Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dark Days

Continued from "The Truth Revealed"

June 2002

Things were so different in the psychiatric hospital than they were in the psychiatric ward in the general hospital. It was like stepping into another world. On the psychiatric ward where Mr Man had been for his first 3 weeks, the staff mixed freely with the patients. They chatted, they drank coffee together, they went for walks in the grounds, and they played board games. In the psychiatric hospital the staff always seemed to be cooped up in the staff room, engrossed in conversation with other staff members, and not in any mood to be disturbed. Don’t be mistaken; I don’t mean that they were busier, or that they took their role more seriously, far from it. They were engrossed in conversation about their own concerns - laughing, joking, and playing computer games. Whether you were a patient or a visitor, you were met at the staff room door with the same level of contempt.

Occasionally staff ventured into the lounge where the patients would be watching the TV. Two staff members would sit chatting openly with each other. One would be nodding and rolling her eyes as the other complained about having to buy a new hamster for her 8 year old “and these lot think they’ve got problems” as if somehow it compared. The rest of the room would be silent. Or sometimes a member of staff would be standing, as if sitting with patients would somehow contaminate her. “Stop shaking!” she would scold one of the patients, as if the patient had any control over her state of anxiety.

The male staff wouldn’t mix so much. They patrolled the corridors, looking for some “mischief” to correct. “You can’t sleep in here” they would say to Mr Man, as he sat with his head in his hands in the quiet room, fully awake, although drugged to the eyeballs.

Of course, I didn’t see all these things immediately, but I was fully aware that the atmosphere was just different somehow. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was just… wrong.

It was the morning of Mr Mans first team meeting in this hospital. On the other ward Mr Man and I would go in to see the team together, and I had once gone in to see the team alone. But here, when I asked to speak to the doctor first the nurse seemed shocked, as if nothing like it had ever happened before. She made such a fuss that you’d think I had just asked for the doctors head on a plate (which, in hindsight, I wish I had). She didn’t seem to know what to do. She asked Mr Man, who obviously agreed (bearing in mind I made my request in front of him and he had made no objection), and then she scurried off to ask the doctor. She came back, and I was granted an audience with the king doctor, although it was most unusual.

I entered the room. It was much bigger than the one on the other ward. There were no armchairs or sofas, just upright chairs. The royal court sat in a large circle, and opposite the empty seat sat the king, on his throne. I walked in nervously and sat down. I was overwhelmed by the number of people present, all staring at me. On the other ward there would have been maybe 3 other people, as well as the doctor. But here, it seemed as if the whole ward staff were present. How did mentally unwell people cope with this? I thought. The ward manager, to my left, introduced himself and then one by one he introduced the rest of the team to me. I managed a faint smile and a nod of the head but their faces and names didn’t register; I had something of the utmost importance to tell the doctor, and I was keen to begin.

I wanted to see you because Mr Man has told me something that I know he won’t tell you” I began. “He told me last week that he thinks people are watching him all the time and that there are camera’s everywhere, and he’s admitted that he hears voices as well

My statement was met with silence. Didn't they hear what I had just said? The doctor flicked through Mr Mans notes and finally said: “When did Mr Man first start seeing Dr. Kay?

It wasn’t the response I was expecting. I was thrown “Er… I don’t remember” Why doesn’t he just check the notes? I thought.

I babbled on about Mr Man not telling anyone because the voices have told him that they will hurt me if he does. There was still no response.

When did Mr Man first start taking Olanzapine?” he said.
I don’t know” I replied. Why wasn’t he acknowledging anything I said? Was he even listening?

What dose was he taking?
I don’t remember
When did he stop taking it?
I don’t know

My mind was in turmoil, I had just discovered that my husband could be suffering from Schizophrenia and I wanted… no, I needed some assurance that my concerns were being taken seriously. Instead I was bombarded with questions which would be answered if only the doctor would read the notes. Of course, at the time I didn’t even know that Olanzapine was an antipsychotic drug. I wouldn’t even have suspected that he would be given such a medication, as he had never admitted to hearing voices before. The matter seemed urgent to me but no one else, and no one considered how the knowledge had made me feel.

The interrogation continued for a while and then finally, with a nod of the head I was dismissed. I left the room feeling that I hadn’t been heard. It wouldn’t be the last time. Not writing notes, not reading notes, and not listening to either Mr Man or myself would become a common problem over the following months.

I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to be present to support Mr Man when he met with the team. He hadn’t been to a team meeting on his own before, and after my own experience I didn’t hold out much hope of them being compassionate towards him. I sat in the garden, on the same bench Mr Man and I had sat on when he first told me about the cameras. It was a beautiful sunny day, as it often was during those emotionally dark days. As I cried I wondered what would happen – to him, to us – there were so many thoughts and feelings but there are so little words to express them.

And then a little bird came and landed beside me on the bench. It didn’t seem afraid of me at all. It was as if it was sent to comfort me. “Have no fear, you are worth more than many sparrows” I thought. And I tried to take courage.