The Importance of Visitors

Being in hospital can be a very lonely and isolating experience. I know this myself having spent the past 18 months in hospital, I haven’t seen my grandparents, aunts and uncles, my goddaughter and most of my friends and most days I really, really miss them. I understand that seeing a loved one so poorly can be heartbreaking and many people don’t know if the person is even up for a visit.

This afternoon was lovely, I saw my ballet teacher, my friends and their four year old son and my parents and not only did it make the afternoon fly by but it brightened up my day. I feel like I am a part of the world around me, like I’m connected to society again and people haven’t forgotten about me.

My message is this: visitors are so important during long inpatient stays. I really miss a lot of people who were in my life 18 months ago and it means the world to see their faces even if it’s only for a few minutes.

So thank you to the people who have visited me and to those of you considering visiting a loved one in hospital, please do. It makes the world of difference.

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Section 3

I’m sitting on the end of my bed in hospital. Numb but in pain. I don’t understand anymore. Utter confusion. Dreaming of a future like a child, imagining I’ll be a vet or a teacher but seeing reality like an adult…I am just a psychiatric ward patient….I probably don’t even deserve the word ‘just’ in front of that. I’m a nothing, a no one. Three months locked away has completely detached me from the world around me. I belong nowhere and with no one. The world outside the window doesn’t feel like mine. It’s like I don’t remember what the rolling hills look like, nor the supermarket aisles or petrol stations. My ballet shoes disintegrated when my life turned into compost. Maybe new flowers will grow out of the soil but I doubt it. It feels like I’ll never feel the sun on my skin again and that my heart will never vibrate with the bass of loud music. Will I always be gone? Will I ever find me again?

An Illness Of Isolation

I’m quite isolated right now in terms of friends and relationships, outside the four walls of my home and my mental health team I don’t really have anyone. A lot of people have walked out of my life without argument or negativity, they’ve simply deleted me from their social networks and stopped talking to me and it’s because I have been unwell for a long time.

I know how it looks, I am unemployed, I don’t go out, I don’t appear to do anything. I’m a young adult, all the people I went to school with go out at the weekends and work or study and I do ‘nothing’. I can understand why they wouldn’t want me in their lives. You are only young once, of course they want to go to Zante and go on nights out rather than be friends with someone who spends their life in and out of hospital and can often end up house bound by illness. I know that it can be difficult to understand, people often think it’s a choice or that you’ve given up when going through a relapse but that’s the reality of mental illness, for some people it is a life of relapse and remission. I completely understand that I am not the easy option and I also realise that this is something that a lot of people with mental illness have to deal with.

Understandably I find it upsetting, it makes me sad that I will never know the people I went to school with, the people I spent my childhood with are no longer a part of my life and they probably won’t be. I also feel some family members have distanced themselves. It can be very difficult, I often wonder is it me? Am I a bad person? It’s hard to not have any friends and I often worry that people┬áthink badly of me. I worry they think I’m lazy or stupid or attention seeking but this isn’t a game, I live with a severe and enduring mental illness. I may not have a degree like the people I went to school with but catching a bus is an achievement for me. It can be very difficult for people to comprehend.

I try to get involved in the world around me but I find it very difficult and anxiety provoking. My mind goes into overdrive. I find conversation hard because I’ve spent the past 5 years in treatment of some kind whether that be counselling, inpatient, general hospital, day patient or outpatient. I have been out of work and education for 3 years. Anorexia consumes my life at the moment. How do I answer the question, “What have you been up to?” What do I talk about, I have a lot of doubt in my future, I feel a lot of shame about my past and I’m living a very unwell present. Everyone else has spent their day at college or working and I’ve spent mine in group therapy. My world is very different to the other young people around me.

The isolation makes it harder to get out of the illness, I’m scared I will get well, reach a healthy weight and still be alone. It would mean everything to me to have a friend pop over for a cup of tea or to have someone understand that if I’ve left the house to see them or do something with them when anorexia is affecting my eyesight and strength and depression is trying to superglue me to my bed then I’m doing my best. I apologise if the conversation is quite boring but I can only hope that I will find a few people willing to listen and be patient because only by finding friendships am I going to be able to have interesting things to do and talk about.

Maybe if you’re struggling with a friend who has a mental illness try to think about it this way, if they had a broken leg you would help them to get out and about, pick up a crutch if they dropped one, push their wheelchair. You would go to their home and keep them company and wait it out with them until their leg had recovered. Mental illness is like a broken brain and whilst it might take longer than a leg to heal, it does. I know you can’t see it but it’s there and it’s agony. Make your friend’s day, turn up at their house with a movie or take them out to get a coffee. Be patient and wait it out with them. Just by sticking with your friend it’ll help no end. Isolation and loneliness creates more problems.

On Thursday it’s time to talk day, take 5 minutes to talk about mental health with the people around you. Don’t feed into stigma, don’t allow the people around you to become isolated by their illness. Together we can beat mental illness.