Wednesday, April 23, 2008

'The Man' Tales - Awakening?

The nursing staff tried to make our Christmas a little better by putting up (very high) decorations and bringing in some baked goods. Someone came around with stuffed toys and we each got to choose something out of the bag. I got a small stuffed cat that purred when you turned it upside down. It helped with the hole that came with missing my cats and just something to cuddle.

It was during this time that I noticed the drooling girl. I first became aware of her in the lunchroom as she sat drooling and staring off into space. Her psychiatrist was the replacement doctor I had while mine was off in Egypt. This doctor had her medicated to the point where she was nothing but a zombie. We later learned that he had damaged her heart with the amount of drugs he had her on. When he cut back on the meds she became coherent and we became inseparable.

D had returned from his Christmas holiday with his family and had registered for a computer course at the college that was located about a mile and a half from the hospital. He carpooled with a fellow from our little town and often walked over after school to visit for the evening and then caught the last bus home. Secretly he was taking lessons from this fellow on driving a standard/manual car and eventually he was able to drive my car back and forth and visit more often.

Once my psychiatrist returned from Egypt, things changed drastically for me. I had to participate in afternoon group sessions every day. These sessions involved everyone in the hall and we were herded into a large room and given lessons on ‘life’ or mental illness by the ward nurses. The group sessions made me so nervous I almost pulled my hands off. By this time the whispering had turned into rasping as my hands had dried out from all the wringing. One day, as we sat in our circle, someone shoved a bottle of lotion into my hands and everyone applauded when I applied it and the sounds disappeared.

With the proper drugs in my system, my thoughts of suicide diminished to the point where I wasn’t considered a huge risk to myself and I was finally allowed off the hallway. That first time I pushed through that locked door, I panicked. I was immediately lost and scared and I ran back to my room and huddled under the covers. After that I took my inseparable friend with me and we set off on my quest to find the morgue. My suicidal thoughts made me fascinated with death and the need to find the morgue haunted me and burned like a small flame deep inside my brain. We spent countless hours searching for it after visiting hours had ended. The nurses and our doctors lied to us and told us there wasn’t a morgue in this hospital. I refused to believe the biggest hospital in the middle of central Alberta didn’t have a morgue. But they insisted it was in a separate building somewhere in the city.

When we finally discovered the morgue and we realized that these people who were supposed to be ‘helping’ had lied to us – well – not only was it disappointing – but it also confused us. Our helpers were liars. It threw both of us into a tailspin and our progress forward towards mental health was halted for a bit. How could we trust anyone but each other?

As I became more stable myself, I started noticing others on the hallway besides the drooling girl. I was in the lunchroom when I first became aware of the people who had IV connections dangling from their arms. To me, these people seemed to come and go. In reality they spent a lot of time in their beds, and it was only when they felt well that they came into the lunchroom or entertainment room. I would see them being pushed down the hallway in a wheelchair and through that door at the end. Later I would see them being pushed back up the hallway and into their rooms. A couple hours later they would appear all happy and animated. They were like big dolls with a huge windup screw on their backs and they would eventually wind down again and slump over. Then they were pushed back down the hallway and off the ward. The cycle never stopped.

When my doctor threatened me with electric shock therapy it suddenly dawned on me what was happening to these people. Their shock treatments juiced them up until they wound down again and needed another boost. My doctor tried to make me believe the shock treatment opened paths in the brain. I was terrified and had to be sedated every time he mentioned it. My aunt had received over 80 shock treatments in her life and had just died of a brain tumor. When we watched ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ – well – I knew I would rather kill myself than let them do that to me.

My sanity flew in and out of the sealed windows and my doctor threatened to send me to Ponoka which is the province’s mental hospital. I cowered in my chair and begged and cried and made promises, almost throwing myself at his feet. At night as I lay in my lonely bed, I sobbed. Lost and alone

24 comments:

Potty Mummy said...

Blxxdy hell. You have really been through it. You are so very brave to put it all down in writing.

mutleythedog said...

I have been thinking and writing a lot about death lately. Double plus ungood.

dND said...

How frightening, how horrifying and how barbaric the general treatment. I cringe while reading the words, you are so brave revisiting this and writing it down.

aims said...

Potty Mum and Dnd - My hands hurt today from writing this one - too much wringing - but I am fine now that I have it down - mostly.

