Welcome to the cupboard of broken toys — part 5

I have started getting panic attacks again. We are playing volleyball, and I start shaking uncontrollably. I am feeling sick and I need to go and sit by the wall until I calm down.

I have been assigned a new keyworker. Corporal Johnson has been posted to Ward 10. I now am accompanied wherever I go by Nursing Private Waite. He calls me Alan, which I hate but don’t correct him. He keeps asking me if I am depressed or suicidal. I tell him I am neither of those things. But I am lying.

He waits until I am feeling a bit better and escorts me back to the ward. I have to sit down outside the nursing station while he reports to the Ward Sister.

The other patients return from the gym and wait for the bus to go over to the Day Centre. I am interviewed by Captain Hardy. He wants to change my medication and says it will probably make me feel a bit tired. He wants me to start writing things down and gives me a book.

All the other patients have now gone apart from those of us who are a bit out-to-lunch. I sit down with a pencil and the notebook and try to think of something to write. One hour later I have just done some doodles. Private Waite tells me I should make a list, so I do:


1. Being a mental patient on a psychiatric ward.

2. People keeping asking me if I am depressed or suicidal.

3. The doctor asking me about how much sex I have. (None nowadays — I don’t even feel like masturbating.)

4. Having a mental illness.

5. Knowing that none of my old ambitions are going to happen.

6. Not knowing what is going to happen to me.

7. Not having any friends.

8. People getting my name wrong.

9. Not having anything to read.

10. Not having my own clothes.

That last item really, really upsets me. Because I was evacuated direct from field-exercise, all I had was the combat uniform I was wearing. They don’t like patients wearing combat uniforms in the hospital, so I had to hand it in to the Quartermaster. The only clothes I have to wear now are my Artillery tee-shirt and shorts and a set of pale blue hospital fatigues and some issue socks and underwear. The rest of my clothes are in a storage box somewhere between here and Hanover. All of the other patients have their own clothes, so the hospital fatigues mark me out.

The other things are also important. I am having real problems coming to terms with having an illness and am in denial about being depressed. So much so that I avoid using the dreaded ‘D’-word altogether. I say I am anxious or desperate.

I definitely do not like talking about my sex life. I am uptight and emotionally repressed. Isn’t that enough? One other main thing that does upset me is that I know all this is life-changing and I don’t know where I will end up.

Waite reads the list and asks if I could write a list of things I like. I tell him it would be a short list.

At lunch-time the bus brings the other patients back and I have my new meds. Waite takes myself and Joe Crabbe down to the canteen. Sue is already there and sees me under escort.

“What’s the matter with him?” she asks Joe.

“New meds and a new keyworker.” Joe is being uncommonly sensitive about things.

“Well come and sit here and tell me all about it.”

Private Waite sits down with us, so conversation is limited. Amongst the things I am unaware of is that, when you begin to understand the many different issues about being mentally ill, that can be depressing in its own right. It can be so debilitating that some people attempt suicide. Not as a cry for attention, but as a means to make it all stop. They think I am at that stage now and I am on suicide watch.

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