Retail Therapy

Some patients would get through a personal stereo a week, buy roller blades they couldn’t stand up in, eat themselves sick on gigantic bars of chocolate and family sized bags of crisps, or buy expensive items of jewellery which they sold a week later for a tenth of the price. Second hand shops around the town were doing a roaring trade, applying a 100% mark up or more as soon as one of our more gullible souls walked across the threshold. Some patients regularly borrowed money off their wealthier friends in private sector mental health accommodation, where a disposable income of £150 a week was not unknown.
This was serious expenditure conducted by enthusiastic people, but as soon as the money ran out they could not be roused before 10.30a.m., spent hours in bed during the afternoon and were in their pyjamas or night dresses by 7.00p.m. claiming to be ‘worn out’. They would often cut short organised activities such as occupational therapy or day centre attendance with a tantrum or ‘dizzy spell’, to be discovered later sleeping on the nearest sofa or dancing frantically to personal stereo music. Some tried to spend all day in their dressing gowns, like a team of Oscar Wilde look-a-likes composing their next plays. One patient regularly went out through the front door to attend training sessions, only to return minutes later through the side door and go back to bed again. Staff thought they had overcome the problem by checking his bedroom a quarter of an hour after he had departed, until they discovered that he was sneaking back and sleeping in somebody else’s bed instead, or in the broom cupboard. It was almost impossible to keep some residents out of bed, and even when this was achieved, they would often sleep instead on settees, in the hospital grounds, in local parks, or in obliging drop-in centres around the town…….

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