Good evening! I figured that most people read blogs for information and insight into activities that they have never experienced themselves, so I thought it was high time that I detail my stay in Ward 1A of Dunedin Hospital, otherwise known as the Psychiatric Ward. Allow me to preface this post by saying that under no circumstances am I seeking to diminish anyone’s experience with mental illness, nor am I in any way suggesting that mental illness should not be taken seriously. I was in this ward for a few weeks with severe depression and now that 5 years has passed and I am in a much healthier state of mind, I feel that I can explore some aspects of my stay in a humorous tone. If you feel triggered or sensitive about mental illness or hospitalisation, then I do suggest you give this post a miss because I do not want to offend or upset anyone with what may be seen as a flippant view of hospitalisation for severe depression. This is my personal experience within a psych ward and therefore I reserve the right to laugh at my own expense now that all is said and done.
Where do I even begin? The first thing I remember is having a room to myself right near the nurses station. I figured that this room was on high rotation and given to all newcomers so that the nurses could keep an eye on them, and this was confirmed when a new patient arrived and I was then moved into a room with a scary lady who talked at me at night times. I kept myself occupied with a 50 gram of Port Royal, continually rolling cigarettes then harassing nurses to accompany me outside to suck them down with blank focus. I was unhappy about being in there of course, and wanted nothing more than to go home and wilt away in a dark corner until my rotting corpse was devoured by dobermans. Another reason that I took to chain-smoking was that I was in a very volatile place – not everyone in there was “just depressed”. There were schizophrenics, bipolar people with religious infatuations, people with eating disorders, angry people, sad people, overly happy people and everything in between, and it did my head in, so I felt the need to escape outside frequently.
Fridays were a real gem, that was the day we had an occupational therapist in every week to lead group activities. My first experience of this was where we got to make soaps. We used soap flakes and food colouring to create soap, and although I was drugged up and apathetic as hell, I still managed to get into the festive soap spirit and made my soaps into little shapes. Looking around, I couldn’t help but notice many others proudly patting their soap flakes into misshapen balls. One woman told me hers was Jesus, and I refrained from pointing out that Jesus was not in fact, a blue potato. Another Friday we got to go out in a van ride to Brighton beach, where one man tried to run away and threw sand at the nurses accompanying us. He laughed and told them that they wouldn’t catch him, however the joke was on him because they did catch him and he had to come back to the hospital, where he yelled at everyone a lot.
It was in a way lucky that I had an eating disorder at this point in my life, because the food was ridiculous. My friend Judy who is a chef came to visit me often and would marvel at the rock-like texture of the bread rolls, and we would try to guess what the various other delicacies were that hid under the plastic plate cover. I wouldn’t eat the food, and lost around 10kg in the 3-4 weeks that I was there, which I now know probably contributed to my stay being so lengthy. I tried to work out in the activity room, however the cross trainer was missing one of the foot pedal thingys and was really painful to stand on, so I couldn’t use it. There was often a weird man guarding it as well, who claimed that he needed to “man the station”, so I didn’t push the issue. They did have a pool table which was rather broken, and none of the other patients were in any state to be hustled, so I didn’t get much into the pool during my stay.
There were some memorable characters there; Charles the schizophrenic Korean dude who would wait outside my room every morning to salute me as the “4 star general” (on account of the 4 star tattoo on my forearm), and also the woman who continually tried to take peoples washing out of the washing machine and put it in my room. A psych ward is not the place where you want to have other peoples’ belongings in your room, because some cray might give you the smackdown for real. When my friend Judy came to visit once, she was walking up the hallway and into my room when one male patient stopped her, exclaiming “you’re here!”, as if he had been expecting her. “Er, yes!” She exclaimed, “yes, I AM here!”, before ducking into my room, for fear of letting the hopeful fellow down.
There was a TV room which had a VCR (in 2008, mind!) and a CD player, which had some good CDs such as “classical loon” which was classical music accompanied by mournful calls of the loon, and a CD of ocean noises and whale calls. I did listen to them both, wishing for nothing more than a joint or my allocated dosages of Quetiapine, which were administered by the nurses at times inconvenient to spacing out with whale noises. Speaking of nurses, imagine my embarrassment when one of them was a girl I went to school with, in my form. I imagine that she would have told her mates and now a lot of the girls I went to school with probably think that I am “crazy”, well the joke is on them because I am currently enjoying blogging success of lucrative proportions, with 73 Facebook followers. 73!!!
Anyway, I got through my time there, lying on an old-fashioned hospital bed in my pyjamas with hairy legs (for I was not allowed a razor with which to shave my legs) and rolling ciggie after ciggie. Overall, that place that resembled a bad acid trip and every day I work very hard mentally to ensure that I will never see another psych ward again. Drool cascading down my chin as I clumsily fashion soap is not the chic image that my readers have come to know me by, and I intend to keep it that way!!!
Love, Chelle xoxoxoxoxoxoxo