I’m a big fan of crime documentaries and TV shows/films that focus on criminal behaviours. I’ve no intention of ever deliberately breaking the law, rather my interest is around the study of how people are awful to other people.
In my case, I grew up around people who were being awful to me. For nearly eight years, I had one particular individual undermining my development by destroying any hope of self-confidence or self-worth while at home, and because that had made me quiet, meek and afraid, it made me an easy target for school bullies as I went up into secondary school.
So, for fifteen years – fifteen really important, formative years where I should have been building my identity and learning my place in the world – instead of growing and learning and understanding and gaining confidence, I just shut myself away from the world as often as I could and hoped that I could have a little time to myself where I could just exist without the pain, misery and suffering everyone else heaped onto me.
Perhaps this is why I’m so fascinated now by the nature in which people choose to be awful to each other; to see if I can ever rationalise and/or understand the things I went through.
Once I turned eighteen and all those people were gone from my life, I was no longer a target for anyone. Nobody was making it their mission to hurt me anymore. This was a strange and confusing concept for me as it went against everything I had grown up with. And thus, I took responsibility for my own pain and suffering; emotional and physical.
Perhaps I’ll delve a bit deeper into that in another journal entry… For now, just trust that I can be especially cruel to myself and that it works very well to make me feel about as awful as I possibly can.
When my emotional collapse finally peaked, about a week and a half before Christmas 2021, I realised I was going to bed each night absolutely desperate never to wake up again. Each morning when I opened my eyes, I realised with awful dread that I had to endure yet another day.
For this reason, it was deemed necessary for me to be admitted to hospital for my safety; to ensure that I didn’t become a risk to myself and to be in a place where I could be monitored, medicated, and supported.
When I had woken up that morning, I hadn’t anticipated going out at all. I was miserable, depressed and the world was too big and too intimidating. I had pulled on a onesie and set about lounging in despair and anguish.
The two workers who had visited me at home that day told me to pack a few essentials and some clothes and that we’d head straight out. My head being the mess that it was, I just followed the instruction. It didn’t occur to me to get changed first. So out I went in my black onesie with a bright blue NASA jacket on over the top of it.
The first phase of being hospitalised was waiting for a bed to become available. This was a confusing and distressing time for me. First, one must consider that hospitals are a massive trigger-factor for my anxiety. Just being near one – regardless of the reason for being there – sets it growing at an exponential rate. Couple that with my sensitivity to sounds and it isn’t a healthy combination. Every door slam, every beep as someone swiped a pass-card, every whirr of the big photocopier, every phone that rang in one of the offices adjoining the corridor I was seated in… All of it banging into my ears and rattling my anxiety as if someone had a kettle drum inside my skull and was pounding it repeatedly almost non-stop.
After about two-hours, I had a crack at my first escape attempt; I checked the door that led outside and found it to be a relatively simple affair that appeared to magnetically lock at one point in the top. On the wall was a card reader thing that would need to be swiped to unlock it.
I mooched around until someone emerged from an office. I tried to look and act very casual in a way that said, ‘I’m just standing here reading the notice board and there’s nothing much to be concerned about’.
“Excuse me,” I started, trying to sound as causal and as I hoped I appeared, “you couldn’t just swipe this door for me, could you?”
Whoever she was, a nurse, doctor, admin, whatever, regarded me up and down. Eighteen-stone of slightly dishevelled, scruffy middle-aged man in a onesie and an electric blue NASA coat standing awkwardly and grimacing at a locked door stood before her… And it wasn’t fooling her at all.
She saw through the façade, had me re-seated and tried to reinvigorate the bed finding process on the ward I was to be taken to. My mission hadn’t gone well, but what it did do was highlight that the corridor was not working as a good holding place for me.
They moved me up to waiting room that was fractionally less aggravating. Especially once I’d taken the battery out of their wall-clock to silence the relentless ‘TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK’ that resonated like a builder banging nails into a wall with a hammer.
A further two-hours went by. I was going so far out of my mind at that point that reason and sense were completely forgotten and pure-impulse took over. Leaving all my belongings in the waiting area, I ventured out into the corridor and looked all the way to the far end at the door to the outside.
I recalled my earlier observations of it. How physical bolts/locks were not engaged and that with enough force, the magnet should yield and the door would open. And so I charged, as fast as I could, shoulder first, down the corridor and met the door with my upper, right arm.
There was an almighty crash, there was a muffled ‘oomph’ and the entire building shook and wobbled. But the door held. A fair gap appeared around the bottom and the side, but the top stayed firmly shut and when it bounced back into the fully closed position and I had ricocheted into the corner against the wall, doors sprung open all the way up the corridor and people appeared out of them to try and figure out what had happened.
All I could do was stand sheepishly in the corner between the door and wall and hold my now lightly injured arm. I was coaxed gently back to the waiting area and – I suspect, having seen how determined I was to escape from the corridor – the search for a space on the ward was stepped up a few gears because it was only a matter of minutes before I was told they’d found room for me.
I will discuss the stay in hospital in greater detail another time as it deserves an analysis all of its own, but suffice it to say that it was not a happy, comfortable nor safe environment for me to be in. Very little sleep was managed over the two nights I was in there and on the second morning, I was frantically trying to make phone calls to anyone who might be able to try and assist with having me discharged.
I was, after all, a voluntary patient. I hadn’t been sectioned. Therefore, I only needed doctor approval and I was free to go home. But it turns out that doctors are very rare creatures and none could be reached to get that final judgement call.
