Archive for student psychiatric nurses

Exit

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.
“Excellent.”
” 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.

Alternative Therapy

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , on August 12, 2014 by leovineknight

“You’re going through a tough time Steven” somebody commented.
“It could be better” I agreed, not really in the mood for talking.
My interlocutor was Stan, a man of about my age who had been admitted to the ward three weeks ago with an acute relapse of psychosis. He was stable again now, and I had been impressed with his articulate understanding of mental illness, society and the ward. He seemed curiously at peace, even though his family rarely visited and his early promise at university had been annihilated by schizophrenia and lengthy periods of hospitalization. His ‘romantic life’ had disappeared at roughly the same time as his success, and no doubt this had made him sensitive to my current plight.
“I’m afraid they don’t really understand places like this” he said. “It’s embarrassing and frightening to them.”
“I suppose you can’t blame them for wanting to be somewhere else” I said.
“Yeah. Love and morals only take people so far. Then it’s ‘what about the children’, and ‘I deserve a life too’. “
“You don’t think she’ll be back then?”
“Who can say? I’m only glad I don’t rely on things like that any more.”
“So what will you be doing when you leave?”
“I’ll go back to the village.”
“Where’s that?”
“C——- Village. It’s one of the religious communities up on the H—— hills.”
“Oh, one of the therapeutic communities?”
“I suppose you could call it that, but it’s really a way of life rather than therapy. About half the people who live there have never had a mental disorder, they just like the idea of working as part of a large family. It’s back to basics, of course, and ‘close to nature’ in a way which sounds cheesy, but really isn’t. You ought to come out and see for yourself.”
The tea trolley trundled around the day room, interrupting our conversation, and my mind began to tick. I was in the mood for radical changes, as people always are when a crisis breaks the mould of routine and complacency. Could C—— Village provide a solution for me? I knew that these places sometimes took whole families, and my imagination began to soar in a wildly evangelical direction. Could I persuade Carol…..?

Review

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, mental health with tags , on June 14, 2014 by leovineknight

My ‘aberration’ had certainly superimposed a liberating fantasy on the world, but the reality itself stood unchanged, leaving me balanced between the anaesthesia of collapse, and the alienation of recovery. I sat in limbo, sensing society waiting outside the ward, and fearing its incursion. I hid within the hospital, far away from my hometown and the embarrassments contained there, waiting for the past to heal and the future to happen. The unit, of course, remained gloriously untouched by my pyrotechnic delusions; its armour-plated system destined to kill the patients with disabling kindness, long after my nightmare was over.
So, time passed in the nondescript day room while people with parallel scars on their arms dived for broken crockery, others returned from the E.C.T. suite with glazed looks and cups of tea, and new admissions combined their paranoid delusions and hypo-manic flights of ideas into a bedlam of noise and threat. Staff chased fleeing patients, and sometimes patients chased fleeing staff, while opportunist anorexics made for the nearest toilet to regurgitate pellets of food under cover of mayhem. Snooker balls went through windows, and a 1950’s drug trolley squeaked around the ward four times a day, dispensing manna from neuroleptic heaven. Hours of boredom were punctuated with flashes of bloody violence, and intra-muscular injections peppered supine buttocks with daily regularity. Then I began to receive my first visits.
“Good morning, Dr. J—–” said a voice at my elbow.
“Morning” I replied, wondering who the pin-striped stranger might be.
“I’m Dennis G——. I represent Legal, Accident and Slow Recovery Ltd., a firm specialising in employer’s liability.
“Really?”
“Yes. Forgive the intrusion, but I think you may be entitled to substantial compensation for the stress which led to your recent…hem…difficulties, and I would like to offer our firm’s services.”
“So, you’re an ambulance chaser?”
“That’s not a term we would use ourselves Mr. J—–. We see our job more as defending the rights of the little man against large, negligent organisations.”
“Very noble” I commented “but I’m afraid it goes against my principles to suck money out of a system which is already riddled with users and charlatans, so I’ll have to pass on it.”
“Surely your family…..”
“No, sorry, please don’t wheel out your manual on persuasion techniques. I’m certain.”
“Well, if you’re absolutely sure you’re certain, I’d better call back another day” he said “Perhaps when your wife, or doctor, is present?”
“Look, the fact that I don’t want to pursue the easy money of litigation doesn’t make me mad. Maybe I don’t want the stress, or need the greed. Maybe I just don’t want any part of a society which is turning into an anarchic shambles.“
“Of course. Very well” he said, in a manner and tone usually reserved for unreasonable children. ‘Bye for now Dr. J—-.”
“Goodbye indeed.”
I watched his blue and white chalk striped suit disappear down the corridor, and wondered if ‘tosser’ ran all the way through his body, like ‘Brighton’ in Brighton rock. I also wondered where he’d got his information from, and why people seemed so determined to destroy their social organisations with individual avarice. It was like bees eating their own hive. A few days later, a ‘Legal, Accident and Slow Recovery Ltd.’ standard letter arrived:

