This is a blog about depression. If you are easily offended or take offence to my very sarcastic humour, please do not read any further. Mental illness is not a joke; it is not something to point fun at and I fully understand that. BUT…when the going gets tough, sarcasm and humour is my defence and so I will be parading it around all over this blog.
If you need help, please get it. Whilst I hope this has a happy ending, I don’t know yet and given I’ve not been able to fix myself, I really don’t want others using this as a ‘How To Be Happy for Beginners v2.0’
I slept! Hallelujah. I slept so much I missed yoga. It feels like a long time since I’ve slept properly. I’ve missed breakfast too so my promise of an omelette will need to wait. Luckily I have a good supply of bananas and chocolate thanks to my visitor. This is bad though, no time to wash my face and brush my teeth, I was doing so well too.
I forgot to tell you all, I’ve solved the room mystery! I know that’s a huge relief to you all as I am sure it’s been playing on your mind as much as it’s been playing on mine. So, apparently, the ground floor ward used to be an overflow ward so has only been open for 10 months. The hospital is so full that they currently have no choice but to house us here. It’s not me! It’s not personal! Thank you, Patient L, for telling me this. The hospital works as follows:
Basement: Therapy rooms including the gym, art therapy and the large therapy room plus the restaurant and courtyard which you only venture out to if it was really sunny or you are a smoker huddled under the awning.
Ground floor: Reception, the pharmacy, the massage room and my ward, mixed general psychiatry. Whilst it may not have as good decor as the other wards, it does have its benefits as it’s the smallest ward and we seem to be the quietest.
First Floor: AEDU (Adult Eating Disorder Unit) and Women’s ward plus 3 therapy rooms
Second Floor: Men’s ward and the library. Yes, you know it’s a private hospital when it includes a beautiful library
Third Floor: Addiction ward
Fourth Floor: Mixed general psychiatry ward
Weekends still involve therapy, there isn’t a day off for us lot. The group sessions are open to all as a lot of people get home leave for the weekend. It’s very tiring doing this much therapy. I get it’s needed but a day off would be good. Although, sat here thinking about it, a day off when still on hospital lock down would only mean a whole day hiding in questionable carpet room, maybe I am better in more groups.
Session 1 and no Patient R so hopefully, this should be good. Sadly, just as I start to settle into the group, Patient M bursts the bubble. He has health anxiety which has arisen from terminal diagnosis and proceeds to tell us how he is different as he has a real problem. I feel for him, I really do however, telling a room full of psychiatric patients that they don’t have a real problem is possibly not the cleverest idea. I try to call on everything I’ve been told and sit with my feelings… sit with the anger and frustration I have towards him right now for not realising we all matter too and we are facing real problems, including how to keep ourselves alive. The therapists don’t shut him down but thankfully a patient asks for a change of topic, Patient L2, you are my hero. Turns out that change of topic is me! Oh, shit. Here come the snotty tears again. Brilliant! Thankfully (lack of) time is on my side as we need to wrap up just as I’ve been passed a tissue. Phew. The thing with groups is it keeps reminding me that others feel the same way I do. It’s brilliant because I thought I was going crazy, I thought I was the only one to think like this. Does beg the question though, should I really be relieved I feel the same as the other patients in a psychiatric hospital?
Lunch is yet another solo affair, I am getting so used to this, I am starting to wonder if I am capable of eating with people again? Veggie pie and… you got it, steamed veg. As I finish up, Patient F comes over to say how proud she is of me in group today. Sit with it, sit with it, take the complement and sit with it. It’s so lovely to hear this but my gut reaction is still to think she’s lying to me.
Back in questionable carpet safe haven I weigh up going to afternoon group or missing it to wash my hair. My sister is coming tonight and I think it’s going to be a shock to see her little sister in a psychiatric hospital. I decide shower and brush my teeth! Weekend sessions don’t count in the same way as weekdays so this isn’t a failure (or so I tell myself). Plus, showering and doing my teeth is like therapy as it’s self-care, something we are told we need to do in all our therapy sessions. That means 4 mornings in a row. Ok, now I am proud of me. Hair washed and a nurse only saw me naked once this time, I am getting better at this timing game too.
