Lights, Camera, Action

‘Do you suffer from loneliness?’ The junior doctor asked, her tilted face emulating her patronising tone.

I looked up at her and the duty psychiatrist who were both perched on the edge of my sofa. I thought, ‘You may see a fat, depressed, single woman living by herself, but outside of this hell I seem to have fallen into again, I work 50 hours a week in a busy newsroom, earning enough to pay for this lovely flat. I have friends inside and outside of work, who I regularly stay in or go out with. In between that, I write, try to make time to see my family and sometimes sleep. So don’t pity me after seeing five minutes of my life. Loneliness? No.’

I looked back down at my feat and just replied, ‘Um, yeah, sometimes.’

Dr K, the older, male psychiatrist, left the living room to make a phone call, whilst I was left with the young, blonde, junior doctor who kept patting my knee, making ‘awe’ sounds. Thankfully, Dr K returned, but only to say ‘V, you’re going to have to come up to the hospital for the night, if that’s ok?’

I knew the deal. If I said no, I would be sectioned. So I packed a bag and followed them both downstairs to Dr K’s car. I sat in the back of the new BMW, listening to the two doctors engage in appropriate small-talk, while I watched the city scenery begin to flash past the window.

‘V, are you OK back there?’ Dr K asked over his shoulder.

I hesitated, but replied ‘yeah, fine.’

There is always a moment, shortly after I have spoken with my CPN or doctor and just before I am admitted, where I feel completely powerless. It’s usually in a car on the way to the hospital or in a gloomy waiting room. I feel as though I’ve walked into a film, not as a participating character, but as an observer, as if the film is going on around me.

When we arrived at the ward, I was shown to my room by one of the nurses while Dr K filled out some paperwork in the office. My room had a bed, wardrobe, sink and bedside table. The walls were painted off-white and the curtains featured the standard green and orange geometric pattern I had seen so many times before. I sat on the bed as the nurse sifted through my bag, documenting all the toiletries and clothes I had brought with me.

The young nurse looked down at her form and said ‘I’m going to leave you to settle in, dinner is at 5pm and then you’ll have your medical.’

I shut the door as she left the room and casually walked back over to my bag. I preceded to un-hook the long leather strap and set about finding a way to attach it to the wardrobe. I’ve often found that healthcare professionals think that imprisoning you on a psychiatric ward will magically relinquish any of your suicidal feelings. Unsurprisingly, you tend to feel even worse.

With the strap now around my neck, I suddenly heard, ‘What are you doing?! Staff!’

A different nurse had appeared in my doorway and sounded the alarm. I threw the strap on the ground and rushed back to my bed. I sat staring at the wall, while nurses piled into the room. I shut-down and walked into the film again, staying silent and staring at the drab coloured walls. They continued to badger me with questions. ‘Why did you do this? V? What are you feeling?’

The truth is, I didn’t have the answers.

 

Hope

Everyone had gathered around the wooden bench, smoking and chatting under the small window of stars above the courtyard.

After just two weeks of being back home, I had been re-admitted on to the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. It was a clear summer’s night in July and whilst I knew all the patients sitting around me, looking up at the vast night sky caused a wave of loneliness to wash over me. I looked back down at my feet and took a long drag on my cigarette. One of the girls sitting next to me, gently nudged my side and quietly said;

‘Look, that’s L, she’s new’

She was pointing at a girl walking out of the doors on the other side of the courtyard. The darkness made it hard to see her, but the orange glow from the outdoor lights revealed the new girl’s fashionably short hair and cropped leather jacket. As ‘L’ got closer, I suddenly realised I knew her, not as a fellow patient but as an old school friend. I couldn’t believe it.

L walked up to the bench, where we shared a brief silence before both throwing our arms around each other.

‘V!’ She exclaimed as we finally let go of one another.

‘I can’t believe you’re here – I mean, I’m sorry you are here.’ I started to babble as she lit her cigarette.

It must have been six years since I last saw L, when we used to sit next to each other in GCSE art. In a group of 15 boys, we were the only two girls (who ever turned up to lessons anyway). She was a port in a storm back then and little did I know, was soon to become one once more.

