The Bastard Noose: Settling Into the ward
A hiatus from The Bastard Noose was due to my feeling good and thus aware I was a self important prick imposing his moaning on you about things in the past. Also after a while I'd totally blasted the whole experience from my mind. Given where we're at, good thing Google didn't delete my memories, eh! I write The Bastard Noose to contemplate and examine but I always hope to have some happy come from it.
But then if you never worry about anything you’re probably a prick.
It is perhaps ironic that what I consider to be a relatively upbeat piece has come at the worst time I’ve had since going into hospital. My brain is wrongly wired and sadly my body listens to it. A year after having gone back to work in operating theatres in the NHS at the hospital I'd always been at, was wonderful. A step forward mentally speaking until recently when it broke me a bit. I hope not two steps back.
Nobody in a mental health ward is there for their rampant sanity or an overwhelming adherence to what is considered the norm. There were noisy, outwardly disturbed patients, but others floated past me like ghosts. Some completely out of it, shepherded closely by staff. After a day of my head ringing with the realisation I was now a proper mental health patient and thus a nut nut for life no matter whether I got better or not, acclimatising was all I thought about.
I want to scream but it’d be unfitting, or too fitting. Instead I clench my jaw and try to look like I’m supposed to be here. Yes, I know, I am supposed to be here. As far as I can tell the other inmates are friendly but I am still as quiet and as insular as I can be. I do not discuss my problems and do not want to unless forced. That’s fine, doctors are a mile away, I won’t see one for over a day.
Meals are generally edible, but more they’re a chance to engage without engaging. Food from trays, microwave dinners with impressive variety and a happy guy who serves them. I like that guy and in future it pays to be nice to him, too. Paper plates, plastic cutlery. All at one table, we were socialising without having to. Dinner becomes a boon. However, the constant cabbage is beginning to stink my room something rotten. It may also explain the permanently clogged toilets. More on those later.
There is a wicked, knowing sense of humour running through the other patients. A paradoxically dark, nihilistic happiness and joy I immediately loved. They'll occasionally goad, rib one another, or on hearing “I just want to die” simply nod and agree, ruefully. Won't happen in here. You'd have to work bloody hard to kill yourself in here. No one has yet worked out suicide by cabbage yet to my knowledge. I suppose if you shut the window you could gas yourself.
I’m told at dinner, as an opener, by another patient,
“I’m very close friends with Hugh Jackman and Angelina Jolie.”
I nod politely. I think Hugh Jackman was in room 11. Jolie in the women’s unit.
There is a tone deaf patient who wanders up and down the hall. Most of my first day he sang England rugby songs (Swing low, Jerusalem) and was greeted with good humour by the other inmates/ patients. At dinner, which is served between five and six pm, so over twelve hours before the next meal which is apparently an OK thing to do, this man wandered in still in full song. Hugh Jackman's best mate declared,
“Gentlemen, your pre dinner entertainment”
and ten seconds of excruciating one man band later,
“He wasn't born for the stage that one, was he.”
This is the humour. The singer loved the attention and frankly his enthusiasm if not his talent was fun, I needed fun and I got the impression so did almost everyone else. However, a post dinner and crucially pre medication-time, rendition of “we're dead, and we know we are" was met less warmly by many, in unison.
“SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
As well as being "the best singer in the world" this man is also convinced he saved many lives. On tip toes he's maybe five feet tall, overweight and in his mid fifties who smokes 40 a day, he was apparently an SAS commander. It was 12,000 my first night (oddly specific), millions the next and on being encouraged by a shit stirrer, “how many did you save? Tell us how many you saved”, it became billions. Part of me hopes he's not actually mad and really has saved loads of lives. While tragic for him, his detention under the mental health act for saving billions of lives would be the easiest utilitarian equation ever.
The happiness the other people on the ward managed to find despite the awful things going on in their heads and lives caused me to warm to the place. Given, it was still a bit scary, but these people were easy to identify with and largely the ward was calm. Largely. Starting to feel like I was settling in a bit, I was to find out fairly quickly that things could turn on a ha’penny.