He hallucinated all the time, then he heard me playing the violin and he came and danced

It was a strange friendship, me and Dave (not his real name).

I had made quite a few friends on the ward, I’d been there a while, it had taken time.

Anyway, me and Dave. This was different. Most of the other friendships were made by sharing our stuff. But Dave held conversations with the voices in his head openly and continuously and nonsensically. I don’t think I ever heard a sentence come out of his mouth that was ‘appropriate’ to the context. He’d start out quite well then it would twist into his merging voices / thoughts.

Hello how are you, cause you see the martians have this plan, you need to be careful of teeth, this plan with the inside the biggest place safety you’d better be careful nice cup of tea.

Would be one of the more coherent outpourings. We didn’t interact much at first.

I’d had special permission to play my violin in the gym space, it was considered good for me. I was rekindling my love for music. I had been a professional violinist and I would play for hours. One day Dave drifted in, he listened for a couple of minutes then started to dance.
If you’re picturing something beautiful to behold – expression of pain through movement accompanied by exquisite music. Well I need to put you straight. My playing wasn’t great and Dave was a heavy smoker, somewhat overweight and not particularly graceful. He was running in circles with his arms outstretched on his toes. Lots of huffing and puffing and out of tune notes.

The moment was soo surreal at the time that I had a huge urge to laugh. It was absurd, funny, moving. I kept playing… and playing until he was exhausted. He stopped, smiled at me shyly, but really at me,  finished with a flourish and a bow and left the room.

Only then did it hit me – what just happened. That was really something.

This carried on for a few days. The ward physio joked that it was my mission to get Dave fit.
He would come in and dance a bit or just listen. We would talk, I would try and pick up his feeling from the nonsense that he spoke and would answer generally – so you sound a bit cross about that – and not get into the specifics. We were friends.

My psychologist said, ‘That is so interesting – you and Dave. You are so verbal.’
‘So is he.’
‘Yes but he doesn’t make any sense’.

He started to have moments of coherence. The odd sentence between the confusion. A couple of words that made sense in the context of the surroundings. One day
he said – ‘I hear voices’,
I said ‘ Who do you hear’
‘It changes, but at the moment it’s a musician, a singer’. Then Dave tired and the stream of consciousness returned.

Then one morning at 7am there was a knock at my bedroom door. Staff came in and out all day and night, so I didn’t hesitate to say come in. It was Dave.
me – ‘Dave you shouldn’t be here !’
dave – ‘Are you alright ?’
me – ‘Dave you really shouldn’t be here go back to your room’

Dave shuffled off.
In the canteen for breakfast I said to Dave, in front of one of the nurses ‘Dave you shouldn’t have come to my room first thing’.
The nurse heard that and gave Dave a public telling off.
Oh why did I do that… poor Dave. I could have sidled up to one of the gentler nurses and ask them to mention it to Dave subtly.

Dave never came in when I was playing again. He became angry and very incoherent.

A few days passed, and I went up to Dave and said,
‘I’m so sorry I shopped you I shouldn’t have done it like that.’
He didn’t appear to understand.
me – ‘Don’t you remember you used to come and dance and then you came to my room and I got you into trouble’
dave – ‘Oh that wasn’t me that was someone else’
me – ‘The musician, where is he now?’
dave – ‘Oh he died.’

So that friendly musician voice in his head.
I think I killed him.


In silence in a psychiatric ward

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.

Safe at last…… as I was locked into a psych 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 wonder if life outside a psychiatric ward is actually madness

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.