Rose Garden 1: Beginning Treatment
After I was admitted to The Menninger Clinic and completed my initial psychological tests, Dr. Roberts enrolled me in daily sewing, art and gym classes, as well as weekly piano classes. The first day of classes, I overslept. Dr. Roberts showed up at my room. He made it clear I was to attend classes daily, because they were a major part of my therapy. He waited in the hall while I dressed for a walk on the grounds.
As we walked, he emphasized the importance of showing up for all the activities available to me. I followed Dr. Roberts down the winding sidewalk until we arrived at the rose garden.
“We’re here,” he said, as he pulled up two metal chairs.
“I don’t like roses and I don’t want to sit here,” I said. I was adamant.
Small metal plates placed in the dirt in front of each bush identified its botanical name. They reminded me of temporary nameplates used at cemeteries until they are replaced by permanent stone markers.
“Roses remind me of death,” I told Dr. Roberts. “When Daddy died, we had perfect roses. When my grandfathers and uncles died, we had more roses. When my baby cousin drowned, we had roses. When my younger cousin ran her car into a tree and died, we had more perfect roses. Growing up, we had perfect roses only when someone died. I hate roses. Their sweet smell makes me sick.”
Rose Garden 2: Discharged from Menninger
I asked to go to the rose garden for my last session at The Menninger Clinic with Dr. Roberts. We discussed my disdain for the rose garden when I was first admitted to the hospital.
“What’s changed?” Dr. Roberts asked.
“My perspective has changed,” I explained. “Roses symbolized death when I came to Menninger. They reminded me of my fear of losing Larry and all the people in my family who had died. The roses haven’t changed; what they symbolize has. My work in therapy has taught me to look for new perspectives and new possibilities.”
We sat quietly for a while. When I first went to Menninger, I felt uncomfortable sitting in silence with someone. That last day, sitting quietly with Dr. Roberts felt like a prayer. I told him I had felt loved and accepted at Menninger. I also told him that I had learned I could change my perspective. When I saw clearly, I could make a conscious decision to look for and focus on the good in my life.
Roses once represented death. Today, roses represent hope. My favorite roses are long stem yellow roses.