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