Archive for asylum life


Posted in Blogging, books, journals and diaries, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , on December 2, 2014 by leovineknight

The next day, one of the nurses told me I had some more visitors and I craned my neck with anticipation as the clattering footsteps echoed down the corridor. The hammer came down and my emotions hit the bell, but on seeing three familiar faces from the unit turn the corner, those same emotions crashed to ground with a sickening thud (and kept on going).
“Christ” I said involuntarily.
“Well, that’s a nice greeting” said one of the nursing assistants, cheerfully.
“What brings you here?” I asked knowingly.
“Oh, we felt like a long run out in the car, and this was a good excuse” he answered with disarming honesty.
“We had a dump on the way here” said Sidney.
“Pardon?” I said.
“We had a bump in the car, but no damage done.”
“Oh, good.”
”How are you, Steven?”
“Well, I’m due to go on home leave soon, but my wife’s decided to divorce me so it’s looking a bit awkward.”
“Bloody Hell Steve” he chuckled. “Never mind though, there’s always a bed for you at the unit.”
“That’s reassuring.”
“I thought he looked as shite as a sheet” said Sidney.
“Still, you’re a dark horse really Steve. I never thought you’d screw the system like this.”
“What do you mean?”
“A nice few months on the sick, most of it recuperating in the pub.”
“But this is real sickness.”
“Ha! Ha! That’ll be the day. God, you’re a droll bugger. How do you keep a straight face?”
“Change the subject will you?” I said, feeling a strange anxiety creeping up on me.
“Oh, well, things are pretty much the same at the unit, with plenty of new initiatives, zero movement, lots of sickness and….”
“Are you still doing the charity walks?” I said, noticing for the first time that all the staff were wearing Telly Tubby costumes, beautifully co-ordinated with Pearly King top hats and antique red noses, dating back to the early din period of charity mindlessness.
“Oh, no Steve. Charity walking is so yesterday. We’re into charity hawking now.”
“Yes. It’s dead simple. We all dress up and stand around spitting at each other’s boots for an hour while people queue up to watch. It’s an absolute riot of 21st century fun.”
“Ha ha ha ha” we chuckled.
“Well, as long as you’re having fun, that’s the main thing” I said. “And it’s all for charity, of course.”
“Oh… er…..yes…..naturally.”
“Have you heard about Cecilia, by the way?” interrupted the other assistant.
“She died in hospital last week.”
“Yes, she was in a coma you know.”
“No, I didn’t know.”
“There’s one hell of a stink going on about it. But at least you’re well out of it.”
“Yes” said Sid “There’s a big noise coming down from hindquarters…er….headquarters, to sort it out……”
“I need a cigarette now” cut in a familiar voice.

It was indeed a familiar voice with a familiar question, but for some reason it sent a seismic shock wave running up my back. The tribulations of the last few months seemed to hurtle back into full view, and my numbness vanished. The future opened up nightmarishly around me and a sickly phlegm filled my throat. The air crackled and hissed, and an old enemy returned; refreshed.
“I need a cigarette now! Now! Now! Now” Hettie suddenly howled.
“We’d better be off Steve. See you soon. Sorry it’s all a rush.”
“Wanks very much” said Sidney, pointing at me.
“’Bye Sid.”
“We’re buying a new house you know – I can’t wait to put down a deposit.”
“Home is where the fart is….”
I wasn’t really aware of the squad departing, and after a while I wandered down to my room and sought the refuge of bed. My head hammered, but sleep seemed to arrive instantly, and I twisted away into a dreamscape of schoolyards, fruit machines, sickly sweet smells, and sadness. I saw my mother’s white face accusing me from the shadows, and the sagging shell of our old house with its cluttered rooms and grates with ashes. I ran through endless streets of rain and sorrow, panting and terrified, until at last a yellow light appeared above a varnished door, and I saw my children looking silently down. I shook the bolts, and circled the house, finding a narrow view inside – where familiar thighs gripped a half-known man, and convulsions merged with spider blackness.
Then all around a pink sea span with hypnotic swirls of crimson, and a bright red sunset appeared before me.



Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, mental health with tags , on October 7, 2014 by leovineknight

I resisted a gut reaction to rip the letter into shreds or burn it in my crested ashtray, knowing that this would then prevent me from subjecting it to endless dissection and reinterpretation. I was aware from previous experience that short term anger would probably give way to longer term wishful thinking, and that until further information arrived I would paw over every piece of existing evidence with a detective’s eye. Did the letter really mean what it looked like at first sight? Was there any hope between the lines? Did the description of my competitor reveal any weaknesses? The self-flagellation could go on for weeks and months, right down to the bone.
I felt trashed.
Certainly, this wasn’t the best preparation for my weekly meeting with the multidisciplinary team, and when the time came to walk down to the meeting room, I felt more like hitching a horizontal ride in a hearse. But I must have looked better than I felt because the first thing the consultant said was:
“Well Steven, the medication seems to have suited you. The nurses say you haven’t reported any ‘unusual’ sights and sounds for over two weeks. No voices in your head, no radio broadcasts meant just for you, and no feelings that the world was against you. You must be feeling a lot better?”
“Well, I’ve given up the fight against vastly superior odds, if that’s what you mean.”
“Yes, that sounds pretty rational to me.”
“How long do you think it will be before I’m fit for work?”
“Er…well looking at your occupation, it could be quite a while yet, but I’m certainly pleased with your progress.”
“So, what happens now?”
“Well the next step is to reduce your medication towards a maintenance dose. Then the nursing staff will arrange some home leave for you, to see how you get on outside the ward. I’m sure your family are looking forward to having you back.”
“Absolutely” I stupidly said.
” Have you heard of C——- Village?” I hedged.
“Christ! You don’t want to go there do you?” he laughed. “It’s all mumbo jumbo and ‘let’s worship the divine leader’.”
“No different to here then.” I remarked.
“Very good, Steven” the consultant chuckled. “Now. Are you absolutely sure we’ve dealt with all the issues that were troubling you.”
“I think so” came my unconvincing reply.
The consultant had a backlog of ill and ‘ill’ people waiting to be admitted, so in the following days he chose to overlook my increasingly sardonic remarks and my growing interest in religious communities, keeping instead to the agreed discharge care plan. I had received nothing further from Carol, but a preliminary letter had arrived from her solicitor advising me that divorce proceedings were about to begin and that I might want to appoint a ‘legal advisor’ of my own. The day of my home leave was getting nearer, and I was finding it difficult to explain my wife’s ongoing ‘incommunicado’ status to the nurses. Sleep was difficult, and the headaches were returning.


Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , , on December 1, 2013 by leovineknight

I left the house when the kids were going to bed, scraped the sleet off the car and drove past the snug little bungalows with their billiard table lawns and miniature wishing-wells; my mind going forwards and the world going backwards. It was too soon for revellers and too late for shoppers, leaving the dark streets lanced by yellow beams, deserted and sad, washed by filthy rain, and swept of meaning.
Even before I entered, the wails and monotones reached out of the unit’s front door like a monastic chant, but I forced a grin at the annoying levity of staff on their eager way home, as the old tired rituals began once again.
After three hours had passed, I watched the last chain-smoker going to bed, wishing I was in mine, and I flinched as the gathering silence was shattered by a patient deciding to run a bath at midnight. There was more silence, more doors, more wandering souls, then a period of tenuous tranquillity as the clock moved slowly on to 2.00a.m. Armies of unseasonable flies, wasps, mosquitoes and moths floated and buzzed around the hot reviving lights, while my eyes struggled to concentrate on a Bronte classic rendered meaningless by fatigue. Needing to walk around just to stay awake, I inspected the tightly screwed on, plastic covered prints of impressionist scenes for the tenth time that night, and heard every snore, sigh and mumble in the building – not because they were near, but because I was sensitised to the slightest sound, like an unwilling guard dog.

Talk the Talk

Posted in Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, satire and humour with tags , , , on March 3, 2013 by leovineknight

After two hours with the Health and Safety team across at the new ward, I’d eventually discovered (via three brainstorming sessions, a seminar, two coffees and a workshop) where the fire doors and extinguishers were located.

“Couldn’t you have just given us the basic information straight off?” I unwisely enquired.

“Er…..well….I suppose so, but it wouldn’t have been so much fun would it?” said a red-faced blue stocking with brown hair and black looks.

“Ha ha ha” we chuckled.

“And what on earth would we have done with the rest of the day?” added her colleague.

“Of course, of course…… I do apologise.”

“Besides” added the trainee Health and Safety Officer “We didn’t know where the fire exits were ourselves until we had the workshop”.

Does anyone know when the kids’ TV programmes finish and the adults’ programmes start?

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, mental health, satire and humour with tags , , on December 11, 2012 by leovineknight

On one channel, I found thirty neurotic people raving in a studio about Viagra and facelifts, while a smirking demagogue told them where they were going wrong. The audience all came to blows, shook hands, and trooped off grinning at the cameras. This was followed by a repeat series of ‘Missing Link’, the popular general knowledge quiz show, where today the contestants’ specialist subjects were ‘Fred Flintstone’, ‘welfare benefits since 1948’, ‘the sociology of rap music’, and ‘me’. The news bulletin had been cancelled completely, because all the reporters were in Florida bravely covering the heat wave, and all the newsreaders were in rehearsals for celebrity dance shows.

Decide where you want to travel and what political message you want to impart, then design the news around that. Nice job.

Psycho City

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, satire and humour with tags , , on September 3, 2012 by leovineknight

“That’s five-turdy” the assistant said in an odd accent, difficult to place.
I was at the supermarket check-out, watching a line of six people juggle their credit cards, consider cash-back, redeem multifarious vouchers, wait for the crashed link to restore itself, wrestle with impenetrable plastic bags, and deliver the latest instalment in their riveting life stories to a goon-like operative. All around me, there seemed to be armies of unsmiling hermaphrodites with excruciatingly short haircuts, dark-tinted glasses and voluminous grey trousers, like psychopathic attendants in a 1960’s Hollywood asylum, waiting for the tiniest excuse to wade in with meaty sticks. An avalanche of hatred and venom seemed to be only one misplaced word, or deed, away……


Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, jobs, careers and work, mental health, satire and humour with tags , , , on July 4, 2012 by leovineknight

The clock was always ticking on a psychiatric nurse, as you wished your life away in the tick tock world of stress and release. Anticipating the end of a shift, craving days off, booking holidays with the drooling relish of a mad dog waiting for the final kick, and absolutely dreaming of retirement. Cottages in Wales, cruises in the Caribbean, fawn jackets and bowling woods, illness and death. A lager at the end of the desert crawl.

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