Posts Tagged ‘hospital’

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September 15, 2014


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The Magic Mountain

January 17, 2013

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When I was in hospital I was befriended by Michael, an ex squaddie who had left the army after a nervous breakdown. He had been homeless ever since. drifting from bedsit to shelter and back again. His chaotic lifestyle was punctuated by visits to the psychiatric hospital.

The army was his reason for living and, in his view, someone had stolen that away from him. Now he had nothing. Just a lifetime of desolate acute wards and endless corridors. This was when I realized that the longer I remained on this hospital ward the harder it would be to leave. And that terrified me. Becoming like Michael terrified me. ‘This is like being a prisoner of war,’ he told me. ‘Worse probably. At least they have the Geneva Convention.’

Michael was a mountain of a man. He did not join the other patients waiting calmly, obediently in line for their medication. He rejected the powerful neuroleptic they offered him. I once overheard a nurse saying to him: ‘You really have no idea how ill you are, do you?’ He had a reputation for being ‘non-compliant’.

Nursespeak, my mother had once told me, for ‘awkward old git.’ He viewed the staff with open hostility and they viewed him as a problem to be solved. But he also had a generosity of spirit that was rare in these parts.

This was a side of him that the staff chose not to see. All they saw was an obstreperous, middle-aged, red-faced man standing before them. The one that, no matter what they tried, refused to take the medication prescribed to him by his all-knowing consultant. So every night he was forcibly medicated. It was quite a spectacle.

Michael would wedge himself into the easy chair nearest the television. ‘Are you ready for your meds, Michael’. This question would be repeated three times and would elicit no response. The staff nurse would then call in the charge nurse who, in turn, called in his minions – male auxiliary nurses from the intensive care unit. The biggest, beefiest men they could find. Men who were only here, according to Aaron (the pretentious overgrown public school boy) because they enjoyed roughing people up.

The patients in the dayroom looked up from their books and boardgames. They turned their heads away from the television. They snapped out of their collective stupor. Then they arrived – six burly men with heavy, clumping boots. They did not try to argue with Michael, they did not ask him to come quietly. Moving in tandem they seized him and pulled him out of his chair. But he did not give in without a struggle. He kicked out with his feet and struck out with his fists as they dragged him out of the room and walked him down the corridor. It was not a fair fight.

‘See what they’re doing, ‘ he shouted. ‘They’re oppressors. Government oppressors. They are an army of pawns.’ They were followed by an elfin female nurse with a needle in her hand. The doctor who had authorised this procedure watched from a distance.

‘I’d love to shove a needle up his arse,’ said Aurora (the ward’s beautiful but rather vulgar narcissist) who was no stranger to forcible medication.

First Extract of the Year

January 3, 2013

The Daughter’s Tale

Towering Oaks

againstthebrightmoon

1993

The oaks towered above me in the hospital grounds.   I explored everything that week. I explored the bowling green, the tennis court, the gym, the crumbling main building, the sloping lawns and the green, neatly trimmed hedges. There was even a hospital cat – a flash of white that streaked through the grounds. Before it became familiar and tedious.

That first week at the hospital was awash with sunshine.   The rest of the world, the city with its bustling crowds seemed centuries away. Had it ever existed?   Or was it only in my imagination.   The hospital was a separate world with its own language, its own rituals, set apart from everything else – alienated, set apart from everything else.   Some of my fellow patients revelled in being different, revelled in being apart from everything else.   Trains crashed, planes crashed, volcanos erupted, wars broke out all over the planet. Explosions in the middle east rippled round the world, barely touching us. We were far, far removed from that.

The hospital would not exist for much longer, I was told.   Tesco had made a bid for the land.

I sat in the patients’ lounge in the morning meeting, the sun on my back.  Someone was talking about bathing his face in the morning dew, about how healthful it was.

‘I won’t be here for much longer,’ I told a nurse who responded: ‘You may not have much choice in the matter.’

I would come to look back on those first sun-washed days at the hospital with nostalgia.   I was lethargic from the medication but strangely happy.   There was nothing to worry about: no essays, no tutorials, no lectures.

I felt free, liberated of all responsibilities.  Nothing bothered me.   I was oblivious to the rotund man with the hearty laugh and the toothless old crone in the corner.   I did not see the man who called himself Nostradamus Reincarnated and ran round the ward shouting: ‘The world is a process of disintegration.   The world will end. The world will end.’

I felt serene. The orange flowed gently through my veins. I had no desire to do anything but lie on my bed with my palms upturned, staring at the ceiling. June was nearly over, term was over.   There was nothing left but myself – the only character in this one act charade.

