How strange I thought, one of the first things I was told after I was alone when I entered this place. It was only a day later I would find out why. There was a lady shuffling about the corridors in her slippers, making obscure demands as she did so, in her possession was her own staff of coffee enough to keep a buffalo awake for the foreseeable, she seemed quite hyper and certainly seemed like she didn’t need any more caffeine let alone sugar. The next lady I saw after my sugar warning was Mrs A, she’s adamant she’s married, though she’s stated that her husband died years ago spurring her on to be adamant that she’s now widowed. She moved onto a money issue, demanding that she banked with Lloyds Bank, but she now withdraws her money from the Post Office. “Do they even have Post Offices in Hospitals?” I thought, I’ve never spent a night in one before, the closest I’ve ever been was a couple of broken bones in my youth and a 6 hour day in A and E that lead me to being admitted to here. Though Mrs A speaks in contradictions she made a good argument at feeding time about processed food being unhealthy for us and that’s exactly what was served up, processed meatballs. Don’t get that confused, it was tasty, but it wasn’t 100% beef that’s for sure. It’s hard to know exactly what brought her in here without becoming brass and asking her, but in my shoes, I’m not too keen on anyone asking me so I’ll keep myself to myself and not rock what seems like an already swaying boat.
It gives me a thought though, on the “outside” would every single person benefit from spending some time in here, a grounding process for each person to forget about how many likes they got on social media, waking up in the morning and knowing it doesn’t matter if you don’t look like a million dollars, being listened to and appreciated by everybody around you with no negative feelings at all. It’s election time on the “outside” in the UK soon and all of a sudden there’s a million and one things about this election rushing about in my head.
Giving it some logical thought later on, which I certainly was not upon admission, of course I can vote. I haven’t broken any laws (except maybe pressing the accelerator a little too hard every now and again) I’m still a semi-functioning member of society at best. I’m not sure how they get all 22 patients out of the ward to vote, as the date for postal voting is looming on us and I haven’t heard any one discussing it, nurses or patients. Later on I would hear someone expressing that they were going to get Section 17 leave in order to go out and vote. Good on you, I thought and there was all my questions answered in one swoop. With the shit storm in the UK political scene at the moment, maybe it would be better If I wasn’t allowed to. I could genuinely hold my hands up to future generations and say “It wasn’t my fault, I wasn’t allowed to vote”.
The juxtaposition of being admitted into here to general society are vast, though you’re freedom is forsaken and you can’t come and go as you please as you may at home. You are well and truly looked after, meals are regular and filling. Breakfast between 8am - 10am, Dinner 12pm bang on, Tea at 5pm and Supper at 8pm. Dinner and Tea are often three courses, soup, main and pudding, Supper is toast, butter and jam. It’s warm, throughout my entire stay I didn’t put a jumper on once inside even with the windows open, I also didn’t close my window in my bedroom during my tenure. There’s free tea and coffee all day long and drugs are issued at 9:30pm to everyone. (I’ve often asked for mine slightly later to see if everyone else calms down and doses off before I settle back to my room.) If Mrs A was wandering the streets, dressed as she is, speaking in contradictions and accusing anyone nearby of wrongdoing, society as a whole would ignore. She wouldn’t be warm, she wouldn’t be fed and most importantly she wouldn’t be listened too or on her way to a recovery. Though that is a general sweeping statement, obviously someone listened or she wouldn’t be here. There is always a diamond in the rough and in Mrs A’s case, thankfully someone did listen.
Anyway, back to the bumbling fools we leave in charge of it all, there’s a hint of irony that I’ve watched the televised political broadcasts and debates in here. Not one of them sounds different to my new neighbours, contradictory, nonsensical at times and full of empty promises. The difference is my neighbours are promising they’ll be discharged soon and it’s quite apparent that it is unlikely for the majority, whereas these men in power hold life in the balance for everybody and they are just as hopeful in their promises that really sends a chill down my spine. I listened to one ex Prime Minister of this country be asked a question on about the NHS on the radio shortly before I was admitted and his answer “I think the question you’re asking is…” Goddammit. What are these people on? In any other day to day conversation you’d be looked at like an idiot if you answered with that.
An apple is an apple. It doesn’t matter in this case if it’s red or green. In terms of cuts to the NHS, I wouldn’t say this ward in particular is understaffed. Admittedly the nurses do seem to double up as general cleaners, waiters etc but there is always a constant number of staff, who always have time for patients requests. It is a strange place to be, no door handles, push button taps on the sink and in the shower, no plugs in the sinks, no rail for coat hangers in the wardrobe and no coat hangers either, bedroom doors automatically lock when closed and can only be opened from the inside or with a fob from the outside, if you put anything over the door to your bathroom it triggers an alarm and the bedroom door has a set of blinds on it that can be closed from the inside but opened with a key from the outside. This all seems to be logical, but it’s only once you’re inside and see it that it makes perfect sense.
It’s hard to see where this election is going, each party seems to be hopeless in that they can win or achieve anything, they are all doubtful about what they can or can’t do and that is really what should concern everyone. The media seems to be sitting on the fence also, the red tops might pull out another “It’s the S*n Wot Won It” just brainwashing enough people that a particular party is right in power, though having seen the eclectic headlines over the days it’s obvious they have their feet in both camps. With the Telebox pitting the leader of the Conservatives against the leader of the Labour Party, it’s already written every other party off. Over an hour listening to Corbyn and Johnson “debate”, ducking, diving and dodging questions better than Muhammed Ali used to with punches. The other parties are limited to 10 minutes or interviews, after the “Main Event”, post watershed and not one of them swore. Hell I would, not one of them showed any shred of frustration as to why they weren’t included in the prime debate. Although having watched the 7-way debate back in 2015, it turned into more of a pissing contest than previous debates and nothing really got resolved, a snippet from each candidate with no real time to discuss manifesto’s or policies just name calling, belittling and general idiocy. One thing that harrows the deepest part of me was the last question the future leader of our godforsaken country was asked.
“Who would you like to be in the jungle with?”
Yes this is ITV and they need to plug one of their biggest shows that 11 million people tuned into the first episode of, a sixth of the nation watched has-beens, B listers and quite frankly anything but a celebrity enter a “jungle” in Australia, to partake in “challenges” in front of the TV cameras to be awarded the title “King or Queen” of the jungle. Personally I’d like the Prime Ministerial candidates be pitched into a real jungle together, no cameras, just heli-drop them in with a native carnivore of the jungle that would consider them lunch. If they were all dropped into a real jungle together we’d really know how well they worked with others without squabble. A real life or death situation and the ones that made it out alive could then go on TV and debate whether they were really fit to run the country. After listening to the Green’s, they are encouraging voters to vote for the Lib Dems, for that they need putting in here with the rest of us. After two coalition governments in 9 years, Tory + Lib Dems, Tory + DUP, it’s clear that there isn’t a majority of people in the UK that are happy or satisfied with any one party in particular. On a more truthful note after listening to all of this jungle talk, I’d personally prefer it if we left our jungles alone, let nature's lungs thrive, stop chopping down trees, stop collecting insects and animals for gameshows to make people squeamish for entertainment values *. We need to be more if not fully sustainable in what we can achieve, we need to be planting the trees we are using to ensure a healthy habitat for us all to live in. Not even the leader of the Green Party answered the jungle question with that idea, instead she dignified a response and answered the question. Surely to take a stand and not bow to the idiocracy of it all would have been a much stronger stance, but instead she went out with a whimper appealing to the sixth of the population that are half brain dead and deserve to be somewhere like here.
