For some of us, it can be a scary fact to accept that sometimes you have no idea what is really going on with your mental health. For me, right now this is the situation I find myself in. I am sectioned, and a bit confused as to why, and as to what is going on with my health. Mood wise, I had a long dip but I seemed to have levelled out and no longer understand what the nurses are telling me. I have chosen to not appeal seeing as half of my sentence has been served.
There is something quite different about living your life in a mental health hospital. For one, there is no privacy. For seconds, time varies between passing you by at a reasonable pace and dragging so painfully that a week feels like a month. Thirdly, you are locked within a facility with people who you do not choose to live with, or share your days with but ultimately, you begin to form bonds with. Not too dissimilar to the friendship choices made at school, however there are fewer rankings, as we’re all outcasts from society in some way. None of us can deny our struggles or overt abnormality because let’s face it, we’re all in a mental health hospital. This aspect of being on the inside can be almost refreshing. No longer do I have to deny my bipolar or my past, and it is a place where the brutal honesty of what daily life can entail living with mental health problems is actively spoken about quite comfortably – because to an extent, each of us have been or is there in some way right now.
I have been removed from my normal social surroundings, my friends and my family. My usual coping mechanisms and social excursions remain out of reach so to pass the time I am once again puffing away like an irregular steam engine, and guzzling cups of tea like I’m trying to drown my internal organs in Tetley’s English Breakfast. Inevitably, whilst doing such thrilling activities with my day, and watching the light of the sky pass me by, conversations begin to happen and bonds begin to form.
A quite liking for one patient leads to them becoming my ally in this battle against the system: a laugh and a bitch and a moan. An angry cigarette and a joint pining to be with our loved ones. A “good morning” and a “good night” and eventually, “you alright?” becomes a bit deeper than phatic talk as the barriers whither away with a quickly found trust based on the fact that both of us sat here, puffing away and drowning ourselves in Tetley are certified crazy in some way or another. There is no shame. That is perhaps the only beauty to be found in these places – there is no shame because we have all committed the shameful act of having mental health problems – then the words come, “I’m going home this week”
“oh wow fantastic, that’s exciting news”
“yeah, I can’t wait to see my kids” Of course she can’t. She can’t wait to go to the pub. She can’t wait to see her kids. She can’t wait to regain her freedom, and ultimately I’m happy for her. A little envious perhaps, but overall happy that finally the day she has been waiting for since her arrival is on the horizon – and she’s so ecstatic and excited. Inside though, I am sad. No longer will I have the comfort of having found an ally I am comfortable with, and no longer will that person I connected with for a week be around – and once again, the hospital becomes a very lonely place until someone else is admitted who I can see myself connecting with in some way, who in the outside world I would probably not even glance at twice.
Since she left the ward I think about all the plans she had and I smile for her – but for my own immediate resolve the feelings of sadness and loneliness at being in hospital intensify – and the loneliness my former patient friend helped me to avoid come flooding back as I spend time talking to people I’d rather not but who are better to speak to than the people I’m nose diving past in the hope they don’t catch me or see me. All of a sudden I’m in a building full of people, accompanied on 1:1 by nurses who are supposed to support me and I feel the most isolated and lonely that I have for years despite having the NHS pay for my own personal stalker to follow me from room to room writing notes upon which room to room they happen to be following me to and fro between. The journey continues. Maybe someone else will come along, maybe they won’t. Maybe soon I will be the patient bearing good news of a release date, maybe I won’t. The uncertainty here is uncomfortable, but to my former patient friend: I hope she’s doing well.