I could barely move.   My limbs were leaden and yet in some strange, sick way I enjoyed feeling like this.

I enjoyed the feeling that boundaries had been established.

One can only handle so much freedom.

I could not walk without assistance.   I felt the hand of the nursing assistant around my arm. There was no flesh, her hand gripped only bone.

The medication had temporarily banished history.   I sat up in bed. However they did mean that on some mornings I woke feeling as though someone had bashed me on the head with a sledge hammer.

I had lost herself. I was a floating sheet of paper.   Blank, of course.

I was having my life cut and spliced by the omnipotent author governing the universe. Who was this being?   I imagined it as a monolithic video recorder. That recorded every word you voiced, every action you initiated.   I hoped it included features like play, pause, forward, back and, of course, erase.

And when I slept, I dreamed.

I dreamt of walking on a beach with my father, hand in hand, the sand yielding beneath our bare feet.

‘It’s been a long time,’ my father  said.

‘Too long,’ I replied.

The magical kingdom was still within I. Roses blossomed. I was being smothered by so much beauty.   Music poured out of the speakers.   Voices whispered: ‘You are special.’.

I was coasting along, floating.   I had escaped academia.   The academic layer of my being had been painlessly peeled away.   No more screaming over unfinished essays.   Apparently my tutors had all granted extensions for me.   I was willing to bet that I wasn’t going to be a name on their Christmas card list. But all this was done but at a price: I was sacrificing my personality and possibly my very self.

The Miracles of Medication

October 2, 2011

Re: coming off (most of) my medication. I am currently on a cocktail of psychopharmacological medication: zyprexa (an anti-psychotic medication), velafaxine (an anti-depressant medication) , lorazepam (a minor tranquilliser), and zopiclone (an hypnotic). I don’t know how it came to this but the pharmaceutical companies make an awful lot of money out of me. I will document my efforts to wean myself off (with a little help from the medical profession who got me into this situation in the first place (with more than a little help from me. I did, after all, embrace the sick role.)I never got any great pleasure from the benzodiazepine. The public thinks these drugs are used sparingly.

The public, as always are wrong. During my last hospital I was switched, without explanation from one minor tranquilliser to another. From valium to lorazepam. Theodore Dalrymple doesn’t have much faith in this class of drugs, they dull the mind, they empty in of thought. is this how people think? Is this why they ask me to take their thoughts away? No, Doctor Daniels, they ask you to take their thoughts away because they are psychotic and you are a psychiatrist and that is your job. Intrusive thoughts are a primary feature of psychosis. I hope you are enjoying your handsome NHS salary along with your ten years worth of extra retirement. Psychiatrists get ten years over and above other medical specialisms).

So it seems that although they have been discredited, they are still, widely prescribed. Although they are recommended for short term use only, they are often prescribed on a long term basis,

Lorazepam is a little blue pill that in hospital the nurses seemed to be handing out like smarties. Every one was on them. (I’m surprised you are unaware of this as it has been pretty extensively covered in the press.) I was ‘written up’ for them as soon as I arrived there and have been on them ever since. I have come to rely upon them. I hesitate to use the word ‘addicted’. It sounds so melodramatic and is often used inappropriately. but then I remember what happens when I tried to withdraw on my own (against medical advice) night sweats. hot flushes so intense they made me think I that I might be experiencing early menopause. Skin prickling, burning up. Those withdrawal symptoms pursued me even in sleep for I had the most horrific nightmares. I don’t think I can face what is coming. I am certainly physically dependent on them. Are they my lifeline, my only link to sanity? Anxiety a deliberate understatement. A friend of mine in hospital not given to hyperbole or melodrama called it ‘grade 1 terror’I am afraid of everything, the world itself terrifies me and we all know there is only one cure for that.

Beyond Class

November 4, 2010

It is said that child abuse occurs mainly among the lower socioeconomic groups in society. This makes me think of Sue B. a 23 year old university student. She was charismatic and admired by everyone. She sparkled. She was an outstanding conversationalist. I think of her soft pink features and blond hair. She resembled a porcelain doll. We were both on the same ward and we were both bulimic. We bonded over a binge. She confided in one of the groups that she had been sexually abused by her grandfather. She came from a well-to-do family of academics. She had been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder but, as far as I am aware, her abuse was never addressed.

After six months in hospital I returned home for the rest of the academic year. Sue B. and I exchanged addressed (this was the mid ‘90s when people wrote these paper things called ’letters.’ but we never wrote to one another and I never saw her again. I found out after I had graduated that she had hanged herself in the bathroom of the local psychiatric hospital (my alma mater too) when she was supposed to be on ‘five minute obs’ . So I know that abuse can occur in middle class families. And that when they confide in the authorities they may be the people who are least likely to be believed.

Having said that there are those who cast their net too wide and increase the definition of the word ‘abuse’ to such an extent that it becomes invalid. It is possible to ‘over identify’ abuse. But I shall deal with that on another occasion.

Can’t Do This Anymore

September 23, 2010

am overwhelmed by fear. There. Just had to get that out. I haven’t spoken properly to another human being, apart from a chat with Nobby on Thursday, since I got back from hospital! Binged yesterday and today. Slowly expanding. A huge and ugly scar on the landscape! Unproductive, carefree (or semi-carefree, you know what I’m like!) days rule. Today was pretty much in that category.

and the voice it says
you are not possessed
By demons
You are the demon
and you should jump
before you are pushed

I cannot swim
So I am cut adrift
On the whim
Of some carelessly capricious
Medical examiner

But I couldn’t stay there. Going into hospital is like being cast out. The hospital is like a leper colony, far removed from the city. Far removed from sane, civilized people. My mind had slowed and congealed through lack of use. I could not articulate my kind of hunger. Beyond food, beyond warmth, beyond anything worldly. A need that would never be met.

And now I emerge to see I am being targeted by the powers that be b/c I can’t work full time. The politics of distraction drives me to well, distraction except its not its fiction. You may have encountered this concept before unpopular governments adore a common enemy. And that’s usually okay as long as that common enemy is not you.

when I am not on medication I spent my days doing everything I can to prevent myself from spontaneously combusting.

I don’t think I can do this anymore.

Tales from the Asylum : Beginning at the End

April 26, 2010

sunshine shaded

Me In the Third Person – Part One of a Series

Loss of control was an almost desirable condition.  The lack of self-determination imposed upon her by the psychiatric ward was accompanied by a sense of isolation that was only mitigated by the presence of Aurora.  They walked from madness to reality.  She had succumbed to their demands.  She had given up all hope of a cure.  She was the queen, tall as a nodding sunflower amonst daisies.

She was pure again.  All sins forgiven and forgotten.  She arranged her belongings in rows.  This was, they assured her, psychological well-being.  She immersed herself in the ritualistic nature of life on the ward.  Her vision was exernally focused and her internal life suppressed.  She was a good girl now, meek as a small white mouse nestled in somebody’s hand.  Easily manipulated.

This was her psychological rehabilitation.  She had escaped and now they were in the process of recapturing her.  Slowly, surely, they were reeling her in.

Her obsessive-compulsive rituals, interspersed with all too brief snatches of sleep.  They were a series of small defence mechanisms, shielding her from  the world.


Part Third Person

April 8, 2010

 

They exacerbated her situation, she claimed.  They locked her up, forcibly medicated her and failed to control oversexed male patients.  When she complained the staff suggested that she should dress more modestly.  ‘He thinks the sexual abuse of a few women is a price worth paying for gender integration.’He sections them and then leaves them to their fate.  He refuses to admit there is a problem.  She was being punished for having the audacity to challenge an oppressive and all-powerful system.  ‘It’s like a steamroller.  Or a tank.  It cannot be stopped.  Perhaps I should be all innocent and unquestioning.  Perhaps I should stop being so bloody minded but then I would have to stop being me and I’m not prepared to do that.

 

More Archaeology

February 12, 2010

Daughter in an Institution

Hundreds of miles away this daughter is still trouble
Hundreds of miles apart we psychically connect
Hundreds of miles away you had me committed
Hundreds of miles apart, Mother, I should be with you

Last term I danced through days
In manic whirls and psychotic twirls
I was happy then. Walking up the hill
From the college to the church
Became a sublime experience.

But the thought of returning to you, Mother
Paralysed my psyche and a certain deadness
Crept into my bones and I got the sleep
I’d missed for so long. I ran from myself
And spent dilapidated days decomposing poems
And swallowing razor blades, bemoaning
The deviousness of the world. You only intervened,
Mother, as I silently, slowly started to strangle myself.

So you sent the doctors in – those unreal death squads
Who shoot me half dead with tranquillizing darts
As I show them my upturned arms, maps of criss-cross scars
Staring, with eyes like street lamps, illuminating my face
Hold me so I can no longer feel the hot throb of the wounds
On my wrists but instead I am cloaked in cold competence
The danger of death is held at bay by this hospital ward-
One gloomily dark, the other gleaming and white.

You visited me, Mother, in this sanitized place
You were outwardly sympathetic, inwardly disdainful
The Queen of Cheerfulness, then your mask cracked and melted
As I assumed the arms crossed, shoulders hunched aspect
Of the mental patient. You departed, taking with you
A photograph of me to stick pins in. Leaving me with roses,
Red roses, dead roses, once beautiful. Now wilting
Corpses in a vase. Symbols of a dilapidated life.

You left me wondering what the doctors would do
If I said that I was determined to kill you
I tell them I’ve rehearsed your death in my mind-
A thousand times. They decide to sweep my hearth clean
Of the delusions that engulf me. These injections are insults
Trying to kill the illusions that my macabre imagination conjures up
Devastated by catatonia, I scream through these nightmare days
How do I scream without making a sound?

I defy the sedative with dreams of concentration camps
Stark against the night. Watchtowers with machine guns
Emanate from me amidst my howls. I watch the doctors approach
Detached and supercilious. They think they know so much
White-coats, duped by psychotics in striped pyjamas
I run hearing them, close behind as they pursue me
Through the undergrowth of my psychosis. They capture me
Like battle-field generals they order psychological execution.

I am forced to my knees to say my prayers to the Doctor
‘To you he is God,’ the nurses say. No one sees me as a martyr
Lying pale and statuesque on my bed, feeling as though
I am being erased. My mind vacated. The sedatives have done their work
I am now as peaceful as a grazing cow, head filled with popular songs
Psychologically naked as a latter-day Lady Godiva
I have crossed to the other side- to the non-psychotics
My life is a wasteland filled with other people’s debris.

I am ready to be returned to you, Mother
My admission is unremembered. I only know
That three months later I am emerging
Having whispered through without an impact,
Unrecognised as a servant of an unexpressed revolution

At home with you, Mother. I lie prostrate
In my bed of death and hell
Dead or alive
We are enervated by sadness
You in me, me in hell.

Siamese Mother and Daughter

‘Girl, go get your head read,’
My mother cries
Ripping the redness
From my eyes
Scouring the deadness
From my face
For they were imposed on me
By that place.

My mother searches throughout the night
For an antidote
To the tranquillisers
They gave me there
There is nothing to do
But sleep in her presence
Her hand rests on my cheek
While I doze.

‘I want you back the way you were,’
I hear her scream
As I dream
In my wakefulness
‘You should be pleased,’
I reply silently
‘For I am yours now
As much as I was in the womb.’

I am wrapped in her,
Trapped in her
Weakened by her whims
‘Is this not what you wanted
A daughter in disguise
A daughter who’s you
With only a few
Needs of her own?’

‘No, no,’ she replies,
‘A twin’s what I wanted
A bin full of my sighs
An echo of me
With pupils like sultanas
And limbs of pastry
Something I could eat
But not keep inside’ .

‘Something I could reject
At any time.
Now here you are
Hanging on
Heavy as a scone
Or maybe a fruitcake
I need you like me
Yet forceful and free’.

Beneath her I collapse,
Like a deflating soufflé
She turns to an authority,
Turns to the doctors she says
Have abandoned me
Fury illuminates her eyes
‘My daughter died
Because of you,’ she cries.

Self Sabotage

February 8, 2010

I missed my hospital appointment quite deliberately. I rose, dressed, donned my coat and headed for the door but I couldn’t step across the threshold. I was frozen there for a moment.

My thoughts were racing. I conjured up scenario after scenario. I had never seen the doctor mentioned on my appointment before; what if she is mean, what if she hates me, what if she judges me and then writes bitchy comments about me in my notes? The last time I went to that hospital I wasn’t permitted to leave. I was sectioned and I was terrified this would happen again.

Paralyzed by anxiety I turned back. I would not be leaving the house today. And I know that there is a name for this. It is self sabotage.

I want to die.  I have taken all the zopiclone I can find in my flat. 3*30.  Why are some people loved and some people hated?  I don’t understand what I have done that is so wrong.  I am grotesque.  Maybe that’s why.  Or maybe I’m a spoilt brat like Susannah in Girl, Interrupted.

Why won’t they let me in?

I feel suicidal when no one responds to my posts.  I don’t belong in the real world and I don’t belong in this one either.  I don’t want to be here anymore.  Someone make it stop.

People have told me that I write well but most of the people on the ‘madosphere’ don’t seem to think that I do.  So who is right?

Till now writing has been my life and without it I HAVE NO LIFE

I bite down hard on my hand.  I draw blood.  Why won’t anyone respond?  Do they want me off the planet?  Hierarchies, hierarchies, everywhere.  Even among the marginalised.  It shouldn’t be that way.

There’s a voice in my head whispering over and over again, ‘Everybody hates you.  Everybody.’  How can I make this stop?


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