Archive for stories about psychiatric nursing

The Dormitory

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, mental health with tags , , on February 24, 2014 by leovineknight

I strode on towards our house, and the drizzle seemed marginally warmer. A firework went off somewhere to my left, reminding me of Bonfire Night two weeks ago, and my thoughts wheeled on to Christmas. ‘Money’ automatically sprang to mind, and I looked across at a nearby £350,000 villa which was just five years old and had already received three new bathrooms and two new kitchens from three different owners. The house was currently owned by two very busy professional people who spent 85% of their time working, sleeping or on holiday, and only 15% of their time actually awake in the house. Spending so little free time in their home, they had to pay a gardener £25 a week to do the lawns, hedges and weeding, a ‘morning’ lady £30 a week to do the washing and ironing, a nanny £150 a week to look after the children, and an odd job man £20 a week to do the small household repairs and walk the dog. Once, in a rash moment, I’d told the owner that for £50 a week I would occupy his house during the evenings and save him the trouble of living there at all.
He thought for a while and smilingly offered me £40.
Yet, it wasn’t a happy marriage (if that’s what you’d call a big business deal on the skids) and tonight I couldn’t help noticing a pterodactyl fastened to someone’s neck in the kitchen. Or that’s what it sounded like.



Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , , on February 18, 2014 by leovineknight

It was really getting too dangerous to walk home at night, and I breathed a sigh of relief when the blue glow faded, and I entered respectable suburbia. The first telephone box was smashed to pieces as usual, and every garden wall had spray paint running along the top like a child’s railway line. Broken conifer branches lay about, while traffic cones had been removed from the nearby road works and redistributed on peoples’ front lawns. It was clear that the hooliganism was growing relentlessly beyond its original borders, and that I needed to calculate how long it would take to reach our cul-de-sac a mile further on. Given that some of our new neighbours managed to communicate by stringing four-letter words into sentences, and their kids made cannibals look like urbane lounge lizards, I estimated about one year to removal time.
At last the rows of brown dog kennels and silver German cars which comprised our estate appeared, and I could smell sanctuary. Like Quasimodo dodging the whips, I broke into a loping gait and made for the furthest reaches of the sprawling mass before me. It wasn’t Enid Blyton or John Constable, but it would do, and as I looked over the roofs towards the outline of an escarpment, and the moors beyond it, I breathed a sigh of relief. Some of my favourite walks lay in that direction, and for a few moments a montage of pleasant memories filled my mind; bike rides with the kids, tea rooms in historic places, quiet strolls in sylvan settings, and collecting shells on breezy beaches. Life wasn’t all bad, and the prospect of a few days off began to thaw my frozen sensibilities and lift my affect. A little freedom was in sight, and I would savour every atom of it.


Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , , on January 28, 2014 by leovineknight

The air was icy and invigorating, and it filled me with a second wind as I set off across the car park towards home and hearth. Bleak streets were covered in half frozen slush and peppered with the yellow stains of dog and cat, while complaining drains choked and spluttered under their seasonal load of flood water, crisp packets and grime. Yet attitude is everything, and by simply walking out of the prison door I could now imbue these mundane sights with a wonderful piquancy; a sort of thrilling aesthetic so different from the useless, pointless farce of the last twelve hours. I had a little bit of freedom, however cold and damp the streets were, and it stretched like a thrilling rainbow away from the confines and contrivances of the psychiatric policy world I had just left. I drew the air in hungrily, and walked away from the hospital, my spirit flickering back on.

Rise and Fall

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , on January 14, 2014 by leovineknight

I gave the report, which was virtually indistinguishable from yesterday’s report, except of course for Cecilia’s wholesale demolition of her room. I’d called the emergency glazier and asked him to board up the window, but otherwise there had been no time to reverse the mayhem and Cecilia would have to spend the night in a spare room. This said, I bid the staff goodnight, and moved towards the front door.

It was then that I noticed a crumpled heap of limbs and cloth resting in a dark red stain, half way down the bottom flight of stairs.
It was the lady herself.

