This is a follow on from where I explained Friday Sept 28th; you know, where I got dumped, sectioned, evicted and had the police called on me twice all in one day.
That weekend, I stayed with my friend from work and that was not great, but it meant I was safe from roomie Gilbo for a day or so and that was a big relief.
Later on Saturday afternoon, I got a call from a GF at work, Bel, asking if I was up to going with her to visit a mutual work friend for drinks and cheese, and I jumped at it. She drove to get me and she and I both took our dogs and went to visit our lovely friend Will.
Will had purchased a massive bottle of JD which he and I jumped into (Bel was driving) and the 3 of us spent the evening dressing up in Will’s drag queen costumes and catching up as I had not seen either of them in weeks. Bel left around 2am but I stayed and Will and I took some Ritalin and Xanax and finished the bottle of Jack Daniels and had one of those nights where you really talk about stuff that ‘matters’ (you know, when you are really drunk and high and say stuff you probably shouldn’t and then it’s awkward in the morning?).
The worst part was that Will lives a long way from where I was staying and I had my dog and needed to catch 2 trains to get home and it was stinking hot and I was worn out from lack of sleep and starting to sober up by the time I left.
When I eventually got back to where I was staying, Gilbo had sent a text:
I have put all of your belongings on the front porch. If not collected by tomorrow I will have them collected.
(For anybody wondering, no it is not legal for him to do that, I was only 1 working day late with the rent, he violated laws by entering my room and touching my things, he should have given me notice irrespective of rent and he had possession of my bond but, it isn’t a police matter and I was not up to the arguing/horrible stuff that was going to happen if I tried to get back into the house).
On Monday morning, friend-from-work told me I couldn’t stay there any longer – and I knew that – but he was good enough to drop my dog at the neighbour’s house and then me at the hospital for my outpatient (mental health) appointment.
The appointment led to the psychiatrist telling me that he was not happy to let me go and that the events of the weekend were too much and that he wanted me in hospital. A nurse drove me to the neighbour’s house and they agreed to take care of my dog for what was going to be a 3-day hospital visit at that point, but there was 2 of them and they went to my house and loaded up all of my belongings into the car for me. Sometimes, people are incredibly generous and the 2 nurses put up with Gilbo’s rudeness (he just stood there, drinking and staring at them apparently and didn’t life a finger to help).
Not long after, I was in the emergency psych ward (PECC) with every belonging I had in the world locked up in a storeroom.
The worst thing about hospital stay is the boredom and the worst thing about psych hospital stay is the being locked in so you can’t even go and buy a coffee or have a cigarette or anything like that. At least for the first 24 hours. It was tough and I cried a lot and I ate and slept.
Day 3/72 hours came and the psych decided that I needed to be transferred to the general psych ward for an indeterminate stay and so, all of my belongings were transferred, as was I.
I actually made a good friend in the ward, a young bi-polar guy, and we had far too good a time discussing the absurdity of life in a psych ward and managed to get alcohol inside a couple of times and got terribly drunk while trying to pretend that we weren’t so we wouldn’t be caught by the staff and we snuck cigarettes in the girls bathroom (3 women in ward as opposed to around 12 men) and generally behaved like we were on a high school camp only, we couldn’t leave and, the rest of the class was bat-shit crazy and the staff had control issues and were there only to ensure we behaved ourselves and didn’t have any fun at all– definitely, exactly like school camp.
Psych wards are a tedium of waiting – to see doctors, for food (helps structure the day and reassure one that time is indeed passing) – I ate so much food that I am actually on the cusp of fat right now, yuck – and for meds. There is no therapy or anything of that nature, it is a containment model only and it is slow and frustrating. There is no internet access and you don’t have your phone. There is a TV room (they did let me bring in my hard drive with a bunch of TV shows and films to watch) a kitchen, a courtyard (still no smoking) and after a day or so you get a couple of short, 30 minute breaks outside whereby you can smoke and go to the local store.
All up, I spent 13 days in hospital. Because I had no internet, I couldn’t look into housing and the looming reality that every item I owned in the world together with myself was going to be placed on the street and left to my own devices was looming.
I actually had a meltdown about a week in when the doctors were pushing me to come up with a solution to my housing crisis and refusing to listen when I tried to explain that I couldn’t actually do anything while I was locked down but leaving meant going out into the reality of being homeless. After yelling at the social worker, they locked me in a room with the social worker and a doctor and drilled me on what I was going to do and I lost it completely … I spent the day in a corner of my room crying and they medicated me with valium and left me alone for 2 days.