Out of the mad house of parliament and into the real world, there is a sense of familiarity in here with many of the patients, they know what they are doing. They’ve even been to this ward before or they have been in the system, know how it works and are fully aware how disjointed and broken it is. That’s not to say that this ward is, but on the whole, with after care for some of them it seems like they’ve just wound their way back up in one, comparing stories of other wards and which are better to be in. All the patients on the ward are friendly but common sense still seems to apply, I’ve overheard one or two arguing about money lent or borrowed and that it still hasn’t been repaid. So the rules I have outlined in my head are give but don’t take favours and try not to piss anyone off, general life rules. When my rule is first tested it’ll be a patient sitting down to supper eating a full triangle of brie with a fork, he’s wolfing it down like it’s the first thing he’s eaten all day. Brie combined with meds are going to make for some whacky dreams my friend. He offers me a bite from his fork, I politely declined with “I’ll pass thank you”. Although you are fed routinely in here, food often seems to be offered around, as well as patients offering to get you knives, forks and spoons at feeding time.
As the man had offered me a bite of his brie, that seemed to be more of the size of a pizza slice than a portion of cheese, I realised without the strict feeding times it would be difficult to quantify time in here. Okay, visiting hours are set right after tea at 5:30pm. The few visitors that came to the ward trickle in. I was fortunate that I had visitors every single day while I was there, others were not, some I didn’t see get a single visitor throughout the time I was there. The confusion of what time of day it is is only compounded by the winter sun setting around half past four in the afternoon, but the main thing is other than occupational therapy in the afternoons, nothing really happens. There’s nothing to “set your watch by” the doctors are in at all different times, the nurses change shift after feeding time, so throughout the day, it could be any time between the meds at 9am and Tea at 5pm (providing you skipped dinner.)
So I sit there during the days and watch and listen to what is going on around me, creating partial stories for everyone that’s admitted from what I’ve seen or heard and keeping my mind occupied with crosswords, sudoku and other puzzles in the papers. The two blokes sat to my left are discussing their previous drug experiences and how they believe that man-made prescribed drugs are the bad in the drug scene and that cannabis should be the only prescription they can have in here. Both in the past 30 minutes (I think) have asked the nurse for a valium each. To get a grip of time there are two signals in the social/dining room, one a flat screen tv that says “Welcome to Beech Ward”, it for the most part reads and shares information, patient schedules for occupation therapy, inspirational quotes to motivate the soul. It does however have a time and date constantly in the corner. It says 9:19:57, the time is 8:15:57, above it has the date THURSDAY 22ND JANUARY 1970. One could be forgiven for the time with daylight savings not too far in the distant past, in my 29 years I’ve learnt that microwaves, cookers and cars often tell the wrong date 6 months of the year but in this environment surely having a 49 year discrepancy of 49 years won’t be beneficial to anyone in here. The date is actually WEDNESDAY 20TH NOVEMBER 2019. When I brought the matter up with a member of staff, she laughed and told me it was “therapeutic for the patients”. Given that we aren’t on the dementia ward (that’s downstairs) and 80% of the population of patients are under 50, I’m not too sure anyone remembers the 70’s and for those that do it probably wasn’t the best time politically, Heath was about to seize power and the three day week was impending.
Regardless of the time and date, this place is in equal parts a dictatorship and communism in action seemingly working together hand in hand. At feeding time, supper to be precise, the guys next to me have moved on from drugs and in keeping with what has been spinning around in my head anyway have moved on to politics. Mr G wants “Jeremy Blunkett” to get into power. It’s hard to know if he’s been in the system that long that he still thinks David Blunkett is key in the Labour Party or the valium has kicked in and he really means Jeremy Corbyn. He seems to know who Boris Johnson is so I’ve presumed the latter, he sees BoJo as a strong character, clearly he’s torn between the two. Mr M is saying he’s Labour through and through but later admits he hasn’t really looked into what the men and women in red represent, so he’s unsure where he stands. It’s a short lived conversation and not a lot develops from it. Back to the democracy I currently am residing in, the nurses are in charge, there’s no doubting that, they say who comes and who goes. Someone is asking to leave the ward for a wander around the grounds, claiming like myself he is here “informally” or voluntarily, the nurses show their true power and are adamant that he is going nowhere. Mrs S who is quite apparently not here voluntarily hasn’t stopped talking since I walked through the double security doors the first time around. She’s almost fuelling the fire with the patient that wants to leave, provoking everyone in the dining area and generally being a nuisance. All of my neighbours in this situation seem to be in agreement that she is provoking for the most part, however they are provoking Mrs S herself adding to the chaos in the truest form. I’m not sure who was screaming down the corridor earlier but I’ll hedge a bet that Mrs S had something to do with it. 28 Hours in and all it’s been fairly normal for all intents and purposes, almost what you’d expect from a psychiatric ward, nothing like the movies, there’s been a tenseness in the air but there hasn’t been any violence, no one has lost it yet no matter how provoked.
Back to the communism, without the nurses around it’d be fairly self sufficient. Mr O came back from the outside with some pre-warmed food fresh from Morrison’s. (I’m not sure whether the quality of the food was any better than the food that is served in here.) Mrs A was straight on the case, like Mrs S, I’m not sure she’s allowed out either, so a foraged food from the yonder seems like an absolute treat. He doesn’t bat an eyelid and just hands her a piece of chicken breast on the bone from his fork. She grabs it with both hands and treats it like she’s a cavewoman who’s hunted it, skinned it, cooked it and now gets to eat it. Both hands straight in, biting off chunks with flecks of meat dispersing around where she is sitting on to the floor.
Mr G and Mr M after their political persuasions have moved onto favours, one had something the other wanted so they traded and in return Mr M fetched his speaker into the "common room” (Common room is a fairly loose phrase for this area as for the 12 hours I’ve been sat in it today, apart from feeding time, I’ve been the only one in here.) But he kept his promise, back he trotted and put on some Hip Hop, the crowd around us didn’t look like the kind to be into block rocking beats but no one seemed to object, maybe too subdued from the medication or maybe just happy to have a bit of life breathed into the room. Apart from the nurses the sense of apathy was apparent, thankfully the nurses did step in and the music stopped. Probably for the best. Feeding time is weird because you tend to see people you haven’t seen all day, equally those who wander the halls and corridors throughout the day seem to disappear at this time too. It’s hard to know exactly how all 22 patients are filling their days, especially those who are not allowed out, mine have been crosswords, reading the paper and trying to keep up with the politics, which is a job in itself. It’s no wonder that some of these people are here for months if they are just cooped up in their rooms, with little or no interaction from people living on the outside. It’s easy to filter what you do and don’t want to see online in today’s society and if you’re just in one room with your own filter on with no visitors, the anxiety of confronting the outside must feel like a daunting task for anyone.