Over the coming weeks, I treaded carefully around L. I was aware that we were both in hospital for a reason and she was fighting her own battles. Yet, as time went on, she became my rock.

When it was time for me leave the single room reserved for new admissions, I was moved into the same dorm as L and two other ladies. I would spend a lot of the time sitting on my bed scribbling in my diary while L would sit at her desk, painting and listening to old Billie Holiday songs. She had acquired the desk from the activities room and surrounded herself with paintbrushes, parchment and all things beautiful. L was an incredible artist, full of passion and great ideas. I often wondered how someone so gifted and full of spirit could be driven to this hell hole.

Both of us came from similar backgrounds and it soon became apparent how much we had in common. We found it easy to talk openly about what had lead us to this point in our lives. We even managed to get the old video player working and we would both curl up on the sofas watching old films from the eighties, reminiscing about happy and not-so happy times.

One day, L decided to start a new project. She wanted to paint a mural on a wall beside the wooden bench in the courtyard. Some how, she managed to convince the ward manager to give her the funding for paint, brushes and anything else she needed. I moved my diary-writing to the bench outside, while she painted the wall and listened to music through her headphones.

Before long, a beautiful bird surrounded by soft white clouds and autumn leaves, appeared on the once dirty and desolate wall. When deciding on the words that the bird carried in it’s beak, I could think of nothing better than “Hope” is the thing with feathers, by Emily Dickinson;

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all.

I’m not a very sentimental person but these words still mean so much to me now and I wear them on a necklace everyday.

Nearly two months of being in hospital together and just before L was able to finish the mural, she heard the news that I had been dreading – L was to be discharged.

The day she left, I helped her pack. I was so happy that L was feeling well enough to go home, but a part of me was breaking inside as I carried her things down to the ward entrance. I hugged L tight as the ward staff chit-chatted with her understandably excitable parents. As I watched L walk out through the doors, I felt that wave of loneliness hit me square in the face once again.

I was inconsolable and ran to the dorm sobbing with my face in my hands. I wanted to go home too and the one person who made this place bearable had gone away. I threw open the curtain around my bed and wiped the tears from my face, I went to dive under the safety of the covers, but something caught my eye. On my pillow was a note, wrapped around a paintbrush. I felt my heart lurch and I quickly sat down to open the elegant piece of parchment cloaked around the brush. In the most beautiful writing, these words were inscribed;

“There’s not much I can give you – you already know so many beautiful quotes and inspirational films, books….
So, here’s hope. I didn’t have any… Now I have some, and I share it with you. Love, L”

The next morning, I put on my headphones and walked outside into the courtyard. I stood in front of the wall, took a deep breath and dipped my paintbrush in the sky blue paint left on the bench.

A week before I was discharged, I completed the mural and I hear it’s still there. L’s hope was left for me in the wings of that unfinished bird and I like to think that I left my own bit of hope for others, who happen to find themselves sitting on that bench.

Losing My Religion

I have recently been officially diagnosed with bipolar ii, which means my mood fluctuates and in the extreme, I experience psychosis. One of my more serious episodes happened two years ago in hospital.

Athough I had been confined to a psychiatric ward for two months, my mood was continuing to deteriorate. I had been taking my anti-depressants, but they seemed to be doing little to improve my state of mind.

With ample spare time on the ward, I was able to curb the boredom through reading, something I usually don’t have a lot of time to do. One book that I was particularly absorbed by, was ‘Shrine’ by James Herbert. For those of you who have not read this, the book involves a little girl who becomes possessed by an evil spirit.

As I sat in my little hospital room, consumed with depression and plagued by intrusive thoughts, I began to become increasingly agitated and I couldn’t help thinking about that little girl in the book.

I felt like something was crawling under my skin, like my body wasn’t my own. I stopped sleeping and spent most of my time studying the book and pacing through the ward. After a few days, my behaviour roused the attention of the staff, which lead one nurse to eventually approach me in my room and ask what was wrong.

“I want to see a priest.” was my nervous reply.

I think this took her by surprise, but she humoured me.

“The occupational therapist will be here tomorrow, maybe she can take you to the chapel?”

