Today marks two weeks as an inpatient at this private psychiatric hospital. The daily routine is a well-worn path now, and while it served to prop me up when I first arrived, increasingly I feel it is holding me back from recovering any further. Despite all my misgivings about how I will cope when I get home, perhaps this is the strongest sign I have that I really am ready to go.
7am Knock on door from nurse, get out of bed
What the hell? I thought I was here to rest! 7am, you’re shitting me right? Nursing staff, I know you think I’ve been sleeping all day every day at home like normal depressed people do but I’ve got a 3 year old using me as a trampoline most mornings. I need sleep!
7.30am Knock on door from nurse, if you want to have breakfast get out of bed
Reluctantly roll out of bed, shower, dress and arrive at the dining room for breakfast 10 minutes before breakfast is supposed to finish.
8.10am Breakfast is over
Bundled unceremoniously out of the dining room despite the fact that breakfast is supposed to finish at 8.15am. This has happened each of the week days I have been here, so I have thwarted the system by keeping a box of cereal and a bowl in my room. Take that. Recall telling a nurse through tears early in my stay that if I was capable of being up and dressed and happy and finished eating breakfast by 8.10am I likely wouldn’t need to be hospitalised for depression. She didn’t see my point.
8.20am Hiding in room
Return to bedroom with remnants of breakfast and coffee.
8.45am Production meeting
Patients and staff meet in the lounge each day for what I have affectionately termed the production meeting. We introduce ourselves each morning because noone can remember anything. This comes as a relief to many, myself included, who can dispense with the complicated mechanisms we have developed to compensate for our failing memories. Noone remembers names, and noone is offended – it’s fine. We talk about our favourite book/film/footy team/whatever, share an inspirational word and quote for the day (*crickets*), and hold a daily 10 minute summit on why the lounge TV remote control still hasn’t been replaced.
Wait in line at the meds window. There’s a line of chairs against the wall where we queue and wait like customers at the deli, except most people are way more protective of the spot in the queue. Joke daily that I don’t mind who jumps in front because I’m not running late for anything. Average waiting time for meds 20mins.
10.30am Grown up kinder
We all head off to our morning groups. Morning groups are compulsory, and consist of Drug and Alcohol, General Talking Group and Art Therapy Group – Grown up kinder. For the past two weeks I have attended the latter group, proudly showing off my artworks to my son and swapping notes about kinder that day. While I deride it tongue in cheek, it has been wonderful to reflect on this illness in a visual and artistic way, and for the first time I am able to create marks on paper without considering the end product. Just enjoying the process, which has been a wonderful revelation.
Choose from one of two meals, which are surprisingly very good. The cooks are generally lovely and accommodating. They sneak me gluten free biscuits and cakes on the sly.
1.30pm Afternoon groups
Elective groups, such as Gym/Swim (participated WAY less than I imagined I would, doh!), arts and craft etc. After lunch I would generally retire to my room to nap (gasp!) or read the brilliantly crafted though depressing The Corner or The Mindful Way Through Depression (equally brilliantly crafted though un-depressing).
Mainstream medical system’s take on mindfulness and meditation. The facilitator yawned, sighed, checked her watch and reminded us that she would kick us out if we fell asleep all through the session. Not very relaxing. Gave it two goes, then did my own meditation CD in my room where there is no punishment for falling asleep.
Same drill as lunch.
Either filled with visitors (joy!) or reading or art or checking twitter or anything to make the time pass until bedtime.
Fancy new antidepressant and small dose of sleeping tablet. Tried being a hero for a few nights and decided getting a good night’s sleep was more important than doing shit the hard way. I am a grumpy, teary pain in the arse after a bad night’s sleep, just ask the nursing staff.
Retire to bed with laptop and wireless internet for iView, as the TV in my room is 12″ and only has analogue channels. For those of you who have forgotten what TV was like in 1985 let me remind you that means a grand total of 4 channels which you can’t see from the bed without binoculars anyway. Thank christ for modern technology and streaming multimedia, that’s all I can say. Meds generally kick in about halfway through whatever I’m watching, and can never remember if I finished the movie when I wake up in the morning. Can’t remember what happened at the end even if I did.
10pm – 7am Hourly checks
Any wonder I have been tired, the overnight nursing staff are required to carry out hourly checks on all patients overnight. Consider Alcatraz style dummy in bed and slipping out to a motel in the evenings to get a decent sleep. Srsly, may as well be breastfeeding a gassy newborn again.
7.30am Rinse and repeat
I am truly grateful for my private health insurance which has meant I was able to receive treatment here, I really don’t know what I would have done without it, my fuel tanks were well and truly empty. Some people have regarded this as a rest or holiday, and it sure as shit isn’t either of those things. It has been a challenging, tiring and confronting two weeks. I would not have elected to be here if I didn’t need to, and having been here I will do everything in my power to avoid coming back again. If nothing else the loss of independence and control I have experienced has been particularly difficult (because I’m such a fucking control freak, clearly). And while that sense of routine and loss of control was almost comforting, it’s really stifling now.
I’m fragile but I know I’m ready, I think.