I know how tough waiting rooms can be, how the seconds feel like hours as you wait to be weighed at the eating disorder clinic or you wait for your psychologist to call you in for your session and especially when you’re at your GP after realising there is a problem. I’ve spent many years sat in waiting rooms and I still find it anxiety provoking and difficult but I’ve come up with a technique to help me to stay in the moment and I wanted to share it with you.
Firstly: The ABC game. Find something in the room beginning with A, B, C, D all the way through to Z. No cheating, no skipping letters. Yes X is difficult but look on posters and you might find it.
Secondly: If you are still waiting after finding your A-Z then try colours. Find something red, yellow, orange, blue, pink and so on.
Distract your mind with these mindful games whilst you try to sit with a relaxed and open posture.
After spending quite some time in a psychiatric ward, I am finding it difficult to re-integrate with the world around me. It’s like the volume of the world has tripled and I struggle with the noise of a supermarket. There’s too much noise everywhere I go. It’s cold everywhere too, I’m used to the warmth of the ward and my legs get tired walking because they haven’t done much for so long.
I’ve been away for a while and I wonder if my friends are still my friends and if people will remember me when I return to ballet and ice skating. Does anyone even notice that I’m gone?
Nothing feels the same anymore. It was summer when I went into hospital but now the seasons have changed and it’s Autumn and there’s Christmas trees on the shelf where the paddling pools were the last time I was in the shop. It’s overwhelming. A world I struggle to recognise.
My bedroom at home just feels like a room rather than ‘my bedroom’ as months of post and items my mum has tidied up are placed around the edge of the room. Things in places where they don’t belong. It’s as though the life has drained out of my bedroom like it drained out of me.
I don’t feel I belong anywhere, I hate being in hospital but I don’t belong at home yet either and I worry the slot I had in life has gone. The reasons for recovery have slipped out of view and are covered in spider webs and dust along with my shoes and dresses and make up.
I only have hours off the ward at the moment and overnight leave occasionally but it’s so difficult. Leave is hard work. A challenge. I can’t believe I used to do it everyday and every night at one point with no problems. I’m at the bottom of the mountain again with the entire monstrous hill to climb.
One of my biggest worries when I am being admitted to hospital for my mental illness is that I will have to share a room. It’s not fair on the other patients and it’s not fair on me because when I am unwell I try to harm myself or take my own life in whichever way seems possible. It isn’t fair that other unwell people have to see that and neither is it fair that they have to witness me being restrained and injected. Shared rooms make patient’s dignity and confidentially difficult to maintain. I was unwell at the time and it didn’t bother me at that moment but looking back now I am upset that someone saw me in that state, that someone saw my buttocks and staff holding me down whilst a nurse administered an injection. I would’ve rather that stayed private.
People are not admitted to psychiatric wards for mild symptoms, everybody on the ward is very unwell and each patient needs their own space. If I need a good cry then I would like to have a wall between me and the other patients. If I need to talk to staff I would prefer it if I didn’t have to whisper and constantly worry that the other people in the room could hear what I was saying.
When myself and others are too unwell to stay at home and have to come into hospital then personal space is needed, calm and quiet is needed, confidentiality is needed. That patient needs to feel safe, supported and comfortable. Shared rooms don’t meet the requirements of the patient.
I bet they never wonder what it’s like? The people who are lucky enough to say that depression isn’t an illness, the people who think a little fresh air will fix an organ with chemical problems. How I wish I was one of those people, how I wish I could turn a blind eye and never experience the agony of the torturous illness that breathes alongside me, the shadow that owns me.
I wish I could erase the scars that cover my arms, those big, fat scars that make me as ugly on the outside as I feel on the inside.
I wish I could shred the legal paperwork that’s stuck in my mind from all the detentions I’ve had under the mental health act.
I wish I could full my bones with density and claw anorexia out of my mind. I wish I didn’t know every affect of starvation on the human body and I wish even more that I didn’t know that from personal experience.
I wish I knew how to cope like everyone else seems to. Why is my go to always ligature? Why do I look at every object and see it as a weapon to use on myself?
I have thought about my death more than my birth. I have thought about killing those baby feet my mother loved more times than the Earth has existed.
I wanted to be someone in this world, to stand on my own feet and help others. I wanted a house and children and a dog called Toast but then my innocence was stolen, I lost my baby and I’m waiting to get a bed in a mental health supported home.
All those dreams, all those hopes, all that energy and enthusiasm was drained out of me and all that remains is hopelessness, heart break and darkness.
And next time they ask me what I do, I’ll tell them that I breathe and that my heart beats and that I’m surprised I’m still doing that.
Looking through my Section papers makes me feel so much sadness. I can’t help being poorly and I know I would’ve never chose to be like this but I wish things were different. At 23 years of age I would love to be looking at certificates from higher education, or paperwork for a job or reading through a book I’ve written but instead I’m sat here reading words that doctors have written about me. Words I don’t want to believe and papers I wish were never a part of my life. I wish I could rip them up and the memories could be torn up with them. I wish I didn’t feel unnecessary shame for what’s written but I just feel so wrong for this society, a disappointment and a let down.
