Memoirs from inside the psychiatric ward Part two: The return
A few years later and I’m back.
Back inside this shit-hole; my modern day Auschwitz.
I have a two month old baby whom I would rather be looking after, but my husband has tyrannized me again. His mother (who has materialised from a distant country) and my psychiatrist are in on it too. They all agree that my new bout of post-partum depression is intrinsically worse than the last. That I need this time to heal and get better mentally. After all, how can I be a good mother to my baby if I cry all the time, get no sleep and barely eat?
My counter-argument is for my shrink to just give me the frigging pills and to let me remain at home. Home, where I can nurse my baby and recuperate at the same time. But my polemic wails fall on indifferent ears.
I think they want me gone.
My husband and his mother. Now they can plot and have run of my home and my children… They can telephone the family and drag my name through the coals. How else would everyone know? (Or at least that’s the story I conjure up in my head).
Screw you! Screw all of you…
I am nursing my baby! She needs me as much as I need her. Wrenching us apart is not for the best.
Besides, I’ve kept it together these past odd years. I’ve think I’ve done a sterling job given the meagre, pathetic circumstances. And boy, have there been some humdingers! Err, your son, my husband, had one of his indiscretions when I was 7 months along. Why not throw him in him in a padded cell. After all, he’s the one who is strikingly sick!
Yet, here I am, in the D-ward again (‘D’ for demented? delusional? desperate? depressed? Or perchance just different?) paying for everyone else’s sins.
Yes, screw you new nurse and screw you too, new butch-security guard!
Take all of my things… My mirrors, my pills, my dental floss.
Heck, I even brought along a razor to shave my legs with (or to shake you two up with). Either way – confiscate it… Give it back to my husband.
Yes, I will sign your suicide waiver, but when you remind me that sex is forbidden on these premises, I’m going to say: “Damn. I’m so horny! I just want to fuck all the time!”
That stirs the otherwise expressionless sister up a bit.
How do you like them apples?
So there I am in the ward, I share with 3 other women. The rooms haven’t changed much since the last time I was there. There are bars on the windows now. Perhaps some loon did succeed in penetrating the impenetrable glass. The linen and style of the room have been fiddled with. Someone tried to make it more modern and less austere. There are even new lampshades. I wonder if anyone contemplated that a determined suicide patient could smash the light-bulbs?
There’s a women lying on the bed across from me, sobbing. She’s probably a rookie. There’s that innate nice part of me that wants to go to her, comfort her. But I’m not in the mood just yet.
For now, I am angry, frustrated! My breasts are tender and heavy and I’m feeling torn from my children.
The young girl (she looked 21 but later revealed that she was 27… Hmm, good genes…) diagonally across from me introduces herself. She’s Jane. In here for bipolar depression and a suicide attempt. (I guess I shouldn’t tell her about the lampshade bulbs). The lady next to me, says her name is Anita. There’s something wrong with her voice. She sounds strange. Like we did when were younger and we smoked some weed. That’s it! She’s drugged…To the hilt! And within a few minutes of meeting her, she reveals that to me (a stranger). That she’s a successful columnist, who just can’t cope for the moment. So she has booked herself in for a hiatus and some liquid valium.
That’s how it is on the inside. It’s not unlike prison. We introduce ourselves, at the same time revealing what we’re ‘in for’. Here, there are no embarrassing boundaries. We all know each other’s business, and mesh as one eccentric, crazy, family (excuse the pun).
I say I’m in here for depression, and there’s no judgement: none of them drag me through the coals. Already there’s a silent camaraderie. I tell them about my baby, how I’m still nursing her and how we’ve been bulldozed apart.
Well you know, they gently counsel, perhaps you being here for just a few nights, is for the best. How does it help your children if mummy is crying all the time and getting no rest? These words are familiar.
They’re what everyone on ‘the outside’ has been saying. But it’s more soothing and authentic coming from them, these strangers.
Oh joy! It’s lunch time. I guess some crappy things never change. The food is still unpalatable, but I guzzle it down. A half hour in, and I’m already looking to get out. Eat the food, play nice and participate in the ‘activities’.
Supper comes around all too quickly. I shower, and embrace the night’s benzodiazepines, fluoxetine and dormicum. I’m so au fait with drugs now, I can recognize the pills the nurses bring me. I’m not even going to complain that there are 7 pills in total.
I seek oblivion.
I kiss the photos of my children a tender good night, tuck them under my pillow, and pass out.
The morning seems sluggish and hazy. My psychiatrist is here. She wants to meet in the lounge. There’s no one else there, but I still think it’s too casual a set-up for therapy. She wants to know if I’ve slept well and eaten. Yes, but not breakfast.
She can’t assist with the ‘group activities’, she tells me, but she’ll check on my progress and liaise with the other shrinks and counsellors.
What do I say, “Thanks for nothing?”
I visit the gymnasium, perhaps in an effort to work off some of the fog from my system. There are few more items of equipment now. But they’re all truncated and bolted to the walls, to prevent, I can only construe: suicide by gym-equipment!
I’m in Group B again, but this time, I’m more attentive to detail. There’s a man in Group A, who curls his lips like Elvis Presley and says in a deep voice, “How you doin’ mama?” He says this even to the men. I think he’s funny. But I try not to crack up into fits of laughter, lest they advance me to Group A. There’s also a woman, middle-aged, wearing a cape and I can only presume her husband’s red jockey over the clothing. Superman perchance?
I see the same ‘dishy’ psychiatrist from all those years ago. He smiles at me, but I barely notice, focusing instead on the bald patch that’s staggering forth from the top of his head. Ha ha!! Who’s dishy now? He thankfully escorts out Group A and we’re assigned to some new lady, who has a rather high-pitched, supercilious voice…
Oh boy, I think vapidly to myself, the next few days are going to drag!