After a few weeks on the psychiatric ward I had become close to a few other patients. One in particular.
We chatted, joked, shared our crap, in tiny stages. 5 or 10 minutes each day that’s all.
One day the ward gossip was about another patient that had not swallowed her pills, but stored them – old trick – don’t know how that got past the staff… Scandal, gossip… when the days are long and empty it passes the time.
My friend said – who knows how many other people on the ward have stuff hidden away that nobody knows about.
Yeah – I said – not really listening.
The next day my friend told me he’d handed in some ‘equipment’ that he’d been hiding.
I was so glad he surrendered it himself.
I was so shocked that I missed his hint. He told me. I missed it.
He was ok
and best case scenario is always for someone to get their own help.
What shocked me was
– He told me
– He wanted me to hear
– He couldn’t spell it out
– I missed it
– We do miss each other so many times a day
I will try to listen better. I will try to spell out what I want.
This lady really annoyed me. I avoided her on the ward. Weeks in this psychiatric ward and I now was clear on the people to avoid and the people whose company I sought.
One day something was different about her. Coming off her was fear, agitation, vulnerability. She was usually so brash and loud.
I couldn’t understand why nobody else seemed to notice this loudest presence in the room exuding distress. Waiting for help from the staff she asked if I would hold her hand. Of course…. we waited.
The world stood still.
I had the experience of such connection, to feel presence of another sentient being and them to feel my presence.
It was one of the most life affirming moments of my life. It happened in silence in a psychiatric ward.
Escorted by police and medical staff I didn’t notice the very secure door until it shut and was locked behind us.
My first thought was – I’m safe.
Not everybody’s first response to being locked in, I’m sure.
I didn’t even register the thought immediately – until I noticed the relief that followed.
Safe from everyone that knew me and from myself.
I hadn’t slept for months and months. Here in hospital staff came into the room all night long to check I was alright…. came with torches, open and closed doors….. and I slept through it all because I felt safe.
The big realisation – I had never really felt safe before.
I’ve had a couple of striking and strange sensations after taking medication for depression. I’m not talking side effects here, but ‘front’ effects, the reason for taking the medication in the first place.
One was of a weird turning of the head from the downward spiral to the opening of possibilities outside my ‘cage’.
The other is a spreading numbness – almost physical that helped me not to kill myself in a desperate attempt to escape the pain.
Both of these I’ve had both with and without medication.
The numb sensation is not nice but can come on so abruptly that it almost feels like an anaesthetic injection spreading through me.
The ‘weird’ turning to the light sensation is very unsettling, very positive, but so strong that it is quite frightening.
I know I’m capable of creating a good environment in my head and have had a glimpse of the tools at my disposal, but I feel like a toddler in charge of a power tool.
Here ends today’s thought!
This first post may set the tone of things to come – my struggle with being alive – also my joy at it. I revel in some of the wonderful distractions science, music, relationships but sometimes find it hard just to breathe in and out.
So I live and work in the ‘real’ world, i.e. not in a psychiatric ward. But I have spent as a patient and came swiftly to the conclusion that the patients were the sane ones but people outside are all slightly mad.
Because……… because people admitted to a ward to treat their mental health are in a state of forced honesty about their demons. Visitors say they are fine and at a glance the superficial dishonest world of work and social life come flooding back to me.
Life outside flies by at a pace stopping only when someone else gives me a nod of acknowledgement that they too are aware of an inner landscape and struggle with it. Those moments of being present with another, are so life affirming and rare.