Daily Archives: August 13, 2014

Dirty Little Lies

The mania calmed down but it was going to the shop that really harshed my mellow. R is on his 9/11 conspiracy kick again so it was youtube videos galore. I believe it was a controlled implosion and a massive cover up (though I do not venture to speculate who is responsible, could be government, private financiers, etc.) (Oh, bloody hell, if you can’t stand behind your own convictions…I’m sure the government was involved, just unsure on the extent of involvement.) Anyway…It saddened me when I stayed home from work on 9/11 to watch the footage and time doesn’t dull that a bit. Those poor people…People jumping out windows because it seemed a better way to die than burning alive…Cripes. THEN he showed me footage of the Malaysian plane crash to demonstrate the wreckage of a “real” plane crash…OMG. Mangled, burned bodies. For all my macabre humor, I actually teared up at those images. I can’t even fathom the family members who lost loved ones having to see those pictures floating about…
Yeah so needless to say, that really brought my mood to a crashing halt and just made me feel so sad for all the lives lost, for their families…
And he was involved in a repair so he couldn’t be arsed to give me a directive as what he wanted done so I did fuck all but wander aimlessly and watch the videos for two hours. I did run and get smokes and lunch.
By 1 o’ clock when my dr appt was nearing, my anxiety was rising. I really just wanted OUT of there because I was at the threshold of “out of comfort zone freak out”…And he says, “Can you come back after you’re done so you can do the stuff I need done?” ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS, DUDE? Three hours I was there and he couldn’t be bothered to give a verbal directive but he wants me to rearrange my plans (running home to my safe zone to have my anxiety meltdown in private) to accommodate him? Cripes.
So the dr’s office had moved and I couldn’t find it. I was sitting right in front of it, as it turned out. They didn’t have a sign up so I had no clue. The receptionist commented on me being a genius. Yeah, well, panic was rising by that point so pardon me for not being particularly lucid.
They kept me waiting 25 minutes. I don’t mind a little wait, gives me a chance to read their People magazines for the latest scandals (it feels less dirty if I’m not paying to read gossip) but after thumbing through the third magazine…I was getting irked.
Finally get in. Doctor is smiley happy shiny person as usual. I ponder for a split second being honest with her, ya know, the real mental illness kind of honest.
It didn’t happen.
The happy mask went on and like a trained seal, I gave the report I know she wanted.
Dirty Little Lies.
Or half truths, depending on your outlook.
I mean, my moods have been pretty decent outside of the cycling. (Which I did mention with the hypomania tossed out) and she smiled and nodded. (On the tv screen. Telepsychiatry is both weird and awesome.) But she said hearing I was doing so well made her day, she was so proud of me and happy for me. Blah blah blah. And like a trained seal, I balanced the beach ball on my nose and clapped my flipper thingies. Or smiled and took a chipper tone and issued no complaints. Even if the anxiety has been kicking my ass most days. It’s not like she’s very useful for that but she keeps me in Xanax and it helps so I don’t wanna rock that particular boat where she whips out like Seroquel which is shit for anxiety, been there, done that, and burned the tshirt.
Dirty. Little. Lies.
I mean, I’m doing okay. As she said, I’m like a different person compared to the state I was in six months ago.
I just felt so pressured to “perform” for her since me doing better made her day.
As I was leaving, I told the nurse, “I’m glad I’ve been stable for two solid months but the seasonal affect coming is what scares me.” Most people get a little case of the blues when the seasons change to fall and winter. I fall headfirst down the bloody rabbit hole and can’t climb out for six months. It’s a legitimate fear, not a self fulfilling prophecy. It’s happened every year since I was 12 years old. The fact that it’s not viewed seriously and their solutions are “exercise and sunlight”…I have cause to be wary and fearful.
For now…
Dirty little lies it is. She set me up for three months, but if that seasonal does its usual thing…I may be hitting the panic button long before then.

