Monday, 23 June 2014

The Palace of Heavy Wooden Chairs

Perversely they allowed metal knives and forks in this odd place where 'clients' rise from their beds, dress then sleep the daylight hours away slumped in chairs.  When there is nothing to occupy your mind or time what else is there to do but sleep?  There is nothing strange about that is there?

They have heavy wooden chairs so that inmates cannot pick them up and hurl at others. I saw little signs of violence only some frustration. Legs pumping, hands clasping heads, eyes brimming with tears. Most of those with me had voluntarily sought help and not one of these people, mental health sufferers all, were anything less than intelligent, sweet people cursed by nature, or perhaps some malignant god, with issues most of us would soonest go mad from having.

Being escorted into such a place, having passed through two security doors, one opening first to grant access then closing with a sibilant hiss before the second followed suit., was unpleasant. I felt a desire to say, 'no, I have changed my mind, I wanna go home.' I didn't. I and the two ambulance crew went on to another door with a two-way speaker. One of the crew punched the button. A flat voice responded. The ambulance driver, a robust lady with a powerful handshake, announced who we were, More buttons were pressed. The door slid open with that sci-fi hiss.

Bags were checked for dangerous items. In this place, a comb might pass as such. My medicines, my syringes, heart tablets were removed along with my blood testing kit. 'But I need that!' I cried. 'Not in here you don't.' was the blunt reply. Anything that remotely posed a threat to mine or anybody's well being was taken and placed in a locked cabinet in the area marked 'clinic.' The ambulance crew, those medics capable of saving lives, said their goodbyes and we shook hands. I had only known them for forty minutes but their leaving left me feeling isolated and bereft of friends. 

Led down bland corridors painted in bland colours we walked, the senior nurse and me in bland silence. The corridors formed a quadrangle. Outside I could see through the dimness of night seats formed in a tight formation. At the side of each were fitted squat, square wooden boxes containing stunted plants  It looked like a yard, one which you'd walk around if it were not so damn small. Everything here was the co-opposite of that, it was a large place and yet that size was reduced by design so that short corridors turned in and around each other making you feel you had entered a maze from which there was no exit.

Please treat them gently they don't like to fall

My room was as unremarkable as the corridor it sprung from. One bed. One chest of drawers. One seat. No pictures. No vases with flowers. An utter removal of anything remotely  attractive. From these rooms, after spending my first night there, I discovered that we were all locked in and monitored at regular intervals throughout the night. It was disconcerting to hear what sounded like bubble wrap being popped each and every time the door opened a fraction as some nurse checked to see if I was sleeping.

Having maintained a strict regime to ensure my diabetes was well controlled, an investment made to me by a series of well-intentioned NHS doctors, one a Professor, I tend to think I have as much, probably more, knowledge of my disease than any other soul. Not so. Not so according to the rigid, and inadequate regime practised by the staff. I have had my injection since the day I became diabetic at seven. This is both AM and PM. Here, where the concerns for 'clients' well-being,  understandable perhaps considering some of the issues that manifest in sudden rages, but with me, what harm can a blood testing kit do? All my instincts railed against this stubborn obstruction. More so as I had foolishly allowed my bloods to rise five times higher than normal and the staff did nothing, were unable to do anything, without consulting a doctor first and that breed was in short supply, or at least, hard to find. I had voluntarily entered this 'Assessment Unit'  and regretted it from the very start. If my initial attempt had been to self-harm then the consequence of my actions was being played in sharp irony now.

There's no room for anger we are all very small

One young man confessed (is that the right word, has he anything to confess?) that he suffered from delusions. He had been once been, at only twenty, a pot smoker and someone who enjoyed alcohol but in an attempt to keep himself well had given up all vices apart from cigarettes. They were strictly forbidden both inside and out. He had heard voices which unsurprisingly freaked him out and had asked for help. He was polite, well mannered and not at all how you would imagine the stereotype to be.

Another woman, about forty I guess who sat either clutching herself or with head buried in hands, told me she heard the trees speak to her and they had told her she should murder her GP as he wasn't doing anything to help her. She knew how insane this sounded and had the good sense, much like the 20-year-old chap, to book herself in. She too was nice to speak to, had a family, a daughter, father, and mother who came to see her. Roughly spoken people but truly salts of the earth.

An elderly lady wandered around staring at walls, people and anything that grabbed her attention. Her starless eyes, blank with no sign of a horizon, no future just an impenetrable past, made me feel unbelievably sad. I held my hand out indicating she should go first. She mouthed a 'thank you' and did a slight nod of her head. I think my treating her as a lady, as perhaps as a man once did a log time ago, tickled her fancy. I hope so.

Then, and perhaps the most outstanding of all the 'clients' there was this young Canadian. A 27-year-old who was able to play the piano (among many other instruments), who studied to sing and who had married young before divorcing her husband then leaving her homeland with her baby son and mother to live here. Attractive, intelligent, talented and among the sad souls. I found her sucking on one of those nicotine substitutes, those plastic devices. They strike me as being vaguely bizarre. The fact you need then at all is weird. It's a bit like handing a gay man a vibrator and saying 'pretend.'  She said she wanted to write a book but had no pen or paper to start. I said her story would make a good read then passed her my pen. I hope that helped.

We are all only children after all.

The staff was kind, caring and understanding. The regime they have to adhere to didn't suit me. I, following an appraisal, was 'allowed' to leave I cannot express what a relief that was to hear those words - 'you can go home.'. 

I hope I never see the inside of such a place again.

I tried to catch that train but fortunately,and with the benefit of hindsight, the gates were shut.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.


teresa martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russell Duffy said...

The heavy chairs are just that, heavy chairs. They are made that way so fellow 'inmates' can't throw them at the heads of other inmates or indeed nursing staff!

Anonymous said...

...eerie atmosphere...just as you intended it to be! Great to read your work :) Thanks for dropping by at my blog!

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog

A Utility Fish Shed Blog