One thing noticeable in here is that noise doesn’t seem to bother anyone, nearly all the patients don’t bother to actually pick up the chairs to sit down or get up. Although they pull them out to sit on they tend not to put back under, instead they are merely dragged out from under the table across the floor causing an incredibly piercing sound but no one seems bothered by it. Bodily noises are not concealed either, but I suppose why would they be, if you’re embarrassed by the odd passing of wind then this isn’t the place for you.
It seems that the “common room” comes into life later in the evening, it’s got people mulling about, it’s humbling, those who haven’t been seen all day, those who have been quiet and passive all day seem to have a bit of a kick. The girl that helped me with my crosswords has stopped by to see if I need help one last time before I retire, she seems fairly accustomed to the environment and seems incredibly bright. She later admitted that it was her screaming the corridors down earlier on but says she was “contained” fairly quickly. I fear to ask. A lad about my age who was admitted shortly after I was asked about my cap (A Boston Celtics one) and asks me if I’m Irish. I confess the roots of my surname originate from the Donegal area of Ireland, but that I’m as English as toad in the hole. I get chatting away to this guy, it’s impossible not to notice the forearm size plasters covering the said area, as I look at him more as we continue to converse, his trainers are bloodstained and the back of his hands are covered in both fresh cuts and scars alike. I ask him if he’s a sports fan, he denies sternly, reasoning that he doesn’t agree with the amounts of money that sports stars are paid. For the most part I understand his argument, but as Paul Weller once stated “That’s Entertainment”. If we’re quite happy to find out who the next leader of the country will want to spend time in the jungle with, then it’s no surprise that these people are paid mega bucks for the entertainment they provide. Is it? He elaborates further on his life and informs me he was in the army from the age of 16, he recalls numerous deaths of friends he’s witnessed while serving on a tour. One that sticks in my mind was a friend who stood on a landmine, warning his friends to run before it went off. It’s haunting to see his, what would appear, self inflicted physical condition.
Rightfully he highlights the pay gap between sport stars and the armed forces, he tells me how much he was paid a month for his literal blood, sweat and tears for our country. He’s in pieces both emotionally and physically. He’s distraught he’s just missed Remembrance Sunday and Armistice day because he was admitted to Hospital, it’s probably the right place for him to be but he’s missed his chance to be celebrated for what he is and what he has done for the country. There is a parallel that can be drawn with the staff inside here, at times I’m sure this place can mimic a war zone, they’ve seen it all, taken abuse physically and mentally and still show up for work every day of the week to make sure people are safe despite being paid below their true worth to society.
The strangest comparison I can draw upon from this experience is University halls, it’s almost like being back there 11 years ago, the plastic mattress, half sized beds, the fact very few actually clean up after themselves, the wet room adjoined to your bedroom and the sanitised smell that lingers once the cleaners have cleaned up after the others. There is a broad mix of society brought together by one common cause, in this case it’s mental health issues as opposed to a yearning for a further education, piss ups and one night stands. It’s a melting pot of society and just like the first week of university, with a turnover of patients everyone seems to be new, everyone is friendly and trying their best to get along with everyone else because no one really knows what anyone else is really about.
After talking to our friend from the army in more depth, he’s 22 years old and he’s also from Crewe, very local to where I currently live and work, though he hasn’t been back to Crewe recently. The 7 year age gap between us probably means that we have different friendship circles though he went to a nearby school, I didn’t attend this school, though I know a few of the teachers that taught here. I list off a couple of names and his face lights up with a sense of familiarity, he starts listing the teachers that he had for the one year he attended the school, I nod at the one’s I’ve known through the years as an adult but he thinks I was at this school also and I can’t bring myself to tell him after he reels off the 9th teacher that I actually only know a couple of them and that I went to a different school altogether. The conversation is flowing and he’s talking about the psychotic episode that landed him in here with us, it’s heartbreaking to listen to, he’s desperate to get back in the army but he needs at least three years without a psychotic episode to be able to serve again. After reminiscing about Crewe his views on immigration are quite apparent which is a little soul destroying for a man who literally invaded other countries for a living.
This conversation that we’ve shared, spurs on the conversation I was listening to earlier, the “Jeremy Blunkett” fan was discussing a racial prejudice against ethnic minorities after “David Cameron sent us to war with Iraq and Afghanistan. I refrain from chipping in and correcting him it was actually the other photoshopped Prime Minister Tony Blair who spearheaded us into those combats. Whilst New Labour was the new kid on the block and for what good they may have done they equally if not worse did just as bad in the world. As without the coalition of Bush/Cheyney and Blair my newest pal probably wouldn’t have been sent to war, he probably wouldn’t be sat opposite me currently in the state he’s currently in. The one thing I thought I’d not have to talk about while I was here was work. He mentions it, I smile, nod and steer the conversation elsewhere.
Looking at this hospital, these people are well cared for, they probably like me in here are drinking a tad too much tea and coffee but if that’s the only vice, I’m sure the world will keep rotating. The place is warm, the decoration isn’t tired, neither is the furniture, there’s a TV room with you guessed it and the pool table is cleaner than any I’ve seen in pubs and bars up and down the country. You have to ask for the cues and the balls like you might in any flat roof pub lacking windows but the one downside is there is no triangle, for obvious reasons. Who needs a triangle anyway two arms at forty five degrees and you’re set. After admission I played a game of pool, the choice was either traditional 8 ball or 9 ball so I opted for what I felt more comfortable with, 8 ball albeit with a wonky cue. Mr D whose room was next to the pool table asked me “If I wanted a good cue?” As I hesitated as to whether I should accept this favour from someone I’ve literally just met and panic started creeping in ever so slightly he reached inside his room and leant two perfectly straight cues against the wall where I was stood. As I was playing by myself I didn’t really need two but the gesture was appreciated. He closed his door and went into his room. I swapped my nib-less wonky cue for one of them and all of a sudden panic returned.
Fuck it, if i’m going to owe this guy something for lending me one of his cues I’m not going to piss him off in the process and have them handed back to a nurse. I moved onto my second game, to say I was rusty was an understatement maybe it really is one of those games that are better played with someone else. Someone to compete with, someone to ridicule you into not making another bad shot for fear of what they will call you. Half way through my second game he left his room and went for a wander. Now I was in a predicament, after hobbling into my third game of pool alone it was getting tedious, but what do I do with the cues, do I just leave them against the wall like he did previously, what if another patients decided to take them, use them as a weapon, do I hand them back to the nurses in an understanding that he’s allowed to have them in his room. I started to sweat, the pressure was on me. Thankfully as I’m terrible, he’d returned before I’d managed to finish my third game and I hastily handed him back the cues and thanked him for his gesture. I didn’t play pool again during my entire stay on this basis.
Most of the patients are quite thoughtful people, the ones that aren’t wandering around talking gibberish in a world of their own. I’ve been asked if I want a tea or coffee, had cutlery brought to me at feeding time, had compliments on my T-shirts and caps thrown my way also. Although the demeanour on the outside seem’s extremely neighbourly it’s obvious that they can be hugely confrontational on the inside. Some of them were admitted after me and they are adamant they want to go outside alone, something that everyone in the room knows isn’t going to happen, this isn’t their first rodeo, nor I doubt for some it will be their last either.