Reading these words are so difficult. I want to cross my name out and pretend it isn’t me:
“Claire Greaves is known to the CMHT with a diagnosis of personality disorder NOS and eating disorder. She was attending the DBT group today and expressed suicidal ideation later attempting suicide. She is unable to guarantee her safety and refuses an informal admission to the ward. She has been non-compliant with prescribed medication telling her family it was contaminated. She requires a period of treatment in hospital”
“Claire attended DBT session today but her behaviour was withdrawn and she expressed high anxiety with active attempts to harm herself. It is reported that she has refused to take medication prescribed for her mental disorder and her diet has been poor. She describes having low mood with persecutory and command auditory hallucinations to kill herself.”
I feel like I’ve barely lived since July. Time and life are just flying by whilst I stare at walls and battle to not hurt myself. My life has become a timetable of medication. A life contained within four walls. I miss the outside world, sometimes it feels like a punishment to be so contained for so long. I wanted to be successful and live a life that helped others but right now I need to accept that I am poorly but that’s easier said than done.
I wish mental illness would stop stealing the precious time we have on this earth, I wish it would hand my life back to me.
It’s like the world has lost all colour, everything seems black and white. The orange in the Autumn leaves has faded to a dirty grey, the grass is no longer green. Did I even notice the grass? Did I even notice the ground I was walking on? It’s claustrophobic, like the whole world has collapsed onto me and I can feel it’s weight restricting me, laying heavy on me and making any motion difficult. The ten fingers I write with no longer have anything to say. Even breathing feels like too much hard work.
There’s no enjoyment anymore. I can’t concentrate on anything and when I do the pleasure is no longer there. Sometimes I do things like allow myself a chocolate whilst my mind acknowledges that it might be the last time. Every activity feels like the last time because surviving is so difficult. Living feels so unbearable.
I don’t feel like me anymore, I wonder if I even look like me. I feel a million miles away from the Claire I was a few months ago and I’m certain nobody would recognise me anymore. The make up bag has stayed zipped up, showers rarely happen and clothes are no longer about style, they’re just about hiding the body that I detest strongly.
My lips are often sealed shut. I cannot relax my face and my lips stay together as though my mind is telling them to shut tight so that they don’t tell anyone how bad things are. My glasses remain unworn as I no longer notice what is around me. My mouth is dry and my stomach is empty. My smile has ended up in lost property somewhere in this world.
Emptiness. Darkness. Closeness. Heaviness. In pain and yet numbed. Quiet yet so loud. That’s what it’s like to feel suicidal.
At home I always thought that I needed my room to be in total darkness and complete silence in order for me to sleep but my time spent on psychiatric wards have taught me that I can sleep through anything. I can sleep through the torch being shone on me every 15 minutes throughout the night and I can sleep with my light on and no pillows or blankets. I can sleep on a plastic mattress and I have no problem sleeping whilst someone sits on a chair at the end of my bed and watches me constantly.
Gone are the days of playing music or putting the hand driers on so that nobody can hear me wee because now I am watched and it’s happened so much that I’m used it it now. I’m used to having someone stare at me whilst I go to the toilet and whilst I wipe and pull my trousers back up. I used to care so much about keeping my bathroom trips private but I’m sure I could go to the toilet anywhere now.
Every morning my wake up call is staff walking up and down the corridor shouting, “Breakfast!” at 8am. My night medication is usually still in my system making getting out of bed pretty difficult but if I fall asleep then that’s no breakfast for me today. I often wonder why they get us out of bed at 8am, it’s not like I’ve got anywhere to go or anything to do.
I try to drag out getting dressed so that it takes up some of the time that passes so slowly. Showers on the ward take a lot of effort and time anyway as you have to find staff to unlock a cupboard and give you towels and you pray the member of staff is one that will allow three towels as they are practically the size of tea towels. Then you have to get staff to get you shampoo/body wash from the clinic. It’s always bright orange liquid put in a plastic cup. Next comes to shower itself…you know in a public toilet where you have to push the tap for all 30 seconds of water to dribble out…well that’s our showers. The water is either freezing cold or burning my skin and I find myself wishing I had an extra hand as I try to wash my hair and keep pressing the button to get water out of the shower. I’m also aware that I’m either being watched constantly or someone could burst into the room at any moment. I’ve mastered the whole getting undressed and throwing clothes out of the side of the shower curtain but getting dried and dressed isn’t so easy or subtle. I tell myself that the staff have seen it all before and then I just get on with it.
The rest of the day is a mixture of eating (guaranteed it’ll be jacket potato) and medication and sometimes some boredom too as they take everything off of me from wool and sewing needles to sometimes everything in my room depending on how well I am. I tend to nap the rest of the day away.
Fresh air feels like a novelty, I’ve got no clue of what the temperature is outside and most days I don’t even notice if it’s raining or sunny.
The concept of time is weird in hospital…weeks either fly by or an hour seems like a century.
There’s laughter, tears, anger, struggles and overwhelming home sickness as the world outside feels a million miles away from my reach.