Dear Dr. J—-,
Further to the interest you have shown in pursuing a compensation claim against your employers, we would be very pleased to act for you in the matter, and look forward to receiving your advices in due course. We hope you don’t recover too quickly from your injuries, and assure you of our best attentions at all times.
Sincerely,
D. G —–.

Knightmare

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, books, journals and diaries, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , on May 3, 2014 by leovineknight

Taking a look around, I was pleased to see that the unit was now quiet and peaceful at last. Like no man’s land after a terrifying artillery barrage had ceased, the world stood still, and a profound silence baffled the senses. The clocks had stopped, the T.V. sets were dead, the activity board was blank, and there was not a person to be seen. It was obviously time for a well-deserved break and so I sat downstairs drinking champagne, eating truffles, and watching the manager’s favourite Marilyn Monroe video; until the feeling slowly returned that something was still wrong.
Something remained unresolved.

“Open the door” a voice rasped.
There was indeed a violet coloured door on my left, and with heart bounding, breath shortening and flesh creeping, I moved reluctantly but inexorably towards it. In best horror movie style, it swung open of its own accord and I was pulled into a dark chamber by invisible hands. The flickering light was provided by three or four black candelabra set on crumbling stone walls, before which I perceived a large Jacobean table surrounded by a dozen satanic forms. Looking like a group of gigantic ravens they wore sable cloaks, and peered at me through leather masks with hard, black eyes.
“Good grief, what a ridiculous getup” I said irreverently.
“Silence!” boomed the head honcho. “You are here to be sentenced for the most heinous crimes known to HealthTrust law. Now, kneel before your masters!”
“Piss off you pretentious sod” I responded. “And take off those masks, so I can see my accusers.”
Stripping off their masks with a synchronised flourish, the satanic beings revealed a row of hideous, slavering animal faces.
“Ah… ha! I thought as much – the senior managers making a rare clinical visit” I said “What can I do for you?”
“Silence microbe! We are here to dispense omniscient justice!”
Although I should have been quaking in my boots, I couldn’t help noticing that the weird animal faces were actually more recognisable than the managers’ everyday physiognomy. Their true personalities shone through the grey, anonymous uniformity of their normal appearances, and I gazed with growing interest at the mean-looking weasel, the breast-beating baboon, the assortment of over-promoted aardvarks, and the strange hunched creature from the Island of Dr. Moreau, who said:
“You are charged and convicted of (a) insisting that patients take more responsibility for their own lives, (b) arguing that paper work is less important than effective clinical care, (c) suggesting that managers are overpaid, out of touch poseurs, and (d) implying that staff who receive £1,200 a month for not being at work should be sacked. …….This is unspeakable blasphemy of the highest conceivable order, and you are therefore sentenced to the most ghastly punishment it is in our power to inflict.”
“And what is that?” I enquired.
“You will continue to work at the hospital’s Psychiatric Rehabilitation Unit until the day you croak”
“Aaaaaarrrrrrcccchh!!! No! No! No! Not that, you vile fiends” I shrieked in despair and outrage.
“Yes! Yes! Until the day you croak!” the drooling managers chanted, beating their fists on the table, and wetting themselves with delight.
“Please don’t make me angry” I warned in a deepening voice, my pupils involuntarily dilating, and my shirt splitting open to reveal a barrel of bulging green muscle above modesty-preserving elasticated trousers. “Oh, too late! Now it’s your turn for a bit of natural justice!”
Seizing the oak table with irresistible force, I whirled it around my head and watched the managers hanging onto it like bats in a tornado. On and on I span the table, seeing their puke pebble-dash the walls and their dribble splash the floor, thinking of the time and money these prize buffoons had wasted, enjoying every little moment of their overdue comeuppance, until at last I flung the table down into a dim, slimy corner; the perfect resting place for their ilk. But the managers had been carefully selected for their mindless obduracy, and I watched with interest as the table scuttled out of the room, propelled by pairs of cockroach legs, scurrying for freedom, pausing only briefly at the coffee machine.
“Hang on a minute” I said.
And there was just time to stick on the address:
Flip Chart Heaven,
Pie in the Sky,
Never Never Land.

