Lesson Four – Making Life Simpler
There are areas from life on the ward that come up that can either make your stay quite straight forward and simple to just unbelievably traumatic.
Medication: If you’re prescribed something, than take it. If you have an issue with the drug than talk to the doctor about it, the nurses are there to just dispense not argue with you about whether you need it or not. If the staff want to give you something to calm you down, than just go with it, because trust me when I say it’s a fight that you won’t win. It is much better to take medication orally instead of having to be restrained and injected. Restraint and IM injections are two of the of the most degrading and dehumanising experiences you can have on a ward. It not only makes you more volatile, agitated but it can bring about a violence in you that in under normal circumstances you just wouldn’t engage in. There is no logic, no thought process, only terror. It’s a distressing process, so if given the option than just take the damned pills.
Absconding: This was a behaviour that was always an issue for me. I am a runner, or at least I was. Trying to escape was my default setting even though it never actually got me anywhere, yet it took me a long time to realise that. I would like to say that it is simple, that you consciously, even deceitfully make a plan to get away, but it was never like that, none of it was simple. The vast majority of times that I ran I just wasn’t thinking. My mind was foggy, my thinking the wrong way round and I was using instinct rather than intellect. People who are unwell, disorientated, and highly agitated are at tremendous risk when they run. All sense of personal safety is obliterated. You don’t acknowledge that you run through busy traffic, head in to dangerous areas at night, or just put yourself in some horrendous positions. When the time comes and you start to calm down it becomes truly frightening as you try to put the pieces together, you have to figure out where you are, if your hurt, if you’ve hurt anyone else. It’s like waking up in the morning after a night out and there are massive gaps in your memory that you can’t account for. It’s unpleasant at its best and downright horrific at its worst. Don’t choose to run, it gets you nowhere, you will eventually be caught, returned to the ward, any privileges you have earned will be taken and you will probably lengthen your stay in hospital. Absconding? Not advisable.
Self Harm: Unfortunately it happens and no matter how many preventative measures are put in place, if a person truly wants to hurt themselves, than they will. You become creative in your methods, find yourself doing things that are just absurd to get that pain release. Being somewhere safe, doesn’t make you safe. You have to want that. You have to want to let go of those behaviours, and once you decide to let go it’s about learning how to cope without resorting to self harming behaviours. Develop distraction techniques, use the staff on the ward to talk it out, or just talk to them about random rubbish to get your mind off of the need. The goal is to bring those feelings of intensity down to a manageable level. Admittedly it won’t work every time, and sometimes you will hurt yourself, but you have to then take responsibility for your actions and confide in someone so that you can get the relevant medical attention. Seriously the last thing you need is an infected wound on top of being stuck in hospital.
© Vanessa Findlay