There’s a new Scottish guy that’s arrived and he keeps saying “It’s nice this place” Although I feel like grabbing him and shaking him to his core screaming “ARE YOU MAD?” Though I think this would prove a trivial exercise for us both, because look around us pal. He proclaims the ward as “Costa Del Beech Ward”, I’m laughing because I just can’t fathom the words coming out of his mouth. He gets shown to his room and reappears after a period of time back in to the “common room” looking different. Are the four walls starting to rub off on me, what could have happened in circa 30 minutes could he have done to alter his appearance so drastically that I’d notice after spending a short period of time with him after he was first admitted. A haircut?! Surely not in this faux prison, there isn’t a barbers tucked away somewhere that I’ve been oblivious to since I got in here is there? I can’t take it, something has changed and the only conceivable thing I can think of would involve sharp objects, which obviously aren’t allowed on the ward. He smiles back after my question and says yes. “Do you like it? I’ve tapered my eyebrows too, do you think they look alright?” Im speechless, I don’t even know what effect tapering the eyebrows is supposed to have, I look like something out of An American Werewolf film franchise, I’ve never even thought about my eyebrows as hair to trim along with my arm hair, it’d just be weird. I’m not sure who he’s trying to impress in all of this, is he settling here now for a while, hell I haven’t showered since I got here let alone thought about having a trim. He brings back the clippers and hands them to the nurse who locks them away. I’m flabbergasted. It’s good to have that sense of pride in your appearance no matter where you are, even in here, it must be quite a morale booster for him.
I’ve found myself since I was first admitted that I ended up sitting in the same seat constantly, I had the view of the “common room” the windows and walls behind me and a view of anyone coming and going, including the nurses office and tea and coffee room. It wasn’t out of choice but as I became aware of the position I’d opted for in the room it seemed more instinctual, you know when someone is approaching. Most of the people in here seem to know the system, they know what they can and can’t get away with and seem to be able to push the buttons to their extreme without being reprimanded for their actions. Obviously this is a hospital not a capital punishment centre, but liberties such as walks out side can still be withdrawn. They know what drugs they are on, what dosage and when they want it. They know that if they fight the first set of meds by staying active and awake it’s likely they’ll get a Zopiclone to help them sleep or get that “high” that they’re after. After taking in my surroundings I notice that someone has been kind enough to write the date on the wall in marker pen.
21st November 2029
I’m not sure who wrote it but it is certainly in stark contrast with the flat screen TV hanging on the wall opposite. Thankfully the tablets only come at night but if you were sedated during the day time it would be hard to work out what day it was, let alone the 60 year time gap across the room. It’s a confusing environment.
The one time I’ve been asked to move from my habitual spot in the corner, is from a quiet soul in here, she’s fairly absent during the day times but she seems to get an early afternoon visitor. During feeding times the staff have a one to one with her, checking to see if she’s eaten anything and encourage her to eat. Yet her visitor who’s been here for as many days since I’ve been admitted seems to bring her a mass amount of food and drink in a Morrison’s bag, I’m informed this is the closest supermarket so I imagine he stops before he comes.
Not a bad selection to be going on with, though I’m grateful that I received Jelly Babies and Starburst. I’m not terribly sure that a concentration of sugar and E-Numbers are the best choice of diet for somewhere where expending energy is limited, but at least it’s something for between feeding time. Maybe this is the reason that she doesn’t eat, she’s picnicking all day long and when feeding time comes she’s full of cheese and biscuits. The visitor is her husband, I haven’t heard her speak since I’ve been here but she’s opened up non stop for the past few hours to him. Obviously he’s a good influence. It’s nearly time for occupational therapy and instead of a quiz for the second day running, the nurses are discussing what else we could do to pass the time of day and feel like a valued member of society.
It’s still November, although none of us know what year it really is we know it’s still November. I lean over to the nurse and ask her if she really wants to push us over the edge. She smiles and agrees it’s probably a little too early to be making Christmas decorations, instead we make a collage about mental health, I’m unsure how this will pan out but I’m hopeful. Instead of joining in with the blunt scissors and Pritt Stick one of the occupational therapy nurses swings by and says they are hosting a relaxation with nature sounds and a reflective period. It’s my first taste of being off the ward so I jumped at the opportunity, granted it’s the first time that I’ve been allowed off the ward so I’m eager to get out. We sit down, close our eyes and listen to the sounds being played on what can only be described as a CD player straight from the mid 90’s. As the sounds start to play, it’s sounds of the jungle, but I can’t hear Ian Wright or Caitlyn Jenner screaming because they’re touching a spider, instead it’s nature, birds, insects, how ironic I thought with a half smile upon my face.
Upon my return to the ward’s “common room” the date showing the 21st November 2029 has gone along with the one correct clock on the ward. It looks like I’m stuck in an episode of Life On Mars and at least I know my name is Sam. I’ve still got my Irn Bru sugar free, which wasn’t produced until the 1990’s and I’m wearing my baseball cap backwards so it’s a toss up between the 90’s and the 2010’s, the iPhone in my pocket confirms it’s 2019. I wonder what I missed during the relaxation exercise, it’s like a real life Brookside in here, Scouse accents, drama every 10 minutes, thankfully no advertising breaks though. The mental health collage is up with inspiring quotes cut from magazines, it’s a positive to have up, I’m asked to make a contribution to it upon my return though the magazines, scissors and glue have now been put away. Instead I’m given a blank pink A4 sheet of paper. I write down the two best jokes I’ve heard this week.
They didn’t make it on the collage. Apparently laughter isn’t the best medicine for some things instead inspirational quotes are the way forward, someone should make a time machine and tell them not to bother making Patch Adams.
“When life gives you lemons make lemonade”
Was a prime contender and made it on the inspirational wall. I’d love to agree with this sentiment but they hide the sugar in here so that’s going to be some bitter fucking lemonade. Mr M is back with his “Boom Box” a bluetooth speaker, he’s got some more Hip Hop on again it’s better than belting out Little Mix but this is a show of dominance, like beating his chest in front of everybody, by playing his music as loud as he can. The “common room” is full of people waiting for feeding time and this guy has got the effs and jeffs flowing through his speakers, turned up to 11. Intensive and abrasive, no one says anything he’s portraying the “alpha” in here. In society I’d happily tell him to put up or shut up, but here it feels like you’re adding straws onto the camel's back, just waiting for it to break. He’s being polite and nice to everyone with the music on, trying not to upset the status quo and at the same time assert his position in here, with some it’s washing, with others it certainly isn’t. After feeding time comes visiting time, Mr M is greeted by a mid 50’s lady, his mother. The music is off in a flash, and his tone and chest out attitude shrivels, he’s now talking quietly almost whispering to his mother, is this the same man that was parading around earlier like he was bulletproof. There’s three of us chewing the fat at the table and one of us swears in conversation. “Excuse me mate, there’s no need for language like that” Well fuck me sideways and call me Charlie. I couldn’t help but snigger to myself as did those who I was sat with, they’d seen his boisterous acts during the day and now we’re not allowed to converse in our “common room” because you find it offensive, the other 21 people were fine with the bad language coming from the speaker when you wanted it but it seems the tables have turned now. We bite our lips and refrain from retorting, though inside we are howling with laughter, our eyes all meet and we are all thinking the same thing. Later on that evening, Mr M has a paddy fit because he’s not allowed out “It’s fucking shit in here, fucking shit” He yells at the top of his voice. I’d love to point out the paradox in this situation, but it seems he doesn’t need anything else to add on to his plate. Maybe he’s a shapeshifter and that’s why he’s in here, one moment he’s a hypocrite and the next he’s moulded into an idiot. I know that both of these psyches can survive side by side in one person as I’ve seen it many times before.
