So I’m staying in a locked psychiatric ward and spend most of my time waiting. For staff to unlock a door; to fill up the water dispenser; to be given permission to use the shower room; to get a plastic knife and fork.
By day 3 I learnt that the only way that most of the nurses will speak to you, or help, at all, is to step over the threshold of the office (staff only) and refuse to move until they’ve answered you.
The ward is dominated by one person who is very very unwell but abusive, aggressive and smelly too. The last part is the bit that offends me the most.
My psychologist asked me last week what I would like her to feedback to the ward doctors etc, I asked her to request this person had a wash.
That very afternoon the stench of urine, dirt and sweat disappeared and the stench of bad breath, cheap perfume and cigarettes made it to the forefront of her presence. Such an improvement!
Apart from her, everyone else is pleasant enough. I was welcomed to the ward by a physical examination then 2 nurses searching me and my possessions. As they dug through my things they bought out handful after handful of used tissues. I smiled nervously, trying to look relaxed as I explained, “I have a 3 year old”.
A 3 year old what? They didn’t ask……… snot collection maybe?
I have discovered a flaw. A rather fun flaw. One of the nurses is unable to differentiate between different colours.
She will write “green trousers, blue coat, red hat” when I’m in my grey trousers, pink coat and pink hat on my way to escorted leave.
I enjoy imagining the police searching for an absconded patient, with a description so different to mine that I can skip past them in the supermarket without being noticed (well they may notice the skipping, but my point is that they may not realise that I am me!)
After getting my possessions into my designated room (think Travelodge with a broken cardboard hanger, no hooks and a window in the door where someone appears to observe what you’re doing every 15 minutes) I wandered down to the main social area where smelly person began shouting in my face. Another patient suddenly leapt up and grabbed her throat, rushing her backwards. I felt oddly calm about all this; what does that say about me and my mental state at that time?
I’m on day 8 now and starting to feel more connected to the world. I can’t feel my skin, and my tongue feels like wet cotton wool, so talking is laborious. But I’m thriving on 2 cooked meals a day plus Marmite toast and hot milk in the evening; tea and coffee on tap; I shower in the biggest bathroom I’ve ever seen and sleep on a hard foam mattress, but with my pillow from home, so I’m doing okay.
Each day my friends or family visit or take me out for half an hour. My social life has been better over the past 8 days than the past 8 months.
I agreed to be an inpatient to try and get back on my feet….. not that I was off my feet….. but to reduce all the stresses and jobs and daily things that I quietly drown under; so I can focus on me, and get, not just back on my feet, but fighting fit, marathon style fit. No. Triathlon style fit.
Metaphorically of course!