Driving back to the shop, the anxiety had me crawling in my skin. I was paranoid, looking around, scared someone was going to crash into me. (No idea why my brain fixated on that.) I was trying to think of an excuse to text him about not coming back because he’d get pissed if I said my anxiety and panic disorders were kicking up. He’s not a believer in the mental illness thing unless you’re bat shit crazy and wear a tinfoil hat while licking toads or some shit. It was like…maybe I can throw Bex under the bus and claim she needs a break from the spawn. Or cramps, that’s always a good excuse men don’t tend to pursue with questions. Then it hit me…my phone was dead so I couldn’t text.
I went back, skin crawling off my bones. Thankfully, all I had to was write up a couple of tickets and contact a couple of insurance companies, one of which I can do from home since the bill has to be emailed and Mr. Business Man doesn’t even have a scanner (I got one of the all in one thingies for like $40 and I can’t afford ink for the printer, but the scanner works fine.) I like being able to do things from home, especially when the panic starts rising up.

Got home. Took a Xanax. Slowly returning to a good place. Except the kids came to play with Spook, then took off and she’s pouting, like it’s my fault. Wish those brats would just move, they’ve been threatening it for months. I’ve enjoyed not having a bunch of kids all summer like I did last year.

So…that’s my day in a very long nutshell. It’s only 4:30 so I have plenty of conscious hours to either recover from the panic attacks or ya know, get my ass kicked by them again. There’s no real trigger, which is the thing that pisses me off most. How can I learn to cope and manage if there’s never any particular trigger that sets them off, ffs? It’s gotten to the point where there’s so little rhyme or reason to it all, I’m wondering if I have a damn brain tumor making my brain go wonky. Or wonkier.
That’s another one of my things. I get a new pain in my side and my brain automatically assumes the worst. The only thing it hasn’t decided I have is ebola and I’m just waiting for that now that Ebola is being treated in the states. How long before some jackhole decides it needs to be released into the general public for shits and giggles.

I am really this nuts.

Dirty Little Lies for the shrink to make her appeased.
Bitten on the ass by reality for me.

Life’s awesome sometimes.


The Demons and Robin Williams

One look in his eyes and the suffering was there for all the world to see.  Despite being one of the world’s premiere funny men, Robin Williams was tortured by demons many of us, myself included, have battled.  Shocked is a good way to describe much of the reaction to his death.  Shock first of all that he’s dead, but that shock is compounded by the manner in which he died.  And as the details are revealed, the mourning deepens.

How can one be so funny while (my own term) dangling over the Jaws of Hell?  And not dangling just out of the reach of demons, but dangling and having flesh shredded by those demons?  Look at video of Williams performing.  The humor is there.  The genius is evident.  But look at his eyes.  Really look.  Do they look happy?  Does the smile reach them?  Generally, no.  His well-documented struggle with alcoholism was a dual-edged sword.  It was an attempt self-medicate the demons into submission but since alcohol is itself a depressant, it just made matters worse.  While drunk, though, at least the demons can be ignored.  Their collective voices, the taunting, the jeers, can be ignored.

Humor is frequently used as a mask.  Think of Chris Farley and his own brand of fat jokes, making funny at his own expense.  Make people laugh “at” him while making them believe they’re laughing “with” him.  Does that make sense?  Beat them to the punch.  No doubt he honed this humor while growing up.  The weight was the gorilla in the middle of the room.  Bring it up first, make people laugh, put them at ease about it, and gain acceptance.  Otherwise, become the butt of jokes and ostracized.  Everyone likes to hang out with the funny guy.  Forget that each joke carves another wound.  The wounds are invisible.

Williams’ humor wasn’t directed at himself, but might be considered a wall.  I know people who suffer from profound depression yet are extremely funny.  I recently read a great article (sorry I can’t cite it as I can’t find it now) that describes the process very well. Depression and the resulting pain (both emotional and physical) are uncomfortable for others to be around.  What does one say?  How does one react?  How does one treat and talk to someone suffering from deep depression…or even mild depression?  Easier to ignore it.  So, create a mask.  People like those who are funny.  Most of us like to laugh and someone who can make us laugh on a regular basis is a treasure. 

But if that mask is dropped, what then?  If the emotional despair is allowed to peek out, discomfort sets in in those around the demon-haunted.  “Wait.  This person is funny.  How come he/she seems so down?  And how am I supposed to act?”  The situation is uncomfortable and the humor is pulled back out of the hat to dispel the discomfort.  A sigh goes up among the “friends”.  (Insert name here) is back to normal!  Let the good times continue. Do they see the pain in the eyes?  Do they realize or even care that the humor hides a damaged soul? 

