This post is dedicated to RubyTuesday, whose kind words have encouraged me more than she would ever know.
“You get four hours and that’s it. If you are not back on time, we will call your parents and if needs be, the police.”
I nodded at the stern talking doctor. We had spent the last half an hour bargaining over how long I was allowed to leave the hospital and he had finally given in to my demands.
It was 2010 and my first admission on the psychiatric ward. Two weeks in, I was finally being let out to go to my friends wedding. My Dad picked me up from the hospital as Mum was away, but as soon as I sat in the car, all my feelings of excitement and relief turned into a roller coaster of sickening anxiety.
As we pulled away from the hospital grounds, I watched the scenery rush past the car window. This was my first visit home in two weeks and the world seemed as though it was caving in around me. As we drove into my village, I hid my face from passing neighbours who stared into the car as If they half expected me to jump out, brandishing a machete and throwing poo everywhere.
Dad didn’t say much for most of the journey but as we pulled up the drive, he broke the silence;
“Well then, welcome home. We’ve all missed you, especially the dogs.”
I smiled awkwardly and quickly grabbed my bag from the boot. I had one hour to go from ‘psych patient chic’ to ‘glamorous wedding guest’ and it wasn’t going to be easy without Mum to hurry me along.
After several arguments with the dodgy hair dryer, I felt vaguely normal again, maybe even better than normal, which was a first in a long time! I jumped back in the car with Dad and headed towards my friends farm, where the wedding reception was being held. I was bracing myself for the pity looks and awkward stares, but as I arrived, my boyfriend greeted me with such a big hug, I felt calm and at ease.
The wedding tent was incredible, the weather was glorious sunshine and everyone looked happy, it was a welcome relief. My friends all found me and it was like I hadn’t been away. As soon as the bride and groom turned up on the back of a tractor, I felt the best I had in a long time.
We had pictures, champagne (orange juice for me) and eventually all sat down for dinner. I was sitting at a table with my good friends who all joked about my ‘day release’ – very amusing. Just as the we finished the starter, my Dad rang my mobile.
It was time to go back
I stood up in front of two hundred people and left the extravagant marquee. My elated mood plummeted as I said goodbye to the beautiful bride and headed towards my Dad’s car outside.
I cried as we drove back to the hospital. I hated the doctors for making me come back but most of all, I hated myself for ending up in this hell-hole. We walked down the long empty corridor towards the ward and it was only then I realised, I was still in my wedding outfit.
I said my goodbyes to Dad and walked through the ward doors in my long dress and high heels. I held my head high, flicked my hair and headed outside into the courtyard.
I lit up a cigarette and adjusted my diamond necklace. It was only the shout of “meds!” from the nurse inside that brought me back down to earth.