I sat outside the doctor’s office, waiting for the nurses to process my admission. My friends arrived at this time. I’d had no dinner, though I’d had a pack of crisps and a cup of warm malt chocolate (Milo) while waiting for the doctor. I couldn’t imagine eating anything else. One of my friends had providentially brought an extra chocolate. I smiled for the only time that night, through my tears.
I was terrified of what was to happen, but it was dull terror. When the nurse came to guide me to the ward, I stumbled as I walked. It would be more appropriate to say that I was shambling, as I forced myself to walk to the ward. I’d refused a wheelchair, as I felt my independence was slipping away. That was to be the last time I felt in control of myself for a while.
When we reached the ward, everything went as expected, right until they told me that my bag could not be kept at the ward. That was the first signal that something wasn’t quite as usual as staying in any hospital ward. The second signal was a much more terrible one.
I went into the ward to change. The lights were dim as lights were already supposed to be out by then. The toilets had half doors, which allowed nurses to see into each cubicle, and to my fogged mind, the whole place looked like an old prison. I was already panicking inside, when they dropped the bombshell on me. I was to surrender my mobile phone.
Understand that this wasn’t a simple thing for me. In twenty years, I have seldom been out of touch with my wife, and our best friend was in Malaysia. The only way I could keep in touch with them was via my mobile phone, by instant messenger. I was already panicked, and I felt the last of my sanity slipping through my fingers when they told me this. I couldn’t imagine, at the time, being cut off from my earthly pillars of support, especially when my mind was so fogged up that I struggled to pray. I rebelled, and refused to be warded.
They finally told me that as I was a threat to myself, they would invoke the Mental Health Act if they needed to. A sympathetic nurse manager in charge of the block, Sister Margaret, allowed me my phone just for that one night, but with me aware that any loss or damage to my phone was my own responsibility. I was warded.
The night passed like a nightmare. I couldn’t sleep. I had been placed facing the nurse counter, so lights were shining in my face, possibly due to my suicide watch, and possibly due to my mobile being kept with me. Sleep was the last thing on my mind, but I was conserving my phone battery, which meant I wasn’t going to play any games on my phone. I tried to sleep when I could.
However, one patient was marching up and down the ward, singing loudly to the music that he was listening to on his headphones. Occasionally he would stop at the nurse counter to speak loudly to the nurse on duty, and I would learn that he was singing so loudly and listening to the music to try to drown out the voices he said he was hearing in his head. At about 4 am, from the clock that was over my head, I opened my eyes to find him with his face close to mine, and when he saw me open my eyes, he asked me whether I could sleep.
It was not an easy night, and the entire atmosphere was terrible. I was really shaken, and I refused to talk to any of the other patients. I was struggling hard not to panic, though at this point, any thoughts of suicide had been knocked clean from my head. I knew that left to myself, back in peace, I would reconsider it. But for now I was scared enough to promise not to kill myself, if I was given the chance.
As it was, the admitting doctor had changed my medication, with my agreement, to the old medication that I was taking back in 2006-2009. I was given a first dose of that medicine in the morning. I’d not slept a wink, and I didn’t feel any motivation to do anything. At the prescribed bath time, I simply sat in my bed, and stared into empty space.
Someone asked me to sell my watch to them. A few times.
Breakfast was a simple bun, and only coffee which I can’t take as it gives me palpitations. I had plain water, staring out the barred windows into the courtyard of the hospital. I don’t remember the view at all. I only remember chewing hard, and wondering what had gone wrong with me. At least I could still contact my friends and my wife. I think that was how I hung on to my last shred of sanity, and not totally have a total meltdown.
Then it was my turn to see the doctors from the ward.