I’m not going to write about what should or should not be said to someone who lets down his/her guard and drops the mask, even temporarily.  You have to decide for yourself how comfortable you are with hearing the unvarnished truth.  You see, the problem isn’t when someone is being serious.  It’s when the chronically depressed is being funny.  That’s when he/she feels there’s no option, no one around who can take the truth. 

No.  I’m not going to write about that.  The situation is as individual as, well, an individual.  Instead, this is about the demons faced by Williams, myself, and others like us. You see, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, the demons steal.  They lie.  They steal joy, family time, appreciating the waves breaking on shore and a beautiful sunset.  They steal enjoying a rare family gathering as children grow up and go their separate ways in life.  They steal enjoying a quiet moment with a spouse.  They steal hope.  They steal peace and comfort.  They also lie.  They say there’s no chance of anything becoming better.  They tell you it’s hopeless, nothing will change.  They speak unmentionable things to the depressed.  Mainly, they say the only way out of the pain is to just check out of life.


Oh, I could go on and on about the demons.  And that’s why Williams’ suicide has affected me so much.  Unlike many of us, he had everything, including the means to obtain the best medical care money can buy, yet he could not run away from his demons.  Those demons.  I know them.  I’ve battled them.  Right now my arsenal is keeping them at bay.  They’ve helped me win the battle, and hopefully they’ll help me win the war.  Williams lost his war.  It’s the knowledge of what he was facing, how far down in the hole he was, how hopeless it all seemed that hurts me.  I would hurt just as much for anyone in such a position, it’s just that Williams is a public figure with a very public death.  But knowing what he faced, how utterly alone he felt, how hopeless the situation appeared to be, that’s what’s affected me.  I’ve been there.  And I sincerely hope and pray I’m never there again.  

Cured….NOT

So,yeah…I am totally hypomanic today, bordering on a full blown manic episode. And per bipolar, I’m not hating it and don’t want it to end or be cured. I am chatty, upbeat, feeling ten feet tall and bullet proof. It won’t last long, never does. But oh it’s a high money can’t buy.

I see the shrink today. She’s going to see me all showered, warpainted, and “up” and assume I am totally cured. Which is rubbish. I am cycling, as I do every summer. I will crash hard at some point. Of course, the doctors never consider this. I will mention it (maybe) and she will just nod and say, “It will get better.” Rubbish again.

For now…I’m going to enjoy the ride on this particular mood swing. caafbf97bdd497287f896bd8307553c1


Robin Williams a Coward? Apology NOT accepted!

cowardShepard Smith from Fox News: “It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?” he added. “You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they’re in their mid-20s, and they’re inspiring you, and exciting you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known. And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.”

Fox News is pretty much the only news channel I watch. I  have grown to like Shepard Smith among several other people on that channel.  However, this morning, I have been made to reconsider.

What Shepard Smith says shows the ignorance about mental illness that grows rampant in our society.  It is bad enough that there is a stigma and so many people are uneducated about mental illness. It is bad enough that when there are tragedies that the media doesn’t use the opportunity to educate the public about mental illnesses and only likes to demonize the suspect and make people think that all people who have mental illnesses are violent.

Smith went over the top.  I don’t think it is good enough that he apologized.  It makes me sick to think that he is going to get away with it just by saying he is sorry and that “it just came out of his mouth”.  Would it be ok if he said that to someone who died of a heart attack was awful to do that to his/her family because they didn’t diet?  Would it be ok that it was awful that someone left their kids behind because they didn’t do the right treatment and died of cancer?  Would it be ok if he was insensitive and said that someone died of lung disease because they chose to smoke and that he could not believe they would do that to their family?  I don’t think so!

People with mental illnesses don’t choose to have the mental illness just like someone does not choose to have cancer or heart disease.  Maybe it is time that Shephard Smith along with the majority of other media takes a course in compassion and educates themselves on how mental illness affects 1 in 4 people. Depression is not a choice or a sign of weakness and suicide is the tenth leading cause of death and the third leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24. 3

Maybe if they started using opportunities like this to educate the public about how cowardice it is to commit suicide, it would be better to broadcast the suicide hotline, quote stats about mental illness, and educate everyone about the various mental illnesses. They should also read the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide

I don’t think that Smith should get away with this. He obviously felt that Robin Williams was a coward or he would not have said it.