There’s a few character traits that ring true with many of the patients here, when they come into the “common room” and it’s empty they seem to have a compulsive desire to neaten up the chairs, pushing all the ones untucked back under the table. I reinforce PUSH, not pick up and place but these are the very same busy bodies once sat down, when they get up do not tuck their own chair back under the table. They can pick two or three chairs as they move around the room after tucking them all in, sitting in each position and leaving each chair untucked. The doctors should take note of this behaviour to save everyone's time and ears. The time has come for my MOT, the second I’ve had in 29 years. Bloods, ECG and general check up, maybe they’ll find a cold sarcastic hole where my heart should be. It’s a top off job, down to the grundies, a nice Polish nurse, so to break the ice of me lying there having things attached to me almost naked, I make small talk. Where she’s from in Poland and my mind suddenly clicks as with all the Polish people I’ve met since I heard this idiom in general chit chat not so long ago. “Do you know the phrase, it’s like having a barefoot baby Jesus crawling down your throat?” I’ve not met one other than the two who told me. She looks at me a little funny for a split second while she translates and computes the ludicrousy of what I have just said. She agreed, she knew it and she even laughed. As soon as I’m out I’m telling the three amigo’s that someone else actually knows what the fuck they were talking about. They used it once to describe a beer, apparently it translates as delicious, something really tasty. Beats me, my gag reflex won’t let me take the bin out on some occasions let alone having a baby crawl down my throat.
Drug seeking behaviour is quite apparent in here, as I am sure it is in most branches of the hospital. Everybody knows the illegal drugs on the streets and roughly what effect they’ll have on the human form. The people in here are practically chemists. They seem to know the name of every drug they want, what dosage they want, how often they want it and if they don’t get it, what action to take to ensure they are at least considered for it. I’m none the wiser as they throw the names of these drugs around, to be honest I’ve asked the nurse what drugs they are giving me and apart from the Sertraline, which I have been on for a few months, I have forgotten every time they’ve told me. All I know is that one is an antipsychotic at the moment.
Some nights are a riot, just when you think it’s safe to close your eyes, it’s anything but. It’s either someone in the hallway, various alarms or the hourly check up, when a bright torch is shone into the room on the hour every hour to make sure you are still safe. Which feels like a mini alien invasion from the movies. If you’re facing the wrong way in a state of slumber this can be quite startling and take away the relaxed and sedated state from the pink pills taken hours previously.
This night I awoke to a piercing alarm, the antipsychotics still give a daze of confusion upon waking up at a normal time, let alone when it’s hard to rationalise what is going on. I didn’t know what the alarm was, I couldn’t pluck one thought out of my head, not what colour the ceiling was, not what I had for tea, just utter chaos in my head. I was aware the alarm was ringing, did I recognise the noise, was it another patients bedroom alarm, I literally couldn’t have told you at the time. I lay there motionless, trying to scramble any coherence in my inner monologue. After what felt like half an hour but could only have been a matter of minutes I was able to rationalise it was the fire alarm. “What Do I Do?” I thought, so I stumbled out of bed in the dark, grabbed some clothes to throw on and stumbled out of my room barefoot. Others had done the same as I and others were nowhere to be seen.
Once I’d risen later that morning, I realised I should probably ask someone what the procedure for a fire alarm is, in most buildings and public spaces there are either indications on the walls or someone will announce the steps that are to be taken. I was re-assured that the procedure is to evacuate in case of fire, but because we are all not allowed out, there must be everyone together to be escorted out all at once. So there is a gathering in the “common room” while the alarm is going off, until everyone is collected and evacuated. Makes sense. Imagine 22 patients who haven’t been outside for a while, having a piece of freedom because a fire alarm went off. I’m almost certain that the patient numbers outweighs that of the staff. Where would Mrs S go, how would she act after 12 hours of pleading she should be allowed outside, all it takes is for one tripped fire alarm and off she goes into the early morning darkness. Seems too easy doesn’t it.
The nighttime wind down is odd, Mr M announced he was going to bed and said goodnight to everyone, yet an hour later he’s still wandering the halls with his music blaring, If I’m still here at Christmas I’m going to buy him some headphones as I don’t think he’s owned any in his life. Mrs A was passed out on the couch less than 10 foot from her bedroom as I walked down the halls to retire to mine. The normal patient alarms are getting more bearable, they aren’t less frequent but I’m getting used to the noise of it now that I can relax and try to shut it out and stay horizontal in bed with my eyes closed until it subsides. It seems like a sorry state of affairs, but the staff are all professionals and I know I can’t help in the situation, so the best course of practise is to ignore it.
My threat level has been reassessed, I started on 10 minute visual observations, reduced to hourly, I was allowed out with a member of staff briefly previously , now I’m allowed out by myself in short bursts on the hospital grounds. I’m not sure how they’d police this as I’ll be alone, but I am here voluntarily so if I didn’t want to be here I’m sure I can check myself out. It’s a strange liberating feeling to be allowed out alone, one that I’ve been deprived of since I surrendered my independence because I genuinely thought I couldn’t keep myself safe. Along with this good news my blood tests came back, I’m lacking Vitamin D, so I’m being put onto supplements which will increase my Vitamin D levels, that should increase my mood levels over time as the two are linked. I have to appreciate and laugh at this aspect of care in equal measures. Vitamin D is created by the skin when in contact with direct sunlight. As I’ve only been here for a short period of time I doubt that not being allowed outside has played a part in this but if you were here for a while then you’re being medicated for something freely available. Sunlight. The great outdoors is meant to be good for you, not being cooped up inside listening to some eejit blaring “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” through echoey hallways on November the fucking 22nd. That stuff is enough to put you in a padded cell rocking back and forth, if the affront on my ears continues I may ask them to throw away the key.
I find out that people in a psychiatric ward can vote for certain. Hallelujah. I don’t know why I had a constant thought that maybe we can’t, but that’s now been quashed. Maybe this constituency has a Monster Raving Loony Party candidate, how fitting that may be. I intend to vote by hook or by crook. Crook being the operative word to describe the majority of our MP’s. I remember hearing about Joe Swinson, though I’m not particularly her biggest fan, it was about her expenses. MP’s on the whole took the piss for too long on expenses and were finally called out upon it, so you’d expect their behaviour concerning the subject to be a little more sensible nowadays. Anyway, someone was on air having a right dig at her expenses shooting up thousands of pounds from the previous year. No holds barred, this guy was rabid about the subject, when she calmly turned around to him and said that she turned 26 years of age and no longer qualified for a 1/3 off rail fare with a 16 - 25 Young Persons Railcard, so she was now required to pay the full rail fare from East Dunbartonshire to London to attend Parliament. How dare she try and use what is available to young people to try and save the taxpayer money. How dare she get older. There is just no pleasing some people.
