Growing up as a teenager, me and my friends used to drive past this Psyciatric Hospital regularly as it’s on the main road into our city. Without even thinking, we would joke ‘wave to the crazy people!‘ Or ‘Those guys are fucked.‘ Little did I know that ten years later I would be in there myself…
If you have followed my earlier blog posts, you will know the events leading up to what I am about to go into. I have never been one for going to my doctors for any kind of medical help; if it’s a headache, I’ll get over it. Feeling sick? I’ll just stay at home…that kinda guy. I especially stayed away from discussing my mental health issues with them as I didn’t want anything like that going on my records. In the end, I was left with no choice. I had been undergoing private therapy for three months prior to my suicide attempt, and with my families growing concerns, I was shepherded along to my local surgery and sat with a guy I can’t even remember the name of. It was there that he questioned the marks on my neck and broke me down. He asked me about my thoughts, my experiences and my outlook on life. I cannot recall exactly what I said, but I know that it shocked him so much that he picked up the phone straight away (literally, I was sat a foot away from him in his office) and called the Psyciatric Hospital on question, quoting I was in the ‘danger zone‘, an ‘urgent case‘ and I need to be in the care of the ‘crisis team‘. The next day, I was on my way.
The purpose of my time at the specialist hospital for the mentally ill was to monitor my safe transition onto anti-depressants and anti-psycotics. I was informed that during the first few days of this medication entering my system, my suicidal thoughts would almost definitely worsen. I was driven into the hospital and the atmosphere was a dark one. Although, as mentioned above, it is situated just back from a main road into my city, the grounds were deafly, eerily silent. Every member of staff I first encountered was protected behind a glass screen and every door could only be opened by a key code. I have never been inside a prison, but I imagine that this is what it would feel like.
I sat and waited for my initial assessment, it seemed to take forever. The whole time I could hear nothing but murmurs from the staff between each other and the buzzing of opening doors. Then a woman came through who reminded me of my mum. She was followed by a large, muscular guy who I assume was there for her protection. It is important to note at this stage that I have no history of violence and I am not a dangerous person, but I suspect they have many cases of people come through their doors who are. It is an unpredictable place. I was escorted through two sets of doors, and shown to a room on the right. It was not what I expected. It was just like a corporate estate agents meeting room, one wooden desk and three chairs (everything nailed to the floor).
Then my assessment started. I was asked about my entire life from childhood to the present day, my therapy, my struggles and my current outlook. The man simply watched over me whilst the lady carefully noted everything I said. I was asked such questions as: ‘Do you believe you have superpowers?‘ And ‘Do you believe you can see things others can’t?‘ Then she moved on to my cause of my (at the time undiagnosed) complex post traumatic stress disorder, which is for another post entirely. I uncomfortably discussed this with the perfect stranger, and she confirmed I would need to transition onto medication. It was at this point I asked to use the bathroom. I was escorted out of the room by the guy who followed me down the corridor and pointed me to the bathroom, stating he will wait outside. I didn’t think he meant literally. He stood an inch from the door the whole time. Even just the bathroom was a strange thing to me. Everything was sunken into the wall – no light chords, no basins, nothing to slip and fall on. It was clear to me straight away why this was the case, and my assessor confirmed it. She said that if nothing else, patients here are extremely resourceful. She also mentioned that the reason I was listened to whilst using the bathroom is that, some years before, a woman swallowed a tampon she requested in the bathroom in an attempt to kill herself.
She then told me about some of the patients currently being treated at the hospital. One chap she mentioned is convinced he invented the paperclip, another deficates on windowsills, another is convinced news readers are talking directly to him, and some are fully aware they will never leave this place. This served as a reminder to me of something my mother used to say to me: ‘No matter how bad things may seem, you don’t have to go far to find somebody else worse off‘. Whilst I despise using others positions to justify my own strength, it made me realise that yes, I am mentally unstable but I can get through this. Even in moments of darkness, you must do anything to hold onto whatever light you can, for that small flicker could be the difference. Be the light for somebody else, hold the torch. Realise the strength you have and keep walking. I transitioned onto medication and was subject to frequent visits and assessments, but I made it…and you can too.