Things Shephard could have used the air time for instead of what he said:

There are so many things he could have used the air time for and yet he chose to let everyone know that he thought suicide was cowardly and that people with mental illnesses should be ashamed of themselves. It makes me sick! I am usually a forgiving person, but it will be a very long time before I can listen to Smith again if ever.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please seek help.

suicide

 

International Suicide Hotline 

 

 

 


Robin Williams Suicide

As a person living with rapid cycling Bipolar disorder Type I with psychotic features, AND as a person who has tried at least 10 times to end my life (with the last attempt nearly completed) AND as a person who … Continue reading

One White Russian

Nico was a young Russian guy who seemed to live in army pants and a hoody (hood up) with a baseball cap placed over the hoody. I had never really taken much notice of him. Until now.

I was watching The X Factor in the TV room and he sat down beside me.

” Ahhh I like this show” he said in a thick accent. “I used to watch it in jail.”
I muttered a sort of non committal “mmm hmmm”. Sadly, if there is one thing I have learned from the public psychiatric system it is that your best bet for a smooth stay is to keep to yourself as much as possible. As for the whole jail thing…honestly…after being a public psychiatric patient for as long as I have, nothing really shocks you.

“so you are back then?” he asked.

Ok. Now he had my attention.

I turned to him. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well I saw you being dragged off to the locked ward. A few weeks ago. Now you are back.”

“I was being…dragged?!” Since having the ECT I had forgotten a lot and I was interested in what had actually happened.

“Well, ok, not exactly dragged. But there were a lot of nurses and they were all kind of…rushing. That kind of thing. I couldn’t believe it was happening!”

“Oh.”

“Are you feeling better now?”

“Yes. Lots thanks.” Thank you ECT.

“That’s good.” he turned back to the TV. I followed suit. “I like music. I like to sing.”

“So do I.” I replied absent mindedly.

“Can you sing something then?”

“Erm, no.” Things seemed to be heading in a unwanted direction. Now seemed a better time than ever than to introduce the fact that I was unavailable. “I am married you know.” I said flashing my ring. “to a very nice man. We have a child.”

“How much did that ring cost?”

“I’m not even going to respond to that.”

He laughed. “You just did.”

This time I really didn’t respond, but put all my concentration into the TV show.

“Are you in a single or shared room?” he asked.

“Shared.” I said instinctively, not taking my eyes off the screen. In fact I was in a single room. (When I arrived at the ward for the second time I was directed to a 4 bed room, where upon arrival I found an amputee furiously masturbating. My presence, nor the fact that my bed was next to hers and the curtain separating the two had fallen down, didn’t seem to deter her. I backed out of the room and asked the staff if there was another room available. I was temporarily given a single room.)

“That’s a pity.” He gave me a wink. “If you were in single room we could..you know…use it.”

I nearly fell off the couch. “Married.” I said firmly, holding up my ring hand. “And planning on staying that way.” I started moving to leave the room, but he beat me to it. I waited until I was sure he was outside, then ran up the hall to my (very single) room. All night I was on high alert, practically expecting a night time visitor. It was the only time I had been grateful for the nurses nighttime checks.

In reality, we avoided each other for weeks. My husband visited the ward several times. Any accidental eye contact was extremely awkward, and it became an unwritten rule that if one of us was watching TV, the other could not.

But the day of Nico’s discharge our paths were to cross again. I was in the shower, and when I turned the tap off I realized I had no towels. I swore under my breath and grabbed my dressing gown (a short, summer gown. My winter version was modeled on Chewbacca, and though it was very warm I didn’t deem it hospital appropriate, so opted to pack my summer one. Though, thinking about it, in this situation my Chewbacca gown would have been far preferable.) My room was situated directly next to the laundry so I figured a quick gowned run down the hall was my best option.

I stuck my head out the door, and seeing no one around I made a run for it. Grabbed some towels, and started walking back. Suddenly I heard a wolf whistle, and I didn’t have to turn around to know who was behind me. As Nico passed me he tipped his baseball cap and gave me a wink.

“Nice legs!” he told me as he walked past, giving me a big grin.

Once I got back in my room I looked down at my bare legs and snorted. Being in a locked ward I hadn’t shaved in at least a month. Perhaps I didnt need that Chewbacca gown after all!

That was the last I saw of him.

Cheeky bugger.


PICU

The PICU, or Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, was where I spent most of my time in the state psychiatric facility, and where I had all of my ECT. Because of this, quite honestly, I can’t remember much about this time. Luckily for me I kept a special “Things to Remember” journal, which documented funny or disturbing things that happened, details of my physical health problems including what foods to avoid, reasons why I was in hospital, and other such things that I deemed important to remember.

