Saturday, 11 March 2017
|Me and my sister visiting mum in hospital|
1. While in hospital, were there any rules you had to follow?
There were rules in every hospital I stayed in. Most of them were made to feel like a routine, for example we all had a 'bed time' where we had to be in our rooms by midnight which meant that the people who smoked had to have their last cigarette before going to their rooms. This was difficult for me, because I was extremely manic and at the time was suffering with insomnia. However, when I was sectioned and made to go to a private hospital, the rules felt less restrictive. I was able go for a cigarette at any time, and so, often sat outside smoking in the dark. They also made it feel more homely in the private hospital as visitors were allowed in your room, whilst in the NHS hospitals, it was encouraged that children were not allowed on the ward at all. However, this I did not disagree on because I believed that it was for the best.
2. Was there every any contraband?
Contraband was everywhere. It would range from blades and pills hidden to be later used for self-harm, to alcohol and drugs being consumed outside whilst smoking used to further numb pain.
It was always easy to get it into the building as only our bags were searched. So, anything carried on ourselves, were never detected. I once carried in my own contraband of alcohol. I had a bottle of vodka, Smirnoff ice and WKD which I had hidden in my room. One of the other patients had told the staff that I had it which resulted in me being interrogated by a staff member. When I was asked about the alcohol, I was too honest for my own good. I gave her my least favourite bottle first, in hope that she would leave thinking I only had one bottle. Unfortunately for me, she asked if I had any more so of course I handed over another bottle. At this point I thought that she might be satisfied but again she wasn't. I ended up giving her all three bottles because I cannot lie. Whenever I try to, it is plastered all over my face.
Surprisingly the food was really good. It was actually better than what was served in the main hospital. However, the food in the private hospital was the best; it made me feel like I was in a restaurant.
4. Did you feel like you were treated differently by the staff because you were 'mentally ill'?
Of course, but it was somewhat natural.They were staff, employed to do a job. They had a choice to be there. Whereas, for some of us, our choices were taken away. Even if we were there voluntarily, it was almost like a last chance for some of us to sort out our shit! This meant that our choices were limited. What I learnt from my time being a patient, was that stress hits you in different ways. Even when the staff were stressed, they had to remain professional, during staff shortages, and conflict with patients. What I found difficult was that most staff did not know how to deal with our frequent, overwhelming emotions.
5. How did it feel being on the other side after previously working in a psychiatric hospital?
I didn’t think about it at first, as my thoughts were so manic and my behaviour was unpredictable. After being in hospital for about three months, someone that I had previously worked with on a psychiatric ward came to the hospital I was admitted to as a trainee mental health nurse.This caused me masses of anxiety and caused a lot of unwanted negative thoughts and feelings. I guess I felt ashamed and embarrassed that she was seeing me at my worst, especially because we had a history of not liking each other.
6. Did you feel like it helped being in hospital or did you feel further isolated from society?
Although I feel that being there was the best decision for me and my family, I became institutionalised very quickly. I stopped wanted to see anyone, even my two beautiful girls. I shut down for a while and did not leave my room for days. I would make excuses to not see my daughters, to avoid any contact with the outside world. Instead, I would sit outside on a bench, smoking and talking to other patients, while consuming any available contraband. Although in some ways I was trying to heal and recover, I acted very selfishly and to be honest, I liked the isolation it gave me. Being in hospital was like going on holiday without any responsibilities. I had a lot of fun, but at the same time, I was falling apart, and at times felt and acted like a crazy person.
7. What did you do to kill time?
It would depend on my mood. Some days I would isolate myself in my room, and others I would sit outside with the other patients, drinking coffee and smoking endless cigarettes. Sometimes even joints, if any available. At one point, I began to write poetry and for a while this consumed my time. Once written, I would take my laptop outside and read them to some of the other patients.
8. What were the other patients like? Did you make any friends?
I did make some friends whilst in hospital, but I always knew that the friendship wouldn't be maintained once we left. I did see and hear from a couple of people once I left but never remained in contact; not because I didn't like them but because my life can at times still be emotionally overwhelming and due to huge trust issues, I do not let many people into my life. Being in hospital was not like living in the real world. Making friends in there was difficult as sometimes they would come and go so quickly.
9. How did it feel when you left? Did you lose any life skills?
Leaving hospital bought about its own set of challenges. When I left hospital, we were all moving into a new home together and I still did not feel particularly great. I was overwhelmed at times with the responsibility of bringing up two children, when at times I couldn’t even look after myself. You were amazing, but unfortunately, you had to become a young carer, which at times meant looking after yourself, me and your sister. Whilst I wish that you hadn’t gone through those experiences I am so very proud of how well you have coped and the young woman you are becoming. As for losing life skills, I have realised that every time I break, it takes a while to put myself back together. I forget how to do certain things sometimes, especially cooking and still struggle now after coming out of hospital eight years ago. I do ok though, with the help from you, Morgan and Pedro.
10. Do you feel any less crazy now than you did 8 years ago?
Yes, however crazy is now just a word to me! I do feel more self-aware now due to my training in counselling, however I still have all the same symptoms I had eight years ago. It's just now I have learnt to control my emotions but of course I still struggle and at times try to hide away from the world.
Thank you very much for taking your time to read this. Subscribe for more and don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram.