I decided, this week, that I would write about some of my past experience with mental illness.
This excerpt is from my first admission to the Royal Hobart Hospital due to mental illness. I have changed the name of the male character to protect his identity but all other events and characters are true.
Anyway - here it is. Let me know what you think.
Psych Ward RHH - First Admission
It was just after Easter 2003. I had thoughts coming thick and fast. They were saying to me: "Why don't you jst kill yourself?" I didn't think they were my thoughts but I felt, somehow, that I should obey them. I was struggling to hold on.
The hospital loomed large in my mind as a place of refuge.
The other occupants of the house, Kaffy the cat and Sharyn the flatmate, had had enough of my madness. "I'm desperate to move out," Sharyn said "I no longer feel emotionally safe with you." Kaffy just ran away.
The hospital beckoned me. In the waiting room I told the nurse I was losing control. "You'd better admit me," I said earnestly "I fear I'll kill myself if you don't." Thankfully they did. I really feel that they saved my life.
Once I was in the psychiatric ward I was surprised at how normal most of the patients seemed to be. A few seemed strange, a couple decidedly evil, but most seemed to be 'just like me'. I felt I was in a place where I was finally understood.
A man by the name of Sam, particularly, was someone who I related to very well. "I'm afraid I'm mad," I told him at our first meeting. He smiled and said "Welcome to the family." I felt such relief. There were other people in the world who were crazy just like me.
Sam was tall, dark and handsome. It wasn't quite love at first sight. More like fascination at first sight.
He was an artist. I have always had a thing for artists because I love pretty things but lack the technical skills to produce them.
Sam was intrigued by my faith. Shortly after our first meeting he drew me a beautiful picture with a rainbow on the top. On the bottom were three hills with a cross standing on the middle hill.
My visitors were few and far between. I was too scared to tell most of my friends where I was. This seemed to me particularly wise given Sharyn's reaction. I am, however, grateful to Tracey, Kate and Megan for their visits.
Megan came every day. She wasn't scared of madness as both her parents had their problems. I remember two of her visits particularly.
The first one I remember was when she brought in the entire Narnia series for me to read. That showed real insight. I had lost my ability to concentrate on adult books. Reading had been so much a part of my identity that I felt I had lost my personality somehow.
Even the Bible with its short, sharp prose that cuts to the bone swam before my eyes. I had regressed, intellectually at least, to childhood and, in my childhood Narnia was important.
On the second visit Megan met Sam. He was manic. Ideas jumbled out of his mouth, jumped around a bit and mishmashed into a poetic hyper-reality. I was fascinated. Megan wasn't.
"Lovely guy," she said "But he's mad."
I ignored her. I was in a new reality. It's weird but when you go into the psych. ward you accept strange things as being normal. No one talks much about normal things. They talk about their suicide attempts, their psychosis, their depression. And that world, that world of the mentally ill, to me, at that time, seemed the only thing that was real.
When I was a child, for instance, I was warned about strangers with lollies and educated about sex and drugs.
I was never warned about mental illness. I was never educated about it. When it happened to me I was so desperate for someone to explain it, someone to commiserate with that I latched on to Sam. He was the first person who seemed to offer real understanding.
Sam, however, was an angry young man. But that, I'm afraid, is another story.