This post is written in consultation with that journal.

The PICU is a locked 8 bed psychiatric unit where people are detained (that’s right, we were all prisoners of the Mental Health Act) presumably because they had complicated or enduring problems.

I, for example, had the double whammy of physical and mental problems concurrently. I had been diagnosed with a very rare autoimmune disease, and had to adhere to a very restrictive diet, and was physically unwell, often needing a nurse escort to nearby hospitals for appointments and surgeries. On top of that, shamefully, I was a major flight risk, having had escape attempts at multiple hospitals, incurring the involvement of Security. I was also a risk to myself, having had a suicide attempt on the open ward, and I was completely psychotic, experiencing hallucinations and delusions. Although I joke that my diet is enough to send anyone mad, it was the most dark and out of control I have ever been. Honestly, I am glad I have forgotten much of the substance of my stay.

The other patients on the ward had similarly complicated issues.

Ann is a 50 something women who would only answer (strangely) to “Isabella” and probably has a diagnosis of mania with delusions of grandeur. She believes herself to be Princess Diana. Unfortunately she believed I was Kate Middleton, and because it was easier than trying to convince her otherwise, I was often employed to participate in her fantasies. She was extremely jealous of anyone I talked to or who visited, particularly my mother. Her sentences often started with: “My Father in law, Prince Charles” (clearly her grasp on the structure of the royal family was somewhat askew) or “When I was at Oxford/Cambridge.” She is very kind though.

Lesley was the only male on the ward and disliked this intensely. (There is too much oestrogen on this ward” he would grumble). He was waiting on transfer to an all male ward that Isabella informed him that all the patients would be criminals (she was probably not far from the truth). Isabella also accused Lesley and I of “sexual misconduct” while we watched TV…A situation very unlikely given that Lesley had confessed to me that he thought he might be gay.

Nicole was pregnant with a blackened front tooth. The baby was clearly unplanned, as she often talked coldly about the foetus, prompting beration from the nurses and Isabella.
Pregnancy did not stop her smoking habit and she chain smoked as much as she could get away with. Her favourite phrase was “I need to get out of this place…I have drugs to pick up and money to count.” She could be kind in the most unexpected ways, though. For example, she bought me chocolate I could eat from the travelling kiosk when I didn’t have access to money.

Dani was a schizophrenic musician. She was slight, strange and spent hours solving complicated algorithms on the whiteboard. We once asked her why she didn’t teach, given how much she knew. “Because I am mad!” she laughed. “Aren’t we all!” Nicole responded. True that.

Louisa was your typical mum. She was Christian, wore courderoys and harboured an intense dislike for Nicole. Overall, she seemed incredibly normal to be detained in a locked ward, and I often wondered what brought her to us. She lived rurally and claimed to be flown to hospital by the Royal Flying Doctors Service. So much cooler than being driven in the back of a Volvo. In any case, her stay in the locked ward was short.

The other inmate has been lost to my ECT memory loss. Perhaps this is due to a short stay. Or perhaps I never interacted with or noticed them. All I know is that try as I might, although my longstanding rule of psychiatric hospitalization was to avoid contact with other patients…in such a small ward, myself and those I have described became a little, strange, family. We knew what it was like to be crazy. We banded together. Us against the nurses. And strangely, (perhaps it was institutionalization), that little family helped me survive the most difficult days of my life.


The “Day Surgery” that Wasn’t

Just to complicate matters, in the middle of everything I was due to undergo a hernia reconstruction. My surgery was supposed to be conducted in The Dungeon but after several last minute cancellations I was referred to a private surgeon. When I met with him he told me my hernia looked fairly small, and like an easy job. It would be a day surgery and I “may not even need mesh”.

Famous last words.

I woke up from the general anaesthetic thrashing and screaming, like I always do. I was surrounded by staff in scrubs (including my nurse escort) trying to calm me down. My doctor appeared.

“Rachael,” he said, placing a hand on my shoulder, “we are taking you to the ward. We need to keep you in overnight. The surgery was more complicated than expected.”

I nodded then, perhaps it was the pain or perhaps it was the needle in my thigh, but I began to lose consciousness.