This response seemed to settle me and I curled up under a blanket as the concerned nurse left my room.

In the morning, I waited outside the office for the OT to arrive, but she never did. She was sick and there was no one available to take me to the hospital chapel. The absence of the OT only fuelled my paranoid psychosis. I was now convinced that I was possessed by some evil entity that had made this innocent member of staff unwell, making it impossible for me to seek help from a priest.

I lay on my bed, wrought with fear. My thoughts were spiralling out of control and I needed help. I called my Mum, a devout christian, who I knew would be able to comfort me. Although my story seemed to confuse her (as it was well known that I did not believe in God or anything spiritual) she actually sounded relived that I had confided in her.

What my Mum didn’t understand was that I was unwell, not merely seeking absolution. She told me to pray and seek forgiveness, which further encouraged my irrationality. I demanded to be let out of the ward so I could see a priest and pray with my Mum. My demands were not met and by the end of the afternoon, I was placed on a section.

I felt as though my life was over, I ran to the nearest bathroom and unscrewed a light fitting. I smashed the interior lightbulb and hid a piece of glass in my slipper. Later that evening, I took the glass shard and pierced my arm, severing an artery.

This desperate act saw the beginning of my high level observation and a cocktail of anti-psychotic medication. Facing your demons never felt so literal.

The Incredible Journey

I sat on my bed in my parents house. Although I had lived there for 23 years, the room felt alien to me. I had been discharged from hospital two days ago, after a painful and testing six month stay. Just before I was admitted, I didn’t believe I was going to be returning home.

My mum called me from downstairs, it was time to leave and go to a new therapy group I had been enrolled into. It was a 12 week programme for young people with mental health problems and so soon after coming home, I was terrified.

I was wearing my favourite dress with my white long sleeve cardigan that covered the scars on my arms. I had washed my hair and put an extra layer of make up on to try and disguise my pale hospital skin. Mum and I stayed fairly quiet in the car, filling the silences with talk of passing farm animals and interesting foliage.

As we arrived at the community centre, I took a deep breath, said bye to Mum and jumped out the car. I was trying my hardest not to show my anxiety to people passing in the car park, hoping I would spontaneously combust before I reached the entrance. I walked into reception where an old security guard guided me towards a room where ten other anxious looking faces looked up at me from their seats.

At this point, I realised everyone was wearing outdoor clothing. Waterproofs, boots, wellies, the lot. I looked down at my pink floaty dress and thought “shit”.

A young, chirpy blonde youth worker appeared in front of me and cheerfully said;

“Did you know we’re going mountain biking today?”

I stared at her with complete contempt and replied;

“Um no, no I did not know that.”

Inside, my brain was repeating various expletives but the cheery youth worker maintained her annoying positivity.

“Well you’ll be the most glamorous mountain biker we’ve had!”

Part of me wanted to kill her but I abstained from violence as she introduced me to the rest of the group and the one other male youth worker. They all seemed quite nice actually.

I sat next to a girl on the minibus who looked about excited as I was. We didn’t say anything to each other but I could tell we shared a mutual feeling of general unhappiness about the situation. We eventually arrived at what seemed like a lumber yard. The youth workers assigned us each a bike and helmet and we started our journey across the Welsh countryside.

After cycling across rivers, over hills and through vast woodland, we arrived at a park where we all sat and had sandwiches. By now, I had forgotten all about my ill-chosen clothing and initial anxiety. We didn’t want to admit it, but after chatting and laughing about how muddy we were, it seemed our outdoor activity had proved a valuable and uplifting adventure.

Wedding

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.

The Great Escape

The noise from the TV filled the tiny hospital lounge, almost masking the misery that I was projecting from my corner of the sofa. I gazed intently out of the window, tormented by David Dickinson and his nauseating love of bargains.

I had been sectioned a week ago after trying to leave the hospital. Since then, I had made several attempts to harm myself with various sharp implements on the ward. Anything from drawing pins to lightbulbs, even broken CDs.