My privileges have been increased once again, I was deemed safe and little threat to my myself, whether I was at the time I didn’t know myself, the anxiety certainly hasn’t subsided but I feel more relaxed. Every time I’m in front of a medical professional I’m hunched up enough to make Quasimodo give me a funny look and there’s a constant shaking in my body from my legs or my hands. Nervousness, anxiety and general unease. I don’t know if I was safe at the time, the thoughts still frequent my mind through all times of the day, the idea of the act is still a possibility but I knew I wanted to be outside, to breathe the fresh air, to feel the crispness and to see outside of these four walls. Re-entering the ward after ensuring my legs still work, as I’ve barely used them in four days, the only other hat that I packed was a BD beanie, The nurse spots it. “BD my nephew goes in there” I smiled back and she asked “Do you?” I said I owned it and she mentioned she’d seen our recent trials and tribulations with the council and street food vendors, the recent break-ins and one or two other issues we’ve suffered through no fault of our own. I smiled once again.
“Thats why I’m in here.”
She shrugged off my comment and asked why I was really in here, I smiled for the last time and signed myself back in. I’ve been trying to make the effort since I got in here, I’d much rather be in my own home, sleeping in my own bed at night with my own home comforts, but I can’t be at the moment. It’s a dark place to be in but I’ve got to try everything to try to get out of this dark place first, before going home. I attended another occupational therapy session and although like before it seemed like a very corny exercise it’s well worth trying everything to try and just get on the road to recovery. Something at the moment which feels like a very long way away. Today was sensory motivation, touch, reading, smells, noises. Most interesting was that I was the only one from the ward who went along, some from another ward attended, it seemed to be the dementia ward. Three of them in total, Mr G seemed so eager, he’d either made everyone a cup of tea or coffee upon their entrance or at least offered, he spoke softly and had his shirt buttoned to the top, tucked into a grey pair of Adidas tracksuit bottoms, circa 75 years old. Mr D 70 years old was a tad more flamboyant to his attire, and Mrs B circa 70 who had been to town earlier to have her “hair and nails done”. The best thing about the entire session was just listening to them talk amongst themselves. I sat there for 45 minutes, with some putty in my hands just listening to their stories. If there’s anything that makes you want to stay alive, it’s listening to the older generation, relay stories. To be able to live to that age and tell those stories to other people, it doesn’t matter if I’m in a hospital at that age. I already am.
I’m allowed out with family, as long as the bring me back at the end of visiting time, after an afternoon out I’ve found out that Mrs S has in fact been moved wards after her fire alarm stunt in the middle of the night. I’d like to say it was quieter around the ward but with Mr M it’s never quiet. Around 8pm that evening, I know because my stomach was rumbling for supper but it hadn’t been served yet. 10 nurses all entered the ward, they have a brief pitstop meeting in the office with the door closed and they disappear down the hall shortly after. Upon reemergence they come back with Mr M’s speaker. Apparently if you can’t play nice, you don’t get to play at all. Thank Fuck, I thought, ever so briefly. It was only a temporary relief as he’s just cranked the volume on his phone up now. It’s not like he’s the only one that plays music, but the difference is the others play it in their rooms and although you can hear it in the halls once you close your own bedroom door it’s silent and they have the decency to shut it off at 10 o’clock as any self respecting member of society would. Mr M certainly wasn’t impressed when the fire alarm went off so the common courtesy reciprocated would only be polite. It’s a strange show of character strength to play music as loud as possible, we’re not children and this isn’t a classroom.
Since I’ve been in, the males who were admitted after I was, have been clashing egos and they all decided they were going to join me at my table where I was keeping myself to myself filling in my crossword. Brilliant, my peace was about to be interrupted. I should have taken my own advice and put my headphones in, at least then people didn’t disrupt me as much. Even if I didn’t have any music playing, no one else needs to know that. In general, people just left me to my own devices and when I’ve felt necessary to engage I can just take them out. So now my two daily papers and the two pens I have, have been hijacked by half the table. I’ve got two clues left. I’m not sure of the answer currently but my brain is overloaded by the company. I never got to solve them anyway, so before my pens were lent out I jotted them down.
I didn’t get the pens back until the medication came and it was time to go to bed, on reflecting in the morning the answers are WHET and PEDAGOGUE. The people that have my pens are now going for the word searches and I’m forced to engage with the other alphas sat around the table. Though I’m staying neutral and nodding and shaking my head accordingly where I think it is applicable; I have no idea what I’m agreeing or disagreeing too. So the conversation has eased and the people with the pens have advanced to problem solving. We’ve spent a bit of quality time with this and I’ve somehow been roped into explaining how these puzzles work. I can see the papers that I pick up in the morning are going to be fought over now. Mr S who has one of the pens is doing the Alpha Cipher, these are the puzzles I steer clear of because they take such brain power and time to work out. Each number has a value assigned to it and each word has a total assigned to it, you’re given the value of three letters to start. In this instance the values of NSA are given, good job I’m not in here for being paranoid. We start with the word DAD, A is worth 8 and DAD is worth 32. Simple maths, 32 - 8 deducing that the two D’s have a value of 24, therefore D is worth 12. We’re flying, good start. This should be easy, I underestimated myself. Next we try Brass, S has a value of 7, as we already know. Brass’ value is 47, we work out that BR has a value of 25 combined. This is where we lose our eager mathematician. He’s not happy that we don’t know the individual values of B and R and insists he’d done it right before I intervened. Prior to him asking for my help he’s assigned the values of each of the 13 letters with a value between 1 and 7. I don’t know why, something about it spelling dinosaurs. So I persevere. Miranda is the word up next, with what we’ve already got we work out MIR has a value of 43 combined. That’s it, “It’s all pish” he shouts as he gets up and leaves.
Our friend from the army on the other hand in getting stuck into 30 second math brain teasers and again we’re off to a flying start. After a few questions I help him out and get him started on the intermediate, he progresses on to the expert one. He’s hooked. The bandages are off his arms and the scabs look like they’re healing. He’s been through all this weeks papers by this point, for some reason they have amounted in the corner with all of the crosswords filled in. He asks me to check his answers and he’s got them all right, at this point he’s asked a nurse if she can go online and print some more off for him from the computer. He’s had a sleeping tablet by this point but his mind is too engaged, its 11pm on a Friday night and he’s sat here doing maths questions. Although as begrudgingly as the evening started off, I’ve felt a sense of self worth that I haven’t felt for a very long time, in helping them both with the puzzles in the paper, admittedly my success rate is 50% at the moment but i’ll take any buzz I can given the circumstances.
