4. Stepping into the system

4. Stepping into the system

I shall not go back over the events that led me to the office of my local Community Psychiatric Nurse as it has been covered already, I will however try to expand on the experience. I sat in a waiting room and fortified myself with a few swift slashes to my arms I guess it had become habit by now and I remember feeling so scared. To describe my mind at that time it would be that of a massive lightning storm, black, dark, cold and interspersed with flashes of self loathing, doubt, fear and most of all a wish to just be at peace.

I remember going from the waiting room into a small office with a man who introduced himself by name and told me his role, I shall not name people on here, suffice to say that I have thanked them all. I remember only that he wore a green shirt, he asked me to sit down I did clutching my coat like a shield, he took my details and I remember giving him my parents names and phone number so they could get my daughter off the bus. I remember that I was repetitive and my word came jumbled and confused, the release from finally having someone to talk to was like a dam breaking. Questions followed and I answered, what I said I don’t really remember but I remember being asked about harming myself, I took out my little screwdriver and proceeded to demonstrate how I did it, I felt no pain.

I stumbled answers to questions, I remember removing my shoes and when asked why I replied because we don’t wear shoes in the house. I remember moving from the chair to sit in the corner, huddled in a ball with the words drying up and a great feeling of tiredness coming over me. I had my picture of my daughter and tried to keep track of what was happening. The nurse left the office at one point and a lady took over, I remember her name and that she to asked a few questions, I trusted her but my answers were shorter, repetitive and I’m sure minutes turned to hours.

When the nurse returned he informed me that he had spoken to my father and that he was coming to see me, my anxiety level went into the red and I turned to face the wall, my entire concentration focused on the picture of my daughter and that was my world right then, that picture. I had no thoughts, no feelings, I was empty, totally devoid of anything apart from a darkness that was unthinkable. I had lost myself. When my father came I did not look at him once, I was aware of the nurse and him talking and I even answered questions but I have no idea what was said. The nurse left the room at one point and I was alone with my father who I love dearly but the shame and embarrassment within me was so great I could barely speak, oh what a failure I must have been.

I remember the nurse asking my father if he could drive me to the hospital, my father rightfully reluctant said he could not and arrangements for an ambulance were made. After my father left I remember the nurse telling me the ambulance would be half an hour so I put on my shoes and gathered up my picture and coat. In no time at all two ambulance officers entered the room, a man and a woman and like the nurse I knew I could trust them, they looked compassionate but I gathered from the conversation that there was some issue with my mental state, I assume it was the risk I posed to them whilst in transit, I remember telling them I would not hurt anyone else, I would not do that. Whilst they got me settled and undertook the mandatory checks, blood pressure, pulse, etc they were polite and chatty, they put me at ease and made me feel safe. The forty minute journey to the hospital felt like 5 and all I can remember how organised the ambulance was, everything labelled but that it showed signs of heavy use.

I do not know what time it was we arrived at the hospital, I would guess just after lunch, Whitchurch Psychiatric Hospital was a magnificent building once but now after years of neglect and I don’t blame them it must cost a fortune to run it was showing signs of neglect. It still has much charm but it screamed the mental hospital from every angle, I’m sure its history is fascinating and one day I shall look into it but at first glance it was hospital and therefore safety. I remember being shown to a waiting room and the ambulance crew remained with me, at the time I felt this was a nice gesture but it was most likely I was still theirs until the papers were signed. Soon a lady came who introduced herself as a nurse but the boots and short-cropped hair did not endear me to her, I do not mean to be stereotypical but thus far my brain had latched onto a stereotypical image of safety and although she was kind and professional as I followed her to a meeting room I felt the anxiety rising.

We entered a room and the nurse introduced me to another lady, I cannot remember her position but they asked questions, I answered again a jumble of words. Even in my own mind a part of me was saying to myself ‘boy you are bloody nuts’ and they took notes, and asked more questions, more notes. Soon they asked me to go back to the waiting room whilst they had a chat. Like a zombie I did as I was told and sat in this once magnificent room feeling anxious but safe. Finally they returned and started telling me about their team, how I would be looked after back in the community, how I was better off at home, how hospital would just put my rehabilitation on pause. I asked what would happen if I chose to stay in hospital and they told me it would be noisy, the staff would not have time for one to one care, that I would just spend my time whiling away the hours. I asked what would happen if I went under the care of their team and they said I would go to a day centre where I would get help and support, I would be picked up each day, that people would be available 24/7.

Now maybe it is just me but I really needed to feel safe and whilst the pictures they painted definitely shined a brighter light on going back home I wanted to know what would happen next. I asked and was told that if I chose hospital I would be taken to the ward and checked in and that they would take over my care. I asked what would happen if I chose to be entered onto their program and was told that I would be given contact numbers, put in a taxi and sent home and the next day a taxi would arrive at 10 to take me to the day centre. My choice they said, it was my choice.

Now I do not wish to pass judgement but I think asking a suicidal person who is in obvious mental distress to make any kind of decision is unwise, surely my father or another relative should have been there. But asking a suicidal person if they want to hop in a taxi and go home felt bloody stupid to me. now maybe they had experience and felt that I would not go through with it, maybe they felt they knew better. I however knew deep into my soul that if I left that hospital I would be dead, simple as that and so despite their obvious disappointment I elected to stay.

I had originally titled this piece Angels of the mad but that will be next, for now I had arrived at a safe place, I was taken through corridors and doors and up stairs until I arrived at ward 5A which was to be my home for the next five days and there is where I found the angels.

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