Shocking me right out of my brain!

Eventually I was prescribed an 10 session course of ECT, or electro convulsive therapy, as my medication was not working. Now ECT has a really bad reputation within the community. In reality it is not that bad.

ECT is basically where they put you under a general anaesthetic, then put an electrical current through your brain, inducing a seizure. This seizure can “kick start” the brain.

My doctor told me that I was on far too much medication (yep – please refer to “Cocktail Hour”), and wanted to try ECT as an alternative. I was dubious at first, but decided to give it a go. Here is the experence of ECT.

FIrst you are taken to a “theatre” type room. The doctors chat to you, and you lie down on the bed while they try and find a suitable vein. For me this is a mammoth task, and my hands and elbows were black and blue during the course of treatment.

You feel a cool liquid being pumped into your veins and suddenly, try as you might, you find yourself drift away and become unconscious. Then suddenly you are waking up. You might have a headache. You are definetely confused and the staff, or your loved ones, have to tell you what has happened.

There is sticky stuff on your temples, your veins are green and blue. You stagger out of the room and your loved ones fill you in on what has happened. You are terribly confused, and you may have terrible short term memory deficits. After a few sessions I forgot important things, such as my Nannas death. But I also forgot the trauma that had occurred in “the Dungeon”. I started to feel better, more positive. I started to wonder WHY I Had become so depressed.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding ECT, even my family were anxious about me having it. But for me it made a real positive diference to my life. Without ECT I’m not sure of the level of life I would currently have. I’m not sure that I would be experiencing the quality of life that I am now. However, I do experence some major short term memory loss which I am working on.

ECT is a cost. ECT is definately a last resort. But I don’t doubt that ECT saved me.

Jail Break Version 3.0

It was less than 2 weeks after being discharged from The Dungeon that I ended up rehospitalized in the states psychiatric facility. my ‘Hospital in the Home’ nurses took me down to triage and I before I knew it, I ended up being admitted to an open mixed gender ward.

But I was on a path of self destruction, and the staff knew it. i can only remember snapshots of my time on the ward. The nurses caught me in the corner of my bathroom, a pair of leggings wrapped around my throat and my eyes bulging. So my clothes and shoes were confiscated. I was given a tear proof canvas sack to wear and moved to a single observation room with a camera in it. My sheets were made of tear proof canvas as well. I could only use plastic silverware.

Somehow I managed to get hold of a biro, and used the lid to gauge deep gashes into my thighs. Once again I was found out and this time was enough. I was moved to the locked “Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit” next door.

My first thoughts, when I arrived on the new ward were to escape. I had a brief Jurassic Park Moment where I attempted to climb the tall escape proof fence. Escape version 3.0. The nurses didn’t even bother trying to catch me- this fence was truly escape proof. Today was the day I ended up with a forced injection in my bum. I fell asleep, and woke up on ‘special’, where I had my very own nurse follow me around all day and all night.

I have never been so self destrucive. I didn’t care. Weeks later I look at the scars all over my legs and arms and think…why? What was it worth?

Now I carry scars I will hold forever. Scars to remind me where I have been, and where I will never go again.

Purple Gloves

Incarcerated again.

My hospital in the home team came on Saturday, and were not happy with how my mental state was progressing. After much angst from my behalf, the decision was made for hospitalization. I refused to go back to The Dungeon, so they admitted me to the state psychiatric facility, which, ironically, is far more modern and clean than The Dungeon.

I was admitted as an involuntary patient and assigned to 1:1 obs. I fell asleep in the cell like room that those on 1:1 supervision have. Suddenly I woke up with a team of nurses entering the room wearing purple gloves.

“what the bloody hell now?” I thought. In my experience, nurses in purple gloves generally mean unpleasant physical examinations.

But no, they ransacked my room, took all my possessions, stripped my bed and gave me a canvas gown to wear. I can use my possessions only under supervision. Apparently the whole raid is to keep me safe, stop me strangling myself with a bed sheet, that kind of thing.

It’s ok, it’s temporary, and I will get through it.

But if there is one thing I have learned….never trust nurses wearing purple gloves.

Charlie (is making me smile)

Somewhere along my stay Luke was admitted. Luke was a middle aged, bald, enormous man with a hernia the size of his fist where his belly button should be. Luke loved nothing more than the bible, and to sing, preferably both at the same time.

When he was first admitted he seemed relatively normal…if a bit loud. He caught me during one of my midnight insomniac drugged up strolls around the ward. We chatted. He seemed nice. How was I to know what was to come?!

What was to come was Luke became obsessed with me. Oh how I regretted my niceties, when at every sighting he called my name. Where he referred to me as “Sweetie”, and “Princess”, and “Beautiful” where he constantly asked questions like “can I touch what I can’t afford?”


I may be sounding harsh but, really, it wasn’t you this morning who woke to the sound of “Rachael!!!” through your hospital door. I dived under the covers and he must have looked in, because I heard him then say to his nurse “she is asleep”. The nurse, clearly trying to distract him from my door asked if he was wanted to play some of his songs. His response…

“I don’t want to wake the sleeping beauty Rachael up.”

