Throwback to a night on the ward.
I am manic and all evening I have been in bothering the nurses, and when I haven’t been bothering the nurses, I’ve been bothering the patients. And when the patients go to bed, I go into the fishbowl and sing (a small former nurses watch post with glass windows on 2 sides looking out onto the ward). Some time after 1am a nurse bursts in and tells ( or rather, shouts as loud as she can in an angry, hushed wisher) me to:
- Stop singing Frozen at the top of my lungs because I am ‘out of tune’ and ‘people are sleeping’
- Get Down!! off the chairs, because people have to sit on them. I argue that technically, I’m not standing on the chair, but on the arm rests. She says she doesn’t care, I still have to get down
Soon it is 2am and I am refusing to go to bed, quipping that I am ‘not tired’, and I am in the nurses station talking non stop rubbish- the usual. When I’m manic, I’m like a nagging child, or one those yappy puppies that, well, yap. So we go through the whole go-to-bed- but-I’m-wide-awake it’s-2am I-don’t-care lie-on-your-bed-and-rest but-that’s-boring thing and the nurse sighs and tells me exasperatedly to go draw a picture, and I say back ‘but I don’t know what to draw!!’ and she says (probably sarcastically) ‘draw what your life is like on the ward’. Excellent! That is exactly what I’ll do! So I scurry off to my dorm, paper in hand, and throw myself on the end of the bed. And begin my masterpiece.
Life on the ward
The tree represents the ward, which is named after a tree (which I thought was hilariously clever), and basically it’s just little things that sprung to mind when I thought about the ward- parts of my daily routine, thoughts and feelings about being there, interactions with staff and patients.
When I’m done, I present it to the nurse with a flourish, she puts it in my file for safe keeping. ‘Now BED’ she hollers. I slide off.
Over the next couple of weeks all the staff read through what is now referred to as my ‘tree’. One of the nurses protests when she sees I’ve written her thinking ‘fuck off’, arguing that she wouldn’t ever say that. I explain it’s a thought bubble, so she’s thinking, not saying, it. She howls with laughter. ‘Well that’s ok then, because it’s true’. But she loves it- they all do. Say things like ‘it really encompasses life on the ward’ and that it’s ‘very insightful’ and they laugh out loud at bits like ‘we’ll have to see what the doctor says’ (which, along with ‘we’ve no staff to do [insert request]’ should just be stamped on the door of the nurses station to save you the bother asking for anything!)
The day before I’m discharged I ask for a copy of my tree, and it’s lost! In the 24 hours between then and discharge, I ask at 2 hour intervals if they’ve Fount It Yet. ‘Found what?’ the ward sister asks, concerned. ‘MY TREE!!!’ I whisper-shout (I should add I lost my voice in the days before discharge and couldn’t talk AT ALL, much to every single member of staff’s delight- ‘what’s that Alice, I can’t hear you, speak up..oh wait, you can’t! Go rest that voice! Do you know what can cause laryngitis- TOO MUCH TALKING! THIS.IS.THE.BEST.THING.EVER’ etcetera…) The ward sister tuts, pushes me playfully. But I’m genuinely upset!
So on Monday morning when I woke up to a handwritten, hospital stamped letter, I didn’t know what to expect. I nearly cried when I saw my tree was inside, with a handwritten note from one of my favourite nurses saying it had been in her drawer.
So here it is- a little lighthearted, 2am, manic insight into life on a psychiatric ward.