Life Interrupted | Life in a psychiatric facility #5

I did not expect to feel unsafe in here but I did when Birdman arrived on the 2nd February 2018.

He wore a torn, black, Metallica t-shirt and carried a large tin with his tobacco, lighters and neatly folded poetry. The tin was covered in Marvel stickers and a collage of birds. All he talked about was birds. The way they flew, the way they behaved and how he liked to photograph them. I decided to call him Birdman.

Birdman’s behavior was erratic. He would split from pleasantries one minute, then become aggressive, and demanding medication the next. His energy was dark, twisted and I could tell he was dangerous. He couldn’t sit still. He was agitated and he scared me.

It was lunchtime and as I ate my sandwich, he sat next to me. I stopped breathing.

“Do you have Facebook?” he asked

“No” I replied.

“What about email?” He said.

“No” I lied.

“Do I scare you?” He asked smiling.

“A little,” I said.

Birdman wrote a phone number on a torn piece of paper from his tin, passed it across the table, and stood up with his empty plate.

“For when you want to fly,” he said as he walked away. I walked straight to my room and rolled the door closed. Leaning back on the wall, I stopped holding my breath.

As misfortune would have it, Birdman’s room was directly across from mine. That evening, after food and medication, I went back to my room and I couldn’t sleep. I sat up and drew as I would most nights. This image was a picture of a girl, huddled in the corner of a room, her head in hands. I could hear Birdman from across the corridor. Like a disgruntled budgie, his snoring could be heard throughout the whole facility. I wanted to leave but slowly I tired. Tomorrow, I said to myself. I switched the light off and watched the light from the corridor stream under my door.

Something was different. It was quiet.

The snoring had stopped.

Footsteps.

I could see the shadow of his feet outside my door. I rose quickly and scattered across the room. Locking myself in the bathroom, I sat shaking on the floor.

The outside door began to bang and shake.

Terrified, I reached for the emergency bell and pressed it over, and over, and over.

 

I am currently working on a book regarding this topic. Any comments on this piece would be greatly appreciated. I’d love to hear from you.

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Life Interrupted | Life in a psychiatric facility #4

Stepping between the tiles, walking the corridors slowly, I stopped at a new painting of a flower. It wasn’t particularly beautiful, in fact, it was a poorly painted red poppy, but it reminded me of my grandmother. She always painted poppies when I was young. Her husband went to war and it felt like her tribute to his sacrifice.

I realised I had forgotten to call her on her 93rd birthday, January 31st.

Grandma was an artist. She was incredibly talented. Drawing Australian landscapes and flowers, embracing colour and passion. She moved into a nursing home, frail, sick but continued to paint. Painting kept her sane, hopeful. As she paints, each stroke kept her blood pumping and the fire burning inside her. She was stubborn, determined and strong.

One day her right arm gave up, it seized, useless and no longer allowed her to paint as she once knew. But her flame kept burning, and against all odds, she picked up a brush in her left hand and taught herself to paint again. A different style, harder to convey her vision, but she kept going.

As fortune had it, she then lost mobility in both her hands and legs. Completely immobile, she was no longer able to express her craft. Gripping her lifeline, she closed her eyes and continued to paint with her imagination. Her mind projecting extraordinary visions. She wasn’t letting go.

I realised the lessons I had learned from a strong, beautiful 93-year-old lady, laying lifeless in a hospital, continuing to paint with her mind.

One should never give up, creativity can be as powerful as oxygen and, I had to breathe mine.

I am currently working on a book regarding this topic. Any comments on this piece would be greatly appreciated. I’d love to hear from you.

Life Interrupted | Life in a psychiatric facility #3

If I were to pick a time when my worst nightmare had become reality, it would have been on the 29 January 2017, around 2130 hours. Week three, confined in the facility.

I had been changing medications from one week to the next. The pills were taking a toll and I was a shadow of my former self; a zombie, the undead. I slowly shuffled around the facility, drugged and breathless. I felt nothing but exhaustion. I turned up my headphones and played Rue de Cascades for the fourth time but it was no longer energising me. I walked towards the medication counter and slouched lifelessly into the hard, torn, brown pleather chair.

Then it hit.

Like a thunderbolt striking a live wire, I was paralysed; my vision became dazed and distorted. What was happening? Had my brain finally snapped? Was it the pills? I was shaking uncontrollably.

I blacked out.

I woke on the floor. How long had I been out? I gasped, overwhelmed by confusion and exhaustion. I then realised I’d had a seizure. And yes, damn, I had wet my pants.

I lay on the ground, managing to shout “Help!”

Nurses quickly ran to my side. I continued to shake. I was convinced that this was it. I was going to die here. I was going to die in this hell. But worse, I was going to die in a pool of my own pee.

Nurse Blou stuck a little white pill under my tongue.

“This will help in about thirty minutes” she said.

Valium.

I glared up at the medication window. There was a sign plastered on the door. I could just make out what it said. ‘Pease wait for assistance patiently’. I cringed at the spelling error, whilst perplexed at the concept of patience when one feels like they are in the midst of dying.

Then, overwhelmed, I zoned out. I remembered an earlier visit from my father. He had given the type of hug that pumped love through my left heart ventricle, filling my body, then pumping love out of the right.

I wasn’t going to die.

The nurses helped me to my feet and then sat me back down on the chair. They searched for a wheelchair. No luck.

Defeated, I was wheeled to my room on a toilet commode, wee dripping down my left leg, just like bread crumbs onto the stark vinyl floor.

I am currently working on a book regarding this topic. Any comments on this piece would be greatly appreciated. I’d love to hear from you.