I woke up a few hours later on the ward. I tried to take my oxygen mask off, but my nurse escort firmly held it on. “Your stats are low.” she told me. I began to lose consciousness again.

Later on my doctor arrived. “The surgery was more complicated than expected. Your hernia was large and very deep. We had to cut through a lot of muscle and use a lot of mesh. It was good that you had it repaired.” I started to black out once more.

I woke up the next morning, feeling a little more lifelike. I took off my oxygen mask and this time no one stopped me. I turned my head and saw I had a new nurse escort.

“Good morning!” she said cheerfully. I smiled and tried to get out of bed, but was hit with strong pain. With the nurse I was helped to the toilet, and everything seemed to be going ok until I saw my gown was soaked in blood, and the blood was pooling on the bathroom tiles.

“Erm…Problem!” I alerted my nurse. She helped me back to my bed and pressed the call button. Cue a good half hour of wound dressing repair and being given strict instructions to remain in bed.

Which I did. For the next three days. The pain was intense, requiring high Schedule painkillers hourly (which ultimately resulted in unintentional opioid addiction…a topic I will cover some other time). Finally I was released…back to the state psychiatric facility anyway. My pain was improving, and I could move around. I had a few more days until my intended transfer to my last stop in the game of Hospital Hopping.

Indeed, on the Monday I was gleefully discharged from the State psychiatric facility, and checked in to a private psychiatric hospital; The Palace. I noticed that my stomach was ridiculously huge and casually asked my admitting nurse what I should do, given my recent surgery.

“Oh, I will see if we have a midwife on staff.”

My husband and I, both horrified, corrected her, telling her I was definetely not pregnant. But i couldnt even be insulted, given my size. The nurse was even more horrified, both at her faux pas and at my stomach.

“You need to go to the Emergency Department! She told us. “That”, she pointed accusingly at my stomach, “needs to be seen to.”

So what ensued was another hospital run. I brought nothing bar the clothes on my back, sure I had some sort of infection and I would be sent “home” with antibiotics.

But by the time we arrived I was having difficulties breathing I had gotten so large, and I was seen to suscpiciously quickly. I was told I most likely had a Saroma, or fluid collection over the mesh repair, and that it might need surgical drainage. I was taken to the surgical ward where I spent another three days.

On the last day my original surgeon came to see me to tell me that the Saroma didn’t need surgical drainage, and I could be discharged. “But there is something else…” he added.

Oh for the love of God, what now?! For a moment I wondered if they had seen a foetus on the scan. An immaculate conception of course.

But instead the CT scan indicated that my hernia had returned. I nearly hit the roof.

“That is possibly the most ridiculous thing I have heard!” I told him, all politeness going out the window.

“I know!” he agreed crossly. “I refuse to believe it is possible. The amount of mesh we used….don’t listen to what the surgical team tell you. It must be an imaging error….or something.”

His “or something” didn’t leave me with the greatest confidence, but quite frankly the whole situation is in the “too hard” basket right now, as my husband would say.

So basically my day surgery ended up as eight day surgery, and at the end of it all I may still possess a hernia.

Can I please catch a break? Please?


Les Miserables

“I’m in a skanky mood!” announced Isabella, waltzing into our dining area. The rest of us looked up briefly, then continued with our breakfasts.

“Well don’t be.” snipped a nurse, engrossed in the mountain of paperwork she had to complete for the day.

“I think it may be time to retreat to the nurses station..” our male resident student nurse joked. We all laughed, including Isabella. We liked Josh.

And so it goes. A fairly regular morning on a locked ward. We all had our madness, and we all accepted it.

This post again is written in conjunction with my Book of Things to Remember. The memories I have of the locked ward are kind of like the memories you have of when you are two. You think you remember something, but it’s really because it is a story that has been told so many times. I think I remember these events, but it’s really all down to my Book of Things to Remember.

Early on in my stay I opened a door and found a second TV room. Marvelous! Some time to myself, and actual choice over what to watch. I settled down on the couch then glanced out of the picture window.

It was there I saw something that chilled me to the bone.

Old people. Lots of them. White hair, perms, wheelchairs, walkers. Sitting down with blankets over their knees, heads lolling to the side. I crept up to the window and let out a blood curdling scream.

A nurse rushed in. “What is it?!” she asked, flustered. I pointed dramatically out the window. “What? That’s the geriatric ward.”

