Tuesday, 24 February 2009

You don't have to be mad to work there BUT....

For those of you that don't know, I haven't always been this sane. I'm always happy to talk about my mental health adventures because hey, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone (or, erm, maybe not) - even if it does mean that I tend to get referred to as 'you know, the one who went nuts and got locked up in the loony-bin!'.

Yes - I am 'that one'.

As you've probably gathered by now, I don't tend to do anything by halves and when I had my second son I decided to do it with a great big bang and shot out a 10lb+ baby in my kitchen, followed it up with a spectacular 8 pint blood loss and a bolt down the road on a stretcher, walked through the valley of death and (thankfully) emerged from the other side (even if I wasn't exactly walking by this point, more like lying very still attached to a lot of machines that go ping).

Anyway a few weeks later I followed it up with, what they used to call a 'nervous breakdown' (i.e. I went proper-batshit-crazy and had to go and live in a mental hospital for 6 weeks). When I emerged from 'The Unit' I was told that I would need some pretty intensive counselling type stuff to help me come to terms with what had happened.

18 months later (yes - that is a YEAR AND A HALF) a random letter appears in the post telling me I need to go to a clinic, an hours drive away, where they will do something with my eyes to try and put the two sides of my brain back together and stop me bursting into tears every time I see an ambulance or collapsing in hysterical grief when I stub my toe (all signs, apparently, that 'something had gone wrong').

So off I went today and the lady I saw was marvellous and hopefully she can do a lot with me and my brain with her special eye moving technique jobby (this is not New Scientist so I'll leave the technical stuff out).

HOWEVER, this trip back into the 'World of Mental Health' was a timely reminder of just how nuts it all is. And I don't mean the patients. Seriously - the patients tend to be sanest things in the building.

On arrival I found myself corralled into a sort of 'holding area' and it was 'flashback city' for me.

Buttons and buzzers and intercoms on every door (you can never get in, let alone get out again), CCTV a go-go, same old posters reminding you how many billions of germs are all over your hands and asking you to please refrain from attempting to kill the staff - however frustrating you find the door systems.

And the magazines. Oh god, the magazines! I have never read so many out-of-date celebrity magazines as I did when I was incarcerated in 'The Unit'. You could follow the rise and fall of Kerry Katona in one easy sitting.

Anyway the magazines in today's place made the magazines at 'The Unit' look like the British Library. Jeez. They had four. Yes FOUR.

One was a National Trust magazine. What!?

'Hello, feeling suicidal? Can't go on? Floored with anxiety and dark visions? Well how about you have a nice sit down and flick through a pictorial of Woburn Abbey? The tapesteries are just orgasmic aren't they? Or maybe you'd prefer to read about saving the Red Squirrel in the Lake District? No, please put the magazine down... haven't you read our poster on being nice to the staff?.

One was a Cross Stitch magazine. The would be cross STITCH. Yes, stitch as in you need to do with a very big needle. A very big sharp needle.

Now bearing in mind these places confiscate your phone charger in case you try to hang yourself with it (erm, have you seen how wide my neck is?) and won't let you use a tin opener (it makes communal cooking SUCH fun - you have to summon someone with a special key to find the tin opener, only they have always lost the key. Your sweetcorn and tuna medley is DOOMED) - it strikes me as 'somewhat unlikely' that they would encourage cross stitch as a hobby. What cruel torture.

One was in Spanish. Handy!

And the fourth was a celebrity magazine announcing that Angelina Jolie was expecting twins. Perhaps these magazines are designed to unsettle you? Have I really been here for the last 2 years or was it all a dream? Is this the 'now' or just a flashback? Feeling sane when you came in? Well, you won't be for long......

With nothing to read my mind picked up on the conversation being had by the two receptionists who were clearly of the belief that I was not just mad, but also 'not really there' and probably deaf and stupid into the bargain. I'll call them Pat and Sue. Pat and Sue - be more careful - the state of your magazine selection meant you had my full concentration. You dozy pair of twonks:

Pat: You feeling better today?

Sue: Yeah, a bit, yesterday was terrible. I hate Mondays. I always feel suicidal. SUICIDAL I tell you! It was awful, I went straight home and ate half a box of chocolates.
Pat: You poor thing.

Sue: Yeah, it worked though
(note to Sue: perhaps you wouldn't mind sharing your miracle cure for suicidal depression with the patients? I'm sure they would be grateful to hear that all it will take to lift them from their dark eternity, is half a box of Mingles..... Christ - no wonder they need the 'don't attack the staff' posters).

Sue: (to a young woman standing by the door, looking very distressed) Are you a nurse?

Young woman: No I'm a patient, can you let me in.

(not letting her in) Yeah I was so tired, SO tired, I hate Mondays.

You poor thing.

Young woman:
Can you let me in?


Young woman:

There's no need to be like that!
(Sue opens the door)

That reminds me, I went to the loo earlier!


It's cleared. Took a while mind you!


I started moving around in my seat and making small noises. I wanted to hear absolutely NOTHING more about Sue's 'loo visit'.

At about this time another patient appeared in the 'holding pen'. He'd come down from upstairs and just stood looking at the magazines for a while before stopping and looking at me instead. (glad to hear I'm more interesting than stately homes).

After a while he gave me a seductive smile and said 'do you come here every week?'.

Well it's a long time since a random man tried to crack on to me. Clearly he was mad.

'No' I said (even if I do, I don't want him thinking he's got a regular date). On hearing this he grabbed the magazines (all of them) and ran back upstairs.

No doubt he's now trying to work out if it's 2009 or 2007 whilst doing a cross stitch of Woburn Abbey.

With his teeth.


  1. God, I love those receptionists. I feel a sitcom coming on...

    Nice work, StudBud!

  2. Fabulous.
    Yet another episode for the book.

  3. Thanks both of you!

    Pauline - I certainly have enough for a mental health sit-com but I'm not sure the British Public are ready!!

    Just think I will get to go back every week soon so I shall be able to keep you all updated on Pat and Sue's bowel problems...;)