Mutley - Do we need to talk? Double plus ungood is bad - I know that. Email if you want...

Leatherdykeuk said...

This is utterly harrowing.

merry weather said...

Aims, I have been catching up on your tales, it makes painful reading, but you tell it so gently. It's good to open up this subject on a blog, ideal perhaps. Well done you, very brave writing.

(On a lighter note I have a silly tag for you at mine.)

I Beatrice said...

I too was once threatened with EST (shock therapy), but there was no way anyone was going to do that to me, and so I discharged myself before it could be put in practice!

Looking back on it, it seems that it was the therapy (and the philosophy) of "if it doesn't kill them, it might just work". Rather like kicking the cat to relieve frustration - or thumping the television to see if that makes the damned thing go again!

Mercifully, I believe we have moved on from that kind of barbarism.

Was there nobody there who could or would speak up for you at the time though? I can't help thinking that you might have been spared a good deal if only there had been someone else fighting your corner.

Lane said...

In the last post I hoped that was rock bottom. Now in this post I hope this is as low as it got for you. There's a glimmer here ... isn't there?

Bitter Sweet Metaphor Irene said...

I don't know what to say, Aims. Sometimes it's a no good bloody world out there and it is scary as hell and you feel all alone and wonder what to do. I am so glad you are safe and sound now. You are, aren't you?

mutleythedog said...

On my short story blog is where I have at least 2 out the last 3 stories about death....

travelling, but not in love said...

aims, what can I say? It's got to turn a corner for you soon. No?

Stinking Billy said...

aims, it's both amazing and disappointing that you can remember so much, so clearly, from such a bad experience. It would be nice to think that once out of there, your mind would draw a veil over it all to save you from having such awful bloody memories to live with.

softinthehead said...

The hand wringing conjures up so much anguish. I too hope you will turn the corner soon to the life you have now?

Dusty Spider said...

You write beautifully aims. You have a real gift. I'm just so sorry that it's all drawn from real life. Hugs to you. Flick x

Melanie said...

Hi Aims, I hope you have a favourite scented handcream which helps you think of happier times after you have written a post. To describe what you went through in such detail, is to partly re-live it and some of the emotions of the time.

You are very courageous.

Mima said...

Oh, I am so sorry that you went through so much, it is so brave of you to be writing this. I hope that your hands are ok, I almost cried when I read about the lotion, they must have been in such a state - but I suppose that is one of the few outward signs of the inner turmoil.

Maggie May said...

It is like a fictional horror story except that it wasn't, and you were in it. A true feeling of desolation overwhelms your readers! yet we want to find out more .........!
Sorry to hear of the bad things that you had to put up with & its amazing that you have turned out into the person you are now after all the harshness in your life.

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

It's a perfectly described horror film, Aims, I almost want to hide behind my hands. M xx

dawn said...

EST would definitely scare me. I know of someone, who had it a number of years back. He kept cutting himself with knives. The knives were hidden from him, and he would find some other sharp object to do the job. His wife kept finding him cut and called the police or ambulance. He would spend a month at a time in the hospital. The kids were preteen at the time. A very scary situation. One time I was talking to the wife about fears and her biggest fear from childhood was knives. It was so weird and maybe not coincidental that he chose to cut himself. From what I have heard, he is doing okay now.

The Lehners in France said...

My God aims, your writing has made me feel physically sick. I can't imagine how you must have felt. I cried and sobbed of a night when my brother died, but at least I had some control over my life. You had no control what so ever and the treatment of the patients sounds barbaric. You are a very brave lady. Love Debs

Beckie said...

Oh Aims, join us on Twitter! It's fun, it's free, you can do it from your PC! www.twitter.com

Carolyn said...

Sometimes reading your posts seems surreal to me. I almost don't believe that doctors can be so uncaring and sadistic. It's truly bizzare. Thank you for sharing yet another difficult post. You open my eyes and my heart just a little bit wider each time.

bichonpawz said...

My head is spinning from reading these posts. The electric shock therapy is absolutely terrible and I think it should be illegal. You are a very strong woman to have come so far. I applaud you and I will keep you in my prayers.

Joy T. said...

I wonder if they still use shock therapy treatment to this day? Well that and more they used to use way back when. Lobotomies come to mind. Ugh. It's such a scary thing to even read about so I can't even imagine how scared you were to have to think about the possibility of it happening.