Mindfulness is the final session of the day. It’s well timed as my anxiety is rising thinking of my sisters visit. I don’t want to upset her; I don’t want her to see me this way. In case my anxiety wasn’t bad enough, the cherry on the cake is Patient R comes to join us. He immediately announces he is looking for conflict. Great! Not what we need in a mindfulness session. He causes havoc for a bit before, thankfully, reminding us he is Lord Buddha and he needs to make a call. I would have thought Lord Buddha wouldn’t need to use such ordinary communications as a phone. I’m always learning here.
The session isn’t a complete right off though. Firstly, I learn two new mindfulness techniques that seem to click for me. Both are breathing exercises and I want to try to do them daily. They aren’t as obvious as a body scan. They are ‘small’ enough that I could do them out in public or at my desk if needed. Like everything though, mindfulness needs commitment. Technique one is to take your index finger on one hand and trace the fingers on the other hand. Breathe in as your finger traces up each finger and breathe out as your trace down each finger. It’s very soothing and helps me calm down and slow down. The second technique is another hands one. As you breathe in, open both hands, as you breathe out, gently close both hands.
The other reason it isn’t a right off is because Patient S managed to do the body scan and then stay in the mindfulness moment for the session. He barely moved the entire time and when we did our check out he could only explain it as phenomenal. I am so pleased for him. I hope I get there too.
My sister and her fiancé arrive and we sit in the ward kitchen. The hospital has a never-ending supply of biscuits, and chocolate digestives make everything better, right? I am on edge a little and clock watching. I said I’d meet Patient T for dinner and I don’t like being late. I don’t want to miss sitting at dinner with someone. I try to crack some jokes about being here but they don’t go down well. Understandably, as a sane person, they don’t get the dark humour that us patients share amongst ourselves. It’s alright for us to point fun at us but not so much outsiders.
I make it to dinner in time to catch Patient T. Meatball calzone with the usual steamed veg. We are joined by 2 others, Patient A and Patient S – at this rate I’m going to collect the whole alphabet! Dinner with three people. That’s progress surely. Hospital rumour is that Patient M has realised this isn’t the place for him and has left. Wise move buddy but I wish you only the best. Dinner is strange as the topic of conversation is either how long we think we are going to be here or revert to talk about our old lives, like they are something we will just get back to at some point. Something that is on pause whilst we are here. Time is a strange concept when here. I get that we are still on 24 hours a day and 7 days a week but somehow, it’s a bit warped. Also, I don’t want to go back to my old life. Certain aspects of it yes but not all of it. It’s how I ended up so down that I didn’t think there was any way out. I need to figure out which bits I want to get back and which are worth letting go.
There is no social life here. As soon as we are ejected from the restaurant at closing time, 1900, it’s back to our respective wards. Each ward has a lounge with a large TV and DVD player plus board games and books. Some of the other wards all collate in their ward lounges for movie nights. Sounds good but not sure if I am up for that just yet. My ward lounge is nearly always empty. Back in questionable carpet room, a nurse comes to chat to me. Can I just say; nurses are bloody amazing! They have picked up I was nervous about my sisters visit and come to check how I am. They seem to have this 6th sense on how I am doing and I am so grateful to know I have them just outside my door if I need to talk. The other reason I am also so pleased with the nurses today is…I’ve been downgraded to hourly obs. Hourly! HOURLY! YIPPEEE. To celebrate, I am going to push the boat out and have some mini jaffa cakes whilst watching a film, I know how to live it up on a Saturday night. The other reason to celebrate the downgrade is that I should now be able to shower and change without being caught naked! Here’s hoping. Finally, this means I am close to being let out the front door for an hour. I’ll be escorted by a nurse at first but that’s fine by me, it’ll still be out. What to do for my first outing back into the big wide world?