What’s It Like To Be Restrained?

Being distressed is horrible, those feelings of utter desperation, sadness, anger, fear, guilt…the list goes on. All those emotions and thoughts that form a ball of intolerable distress. So you can imagine how horrible a distressed person is feeling but imagine on top of that being restrained so that they can’t move their limbs or go to a different room. They are stuck. From personal experience I can tell you that it’s truly horrible.

I understand why restraint is necessary. Restraining is used to prevent harm either to the individual or to other people. I have always been restrained to stop me from hurting myself or absconding.

Frustration comes to mind when I think about restraint. Frustration mixed with terror, anger and shame. I’ll share with you a recent experience of being restrained. I had attempted to pull my NG tube out and it was half out by the time the staff noticed. They both grabbed me, one on each wrist and with a tight grip. I couldn’t move my arms. At that point I didn’t particularly care as the NG was already too far out to put back in but it still wasn’t nice to be held down. They held my arms for what seemed like ages and I needed to use the bathroom. I was escorted one on each arm to the toilets. After I had used the toilet I wanted to look in the mirror to body check and I admit this often takes me some time. The staff I was with thought I had spent long enough in front of the mirror so went to hold me and escort me out and back to my room. I hadn’t finished and it the distressed state I was in, I felt I needed to finish. So to stop them from walking me out and away from the mirror, I put myself down to the floor and sat cross legged with a person still on each arm. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I hated that people were holding me and touching me. I was angry at them because they were stopping me from doing what I felt needed to be done. I was also deeply ashamed, there is little more shameful than being restrained. Having the control over your body completely taken away. Being held down so that you cannot move. Being injected with a medication you don’t want and surrounded by staff. Being watched whilst in such a vulnerable position is horrible. I understand that it’s necessary…in fact it’s probably saved my life a good few times in the past but that doesn’t take away how traumatic and horrible it is to be restrained.

My Family Means Everything

Growing up I was never that close to my parents, I loved them. I loved them a lot but I kept a lot from them. I had so many secrets and they were never where I turned for support and guidance. Now that has changed massively, they are my everything and I conceal nothing from them.

During my time on the acute psychiatric ward my parents visited every single day. I didn’t always tell them how I truly was and we didn’t really talk about my illness but having them there and hearing their voices gave me the support I so desperately needed. When I was in PICU (psychiatric intensive care unit) they visited when they were allowed even though they hated the place and hated even more seeing me, their little girl, in that place. I was then placed in a low secure unit around an hours drive away from my parents, they were only allowed to visit once a week and only for an hour. I phoned them everyday but I still found it incredibly difficult to be without them. I would cry at the end of every single visit from them. Time became precious. Those 60 minutes brought us closer, I loved them with all my heart and I began to tell them things. I would explain on the phone that I was struggling with food or that I hadn’t managed any ensures. I just began to open up with them and it was easier than I ever imagined.

In December my physical state became critical due to anorexia and I was moved from the low secure unit to a general hospital as an emergency. This hospital is a half hour drive from my parents and they have been here every single day no matter what bar the day the car broke down. When I was first brought into this ward I wasn’t just physically poorly, I was in quite a bad emotional state too. Being discharged from the low secure unit made me feel as though I had failed at my placement and it was hard (despite how much I hated it there) to leave everything I had known for the past 8 months. The staff, the other patients, my responsible clinician. Everything that had been around me for those months, I expected to remain around me for a long time. Suddenly being torn out of that placement was really difficult and I needed my mum more than ever. I phoned her sobbing and within half an hour she was there at my bedside along with my dad. She held me as I sobbed to her that this felt like a nightmare.

My sister lives far away and works most Saturdays but you can guarantee when she has a Saturday off she will drive all the way up here to see me and that means the world to me. I am so grateful for the family I have and for everything they have done for me. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for them to see me so poorly and to have to work full time and find time to see their daughter everyday. I can’t imagine what it’s like to see my bedroom empty for the past 18 months and to know the places I am in, some which have been very scary to witness.

My family means everything to me and I am so in love with them. I wait for visiting hours excitedly everyday. I think of them constantly. Mum, Dad and Helen you are my world and I love you so much-thank you.

Being Tube Fed

Right now I’m laying in a hospital bed with an NG tube up my nose. I have no choice in it, it isn’t just an NG tube but an NG bridle meaning it’s tied to the bone at the back of my nose so I can’t pull it out. I have no choice but to be fed, I’m on a Section 3.

Five times a day the nurse comes in with a bottle of feed and syringes it down my tube whilst two people hold my arms. I feel out of control, as though recovery and weight gain are being forced upon me…which I guess they are.

I dread feed time, the moment I see the bottle my heart races. Watching her pour the gloopy, milky liquid into the cup engulfs me with panic. Then seeing that liquid being sucked up the syringe makes me nauseous. I want to runaway, I want everything to stop. Then the syringe gets attached to my NG tube and the thick liquid glides through the syringe, through the tube and into my stomach. I can’t feel it. I can’t taste it. It makes me want to tear my skin off. It makes me want to be sick. I hold in my tears throughout the whole process.

Afterwards I feel so uncomfortable, I can feel the rolls of fat on my belly and my double chin, my thighs thick as tree trunks. I fear the weight gain and I have no choice but to sit there and go through it. There’s nothing I can do about it and that’s what scares me most. I’m not in control.

It’s Not All In My Head

If this is all in my head, if this isn’t real then why do I feel it in every inch of my body? Why does my breathing change and my heart race? I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. If this wasn’t real then my body wouldn’t react and my survival instincts wouldn’t come alive as though I were a cave man being chased by a wild animal.

If this isn’t real, if this is all in my head then why do the tears roll down my face, why do I sob uncontrollably and scream and shout words because I am in so much agony. Why would I be suffering so unbearably if none of this was real?

If this is only in my head, if you are telling me that this does not exist then why on earth do I feel at war with myself so much so that I stand on the stairs of a multistorey car park unsure of whether to go down the stairs or up? Unsure of which part of my mind to listen to. Why do my arms reach for a lever, my whole body ready to depart? Why do I feel this so physically and constantly if this ceases to exist in an outsiders opinion?

If this isn’t real, if this is choice or weakness or the dreaded word ‘attention seeking’ then why do I suffer in silence? Why do I lay awake staring into the pitch black with silent tears soaking my pillow case and making my face sore? It never leaves me, it never goes away. It’s more than a full time job, this is with me every second of every day and last night six sedative tablets didn’t even get me to sleep. It seems to be my life sentence and I often wonder what was my crime? Do you think this is a choice? I wouldn’t choose this, I wouldn’t even wish this on a serial killer.

If it’s all in my head then why do my legs ache? If this isn’t real then why are my bones bruised? If this is for attention then why are there scars both physical and mental that nobody knows about and will never know about?

If mental illness does not exist then why was I crying uncontrollably and struggling to breathe yesterday? Why was my whole body shaking and my head hurting if this isn’t real? Why are the simplest of tasks like being a passenger in a car so downright difficult? This is real.

In a way, I hate that we separate and categorise illnesses into physical and mental. There’s such a cross over between the two, people who are physically unwell also have symptoms such as depression and anxiety but mental illness is incredibly physical too. This doesn’t just affect my mind but even if it did the brain is an organ, the chemical imbalances, the brain activity, the reactions. They are all physical too. Mental illness is just as real as asthma, cancer and diabetes. Illness is illness regardless of which organ it affects. I am telling you in the depth of this horrible and cruel illness that this is so real, I can feel it in every atom of my body and brain.