Tuesday, 3 May 2011
On the assessment ward part 2
Please note: This part of my account is written from memory and not from what was written at the time. The timeline may be a little screwed up but the facts are right enough.
I will begin the second part of my account of my stay in the Assessment Unit following my overdose last February with a step back from where I left off last time…
I had been escorted to my room where I had my bags emptied and the contents scrutinised. Before I was taken to the Mental Health Unit I had bought a couple of bottles of Cherry Coke for my stay but as my things were being checked through I was informed that I might have them taken away from me as they might be considered contraband. This was a big thing for me as I don’t like the taste of water and I don’t like tea or coffee. Thankfully, they let me keep them but I was left thinking exactly what I was supposed to drink if they had taken my drinks away from me.
The room was cold but fairly spacious with a single bed, a bedside cupboard unit, a wardrobe and a washbasin in it. The wardrobe had no rail or hooks on which to hang any of my clothes so I merely had to place them on the shelves so any pretence of looking even vaguely well dressed the next day was immediately destroyed. In fact, there was a distinct lack of anything on which you could hang anything. The washbasin had ‘buttons’ of a sort instead of taps and there wasn’t even a plug for it. The windows were protected from being opened by huge sheets of transparent plastic so that, if it had happened to be hot, there would have been no way to open them. I knew that most of these precautions were being taken to protect me from trying to hang myself or throw myself out the window but it also took away some of the little dignity that life had left me with.
I put my toiletries, such as they were, in the bedside cupboard with my Coke bottles on the top. I felt like crying as I felt as if I were a convict but, to be quite honest, I was too tired and upset to cry. Tears come very hard to me at the best of times and this was certainly not the best of times.
I climbed into the bed to find that the only covering I had been given was a single sheet and an extremely thin blanket with holes as part of the design, much like a potato waffle. As I remarked earlier, the room was cold so my bedclothes gave me little warmth. I couldn’t sleep because the light in the corridor outside my room was on and I couldn’t help but see the glare through my eyelids. I had been questioned, violated and then left alone in a cold room with my dark, suicidal thoughts. Hardly the best thing for someone in such a deep state of distress. I thought that things couldn’t get any worse. I was wrong.
The next morning, the inmates of the ward and I were woken up and made to go to the combined dining and activity room where the television was mounted on the wall surrounded by a lockable box to prevent the inmates touching the screen. Thinking about it, I suppose we were lucky in that the box wasn’t locked whilst I was there but one of the female inmates was jealously guarding access to the television and we were forced to watch whatever she wanted to watch.
The staff, in one of their few appearances outside of their office, served the breakfast through the serving hatch from the kitchen, making sure that everyone had something although there wasn’t really much variety in what was offered. Following breakfast, the staff cleared away the crockery and locked the hatch, leaving only a bottle of dilute-to-taste squash and some plastic cups for us to have between breakfast and our lunch.
I had woken up with a migraine so I quickly returned to my room to lay down with a cold flannel on my forehead only to find the door locked. We may have been prisoners but our jailers did the opposite of their prison counterparts, keeping us from our rooms rather than locking us in. I went to the office to ask for some Ibuprofen for my migraine, only to be told that they wouldn’t be able to give me any without a prescription from the doctor who wouldn’t be taking his rounds until later that morning. In another bit of good fortune, the nurse I spoke to had pity on me and unlocked my door so that I could take the only measures I could to try to get rid of the migraine on my own.