Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rain On Our Heads

These are the steps to freedom when you are certified under the Mental Health Act and arrive in hospital.

First, everything is taken from you. The only things you have are your hospital bracelets, hospital pants, and a hospital gown.You may be guarded, or placed in seclusion - a tiny room in which you are locked (see my earlier post on what it's like to be in seclusion).

You don't realize it at the time, but it will be from many days to several weeks before you will be outside again.

First you have to get your clothes back. When you do, this means that the staff trust that you won't try to escape.

After you get your clothes, and depending on your psychiatrist's assessment, you may be given a "fresh air" pass, to go outside of the building for fifteen minutes.

Now, imagine being confined to a room, hallway, eating area and TV lounge for a week, two weeks or a month. Your only exercise is pacing up and down the hall (there's even a sign that tells you how many trips end to end it takes to make a kilometre, like you are swimming lengths).

That fifteen minutes of freedom and first breath of fresh air is exhilirating and terrifying. It is hard to describe what it is like to someone who hasn't been confined.

If this works for several days (i.e. you don't try to escape, and come back on time), then you will be granted longer passes, culminating in ovenights at home and eventually discharge.

What I remember most about my first fifteen minute pass was being nervous, and then the feeling of rain hitting my head. It was delicious. I let it rain on my head for those whole fifteen minutes. It is one of the most vivid memories I have of my hospitalization.

Several years later, I was walking with a friend who had, as it turned out, only two weeks left before cancer would claim her. She was gaunt and very ill. It started to rain, and I immediately opened my umbrella to hold over her head.

"No thanks. I'd like to feel the rain on my head this time."

I folded up the umbrella and we walked quietly together, both enjoying (for different reasons) the special feeling of rain on our heads.

4 comments:

capepointsouthafrica said...
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D'Arcy said...

I was in Royal Columbian when that happened - I think it was the same everywhere. I hated the "it will look bad for the doctors" thing. Aren't they all supposed to be working together? I also avoided TV, but I moved around a lot, so I guess that counted. They needed more for us to do than just watch TV.

Kiki said...

Was it Rebecca, D'Arc? I still think about her so often. What a gal.

D'Arcy said...

It was Rebecca. I think about her quite often...another person who was wise way beyond her years. I walked by her bench the other day - I love her quote on it: "let your socks be your mittens."