Of course, Luke is manic. He has flown higher and higher to the point where he has irritated everyone on the ward, staff included, and may be transferred to a more secure facility. I tried to stay away from him, a little cat and mouse game that begun. I tried not to make eye contact, and maintain only minimalist conversation. This was not only to preserve my sanity, but for his sake as well. With mania come regrets.

I knew I was in too deep last night when I walked to my room, he bid me farewell, then started walking towards me. Suddenly I felt a little scared. I was all on my own on this side of the ward.

“what is it Luke?!” I asked in an irritated tone.
He stepped towards me and very seriously asked if he could kiss my hand. Unfortunately I was taken by surprise and all I could manage was ” errrr I guess…”. So he took my hand and kissed it, promising me he would only do it once so he would, and I quote, “make the most of it”.

Immediately afterwards I contacted my husband with strangled “help!”. He was of little use as he found the whole situation remarkably comical, referring to Luke as my “lover boy” through sniggers.

Hubster was to chortle some more the next morning when Luke accosted me at the medication station to ask whether he could put some flowers in my room. One place I did NOT want Luke was my room, so I firmly told him no. This had gone far enough.

He disappeared then came back again, giving me something, and racing off before I could say no. He called behind him “it was the prettiest one…for you”. I looked down into my lap and saw….

A monster figurine. He gave me a monster. It is green, in a “Roooaar” pose with its arms outstretched, and a giant mouth with red lips stretched to reveal 20 or so teeth. It is one of the ugliest things I had ever seen.

I took it back to my room and sat it on my table. Then I started to laugh. Then I started to roar with laughter. A nurse asked if I was ok.

I have named the figurine “Charlie” and have decided to keep it. He will sit on my desk and remind me of the crazy shit that happens when I go crazy. It will be an omen, and represent the darkness, and thus my desire to be well. It will represent what I have been through.

But it will also remind that no matter how unwell I am, even when I am hooked up to machines and can only wear track suits. Even when my hair is dirty and I can’t remember the last time I wore makeup. And even at my very worst….there will still be a middle aged, manic, balding guy out there who thinks I am the bees knees.

Oh, and my husband too. 😉

Jail Break: Vesion 2.0

“I’ve been trying hard not to get into trouble…but I’ve got a war in my mind.”
~Lana del Rey

I always think of this quote when I think of my time on steroids. Dark….self destructive…delusional. I found it hard to listen to my loved ones rather the voices in my head. I own a few more physical scars than I did when I was admitted. I angered easily with the staff, and when I did I screamed and swore. Half of me wanted to raise hell, the other half fought for sanity and safety and freedom from a locked ward.

But sometimes that side lost.

One morning I woke to be told that a surgical procedure arranged to ease the significant pain I was canned, after I had taken all the relevant preparations. I broke.

I had existed through the night practically counting the hours between oxycodene and the minutes until the procedure. I couldn’t live with the pain anymore. I ran for the exit. I was still on 1:1 supervision so my nurse ran after me and asked where I was going. I told her I was leaving. She told me she would call security.

“I don’t give a fuck!” I screamed back at her before running up the stairs. And that was that. Alarms went off, staff gathered. I half walked, half ran through the hospital, my nurse beside me still trying to reason with me. I looked behind me and was surprised to see six other staff following.

A part of me dissociated, and I saw myself from above. Haring through the hall, bare feet and pajamas, screaming, my speech peppered with profanity. This isn’t me!

Soon enough we met with security. Five of them for little old me with a limp and a catheter strapped to my leg. Instinctively I tried to dodge the guards, and instinctively they blocked me. They treated me like a wild, potentially dangerous animal. They raised their hands like traffic cops and asked me to sit down…they just wanted to talk.

It was about now I realized I had lost. I had 5 guards and 7 staff members who were going to take me back to hell. But even then I couldn’t let it go. In the middle of a circle of authority I yelled. I told them how crappy their hospital was. I ranted about my pain, I showed them my catheter, screaming that I couldn’t even pee by myself. “You have done this!” I shouted, gesturing to my self. Then, defeated I collapsed on the floor sobbing.

Two security guards lifted my limp body into a wheelchair, and wheeled me back to the ward.

It was only there that I realized what I had done.


As Real as it Gets

A few weeks ago I couldn’t sleep. I paced around the ward, them eventually went upstairs, which we are not really allowed to do at night, but I couldn’t face seeing the same dull scenery.

Upstairs I stared longingly at the exit, then reluctantly plonked myself down on a couch.

“Bad night?” I suddenly heard from beside me. I looked around and there was a guy there. Rough as guts type of guy, with a black eye, stitches in his eyebrow but a surprisingly kind face.

“I guess” I said, not really in the mood for conversation.

But somehow we started to talk. His story is not mine to tell, but I felt for him. It was the first time I had talked to anyone beyond pleasantries, and I was surprised at how much I revealed.

A hassled nurse eventually appeared. “So here are the two missing patients,” he grumbled.

After the nurse left, I remarked “don’t you think he looked like Brian May?”

“I don’t know…I think he kind of looked like Jesus.”

We burst out laughing.

