Riots

It was August 2011 and I was watching the London riots unfold on the tv.

To me, it may as well have been happening on another planet. I was watching it on my own in one of the ward lounges, sat on a sofa covered in an uncomfortable wipe-clean material. I had been in hospital for two months and it didn’t matter what was on the news, as far as I was concerned, I wasn’t a part of the outside world any more and I didn’t want to be.

I turned the tv off, got up and made my way outside for a fag. It was sunny, so a few patients had gathered outside, crammed into a small square of the courtyard that hadn’t been engulfed by shade. One of the patients, a lady in her fifties with no shoes, was holding a guitar and started to play a Bob Marley song. A few of us sat on the floor and started to sing-along, for a brief moment I forgot where I was. After a couple of verses, one of the nurses came outside to tell us we had some complaints from the dementia ward on the second floor and we had to shut up.

I went back inside and headed to the dorm I was sharing with three other women. I liked sharing, we all looked out for each other. Unfortunately, that was going to be my last afternoon in the dorm for a while.

It was empty in the dorm, everyone was still outside. I pulled the curtain around my bed and started to weep. It’s really hard to describe just how low i felt sitting on that hospital bed. It was like I was grieving for my own life, like I had already died and I was trapped between worlds with no hope of an escape. I pulled back the curtain around my bed, ran into the bathroom and locked the door. I unscrewed the fluorescent bulb in the shavers light above the mirror, then wrapped the bulb in a towel and smashed it on the floor.

I took the shards of glass back to my bed. I found the sharpest needle like pieces and laid them out in front of me. I had stopped crying, I was concentrating on the task at hand. I took the longest shard and drove it straight into a vein on my forearm. I managed to pierce the vein, which proceeded to bleed heavily. I closed my eyes and let out a sigh of relief.

One of the ward nurses found me shortly after and sounded the alarm. I was bandaged up and put on level 1A observation, which meant I was moved to a single room and had to have someone with me at arms length at all times.

I was back in the lounge later that evening, watching the riots on the news again. This time I wasn’t alone, I had my own designated nurse sitting next to me, munching her way through a packet of chocolate digestives.

Chatty Girl

About six months after I left hospital I was readmitted. I can’t remember the exact details surrounding my admission, but I do remember feeling so low that I felt I wanted to end my life. My community psychiatric nurse, R, convinced me to go back in and despite my reluctancy to return to hospital, she reminded me that everytime I have a low, it does get better and it would be safer for me to be under close supervision.
I arrived at the hospital with R and all the feelings of the previous visit came rushing back. It wasn’t fear, confusion or the unease I had felt the first time I walked through these doors, it was a feeling of agonising familiarity, like putting on a scratchy old jumper. I walked through the doors and was left standing outside the nurses office while R filled out various forms.
I wandered outside into the courtyard and sat down on a bench. I sparked up a cigarette, took a drag and started to wonder why I had agreed to come back to this hell hole. Just as I started to plan an elaborate escape, a girl walked outside and sat next to me. She was young and looked friendly so I quietly muttered hello under my breath. She crossed her legs on the bench and cheerfully said;

“So you’re the one taking my bed then.”

I didn’t really know how to answer that question so I just replied;

“Um, I don’t know sorry. Are they moving you?”

The young girl lit up a fag and explained that she was actually being discharged and I was having her bed when she had gone. She was very chatty and it was a nice distraction to talk to someone, considering how alone I was feeling.
I gathered that the chatty girl had been on the ward a few months and she was now feeling a lot better. To me, she seemed very well and I was struggling to work out why she was here at all. I casually dropped the subject into the conversation;

“So how come you ended up here?”

Without a moments hesitation she replied, “I got really down ya know? Then I kept thinking I was a wolf, which was fun. Till I bit someone.”

Luckily, R called for me through the courtyard door which prevented my mouth from dropping any lower. I said a bumbling goodbye and swiftly marched back inside. I didn’t know it then, but I was soon to discover that howling at the moon was middle of the road compared to what I was going to experience over the next year, and there was definitely no escaping it.

First Night

This time last year I was being detained in a psychiatric unit of a hospital. I had been there 3 times in the previous year but this would prove to be my longest and hardest visit.

I promise not to bore you with tales of my sadness and woe, nor do I plan to delve into the secrets of my past. All I plan to do is tell a story and I’ll start with my first night on the ward. This was the first time I had a ever been admitted to a hospital, it was roughly 2 years ago but I will always remember the first night. If I hadn’t been so terrified im sure I would have found it quite amusing, but after having the nurses search my bag for sharps and confiscate anything remotely resembling a ligature I started to feel my sense of humour and last ounce of self respect drain away from me.

I was left in a very small room that contained a wardrobe, set of bedside draws, an old sink and an even older hospital bed. The room had the typical hospital odour and was also painted in the typical hospital green. I did have a window, though it only opened an inch and had iron mesh covering the outside. I was just able to see doctors and nurses walking back and forth to their cars. The room was quite clean but it was so tired and worn that it just started to reflect my mood and probably that of the previous patients who had stayed there.

I felt very much alone sitting on my hospital bed, I was confused, scared and I felt entirely hopeless. It was a scream that brought me out of my self pity coma. I looked up at the door and listened, I could see shadows moving past the small pane of glass in my door but I didn’t dare get up. The screams got louder and pretty soon they were at the top of my corridor. My curiosity got the better of me and I slowly edged across the room, I was terrified but I had to have a peak, I opened the door and poked my head out slowly.

“YOU BITCH! GIVE ME MY BIBLE BACK!”

I looked in the direction of the noise, the scream was followed by a tall skinny young woman sprinting around the corner of the corridor waving what seemed to be the stolen bible. She had long blonde hair extensions which were half covering her face which showed a mixed expression of sheer joy and panic. She stopped, placed the bible above her head and proceeded to wildly tear the pages out.

“SHE’S RIPPING UP MY FUCKING BIBLE!”

The screams got louder as a middle aged woman dressed in pyjamas came running around the corner, she was screaming and raving for the bible the younger girl was now destroying and headed straight for her. Just before she tackled the bible stealing girl to the floor, a head popped out from another room next door to mine, this floating head was that of a man in his fifties with blackish grey hair, he looked up the corridor at the carnage unfolding and slowly looked back at me, with wild eyes and a deep gravely voice he calmly said,

“Welcome to the mad house”.