A minor altercation with another patient had seen me lash out in frustration and kick a chair. I had only asked him, as politely as I could on such a tiny amount of sleep, to ’please keep [his] voice down a bit’ since it was only half-five in the morning and some people were still trying to sleep. He’d made some ridiculous comment about me being another one of the spies (he’d been ranting and raving about some of the nurses being spies and working against him the day before) and so my frustration boiled over and I reacted poorly.
But it was a psychiatric ward full of patients with all manner of difficulties. This chap of whom I speak appeared to be paranoid schizophrenic, so it makes sense that any furniture in the communal area not be light enough to be picked up and used a battering ram or a weapon. That thought didn’t register until after I had kicked the chair.
It moved about an inch and a half. My foot hurt considerably! That little seat must have weighed about forty kilos and I regretted it instantly. I retreated back into my room and paced angrily. Within seconds, three of the nurses burst into my room to see if they needed to take further action. Until that point, I had been fairly placid so I presume they were worried I was snapping.
Once they were satisfied it was a one-off reaction to that incident and that I wasn’t going to be a troublemaker, they warned me against further furniture related violence and left me to be. Several fraught hours passed before I finally got word that arrangements were being made to let me go home.
But it was a great many hours. Hours in which my frustration saw me trying to break the window in my room by punching through the glass. Hours in which I tried to find a way to destroy the mesh that kept people in whilst allowing the air to circulate through the small part of the window that slid open.
Alas, all attempts to do so failed. But when I was given the opportunity to wait out my last couple of hours in the quiet solitude of the visitors area, I pulled on my coat, grabbed my suitcase and headed out into the communal area to be shown the way.
It was a busy little space. Patients and staff scattered everywhere, and I found myself having to wait a moment while my escort attended one last quick errand. I leaned back with a wall to my left and the heavy chair behind me. Another patient, a nice guy, calm, considered, stood to my right and made polite conversation.
At that moment, the paranoid schizophrenic rounded the corner and saw me propping up the wall. Just a reminder, I was wearing my coat which is a really vivid shade of blue, has the American flag on the left arm, a big NASA patch on the left breast and a space shuttle mission patch on the right breast… It’s really noticeable.
His eyes went wide and he screeched, in a mixture of shock and rage, “NASA? NASA?! More government spies?! Who brought NASA into this?!” He actually seemed to come at me at one point and I had nowhere to go. All my routes were shut off. I froze on the spot.
Thankfully, there were plenty of staff to help redirect him well away from me and usher him semi-forcefully into a place to make the communal space a tad safer to pass through. The calm patient that I had been chatting with rolled his eyes a bit, looked at me and said very flatly, “So, how was Florida? Enjoy your holiday there?”
Sure enough, a few hours later, I arrived home and was able to get some rest. Time on the south coast with family afterwards helped me to gather myself up a bit and recover from the ordeal of the hospital ward but I needed to return home to see to some duties and attend appointments.
One of the appointments required me to go back to the hospital to discuss a treatment plan. There’s a short walk from the car park to the office building where I needed to be, the last stretch is a side road that goes right several office buildings, all of which open out onto the straight pathway I was walking.
I was following the signs for ‘Outpatients’ and I could see where it was directing me to; a door where a tradesman was stood waiting. I wasn’t walking very fast, and I allowed it to take me a few mins to reach the doorway. The tradesman was ‘still’ standing there as I arrived.
“Nobody home?” I asked calmy.
“Doesn’t seem like it, nobody answering the buzzer. But I thought I saw some movement a moment ago.”
Perhaps what I did next made sense. Perhaps it was a little forceful. I’m not sure, but from my perspective, I was standing in 1-degree-celsius winter air, didn’t fancy hanging around waiting for a buzzer to be ignored like this other guy had been and wanted to raise some awareness that people were waiting. Also, I didn’t want to be late to my appointment.
So, I raised a fist and pounded on the window firmly eight times in quick succession. All the way up the corridor, doors sprang open and heads poked out of them, almost like meerkats peeking out of their dens to survey the area for potential threats.
I waved, pointed at the door and gestured as if to say, “what the bloody hell?” The two people who came to open the door seemed to think I was in some sort of highly agitated state. I’m not sure I was any more agitated than I normally am but they seemed to be very cautious with m. I had no anger or malice for them, but they made a very good effort to try and clam me down and direct me to where my appointment was. It was all very strange.
It seems hospitals are as hard to get into as they are to get out. But if you ever have any trouble with a hospital door, I can highly recommend either throwing yourself at it or at least banging it firmly with a closed fist to muster up a bit of cooperation from those that work there.
Currently, I find myself seeking solace back in the company of family and slightly afraid to return back home again. Being at home seems to be working against me at the moment. A close friend once said to me, ‘To be in your own head is to be trapped behind enemy lines.’
I can’t disagree. My own thoughts are intrusive, noisy, overwhelming, chaotic and tiring. There’s a constant mental battle between the rational and the emotional and I feel trapped in the crossfire and shellshocked into inaction.
While I’m with family, there’s a detachment from my ‘normal’ life and it’s easier to crawl out from under the battle and feel calmer and safer. But it’s a bit like being one of those people in that building I wanted access to; I’m inside trying to figure out how to get on with things, and the reality of life and the frightening tornado of negative thoughts is pounding on the door to be let back in and it’s too loud to be ignored.
I know that the door has to be opened, it can’t be left unattended indefinitely.
Even though that ‘thing’ demanding to be let in is my creation, and my responsibility to resolve, I’m too weak and too afraid to confront it all right now.
But, it’s not going to go away. It’ll have to be dealt with before long. I’m hoping that someone, very soon, can provide me with the tools to start that process.