I’d seen this sort of thing many times before (and worse), but for some reason this particular scene stunned me. I stood shell-shocked, sick and tired, wet with sweat and numb, like a mortician at the end of a messy career, I felt my limbs gently tremble.

Ghost Stories

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , on December 10, 2013 by leovineknight

Thinking of the people who’d died at the unit over the years and the ghost stories that occasionally circulated, I heard the fire door on the landing creak open and I waited to see who would come down, but no one did. Blaming the wind, I walked into the kitchen to put the kettle on, and turned around to discover Cecilia standing right in front of me like silent death. The small hairs lifted on the back of my neck and an electric current shot up my spine, reverberating around the limbic systems of my brain like shell shock. Disguising my horror, I privately wondered if these experiences were making me go prematurely grey, or shortening my life in some invisible way.

When in doubt…..have a meeting

Posted in jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , , on June 21, 2013 by leovineknight

I opened the front door to the inspectors and watched as their cold, sodden forms tramped in and suddenly met the poisonous fumes of diarrhoea which still hung murderously in the air. For an instant, they froze in mid-step and I had visions of them sinking to their knees, holding their throats and falling face down on the foetid carpet dead as dodos, but they reassumed their robotic appearance and marched steadfastly on. Richard had already moved patients out of the large T.V. lounge for the “important meeting”, and was now dancing about sycophantically and burbling oily salutations in the direction of the approaching V.I.P.’s. A nervous sweat had broken out on his top lip, but he looked cool in comparison to the senior manager who had been locked in with the inspectors since lunchtime, and now looked as though he was being frog-marched into a court martial. His usual air of omnipotent cockiness had somehow deserted him, and he sagged like a burst beach ball in front of his tormentors, willing the end to come.
“Can we have three cheers?” enquired one of the inspectors, casting his squint in my direction.
“Er….er…..well” I stuttered.
“Come on, chop chop, hurry up, we haven’t got all day.”
“Er….sorry………..hip, hip……” I mumbled tentatively (thinking it must be somebody’s birthday).
“No! no! Three cheers. Three more CHAIRS please. There aren’t enough to go round here.”
“Oh, yes, of course. Beg your pardon.”
“P-p-perhaps we ought to introduce ourselves” the unit manager spluttered.
And the meeting began.

Bottoms Up Lads

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , , on June 4, 2013 by leovineknight

I was once more knocked off my feet by the appalling reek of laxative-induced faeces, rolling down the corridor like mustard gas, searching out every corner of the longsuffering unit. A rotund little man came into sight and announced with a chuckle:
“He! He! I’ve had a good clear out. See you later.”
I viewed his retreating form, and noticed some brown liquid trickling down the back of his long socks. My worst fears were confirmed when I had a quick look in the nearby toilet and discovered that his explosive diarrhoea had left the place looking like a slaughterhouse. Luckily it was a ‘male problem’, because if the patient had been female and they had requested female attention, a short-term exchange of staff would have been necessary before the clear up operation could begin, with a reluctant female staff member being dragged in chains from another unit. We were okay this time however (sic), and soon employing our full contingent of specialist wet suction cleaners, red mops, rubber gloves, aprons, specimen containers, and yellow plastic bags to neutralise the damage.
Our manager applauded from the wings, and after a while we settled down to a rewarding cup of coffee, with the residual odours of latex and crap drifting up from our scrubbed hands and stinking clothes. Of course, most nurses knew that the smell of the unit could never really be removed, so they kept two entirely separate sets of clothing at home, like mechanics routinely isolating their oily overalls from other items. In our case, we weren’t allowed to wear uniforms, because we had a ‘rehabilitation’ philosophy of care and had to pretend that everything was normal.
What a joke.
“Well done everybody” said Richard.
“Thanks for all your support” we chorused.
Oh…mm….mm….yes…..don’t ever underestimate the role of top class leadership.”
“No of course not” I agreed. “In fact, on behalf of the staff I’d like to thank you from the heart of our bottoms.

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