truly, I am so loved. 🙂

  5. Again, the photograph is perfect for the words. I appreciate and applaud your courage in sharing this story. You are making an important contribution to changing societal attitudes towards mental illness–it is an illness, not a personal failing.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Mental illness is a condition which really requires sensitive treatment, not sweeping the problems under the rug or denying treatment because of lack of funds. It truly is an issue that could benefit from an open attitude and factual information.

  6. I’m reading thru this slowly…You are so very very brave. I do hope that this process is a healing one for you.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Funny, Marcie. I thought I had timed these posts after I had gone through most of the healing process. But I am finding the actual deliberate writing of my story has provided another layer of healing, another gift of strength.

  7. You are a very brave woman, Bo, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I admire your courage. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  8. Tears come to my eyes, but merely because I am blessed to read these words… sometimes, it’s about recognizing what is still there even when you feel like you are “losing it”. You and Sherpa are amazing, and an inspiration all on your own.

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