Chemical care in the Community.
Losing a wonderfully wise man whose wisdom I took for granted, well, it hit me really hard. My thoughts seemed to constantly focus on death.
Over the course of the next year or so, my behaviour changed drastically, I became extremely undisciplined, argumentative, I was suspended from school on several occasions. With the help of an Educational Officer – psychiatrists and psychologists took an interest in me.
After a few short sessions with various medical professionals, my parents were informed with confidence that I had a condition called manic depression and that it was caused by a chemical imbalance/ deficiency of salt in my brain. After being sure that my heart, kidneys or liver were free from defects, I was prescribed Lithium Carbonate. I took the medication most days between the ages of 14 and 18.
At first, my behaviour did not improve, and it was decided that I should spend time in an adolescent unit of the psychiatric wing of a hospital near St. Albans. It was a very strange place, most of the resident children there were unwanted orphans. A lot of the nurses were very heavy-handed in their restraint techniques, and doctors seemed to love nothing more than to sedate those of us not willing to take part in various group activities. The heavy-handed ways, the use of an exclusion room and the sedation syrup, for even the smallest of infractions – it makes me question the ethics and morals of some of the staff, but nothing I was privy to was illegal as far as I can tell. (There have been stories in the news in recent times about the police investigating the historic abuse allegations of dozens of former inmates. I can’t testify to being unlawfully abused, but it certainly wasn’t the holiday camp that the doctors tried to portray to my parents. Maybe the memories of that place would have been a lot worse without a father and mother looking out for me and if I wasn’t allowed to go home most weekends.)
I recently attempted to write a childish poem about a memory of the hospital ward of which I was once an inmate, in the early nineteen-nineties:
Whilst the teenager is peacefully sitting
On a chair at a table in the corner,
With his back turned from a large sparsely populated room.
He reads and whispers verses from a good news bible .
Three male nurses suddenly appear from behind and grab him,
And he is wrestled to the ground.
The nurses restrain him
His face firmly pressed down on the hard floor:
The screaming fourteen-year-old child
Is given a choice,
He can drink a large shot
Of a sickly, thick, syrupy cough-medicine-like substance,
Or he can be condemned to having his buttocks exposed
In front of the ever-growing crowd
Of other nurses, doctors, unwanted orphans
And the allegedly insane,
To have his bared left buttock injected with
A clear non-syrupy substance.
The teen cries for his mummy and daddy
And he begs for a glass of water
To get rid of the vile aftertaste
Of the temporary-death syrup
That torments and tickles his throat.
He suddenly become uncontrollably tired,
He is escorted to bed,
He is undressed,
He is kindly tucked in tightly by one of the nurses.
The adolescent foetus is left alone
In a motherless make-shift womb
He is determined to fight the effect of the coma-juice,
And manages to get his hidden pencil and paper
From inside his dribble-covered pillowcase.
And almost blindly
He scribbles as many words as he…
Upon waking from his dreamless state,
He struggles to open his heavy eyelids
And finds the scribbles on paper,
He stands up and turns on the night-light
He then nakedly releases himself
From his recently soiled bed area.
He is screamed at by a child to turn off the light.
In the darkness, he slides, towards
A soon to be brightly lit bathroom,
And with a dehydrated frog in his throat
He reads aloud what he scribbled
Before his latest temporary chemical death:
“Gospel of John, legs eleven, jump and jive.
He is in fact …”
A kind old lady eventually finds me
And takes me back to my bed area.
I put on my nightclothes,
As the charitable night nurse
Replaces my soiled sheets and blankets…
She asks if I would like some squash and cookies.
I gently say my yes, please and thank-you,
Then how motherly she comforts me
Until I run out of tears to cry,
She then whispers
‘Good night and God bless sweet child’.
She disappears into her little lightly lit station,
The no-mans-land between the boys’ and girls’ dorms.
I pretend to be asleep,
Whilst I lay amongst custard cream crumbs.
Waiting for the sun to rise
And for the next day-mare to commence…