My cunning and persistent acts of self harm, ended in my supervision level increasing to 1A. This meant I had to be at arms length from an allocated member of staff at all times. All my possessions were taken away and any unnecessary furniture was placed in the corridor outside my room. I was also confined to a small lounge next to the nurses office during the day and i was only allowed to go outside for a cigarette when two members of staff were available to supervise me.

Now, this particular lounge was about the size of a small garden shed. It had a two seated sofa and two small chairs, which left just enough room for the TV in the corner. However, despite the considerable lack of space and it’s close proximity to the nurses office, when I had to sit in there, everyone else insisted on piling in too.

So as I glared at the TV screen, surrounded by chatty patients and numerous staff members having their afternoon tea break, I felt my hand tighten it’s grip the arm of the sofa. Everyone was talking loudly, slurping their drinks and swapping seats every five minutes. I felt trapped. I think it may have been the conversation about nurse C’s uncomfortable bikini wax that finally caused the red mist to descend.

I jumped out of my seat and rushed towards the door of the lounge, knocking nurse C’s tea flying out of her hand. I grabbed the door frame and swung myself out into the corridor, just missing the grasp of a HCA who had jumped out of his chair towards me. I darted into a nearby consultation room and pushed a desk behind the door to stop anyone getting in. I could hear shouting coming from the staff in the corridor and one nurse was pushing his way through my barricade.

My mind was racing at a hundred miles an hour, but my first thought was to grab a lightbulb from a lamp in the corner of the room. As I tried to unscrew the light shade, a HCA and a nurse managed to push the door open and they both pulled me out of the room, back into the corridor.

I surrendered. Tears were streaming down my face as I was lead back to the nurses office for a dose of lorazepam.

However, my brief taste of freedom was too good to forget so soon.

Just as one of the nurses turned, I ran again. I am not the most nimble of creatures but I sprinted past the staff in the office and outside into the courtyard. I kept running whilst being chased by a HCA, much to the amusement of the other patients. I careered across the courtyard and through another set of doors on the opposing side. I slid across the floor and fell into one of the larger lounges I had now claimed as my refuge.

I frantically looked around the room. i wasn’t sure what I was actually looking for, or what my plan was going to be, but the adrenalin and my new found sense of freedom made me feel like I was some sort of ninja.

Within seconds, the grey haired, middle aged HCA who had been chasing me through the courtyard, appeared in the doorway, panting and clutching onto a nearby bookcase. In a frenzied act of desperation I jumped onto a sofa and grabbed a clock from the wall. I glanced down at the unusual weapon in my hand then quickly looked back at the HCA. Just like a scene in a western, our eyes met and a tense silence shot across the room.

After a brief couple of seconds, in what I can only describe as a moment of sheer panic, I threw the clock at the feet of the unarmed HCA, who jumped out the way and stared up at me with a shocked and confused look on his face.

Realising I was cornered and clockless, I once again surrendered;

“Um, I’ll go back now. Sorry about the clock.”

He shrugged his shoulders and let out a loud sigh. After catching our breath, we both headed back towards the tiny lounge for a cup of tea and a biscuit, just in time to catch the end of Bargain Hunt.

Visiting Hours

This week, a couple of close friends and family told me how difficult it was for them to visit me in hospital. My Mum told me how she cried when she left the ward and how hard it was to see me so down.

It’s always hard to see someone you love in pain, I don’t dismiss that. The guilt I feel for what I put my family and friends through, is heart-wrenching and I deal with that every day.

So with that said, I would like to give you a brief glimpse into visiting hours, from a patients perspective.

 

It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I was sat on the cold, concrete floor of the ward’s courtyard. I had my back against the porch wall, smoking a fag, trying to escape the rain that was slowly getting closer to my feet.

There were a few of us crammed into the porch, trying to smoke while avoiding the hurricane style conditions. And can I just say, squeezing a bunch of nicotine craved mad people into a small space, is never easy.

I was sat next to K, a girl I liked very much, but unfortunately didn’t get to see that often. She stayed in her room most of the time, hooked up to a feeding tube. She didn’t like visitors and only talked when she came outside for an occasional cigarette. We liked the same music and shared a love of fashion, so it was nice when we did get to catch up.

