Human beings are territorial creatures. Throughout all of time, as nations, we’ve been trying to defend and conquer land. As individuals, we’re fiercely protective of our homes.
For a week and a half now, my – temporary – home has been a hospital room. And while it may not be ‘mine’ per-se, it’s allocated exclusively to me and nobody else is allowed in unless I permit them. Except, of course, if there should be some kind medical urgency in which my rights to privacy can be briefly waived to a certain extent.
Most of the patients, even the proper-crazies are actually very good about respecting room boundaries. There is one, however, who seems to have problems with this and keeps trying my door. Trying to communicate with him is nigh on impossible as he will only hear you if he has specifically chosen to listen to you. But such are his mental problems, he is often locked away in his own little world with walls up to prevent our world from seeping in.
Staff are becoming increasingly frustrated by him and I suspect they are looking to have something done about it. Precisely what, I have no idea – it’s not my place to know – but I hope it’s sorted soon because the constant acting out, spitting, shouting, kicking doors, intimidating staff and patients and invasions of space are unacceptable nuisances.
For someone with an anxiety disorder, I’m not coping well being housed in a locked ward with this guy. And there’s only so much of his shouting and crashing about that my ear-defenders can block out.
Another boundary that may have been crossed yesterday was a biological one. I managed to get some gym time which felt good. Despite my mood is low and I don’t feel like doing much, it was an opportunity to get off the ward and to do something positive. I got a solid 15mins on a bike and then did 20mins of walking on a six-degree incline at 5.2kmh.
This was, for me and my current fitness levels, a workout that pushed me fairly hard but certainly not to breaking point. Afterwards, I was able to sit and rest for a few mins and cool down. I had some water, I got my breathing under control and felt good. But the moment I stood up, the room pitched hard over and I stumbled.
Everything was swaying around me, and walking was particularly tough. It’s only a very short trip up a corridor to go from the gym back to the ward, but I had to use a wall to guide me all the way back, such was the level of unsteadiness.
Another patient, mercifully a very nice, normal guy who – like me – is battling a few demons and has self-admitted to get his head clear, helped me to my room and sat me down on the edge of my bed. Given that I seemed to be in such poor shape he got a nurse to come and check up on me.
Even as my blood pressure and pulse was being measured, I could feel my arms and my face starting to tingle. Not quite pins-and-needles, but a distinct and recognisable tingle. It was spreading quickly throughout my chest and abdomen into my hands and down my legs.
The nurse coaxed me gently onto my side from a sitting positing and I then went into a full-on panic/anxiety attack, or at least it felt like I did. Why it happened there and then, I can’t say. Could it have been arriving back on this weird ward after the natural endorphins of the workout? Had I pushed myself too hard and it was a slightly delayed reaction? Or had the medication caused my blood pressure to do something funny and it just caught up with me?
The fitness instructor has cautioned me that he won’t be letting me do any ‘hard’ exercise for a while but we’ve compromised and agreed I can do some gentle bike time to still help me feel like I’m doing something for myself other than sitting around counting the brain cells as they wither and die from the atrophy caused by the long hours of nothing to do.
There ‘could’ be things to do… Reading a book, watching something on Netflix on my pad, trying to write some expressive poetry instead of these rambling journals… I’ve attempted all of these and more over the past week and a half. Nothing seems to stick. My attention span is at an all-time low. My ability concentrate is totally gone and I find myself just flitting from thought to though with little cohesion between any of them.
Even writing this journal entry has been a task that has taken most of the day to achieve as I need to dip in and out of it whenever I seem to have a few lucid moments. Most of the time is wasted, re-reading what I’ve already written so I know where to pick-up from.
It’s really quite frustrating.
I’ve listened to so much music on my MP3 player that I’m almost tired of if it all. I now just long for the quiet that the ear-defenders can provide though they’re not very discrete and I often feel a bit self-conscious and silly for wearing them.
But – oh my goodness – they are a godsend. It’s such a shame that proper noise-cancelling headphones (that are any good) are so expensive. I’d be interested to know what defence they can provide from the noisy, chaotic and distracting world.
My mental boundaries remain something of a mystery. Rational Rob and Emotional Rob continue to wage their war with no progress either way and I have yet to receive any help attempting to understand how much of my identity is genuine ‘me’ and how much of it is something that’s been fabricated as a façade to appear more typical.
I can still feel it a lot, when my inner voice is screaming at someone to ‘pay some bloody attention you arrogant twat’ yet on the outside I’m quietly just letting them walk by without even acknowledging me because I dare not make scene or be a nuisance.
That’s a fairly extreme example, granted, but it’s still happening a lot. I want to portray a calm, easy-going, cool and collected exterior but inside I’m in turmoil. I feel betrayed, used, trodden on, taken advantage of, neglected… And then I see, in other people, these same things and I immediately feel guilt for having had the privileges and the opportunities that I’ve had up to now and still feel all those things.
A dear friend asked me recently if I was likely to go home soon and how I felt about doing so. I’m due to see the consultants either tomorrow or Tuesday and they will monitor my progress over the last week and make a decision for me. They may wish to adjust the medication and observe for a bit longer or they may say that it’s all normal and release me back into the wild.
I face a sense of trepidation either way. If I stay here, I have one true ally in the patients who I can talk with on a sensible level and engage with. Otherwise, it’s quite a stressful place to be with several volatile patients who often create high levels of anxiety for me. That said, I’ve now gone a week without hurting myself and although I still cry a little bit, it’s not as frequent or as extreme as it was.
Going home would be to go back to relative peace and the comfort of my home. But the solitude, the emptiness and loneliness of not having another soul there could drive me back down that slope at an alarming velocity and I could be right back at square one.
Of course, there’s an invite from family to go and spend time with them again which is likely to be a dead-cert at this point. But my biggest boundary to cross remains to be seen. I need to understand what my financial future will look like.
Will I be fit to work? Will I be eligible for anything if not? What sort of income would I generate? How does that compare to my outgoings?
That’s a boundary I’ve yet to explore and I’m afraid and nervous about doing so. It’s an intimidating expedition to embark on and I don’t fully trust myself to ask the right questions at the right time to maximise my chances of getting sufficient financial coverage.
There’s much to do, there’s a bit of time to do it in, but there’s not a lot of me left to dig-deep into to get it done. What little confidence I had last year has been annihilated this winter and I’m left squirming in a deep pool of self-doubt.
I do hope I can find the edge of this pool and cross to a land that doesn’t feel like it’s crushing the life out of me, but – for now – I’ll need some patience and some help to pull my way there.
Though I’ve not come far since entering this hospital, I’ve also not slipped back at all. If we want to call that progress, then go ahead. To me, it feels a bit like treading water since I’ve not yet been tested properly outside of a controlled environment. The real-word test has yet to be tried.
I don’t feel ready. I’m scared. I’m petrified. The world has never felt larger or more intimidating than it does right now. And I don’t know what it will take to face it again.
Let’s wait see what the doctors think of it all. They have the insight and the training to recognise warning signs or indicators that someone needs a bit of a push. I’m trusting them to help identify the boundaries I can’t. I’m hoping they can make the right call and issue the order to attack for new territory or to hold fast and defend for a little longer.
Whichever way it goes, send good vibes… I’m going to need them.