The pure simplicity of my surroundings can be quite satisfying at times, as there’s nothing too much to worry about except that everyone is alive, myself included. When something does kick off all eyes tend to be on it, patients and staff alike. All the patients seem to know who it is, why it is and what’s going to happen next. I haven’t figured this out yet. Earlier I asked what level of observations I was on. I had no idea. I’ve only just learnt the name of the medication that I’ve been blindly taking for nearly a week in the last 24 hours. I probably have a lot more faith in the system than most in here, maybe because my support network is incredible and maybe others don’t have that. What the doc says goes, we’re not living in one flew over the cuckoo's nest, I have had a beanie on for the most part and my last name begins with Mc but thankfully that is where the similarities stop. One thing that has surprised me is the lack of CCTV in these parts. I thought maybe the social area might have some but it doesn’t. I guess there’s umpteen privacy reasons for it. I hadn’t given it a lot of thought until now But I suppose with all the chaos that these four walls have seen over the years it’s probably for the better. The power a corrupt individual or someone with a vengeance would have if they had copies, literally could be the final nail in the coffin for anyone. This isn’t the place for victimisation it’s for rehabilitation and trying to make it out of here alive and stay that way for as long as possible.
Overhearing conversations can brighten up your day in here. Although on the whole no one appears to be a threat to anyone else but themselves and I’ve found myself sat in the corner consistently with my back to one wall and a window. Call it paranoia but I can see everything from here. It’s a feeling of security that no one can be behind me without me seeing them approach first. I’ll admit this is the most secure place I’ve ever been in (Alcatraz was fully booked when I had the opportunity to visit and well, even some escaped from there.) There’s still a feeling this whole place is balanced on a knife edge, anything can tip it into utter madness. I think it’s better to see it coming if it does, taking a leaf out of Mrs S’s book, I could tip over the table in front of me and use the chairs to back off anything coming my way, this could be a circus after all. Not only can you see everything, but you can hear everything too. I overheard one of the patients saying that they could talk a second language and another muttered he could speak broken Polish, he listed a few phrases which may or may not have been correct. Mr M chipped in and stated he could also speak a few Polish phrases. I daren’t ask them if they know about the barefoot baby Jesus. He continued to say something I couldn’t decipher.
“If you want to pick up a Polish bird, that means suck my dick”
Well I never, they say romance is dead, in this case it’s dead and buried and not even a zombie apocalypse is bringing it back from the dark place it is. Can you imagine that working in ANY language. No matter how many drugs you’ve been prescribed, that line is not working for anyone in any circumstance. EVER.
The idiosyncrasies and normalities you see in here have started to rub off on me. When I’ve been out over the weekend to catch up on the football fix I noticed as we were leaving the local pub that was showing the game the lady behind the bar with a clipboard in hand. I almost felt obliged to just wave my hand and say “I’m here but I’m just leaving”. The normality of having someone check on you hourly with a clipboard in hand marking you off as safe is a peculiar normality to accept, but in this instance it seemed absolutely fine. A weird safety net, though this landlady couldn’t haven given two hoots if I was there before or if I was leaving, my two lemonades over the 90 minutes of football probably didn’t stick in her head.
After a chat with the nurses earlier in the day, it’s obvious how hard they work to combat the stigmatism of mental health. It’s nothing like the movies or societies perception of it. I don’t know why half of these patients are in here, I don’t know what Sections 2, 3 or 5 are, I don’t know what Section 17 leave is and I’m not sure that I want to. All I’ve seen is some of the most professional people carry out their job day and night since I was admitted. One of the nurses told me that it’s been a little more “Hectic” than it normally is. Switch preconceptions it’s been exactly what I thought it would have been if not a little quieter, and that’s the stigma that is associated with mental health. I’ve heard the alarm going off and the staff have handled everyone no matter what time or day as calmly as the scenario let it. They know which room alarms can be problematic and have a sense of urgency when necessary. On the first day when I set my own alarm off accidentally, they calmly came to the room as I was in blind panic, showed me how to reset it if I did it again. Watching them run when they have to is quite amusing because the corridor isn’t long enough for a full sprint, so instead warrants a half jog that looks quite funny, still dramatic but it’s hard to jog down a 12 metre corridor as fast as you can to turn a corner immediately. The alarm system gives the number of the room that has been triggered or which area of common space has been triggered. There hasn’t been any shakedowns of rooms, after all this isn’t prison and these people aren’t criminals. They are people that are a threat to themselves and need help.
One lunch a patient demanded some bread with his jacket potato and beans, after being told he wasn’t allowed any he picked up his blunt, slightly serrated knife, one that with enough force could just about cut through the skin on his jacket potato and slammed his hands on the table.
“I’m going to kill all of you”
“I think that’s the aim of 50% of the people in here pal” I thought. The alarm was triggered and although the staff presence increased on the ward both the staff and patients barely even flinched. Admittedly the force needed to exert in order to kill all 21 other patients and staff, maybe it was the right call not to give him extra carbs with his lunch. The staff patiently stood and waited for this episode to calm down. As quickly as it arose they were able to talk him down and he ended up taking his lunch to his room to finish. No dart guns, not heavy handed tactics, just a healthy dose of rationality and it worked. I’ve heard the alarm go off and I’ve seen the metal detector come out, sometimes I guess rationality doesn’t always work.
The nurses are able to lock patients who pose a threat to themselves out of their own bathrooms and rooms in general so they have visual observations on the patients for their own safety. A slight violation of privacy but for the greater good in general. Upon walking out of my room one evening, walking towards me were three men. Their arms the size of my head. I know they aren’t here for me, my collection of E-Numbers in my room in the form of Starburst isn’t too big a cause for concern surely. These men were the size of grizzly bears, covered in tribal tattoos, freshly shaved mohawks and a grimace that could make even a gargoyle cower. As I pass them in the corridor it’s obvious from a breath in through my nose someone is smoking cannabis. In an environment full of paranoia it’s probably not advised. Mr M, the constant irritant on the ward is the suspect, he’s taken out of his room with the staff down the corridor. It smells like there’s a farm in his room. The bears search the room. He’s adamant they are going to plant it in his room, though the smell was there before the tribal henchmen appeared. I’m not sure how the search turned out, no one is angry and nothing seems to have happened. Who knows? It does seem to be a little harder to protest your innocence when you’ve been walking around like a “red eye jedi” for the past two hours and you’re one of the only ones with a pass out to the outside world with friends. One thing that struck me is although these men appeared at the right time, you can’t hear the other alarms from other wards, you can see staff leave when something has happened on another ward but you don’t know what has happened other than the staff disappearing. Who knows what is really going on out there?
I see the doctor one morning, who explains that they are happy to discharge me later that day with a prescription of antidepressants, antipsychotics and my Vitamin D supplement. I don’t know how I feel about this, I’m happy, nervous and scared all at the same time. I pack my bags and wait to be picked up later that day. The man who threatened everyone at feeding time shakes my hand and tells me “I’m a very humble man” for not reacting during his episode. I shake his hand in return and wish him well. I thank the nurses for their un-devoted care and professionalism while I have been here, and they in return tell me “They don’t want to see me again”. Something that is nice to hear, they want everyone to get better and don’t want anyone to be in there for good. I stand and wait to be picked up, there’s no forms to fill out, nothing to sign, just hand your fob back in and they’ll let you out. As I stood there with a smile on my face it was a very strange feeling.
As I was leaving the ward every time I was able to go out a nurse took me into a room and asked me
“Do you think you can keep yourself safe?”
Upon discharge no one asked me this question, it was a weird sensation, but now the real challenge will begin. Can I keep myself safe?
