Smoking Room

A lot of the stories I tell are only brought to life by the characters within them. These characters are all real people, with their own troubles and their own stories. I will always be eternally grateful to them, as they made my darkest times, a little brighter.

 

I watched the police standing outside my flat.

My psychotherapist called 999 after I rang him from a bridge over the river. I had taken too many pills and drunk too much rum to remember exactly what I said, but I do remember that empty hopeless feeling that had led me to the water’s edge.

He told me to walk back to my flat and that help would be waiting for me. As I got closer to home, I saw the police making their way into my block of flats above the busy high street. As I watched the ambulance crew follow the police in, I decided to get up there before they broke my door down, or worse, call my Mother..

It was only at around 6 o clock the next morning that I fully realised what I had done. I was in hospital, freezing cold, feeling like shit, listening to the choir of snores coming from the other patients in the beds surrounding me.

I didn’t know what hospital I was in but I knew it was god awful. I was on a mixed ward with eight beds and one tiny post box window that had bars on the outside. I got out of bed, put my coat on and crept past the nurses station in the dark. Bizarrely, there was a smoking room on the ward, so I quietly snuck in there and sparked up.

It was a small dingy, damp old room, that had paint crumbling off the walls, and a cardboard bed pan for an ash tray. I wasn’t complaining though, I was desperate for a smoke.

As I sat there, drowning in my own thoughts, an old man wandered in and sat down. He was quite slim with a mop of silver hair and a bushy moustache. His face looked grey and sullen, but as soon as he saw me, he gave me a big smile. He reminded me of my Dad.

I expected us to sit there in silence, but after he lit a roll-up we began to bond over our mutual desperation for a cup of tea. He went on to tell me that he had multiple brain tumors and was waiting for an operation. I think he could sense the sadness I felt for him, so he quickly changed the subject;

“You’ll never guess what appened to me las night!”

I smiled at his strong Welsh accent..

“The nurse tolds me I had to av an enema and I should strip off and part my cheeks.”

My smiles faded.

“So I wents to the toilet, took all my clothes off and parted my cheeks over the bowl!”

I let out a snort.

“So the nurse opens the door and there I is, stark bollock naked, spreadin my arse over the toilet! She screamed and threw a sheet over me! ‘Cover your dignity!’ she said. Well I didn’t know, you was meant to lie on the bed and do it.”

He let out a choking laugh and though it may have been inappropriate, I couldn’t help but join him.

Film Club

Not all my memories from hospital are bad. There were brief moments in which I felt content and safe from the outside world. I remember A, a healthcare assistant, who was particularly kind. His wife was a nurse on the ward and both of them always had time for you. They never used the words ‘I’m busy’ even though they always were.

It was dark outside.

I stubbed out my cigarette and wrapped my cardigan tight around me. It was spring, but in Wales that means nothing. I turned around to walk back inside but A, who was my supervising guard for the night, stopped me.

“I’ve got something” he whispered.

There was a mixture of excitement and trepidation in his hushed voice. I felt reluctant to reply but he was standing in the way of the warm.

“Um, what is it?” I reluctantly replied.

He looked around the empty courtyard and back through the glass doors on to the ward. Once he established no one was watching, he unzipped his coat and reached inside. I was nervous, could my trusted HCA be losing it?

My confusion deepened as he pulled out a DVD case.

“It finally arrived… I’ve got Salem’s Lot, the original TV series, are you in? Only a select few can know!”

I have to inform you at this point, A was about 6”5, built like a brick shithouse and must have been in his late 30s. Even though I was cold, it was quite amusing listening to him get excited about his 70s vampire DVD.

After 8 o’clock tea and biscuits, I got into my pyjamas and headed off in the direction of the lounge. When I got there, my other female HCA left me in the hands of A, who by now had drawn the curtains, rearranged the furniture and loaded up the DVD player. I sat down and said hello to the other reluctant patients who had been chosen to join A’s secret film club (I understood that vampire horror wouldn’t be appropriate for everyone on the ward).

A proceeded to tell us how lucky we were to be picked to watch such a classic film, to which I reminded him I had no choice, he was my guard for the night I had to follow him everywhere. We all got comfy and as the film got scarier, we all started to cling on to each other and laugh when we got scared.

Even though the film made us jump, we felt at ease. A had achieved his goal, he had brought together the patients on the ward who felt most alone.

And It would have been an outstanding triumph… if one of the dementia patients on the second floor hadn’t screamed and thrown a pillow at the lounge window.

We lost a few members after that.

Games

In my first post, I promised not to bore you with tales of my sadness and woe. I want you to know that through telling these stories, I hope to reach out to people experiencing mental illness or give insight to those of you not directly affected.
I want to give you an accurate and truthful account of my experiences, so some will inevitably touch on sensitive issues or will include graphic description of injury. There will also be some strong language. I hope you understand that this will enable me to depict a factual and honest account of what happened.

Now that’s over with, let’s begin.

I am not a religious person. I do not believe in God but after being diagnosed with psychotic depression, I do believe in the power of the mind and how dangerous the brain can be.

In August 2011, I had been in hospital for two months with severe depression. After several serious acts of self-harm in the hospital, I was under constant surveillance. I had my own room, personal guard and no furniture or possessions. I had a lot of time to think in that room and quickly became obsessed with outsmarting the medical staff.

Most of my mind games involved the nurses. I loathed the nurses. Of course, there were a couple of good ones who were very patient and caring, but the majority on the ward were cold, soulless and bitter. They hated their job and had no capacity for empathy. On the other hand, the HCAs (Health Care Assistants) were excellent. They were on minimum wage, had little medical education, but supported and helped me more than any of the doctors or nurses. I will always be very grateful.

A typical example of my persistent game playing, happened one morning. I was standing in the shower while a nurse watched me. I awkwardly washed my naked body while trying to hide from the old woman’s judging eyes. When the water stopped, I asked her for a towel and stepped out, desperately trying to hide my bare skin. Just as I was putting my clothes on, the emergency alarm went off. If the alarm goes off, all available staff have to run to help. The alarm was rarely activated so the nurse I was with, panicked. She looked at me, hesitated, and ran out of the door.

For the first time in over a week, I was alone. I was stood in the bathroom with no supervision and my desperate mind took over. I had a minimal amount of time before the nurse realised what she had done and ran back to the bathroom. I felt the adrenalin run through my veins. I rushed to the sink, unscrewed the bulb above the mirror and performed my usual trick. I had smashed the bulb in a towel and picked out the sharpest pieces in seconds. I put the rest of the glass in the bin and placed the towel in the laundry basket. I put the selected shards in a tissue, hid them in my bra and calmly waited.

The alarm stopped and the panic-stricken nurse reappeared. She came into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. While trying to get her breath back, she coldly asked;

“You haven’t done anything, have you?”

“No” I casually replied.

She knew she would be in trouble if someone found out I had been left unsupervised. She walked up to me in a fairly threatening manner and said;

“Good, cause I’m trusting you and I won’t trust you again if you’ve done anything.”

She looked down at the wounds I had inflicted on my arms the week before. With a hushed voice she snarled;

“Why do you do this? What do you achieve by doing this?”

I could feel the disdain in her voice, but I said nothing. I didn’t care, I had won. I followed her out of the bathroom, smiling while I briefly glanced at the empty light socket above the mirror.