Starting Over. A Journey Back to Reality.

A post for the Writing Challenge: Starting Over

The hospital has been a very safe place for me as it happens. Out there is not so safe. I am almost ready to leave and I don’t know how to feel about it. When mum first dropped me off here I walked through the corridor and looked around at all the ‘crazy people’ and got scared. We met a nurse and she seemed OK, but she looked at me funny. People do that a lot these days. They left me in a room on a hospital bed. They took all my stuff away. I cried as my mum left. She thought it was because she was leaving me. Honestly it was because I felt like such a failure. I had sucked so badly at life, when I had tried to kill myself I had botched that up too. And here I was, in the psych ward. There was no way I could have a second go at it now. I was also scared. Scared of the other people in here, scared of the doctors and nurses and what they would do to me mostly. I felt I didn’t belong here. The nurse gave me drugs. I took them. She made me move my tongue so she could check they had gone down. That’s the last thing I remember about that day.

The doctor came to see me. They tried various drugs and things. I remember standing in an assembly line of other patients who looked as dead in the eyes as I did. Getting drugs and a glass of water. Being trotted over to the dining hall. Lining up with a plastic tray and blunt plastic cutlery. Getting some sort of ‘food’ spooned onto my plastic tray. Sitting at a table eating it, not making eye contact with anyone else, not speaking, just sitting there trying to chew and swallow. In that drugged out state chewing and swallowing takes concentration, and as I looked around I realised everyone in here was just as focused on eating as I was. My whole body was tired. I just wanted to lie down and sleep for years and years and never get up. Thoughts wouldn’t connect in my brain. I would want to say something but couldn’t connect to the words. I would want to ponder something, but somehow the thought would get lost, like it took the wrong turn at Albuquerque, and I would end up staring blankly not remembering in the slightest what I had been trying to think about. But that was nothing new. I had felt like that for almost a year now.

If the drugs did nothing else at least they calmed the urges. The strong inner thoughts telling me I had to die, I had to leave before I caused any more emotional damage. The inner voice that told me I was completely no good and shouldn’t be alive. I wasn’t seeing things anymore either. I have to say my reaction to that was mixed at first. I found it hard to sleep without that creepy guy sitting at the end of my bed. He had been there for ages. I found the world looked weird without it’s coloured ribbons and things. I got lonely without random halucinatory people to talk to. Now, at the other end of it, I have adjusted to ‘reality’ and I don’t miss that anymore. I know this is how the world is, and it’s better this way.

As the medication doses were dropped back I was taken into group therapy. My worst nightmare. I hate groups. I had a rough time at school, a really rough time. Groups of people scare the bejesus out of me, especially when we are all supposed to ‘share’ how we are feeling. I couldn’t access that information. I would think, try to express, forget what I was saying, think again, try again, and the words would not come. Every time it was my turn to speak people would roll their eyes and yawn in preparation for my half hour of starting, stopping and ending by having said nothing much. Why do they think this is helpful? I got berated by my doctor and the nurses for my lack of participation. If I didn’t fully participate in group work I would never get to leave the hospital, they said. And I wanted to leave, didn’t I? Yes, I really did. But now I’m not so sure.

At least they wouldn’t be watching me in the bathroom any more. I guess that was partially my fault. You see I had been feeling so numb for such a long time. I had felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. Sure, I felt it in a theoretical sense, as in ‘oh yes that’s sad’, but I didn’t actually feel sad. It’s a weird sort of torture. Like watching the world from behind sound-proof glass, unable to connect in any way. So one day I got a mosquito bite. I scratched it, and I felt it. I felt it. It was amazing. So I kept scratching it. I was in the bathroom. I scratched it and scratched it, and felt. It was amazing. But the doctors and nurses didn’t think so. I was found in the bathroom with my arm scratched to ribbons. I had to be ‘supervised’ after that. No more feeling. At least when I leave here I can pee in peace. It’s amazing how quickly you get over the stage fright and start being able to use the toilet while being supervised. I used to revel in the stinkyness, stupid nurses, serve them right. Now I feel sorry for them. What a crappy job, so to speak.

The more the doses of medication were dropped back the more I felt. I got angry. Very angry. I had to hit out physically. I threw plates and smashed them. A lot of plates. As they burst into fragments I felt something. My thoughts were connecting a bit more little by little. I feel almost normal, although I don’t feel like I can connect to the world yet. I am still behind the glass, although it isn’t sound proof anymore and I think the window may be open just a crack.

My bag is packed. My bed is stripped. I am waiting to be picked up. As I look around I am nervous. I am scared. What if I go out there and it goes back the way it was? I can’t stand the thought of being in that black hole again. At least now I know for certain which bit is real and which bit is in my head. I can actually make the distinction, which is a game changer. I’ve stopped my whole life for 8 months to be in here, and at least a year before that where I was not able to live it in any meaningful sense. I have to go back to school and get my HSC. I have to remember my friends and family and strike up relationships again. Relationships are hard when you struggle to feel. They are also hard when you struggle to know reality from head-crap. I am always to scared to speak just in case what I’m talking about as real is really head-crap and vice versa. People think I’m lying or fabricating or whatever. No. I don’t do that. That’s not the issue.

My mum is here. I’m collecting my bag and wheeling it back down that corridor. Nurses are saying goodbye. They look at me differently now. Who would have thought that this would end up being the safe place and out there would be so terrifying? And I am starting over.

21 responses

  1. Great blog, Steph. Beautifully written, and hopefully a cathartic (although scary) experience to share it with the big wide world. Much love x x x

  2. What a powerful description of what must have been a confusing and scary time. I am so glad you were able to start over and I wanted to say thank you for sharing this.

  3. Steph,
    I have family members and loved ones around me who have been in and out patients in psych wards, and although some got better because of a regimented schedule, most have admitted feeling often lost and sad while “institutionalized”. This is a brave post.
    Eric

  4. Thank you so much. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. It has surprised me the number of people who can relate to my experience. I guess it’s just something people don’t talk about much. I really did feel very brave posting this.

  5. Wow! What an eye-opening post! I’ve only ever been on the nursing side of things and it’s difficult for me to try and rationalize people’s behaviors and emotions when in the clinical setting. Thank you so much for posting this! It’s made me realize that I need to try and be more understanding with people and try to step into their shoes.

  6. Steph, I understand all too well what you’ve been through. I watched my mother go through the same treatment. I have been through one on one sessions with psychologists and in group therapy with a counselor. Its not a fun journey, but it feels good once its complete. I’m glad you’re doing well now.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Believe me when I say you are helping others by retelling what you went through. I have a 13 yr old niece going through a very similar story, so knowing that you made it out through the darkness gives us hope that she too can see the light as well. Cheers!

    • Thank you so much for saying that! One of the main reasons I decided to publish this post was that I think mental illness is not talked about enough. I hope through sharing my story that I may reach out to people in similar circumstances and I also thought it might help me heal. It’s been quite a few years now since that was me but it still haunts me.

  8. Pingback: My Inaugural Post-Pressed-Post! | She Said What?

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