The evenings weren’t too bad before, when there is someone else in the house. The early sunset provides me with quite an odd reassurance. After dark, it’s unlikely any stressors really take hold. It’s the mornings and the daylight, when you’re by yourself that the real problems have happened. The panic attacks trying to leave the house in the morning, the shaking and dry heaving over the sink. The mind is a powerful thing and can have all sorts of physiological effects, after all it is the mind that controls everything. I once read that the brain is the most powerful organ, according to the brain. It has complete control over unconscious and conscious actions, it’s the processing centre and when it’s not performing it’s a crushing organ. When you’re alone it doesn’t have a stimulant to expel any excess energy or thoughts, instead focusing on the thoughts that you have. When those thoughts are the darkest you’ve ever had it’s like a spiral downwards that is hard to focus on anything else but. When I visited A and E the nurse asked me about those thoughts and the control I had over them. I didn’t, that’s why I was sitting in A and E, blood red eyes and my hands were shaking uncontrollably. Facing everything was getting too much for me, we had a visit from the crisis team at home who thought it was best to admit me to the psychiatric ward of the Countess of Chester hospital. Though it was one of the hardest decisions that has ever been made on my behalf, it sent me more into a panic, uncontrollably sobbing and shaking upon what was about to happen to me.
After discharge, I still haven’t been back to work in full capacity. I don’t know who knows what happened to me, I’ve been doing bits working from home where I’ve been needed, but the thought of attending work and seeing everyone still sets off a panic in me. It shouldn’t of, the people I know who knew where I was, they were all supportive sending me motivational texts on a daily basis to ensure I could try and get my mindset right. Showing me that people do care. There’s an intense paranoia since I’ve been discharged, at some point I’m going to publicly have to own where I have been and what happened but I’m not ready for that yet. I’m not sure if I can keep myself safe. Part of my discharge plan was to have the “Home Team” come out and visit on a daily basis. Someone to come in and make sure that you’re still functioning as a member of society. This was a reassurance, although I know my inner circle really care about me and my wider circle care also, I wouldn’t be at that stage if it was enough. The antipsychotics are still working in the night, getting me off to sleep, the shaking since I was discharged has calmed down on the whole, it’s still there, just not all the time. The antidepressant’s dosage has been upped, there’s a feeling with all of this together, the doctors seem confident there is a “recovery” to all of this. I haven’t driven since I was discharged either, that’s a small step to cross. Whether I decide to drive straight off the bridge on the M6 is still a thought I’m having, so at the moment it’s “safer” not to drive. This has its advantages also, I’m walking more, knowing that I’m not leaving the house to a stressor means that instead of three or four panic attacks it’s reduced, I appreciate the cold air on my face while walking and I’ve been picking one of the dogs up to come back to the house with me. Unfortunately this is a small town and I’ve bumped into a lot of people when I’ve left the house. Some I’ve smiled in passing others have wanted to have full conversations with me, something I have not been ready for.
The things that shouldn’t bother me in the slightest do. I think it’s because I’m still not ready to face it all and that is where the issue of safety comes into play. It’s an easing in process back into society that is the biggest problem. When a nurse came to tell me my meds were ready one morning, I’d just got out the shower, stood there with a towel only drying my hair. She quickly shut the door. Was I embarrassed? Truthfully no, I’m sure she’d seen a lot weirder things on the ward. Yet trying to leave the house and have conversations with people that was perfectly normal a fortnight ago seems to scare the living shit out of me. I got my hair cut a few days after my discharge, I got the train to the neighbouring town and chose a barber who had a similar acquaintance circle, but I didn’t really know her directly, a sense of familiarity without familiarity. I was quite open about where I’d been and why I was there, it seemed fine with someone I didn’t really know. But to those who care about me and only wish for my wellbeing it feels like a sense of embarrassment, one of the therapists who has been part of the home treatment team has told me several times that on the whole, blokes don’t really care about where you’ve been and that most of them live in the now. So if you can talk about football, not much will have changed and no one will really ask. As an idea, I’m fully behind it, but putting into practise seems a lot harder than the reality of it all. Like nipping into the local Sainsbury’s for a paper in the morning, did they notice I was gone for over a week? Do they care? In all honesty to myself, no, but I just can’t seem to grasp that.
The above was written upon my discharge from hospital
The below is written over a month after
After some sessions with a therapist who I think I am getting somewhere with, she gave me a sheet of paper entitled. Unhelpful Thinking Styles
1. All or Nothing
2. Mental Filter
3. Jumping to conclusions
4. Emotional Reasoning
7. Disqualifying the positive
8. Magnification (Catastrophising) and minimisation
9 Should, Must
1. Everything is going wrong, it's all my fault, I have failed. This is something that goes through my psyche every day of the week and has done for some time. It's a breakable habit that I can't break. Either I will do something 100% right or I will not to at all but I struggle with the concept of failing to be able to do it.
2. We've had some great times in the past but I can't seem to focus on any of the awards I have won, the friends I have met and the people that I have met. I constantly regress on the negatives rather than the positives.
3. Hindsight is wonderful, none of us have premonitions about what is certainly going to happen and one of the biggest things as stated in the previous paragraph is jumping to conclusions about what everyone else is thinking, sometimes justified sometimes unjustified. Since I was discharged I've heard both things about myself that are both true and untrue. This is a dangerous way to think about everything.
4 + 5. The feeling of knowing something is going wrong and attributing my own emotions to it, instead of letting it play out and labelling myself as helpless in the most literal sense of the word. I can't reach out to anyone for help. This is a ridiculously stupid notion but one that I am trying to break.
6. Doesn't really apply, I've never really over generalised anything.
7. Those awards we've won, don't feel like an achievement anymore although they should, they don't.
8. Everything is my mind is over magnified.
9. A way to say I should have done that, I should have done that differently, I should do that. It's not a could in my mind, it's a should. It's not an option it's always a mistake.
10. It's all me, from making the wrong decision in anything, that was my fault and to repeat I should have chosen differently.
These are the things that are constantly going through my mind and it's refreshing to talk to someone who doesn't understand my logic as to why, but understands that I am feeling these things. Understands that is is hard everyday, that emotions are crippling on productiveness, welfare and all sorts of situations. It may seem odd that I have published this for everyone to read, but if I don't get it off my chest and into conversation it will send me into a downward spiral and if it makes one other person reach out and ask for help when they truly need it then that is the most selfish thing I can do. I can save someone, it's not selfless, because I could save someone, I want to save someone. Because I have been or am where that person is and I can do something not, I SHOULD.
Suicide isn't the easy way out, in the slightest. It's a culmination of dealing with the hardest things in your life the best you can. There is no easy way out, old age, cancer, whatever else catches up with you. Everything is subjective.
If you would like to donate to the ward that took exceptional care of me while I was there there is a link below. We're nearly at £2,000 and what a difference it would make to the ward itself. It may even mean that those who cannot afford the take-away on a Saturday can have numerous takeaways for a month, or maybe a new clock, or a TV with the right date on it, or more facilities, or even a bit of R&R for the staff who work tirelessly helping others.
Who know's but I'd be proud to give something back to them.
Writing this means that I am keeping myself safe.