Making friends living on an Acute psychiatric ward
I remember my first meeting with a mental health charity to collaborate and co-facilitate an anti- Stigma workshop/group. This is what I have been wanting to do for some time and here I am achieving my dreams. When I was back -institutionalised in an Acute ward with Anorexia and Bipolar in 2005. I think that the personality trait of helping others and organising groups has always been in me.
I am a nightmare patient.
I always refused bed rest and focused my time on doing things like raffles to raise money for a charity shop connected to the Retreat,in York. I ended up raising over £100 in a matter of days with a BMI of 14.5. so about 41 kilograms. , 90 pounds – I’m nearly 5.8.
In other clinics- I was tube fed and restrained -often by up to four nurses.
That is a whole other story and debate.
I met another man who is/was a barrister and he had a complete breakdown. His wife had been cheating on him. I met an artist who expressed her unarticulated pain by painting. I met a woman who had been fighting Anorexia and OCD all her life and who taught me how to put a Christmas tree up.
I had forgotten.
I didn’t know what life was and what it meant to live.
I met a few ladies, not on my unit -The Acorn unit ( the name pun has not gone over my head). They expressed their pain through cutting and self-harm.
Nobody played games. Although some of us, from time to time would get hold of paracetamol and other shit and overdose to liven the humdrum mundaneness of life in an acute ward. I once got caught out on weigh day with fishing scales attached to my paper gown. The staff was quite taken aback with imaginative ways we would come up with to avoid putting on weight. These girls were hardcore. I met so many people.
I met a girl who terrified me. I could tell she had been in hospitals all her life. Her family could absolve themselves of whatever guilt they felt towards their daughter by putting her in private clinics and the problem was dusted under the carpet.
I had started the process and recovery of eating again and putting on weight. I couldn’t cope. I developed another way to cope, for at least 4 months my day consisted of:
making a coffee
eating more chewing gum
make a cup of herbal tea
smoke a cig .
I was on this loop for24 hours /7 days a week -for 4 months.
I was driving myself crazy in a way that was unfamiliar to me. The nurses tried to lock me out of the communal kitchens and one night I flipped out when they tried to grab me so I started throwing stuff around.
I wanted them to help me. The girl who initially terrified me came into the kitchen and sat down on the floor with me and held me for over an hour while I shed tears for everything I can remember.
All the emotions attached to those memories I had pushed aside. None of these people was violent. We were trying to be understood and to understand ourselves.
I met a young girl with schizophrenia -she dressed like a Goth. Always had headphones in her ears. She was trying to silence the voices. She had been coping well up until her Mother passed away and like any normal person she was traumatised by it and her mental health went a bit off balance again. She was trying to make sense that her mother is dead. She was grieving.
One night a new guy arrived on the scene. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He had that charisma of the kind of guy I always seemed to attract. His eyes were full of spark and mischief. A person you would want on your side. We became friends. We spoke a lot. He did a very Titanic thing and drew a picture of me. Fully clothed. I can’t find the picture to load up. He was still going through the DT’s. I will live with my memory of how the picture looked- possibly very trippy. Ha Ha.
Barry was only staying for 10 days before he went to a dry out clinic further up the coast. I don’t know what happened inside me but I didn’t want him to go.
He was a lot older than me but we did everything together.I got him to paint again. I know he had just got out of prison but he was so talented. I begged the nurses and psychiatrists to let him stay.
‘Look! Look! how talented he is! He needs help from you’.
Our last night before we parted ways. We sat in the smoking lounge and watched ‘Pulp fiction’. I know this may make some people reading this go .. erm………what?
I lay my head down in his lap and he played with my hair. For me, the act was more like a father gesture. I suspect for Barry it could have been different.
He wrote loads of letters and planned to come to visit me. The nurses censored my post and turned him away.
I often wonder what happened to him.
I get angry that just because he was in and out of prison for many reasons- he was denied the rehabilitation that I received. He had issues. I am not innocent.
I feel he could not have benefited from a recovery type community setting rather than prison. It’s not my place to say what he did, I don’t want to remember.
It would have ruined the fact that I found feelings inside me. I could laugh again, I could cry. I was real. I felt like a human being and not some freak with Anorexia. Anorexia took second place and I wanted it to always take second place. I felt real.
So back to the Anti-stigma workshop, I am doing. I can’t wait. I have a passion. I have the drive. This is my new chapter. I did have a beautiful picture Barry drew of a dragonfly but I guess moving around a lot means that I have lost other precious memories. I am finally in a position to help other people. I’m not letting this opportunity getaway.