The most inaccurate perception that psychiatrists seem to have (as I see it) is that if you are seen smiling, happy or laughing, then that means that you are ‘better’.
There seem to be 2 types of psych patients; those who have ongoing issues that affect their ability to deal with the very basics of life and which often leave them delusional and sometimes dangerous, and those who have ongoing issues but who can ‘manage’ for the most part. With the former, they medicate heavily and lock up/down for long periods of time and often and with the latter they medicate and wait for the crisis to pass and then release. The ward I was in had an adjacent ‘acute’ ward (we were ‘sub’ acute, a singularly stupid term if ever there was one) where the serious cases go, often being transferred to the regular ward when they are feeling ‘better’.
The other patients are what makes rehab and psych stays bearable. This place was no exception. But I saw some things this time around that were disturbing and frightening.
The first was a woman, around my age, who was in the acute ward but who was allowed out for smoke breaks. She is in a wheelchair and has only one arm and no legs. She has one prosthetic leg and I assume they are working on the other. She has zero bladder control and whenever I passed through the acute ward the smell of urine was overpowering.
This woman’s physical handicaps are not the issue per se, I mention them only because of how they came to be: she jumped in front of a train and lived. My worst nightmare: surviving a jump and being disabled/brain-damaged forever, it’s why I don’t jump. I felt horrified and being faced with my own worst nightmare and horrified at myself for reducing this woman to being a representation of my worst nightmare. I struggled with this every time I saw her.
There were also some entertaining personalities, like the boy who thought his computer is god and who has made an entire religion around it, he was very, very sweet and harmless but comes under the umbrella of un-fixable and spends more time in the ward than out of it.
On around day 5, a gorgeous young blonde girl was brought in and within 45 minutes, she realised that she was not going to be allowed outside to smoke or allowed to use her phone or allowed to do anything really and she had a complete and total meltdown. She kept screaming “I am not a dog, you can’t do this”. It was obviously her first time at experiencing the loss of power that is incarceration and it tends to hit hard. I tried to talk to her but she was too upset and the staff eventually turned up and medicated her and put her into acute for 3 days where I could see her through the window wandering around in a daze. She came back to use for one night and then was released. Funny thing is I saw her yesterday at the train station and she was all dressed and made up and looked absolutely stunning – we hugged, it was weird. I doubt she will ever be back in a ward but I also doubt that she will get over that feeling of being at the mercy of somebody else’s whim.
Victims of violent crime (I am using this word loosely and I apologise to anybody who has survived a violent crime and prefers a different term, I mean it in the literal sense rather than the descriptive) have said that one of the worst aspects of being a victim is the knowledge that comes with understanding that somebody else can take away your personal power and hurt/impose/destroy you if they wish. There is an unspoken link between this loss and being incarcerated, it is one of the scars that doesn’t leave.
Which nearly brings us up to date
The day before I was being released. I still had nowhere to go. I was talking about it with a fellow patient when his visitor asked about my situation and offered, very kindly to let me stay with him for a week or so. Sometimes, people just blow me away with their kindness.
A is schizophrenic and a drug user and pretty much a broken man. He has this tiny unit which is filthy and disgusting and disorganised and there is barely room for him but he has made room for me in order to help out. Not only that, but when I was released, he drove to collect me and put all of my stuff in his car and gave me at least a base to think from.
As I have posted, this place has proven to be problematic and I desperately need to get out but I am entirely grateful to A.
I am looking for new digs, trying to shake off the humiliation from the Pup both during our BU and last night when he didn’t take my call. Trying to shake of the humiliation from the ex who sent those dreadful emails a couple of weeks back. Trying to shake off the humiliation of not having a home for the first time in my life and trying to shake off the humiliation that comes with losing your own power in an institution.
I tend to laugh a lot. I am a giggler. My sense of shame does not disappear just because I laugh. It is written all over my body through my scars.
The best thing that has come from all of this, besides having the chance to connect with some people in quite a special way, is that I called both of my sons and told them what had happened. Neither of my boys has ever really known about the seriousness of my issues. They lived through it once when I destroyed a previous life (much like what is happening now) and they got dragged into it because they were only teenagers at the time but even then, they had no idea the real extent (although what they saw and experienced was bad enough). They are both men now and I made the decision to tell them about the past two weeks because they need to stop thinking of their mother as ‘quirky’ for their sake as well as mine. I will write some more about this another time as I think it is important.
But for now, it is today.