“What if I end up there?! I have been in hospital for months…what if I’m…a…” I lowered my voice, “a lifer.” By now I was in floods of tears.

“oh Rachael, you’re being silly! You will get better and out of here. I promise.” She patted my shoulder, the staff equivelent of a hug as they weren’t allowed to touch us unless absolutely necessary.

I knew she was right, but I never felt the same way about that room. Somehow that room latched onto my deepest fears that I would never get better. It wasn’t the people that made my stomach flip, but the concept. Ridiculous, as those patients had probably been admitted months rather than years ago, by caring family members concerned about memory loss and increasing fragility. Logically I knew this, but I still stayed away. And so did everyone else, and I never did find out why.

* * *

Usually we were fortunate enough to have our own ensuite in our rooms, but one day Isabella claimed hers was broken. She went to the public toilet and suddenly there was a lot of shouting.

“When someone is in the toilet, taking a shit, you don’t just fucking barge in!” growled Nicole, slamming the door closed once more.

“You’re fucking disgusting Nicole! You know that!” Isabella didn’t like any mention of bodily functions, they were far beneath her. She walked past me saying “This sort of thing would never happen at the palace. You know with your Daddy, Prince Charles.”

“I can’t deal with you right now..!” shouted Nicole from behind the toilet door. “I’m in the middle of a drug deal!”

I snapped my card on the table: “UNO!” I said triumphantly, basking in congratulations from other patients and staff.

Yeah, this kind of thing happened all the time.

* * *

One morning we were all singing. It was a terrible racket, with the din of people who could sing combined with those who can’t. Lesley looked like he was about to implode, and retreated to his room.

“You lot should be in a musical,” a nurse joked.

“yes!” Isabella piped up, “Les Miserables!”

We all fell about laughing, including the nursing staff.

“That was really funny!” Nicole said appreciatively, holding Isabella’s shoulder. “You should be funny like that more often!”

Isabella looked pleased with herself.

“No touching!” a nurse directed at Nicole.

A few days later Lesley finally got his transfer, and Isabella missed his company. She wrote him a letter, of which the envelope was covered in childlike drawings of hearts and flowers.

“Can you please send this to Lesley in the all male ward? I am worried about him. I am not sure he will survive a criminal attack.” she asked a staff member.

“Sure.” the nurse responded, absent mindedly placing it in the “mail out” tray. “Hang on a minute…what does this letter say?” she asked, suspiciously eyeing the hearts. “I can’t send anything inappropriate.”

“Oh, it’s appropriate. It just says that I am missing him and that I hope he hasn’t been killed yet.”

The nurse ripped open the envelope and read it.

“I can’t send this!” the nurse said, horrified.

“Why?” asked Isabella, pouting.

“Because it’s just…” the nurse shook her head, “no. No way is that being sent.”

Isabella stalked off and Dani and I looked at each other. What we would give to read that letter! Somewhere out there Lesley avoided a surprise oestrogen attack.

If he hadn’t been killed of course.

Yes, life was never dull with Isabella on the ward.


Because This Fucking World Stinks



Jim Carroll - People Who Died
(I find this song comforting)



Fuck today right up the shitter. The weather and my moods definitely took a turn for the worse today. Tears, irritation, anger, pain, resentment, disappointment, impatience, disgust, loss, growing more like a caged animal... wanting to just wish myself away from here. It's been too long since I've been outside alone, and I'm so fucked up by it and other things. I need something to improve my mood, because it's all gloom and fucking doom right now, and I don't give a fuck that it's the spouse's b-day sometime next week. What he deserves is a slap across the face, and a video playback of how he's treated me and spoken to me in the past few weeks. He's lucky he still has all his body parts.

I don't even want to see him tomorrow morning, that's how pissed and disgusted I am, so I won't be getting up as early as he does, I'll wait until he leaves. I don't have the stomach for anymore bullshit from anyone tomorrow. Any disrespect, any fucking bullshit. I'm cutting people off with silence or absence, or both, if I can swing it. I still haven't managed to get out alone yet, but I'm being pushed.

I hope it rains. I hope it pours tomorrow. Another summer thunderstorm to match my growing chaotic emotions that have been stuffed down and held in for too long lately.

What a way to die... and no, it's not Robin Williams - may his pain finally be gone.

That's me! Spreading my jolly positive messages of joy with my plastic happy face mask on, right after I've taken my meds!