Awakening

I awake to hear the nurses discussing me, right outside my cubicle. ‘For some reason she chose to sleep beneath her mattress, rather than beneath her sheet.’

Another nurse whispered, ‘And she had no knickers on when she came in.’

I wonder what they made of me with my nose dripping blood, my red stained velvet dress. What kind of woman did they think I was – some kind of prostitute beaten by one of her clients? No questions, just assumptions. As always. But what else have I come to expect from the medical profession? ‘Ooh, what kind of woman is she, turning up in Casualty at this time of the morning? She must be some low-life whore or something who’s been beaten up by her pimp’ It’s easy to think in such stereotypical terms when your own life is so simple and uncomplicated.

So there I was, speaking to the young, pink-faced junior doctor on his ward round. He was kindly but inscrutable. He asked me to wait for a psychiatrist. Now, I was feeling pain. It radiated up the length of my spine, particularly when I sat down (which was a little inconvenient given that there was little else to do on the ward) and my face felt like a stiff, bruised mask. I spent the time fiddling with the television beside my bed and desperately trying to let somebody, anybody know that I was here. The nurses made it clear that, to them, I was not a priority. So I tried to leave. I imagined myself as a ghost, slipped though the curtains of my cubicles and made my way out through an open firedoor. But soon a blonde female nurse was pursuing me. ‘Where do you think you’re going?’ she demanded. ‘You can’t just leave like that.’

‘Why not?’ I wanted to ask. ‘You have no legal basis to keep me here. I haven’t been sectioned. The only authority you have over me is that uniform.’ But I was in no mood to argue so I obediently followed her back inside where a female social worker and a male community psychiatric nurse were waiting for me.

They turned out, as I had expected, to be pretty useless. They questioned me about who was responsible for my injuries. ‘Dr. H’s star pupil,’ I replied bitterly. Dr. H’s is my consultant psychiatrist. Unfortunately, he is also Andy’s and he is a star misogynist so there is no doubt whose side he will be on. The social worker actually tried to make excuses for Andy. ‘I’m sure it was a one off. He’s probably feeling terribly guilty about it now.’ Sorry? Did I imagine that? Is this the Land that Feminism Forgot? No, obliterate that from the record. I know it’s the Land that Feminism Forgot. Dr. H’s ‘Team’ doesn’t think much of me and, frankly, the feeling is entirely mutual. How horrifying it must be for them to have to deal with a young woman who is an openly committed feminist (when did that become a dirty word?), vaguely intelligent and conscious of her rights. I have little faith in Dr. H’s’ ‘team’ I have witnessed a social worker sitting in Andy’s flat discussing the merits of various forms of hashish. ‘Great,’ I remember thinking at the time. ‘Encourage his useless, feckless lifestyle, why don’t you?’ Andy reported that when he escorted the social worker back to his car he commented (referring to me), ‘She’s a nice girl, isn’t she? Very attractive.’ Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match but preferably not to a raving psychopath, thank you very much.

‘I don’t find Dr. H’s team all that helpful,’ I told the bespectacled CPN.

His response stunned me. ‘That’s okay. There are a lot of people who don’t.’

I nearly fell off my chair. Hello??? Did this half-wit realize what he had said, that he’d just admitted to his own sheer incompetence. The social worker, a thin, pale, dark-haired woman who wouldn’t have looked out of place on a long stay eating disorders unit gave me a look of open hostility. It was clear that she thought I was somehow to blame for the attack, that I had somehow ‘provoked’ Andy. At one point she said, ‘Perhaps he was jealous. Perhaps he saw you talking to another man.’ Hmmm, methinks she knows more about the situation than she was prepared to admit. Centuries of feminism had clearly been wasted on her. Mary Wollstonecraft, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Frieden, why did you bother? I saw the suspicion, I noticed the raised eyebrows.

I’m not much of a psychiatrist (but then neither is Doctor H. His days are numbered. ) but Andy has clearly been misdiagnosed. He is no manic-depressive. He is a psychopath. And they know it too. But to admit it would mean that they would have to deal with the situation. And they are afraid of him so they adopt the ‘blame the victim’ mentality. Who wants to back a loser? I suppose it’s understandable and perfectly (tragically) human. In short, his team is pretty damned useless. Andy has been in their care for the last ten years and he has not taken a single step forward. His life still consists of repeated hospitalisations, unfulfilled dreams and procrastination.

‘Will you be all right?’ asked the social worker. ‘How will you get home? Can we get you a taxi?’

With no money?

‘I’m touched by your concern,’ I responded sarcastically.

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