K hated visitors. She was only 17, so the ward allowed her parents to visit whenever they wanted. When K’s parents would visit, she would come outside for a smoke as much as she could. She found it hard to see them so upset,

We both decided to go inside after one of the guys who was pacing back and forth, fell over me for the tenth time. Dinner was almost ready, so K wandered back to her room to face her parents, rather than see the food trolley being wheeled in.

At that moment, my mum called me on my mobile, she said she wanted to visit tonight, which would make it three visitors in total. My Mum, my boyfriend, M and my birth Mother, T. I should say, I’m adopted and at this point in my life, I had only recently met my birth Mother.

I went to the dining room and quickly ate my cauliflower cheese with my designated nurse watching my every move. I got up, scraped the remaining smelly cauliflower into the bin and headed back to my room. I had 45 minutes to get ready for my first visitor and there was a lot of preparation to do..

That morning, I had cut and burnt myself pretty badly, so I was given a large padded dressing on one arm. I wasn’t allowed access to my clothes, so I had to direct the nurse through my bags to find a large jumper that could hide the bandages. Make-up was also a challenge, as I wasn’t allowed my make-up bag. As the nurse passed me my mascara, I just wanted to punch the mirror. Looking at my reflection was painful, but I had to put on make-up, as the more normal I looked, the happier my visitors were.

I brushed my hair, cleaned my teeth and put on the big cardigan my nurse had found for me. I felt my chest get tight and the panic set in. My boyfriend at the time, visited me everyday and I did look forward to seeing him but he was a daily reminder of the world outside, something I desperately wanted to hide from.

I stood waiting by the door. The nurse had given me something to help calm me down, so I was feeling a bit whoozy. I saw M through the glass of the ward doors and I instantly put on my best smile as they let him through.

I took his hand and lead him to the dining room, which turned into the visitors room at 6 o’clock. It was quite small, with only four round tables to sit 20 patients. The confined space made it difficult to talk about anything personal, as you always had other patients and nosy relatives listening in.

M talked about his day and what was happening on the news, fairly usual stuff. I never had much to say, as I felt he wouldn’t want to hear how bad I was feeling. He asked about why the nurse was watching me and I reluctantly told him about my arm, which made him upset and he looked angry.

Mum turned up and chatted with M for a few minutes at the table, but I felt like a spare part as they discussed my medication and how they thought I was feeling. They pretended to be happy in front of me and made small talk, joking about the old fashioned hospital curtains.

I just kept smiling.

When M said his goodbyes and left, I felt the panic again. I had to pretend to be happier in front of Mum and look like I was getting better, when really I still felt desperately suicidal. I sat there listening to her tell me how all of her church friends were praying for me and that God could save me.

It made me angry and I felt like I mite explode, any chance to shove religion down my throat! But I stayed quiet and smiled. She gave me some grapes and hugged me goodbye. As soon as I waved her out the door, I rushed outside to the courtyard and cried while I smoked a cigarette. I spent my whole life hiding, pretending to be fine and visiting time was no different..

Within minutes, my nurse called me to let me know T, my birth mother, had arrived. I had only known T for a matter of months, so having her visit me on a mental ward was a whole new kind of awkward. We sat down and chit-chatted while I carried on smiling. I was starting to get tired, but I felt so guilty about her coming all this way and I understood it must have been really hard for her.

While we were talking, T started to look away from me and stumble on her words. I thought it was getting too much for her, when all of a sudden she discreetly pointed behind me and whispered;

“Sorry I’m not concentrating, I think the couple on the table behind you may be enjoying themselves a bit too much…”

I subtly turned around and caught a glimpse of a large Vicky Pollard lookalike trying to hide her vigorous hand movements under the table. A scrawnier looking guy in a hoodie (who I recognised as a patient) was trying his best to look nonchalant.

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. One of the nurses broke up the couple’s intimate moment and reminded everyone that visiting time was over. I said goodbye to T and hurried back to my room to scrub the make up off my face.

I did appreciate visitors and I loved them all, but after every visit I felt the need to go over every little detail of the meeting, and analyse everything that was said. I had serious paranoia which left me exhausted and embarrassing hand-job moments certainly didn’t help ease any of my anxiety.

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.