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.