A year ago today I was hospitalised for 80 days. To mark this day I thought I’d look back at some of the old notes. I was at the rock bottom and the journey to get out started today. All the names have been changed.
I’m so tired.
I’m so sick of being tired.
I’m so tired of being sick.
I just want this to stop.
I have my second attempt a week later.
“Why?” ask my friends.
“Why?” asks the crisis team.
“Why?” asks the consultant.
Because nothing else seemed to be working.
After ‘why’ comes the question ‘do you want to come to hospital.’ I’m hounded with it for what seems like days on end.
“I’m all right, I can do it myself. I’m not that bad yet,” I say.
“How bad does it need to get?” one of the team members asks.
On 4th of July I sit at the dingy crisis team meeting room again and say that I would like to come to hospital.
“All right, that makes things a lot easier,” Eileen, Francine, Kathleen, Maureen or Maxine says. “I’ll start organising it.”
At that moment I just feel lighter than I have in ages. It’s out of my hands now. Someone else has taken over. It’s almost like being a child again. Grownups are going to take care of this. I don’t have to do anything. Eileen asks me to sit at the meeting room while she makes some calls. I’m perfectly happy sitting there. I’m in no rush anymore. My head is really heavy, and I rest my forehead against the table.
All I have to do now is to comply. One of the team members takes me back to my flat and helps me pack. I have no idea what to take with me, I have never packed a hospital bag. I keep asking her for advice as she is the expert.
“How long do you think I’ll be there for?”
She thinks about it for a while, saying that everyone is unique but I want at least some sort of time frame.
“A week, maybe two weeks.”
Two weeks seems plenty. I have never spent a night in a hospital. I pack things which I’m later grateful myself for such as slippers and headphones and things that I kick myself about such as a bottle of perfume. Like I’m going to need it. I’m quite calm, even though people keep telling me I’m shaking.
I have to wait for a bed over four hours but I hardly notice. If there’s anything useful about depression, I’d say it’s the changed sense of time. An hour could be a day or a blink of an eye. It doesn’t really matter. I don’t really need entertainment of any kind as I wait, holding my head up is an activity as it is.
Back at the hospital I get vegetable lasagne, coffee and even some chocolate cake that one of the team members has baked. Fucking hell, it pays to be mental. The cake tastes like strawberry jam and whipped cream, sugary and amazing. I call my mum about the developments and she laughs at the fact that I’m so well fed.
I think about texting people but decide to hold on, since even I don’t know where I’ll end up. It’s my emergency contact’s birthday today. I’ve texted him to say happy birthday but have kept my mouth shut about hospital, and told every single team member not to contact him. I don’t want to ruin his birthday. There isn’t anything to worry about anyway, I’m going to hospital, and I’m being looked after.
Then the door flings open. Eileen or Maureen steps in with two men in green.
“Right, you’re going to Nightingale,” she beams.
Because of her accent I hear her saying Newquay.
I have never been to Newquay. I don’t know where it is even.
Then it turns out that I’m going to be staying in the county, so could be worse. The two men are ambulance drivers, and they are going to transport me. I take my wheelie case, and ask Francine or Maxine how long will I be at the ward for.
“A few days, maybe a week,” she shrugs.
I work out an average between the two approximations and it seemed like a perfectly reasonable time for me to spend in a hospital. I wasn’t even that ill.
“We’ll get your nails done when you get back.”
“It’s a date.”
I say bye and follow the ambulance men out.
I politely refuse help with the case, I’m already embarrassed that I’m taking up members of ambulance staff and an ambulance, when I’m perfectly capable.
At the back of the ambulance I refuse the offer to lay down on the bed. It feels so dramatic. One of the chaps, Keith, asks me my address and who’s my next of kin. My occupation.
“Do you write for the paper?”
I admit to it.
“Thought I had seen your name.”
He seems really nice. We talk about our respective professions for a bit, and I can’t help telling Keith that I feel guilty (well, feeling is just a figure of speech because I’m so numb) about taking up the ambulance.
“Do you know why I’m going to hospital?”
“We’ve seen your records, if that’s what you mean. Don’t worry, we do transport calls when there are no emergencies, so you are not taking up an ambulance from anyone.”
“I just think that I’m not ill enough to warrant an ambulance.”
“What would you do if you had a nosebleed?”
I look at him, but he seems to be serious. I pinch my nose and tilt my head back.
“Exactly. You know how to do that. We were called to this lady one time in the middle of nowhere who was just sitting in her armchair bleeding all over the place. Ten minutes with her head tilted back with some ice, and she was fine. So, believe me, this isn’t the stupidest call we’ve taken. Not at all. ”
That was really nice of him. I believe him, and we go on about chatting the likes and dislikes of our jobs for the rest of the journey.
Keith’s friend presses the doorbell. We have to wait for a bit and I look up at the ceiling. There are several coloured pieces of plastic hanging from the ceiling like in a mobile you hang over a crib. I remember thinking that it’s ironic that things are hanging from a ceiling in a place where people surely must’ve tried hanging themselves.
Then the door is opened by a smiling nurse and we all cram into a space between that door and another door which allows you to get into the actual ward. With me, my case, Keith and his pal and the nurse there isn’t much elbow space and you need to wait for the first door to lock completely before you can open the second one.
We step onto a hallway and we are taken outside the nurses’ office. One nurse asks me to step into another room and I look at Keith and his friend anxiously. I wanted to grab a hold of Keith’s comfortingly green uniform and bury my head in it.
I really want my dad.
“Good luck,” Keith says and smiles at me in a way that must’ve been meant to be comforting but I have such a feeling of unease about being surrounded by all of this unknown that I can hardly say thank you to them both for bringing me here.
I sit down with one of the nurses who asks me basically the same questions Keith did. Next of kin, existing medications, person of contact.
“Please don’t call him,” I remember saying. “It’s his birthday. I don’t want to ruin it.”
“Oh, bless you.”
I don’t understand. Why should his life be disrupted by something that happens to me?
At some point I start crying because it’s all so new and scary and structured and enclosed and overwhelming and I’m trapped inside three sets of locked doors and I want my mum.
I really, really want my mum.
One of the nurses, who I later learn is called Linda, crouches next to me and holds my hands.
“This is where the journey starts,” she says. “And we’re all going to help you to get better.”
I cry, because I don’t think I can.