Conspicuous Consumption (Cough)

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, mental health, satire and humour with tags , , on March 5, 2014 by leovineknight

Most of the houses had their downstairs lights on with curtains well drawn back so that casual observers on the street could admire the latest chain store colour schemes and prominent recent acquisitions. It was probably only a matter of time before the retired Major at number 7 would jump to his feet when he heard footsteps outside, and use his Malacca cane to point out treasured objects to interested parties in the garden:
“Pay attention you chaps next to the elm tree. On a recent reconnaissance operation to British Home Stores we secured these highly prized objects (wafting the Malacca cane about the lounge). We have now put the enemy next door at a serious strategic disadvantage….”
To one half of the population, society had become a collection of audiences, and to the other half, a collection of charities.

Dystopia

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, books, journals and diaries, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , on February 10, 2014 by leovineknight

The cadaverous form of my neighbour approached again, and this time I blocked his progress with some clever American footballer tactics, until he was forced to reward my extravagant salutations with an incoherent grunt. Twizzle-headed people with laser eyes dissected me as I passed, and bumptious heroes with blimp egos and bold postures filled the bars. Audiences and stars assembled on every street corner, and the news boards spread joy:
“Thugs kill hamster by tying it to a Catherine Wheel firework”
“Pity the hamster couldn’t return the favour” I commented to a mute passer by.
“Huge rise in youth crime” crackled a distant radio.
I gladly left the area, but after a short time I brushed the edge of a nearby council estate, and saw the blue glow of police lights reflecting off the night sky, like the aurora borealis of a penal planet. This area had degenerated into a post-apocalyptic bomb site, with decent people held prisoner in their own homes by roaming bands of giro-paid thugs, intent on vandalising cars, stoning windows, dismantling ‘bus shelters and burning wheelie bins. With ultimate pathos, a few brave souls continued to cultivate their gardens amidst the wilderness, but these little refuges were routinely devastated every weekend by gladiators returning from the well-patronised pubs. Just now and again somebody would come out to remonstrate with the chanting heroes, and they would be rewarded for their courage with a relentless campaign of unremitting violence, or arson. The police were well aware of the situation and a new community constable now met the Residents’ Association and Play Group once a month, while the estate burned around them.

Haze

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , , on February 4, 2014 by leovineknight

I passed the duplex (or should it be duplo) apartment blocks, and the space that was once occupied by a fine Regency hotel, and I wondered why our town had to be like everybody else’s. I felt some change jingling in my pocket, looked at the cheap breeze-blocks stacked in a corner, and intuited the answer. An original sandstone wall still stood defiantly around the cleared area, and I felt pleased that this tiny piece of my childhood had escaped the reclamation yard, even though it now doubled as a white board for dullards’ ‘tags’.
Around the corner a whole avenue of Georgian buildings had remained intact, but they had been inhabited by D.S.S. colonists and now the option was clear; flaking paint, rotting timber, the odd boarded window, and groups of unemployable wastrels wandering back from the off licence with gallons of cider, baseball caps, and guttural voices. An old lady was outside clearing the slush and litter off her doorstep, while two fine youths with lager cans sat opposite in the concrete portico of the community centre, aiming obscenities at her. The icy pavements had apparently been polished by a proud council.

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