We decided it was time to placate the nurses and head to bed, when suddenly I had a horrible thought.

“You are real aren’t you?” I asked, panicked.
“Real?! Are you serious?!” he asked, half amused.
“I’m in a psychiatric hospital and I have psychosis. I just wanted to make sure I haven’t been talking to myself for the last hour”

He smiled kindly, then put his hand on my shoulder.
“I’m as real as it gets.”

I never saw him again.

Jail Break

I have a confession.

The other day I lost my mind.

“This is new?!” I hear you say.

Why, yes. Because there are levels of madness. And somehow just when you think you have reached rock bottom, another darker, more dingy hole opens up.

It was triggered by what felt like the thousandth failed treatment for my physical illness. Suddenly I snapped. I told my nurse, dutifully by my side (I am now an involuntary patient on 1:1 supervision under the Mental Health Act) that I was done. I was sobbing. That I was leaving.

“You can’t leave” she told me “you are an involuntary patient”.

I looked around. No one had a gun to my head. There are no locked doors. So I put on my dressing gown and slippers, marched to my locker and retrieved my purse. This was it. I was going to leave, and I was going to die.

(Clearly I had thought this through, as dressed in hospital pajamas and slippers would render me completely inconspicuous. And having a urinary catheter would enable me to outwit and outrun the burly security team.)

I started walking the stairs when suddenly all hell broke loose. My nurse set off an alarm. All available nurses descended. There was a lot of shouting from me. There were threats of calling security from them.

“Please don’t make me do this,” one of my favourite nurses said. “please don’t make me call security”.

And then I just broke. I wept uncontrollably, two nurses having to help me down the stairs. They held my hands as I cried those gut wrenching sobs that feel like they may kill you. I was given Thorazine. I slept.

And when I woke up I realized that I would be staring a these dilapidated walls for a while longer. But I was alive. And life, even in a run down psychiatric ward, trumps death any day.

I’m the one

Being in a psychiatric ward, you do often wonder who is the ‘craziest’ of us all.

Is it the guy who laughs manically for no reason?

The girl who does ballet down the hall?

The young man who wrestles with a broom?

Yesterday I became so angry. I was in pain, and the gastro team had yet to come and physically see me, despite several prompts from my psych team. I could barely sit up because of the pain, had not left my bed all day, and the only thing I was offered for pain relief was panadeine.

A rage fueled me and I marched ungainly to the nurses station, a catheter strapped precariously to my leg as – the icing on the cake really – my bladder had decided to stopped working the night before.

I screamed at the nurses. I told them I needed to see the doctor. Fifteen or so people stopped what they were doing and stared at me, eyes like saucers. As I yelled I could I could feel myself getting more and more out of control. I saw myself from above and suddenly I realized..

I’m the one. I’m the craziest. At least in this particular moment.

My doctor got on the phone. And within the hour the gastro team arrived.

What a pity acting crazy is sometimes the only way to get results.

The Friend Zone

People often ask me if I have made friends in here. I always give the same response:

I am here to get better, not to make friends.

That’s not to say I am not polite to people, that I don’t pass the time of day. I have no prejudice against anyone here…after all I am just as much an “inmate” as them.

But I know myself. I worry, I take on other peoples baggage. And quite frankly I have enough of my own baggage to deal with. It’s not snobbery, it’s survival. Swapping phone numbers, day trips out together….no. It is not what I need.

Despite my best efforts to remain aloof, a few of the the older women have taken it upon themselves to take me under their wing. Like mother hens they have held me as I cried, passed me tissues, checked in on me and expected nothing in return.

One night as I was trying to sleep I heard some quiet sobbing coming from my mother hens cubicle. I lay there awkwardly not knowing what to do. Then I got up, and walked into her cubicle. Wordlessly, I lay down next to her and held her as she cried.

After a while she calmed down and she turned to me. “thank you…no one has held me like that in a long time.”

“it will be ok” I told her.

“yes it will ” she said.

She was discharged the next day and I never saw her again. I hope she is doing well.

Sick of being sick

Today isn’t a great day. My steroid dose was cut two days ago…the one thing we were all looking to to improve my psychiatric symptoms….and some of my gastro symptoms are back. I am praying it is coincidence, something I ate, anxiety, or just about ANYTHING that means I have to go back to the higher dose.

I am sick of being sick. Quite honestly, I have never felt this unwell in my life. When its not pain it’s hallucinations, when it’s not gastro symptoms it’s depression. Then there are the side effects of the drugs themselves…dry mouth, tachycardia, insomnia, restlessness, everything tasting bad, immuno suppression, fainting….the list goes on. I just want to feel well again. Mentally and physically.

One of the annoying things is that I have very poor concentration. The books I have, the tv, crosswords and activities on the ward are things I can only concentrate on for 10 minutes or so. I am so weak and lightheaded from the combination of the oesionophilia and my meds, that merely walking to an activity is too much for me. I feel pathetic. But this, combined with insomnia makes for some very long days, and too much time to think.

I know it could be worse, but today I’m struggling, and today I don’t feel strong. But tomorrow is a new day and I hope the world seems brighter.