Thursday, 24 January 2013

Laughter in the Loony Bin

I'm nearing the end of the first draft of my book! It's exciting to be so close to finishing but at the same time, I know there's a long way to go before it's ready for publishing. However, writing this has been a sort of journey and as much as I hate that cliche, I can't think of a better word to describe it! I've remembered things that I had forgotten, things that are both good and bad. I've laughed at the weirdest of times for non-crazy reasons and as the book is more factual than humorous, I thought I'd lighten a few funny incidents up and post them here. Some of these aren't actually in the book but I thought they'd make for good laughs!

As you are undoubtedly aware, I have schizophrenia. You are probably aware of what sort of symptoms I have suffered from but if not, two symptoms I suffered from were hearing voices (one of whom called himself the devil) and delusional thoughts. While these sorts of symptoms were not funny at the time, they make for good laughs now and they have actually come in handy occasionally!

Another patient who was in hospital with me secretly told me that she was getting a tattoo. As she was on a section, she wasn't supposed to get one. (Tattoos and piercings are banned when on a section, regardless of why you are on the section!) She got the tattoo the following day and me being the nosey so and so that I am, I asked her if I could see it. Unfortunately, I said it a bit too loud and the nurses were within earshot. Before she got into trouble, I realised my mistake and started blabbering on about the devil and tattoos. I had a few eyes rolled at this little outburst and while I'm not sure if the tattoo was ever discovered, she didn't tell me any secrets again! (I don't blame her!)

During my time in hospital, some of my loved ones took a holiday abroad. Just after they left, the devil voice told me that if I didn't smoke 30 cigarettes before their flight home two weeks later, their plane would crash. I'm not a smoker and never have been but I had had the odd cigarette in the past. Anywho, one of the nurses took me into town and I was able to buy 30 cigarettes. I managed to smoke them all in the two weeks but I'd had to smoke with the 'real' smokers in this time. I'd had numerous requests to 'borrow' a cigarette and always said no. When asked why, I told them that I didn't want my loved ones' plane to crash. You know you've said something weird when you get a strange look from other patients!!

One incident which isn't so much funny but shows the sense of humour we managed to keep, one night, a HCA (health care assistant - they basically do everything the nurses do except for dispensing medications) decided to watch TV. Nothing strange there as the night staff always watched TV after we'd gone to bed. However, this night it was only 9 pm and we wanted to watch something else but no, the HCA took control of the TV. It was some crime drama that we patients found boring and also was highly inappropriate in a psych ward. A murder mystery in a psych ward? No thanks. The worst part was that her programme lasted TWO HOURS. Two whole hours of murder mystery IN A PSYCH WARD!!

After the first hour and a half, two patients had walked out, triggered by the TV programme. The HCA would disappear from the TV lounge during breaks and in this break at the hour and a half point, there was only one other patient apart from myself left in there. We talked about how inappropriate the programme was and how we should have had control of the TV, not the HCA who should have been working! The other patient suggested that we change the channel before the HCA came back. I agreed and changed the channel. (I did it because I didn't exactly have a squeaky clean reputation in there but she did!) When the HCA came back, she took the remote away from me and changed it back. I pointed out that the two of us patients were watching that programme but she said that she'd had the TV first (no, she wasn't a four year old on Nursery School work experience). The other patient and I raised our eyebrows at this and in the next break, the last one thankfully, I needed no encouragement to pick up the remote and change the channel.

I've no idea what I changed it to but the two of us wanted anything but a murder mystery. Once I'd changed the channel, I walked over to the window and asked the other patient to open it for me so that I could drop the remote out. My spider phobia won't allow me to open windows so I had to ask for her help. She laughed and told me not to go to that extreme. Hearing the HCAs footsteps, she whispered to me to hide the remote quickly and sit back down. I hid the remote in the bookcase by the window and managed to get to my seat just in time to look 'natural'. When she asked where the remote was, I told her that she'd taken the remote with her when she left the lounge. Although she didn't believe me for a second, the unbelievable panic that she wouldn't find out whether Miss Scarlett or Professor Plum did it was written all over her face. She changed the channel on the TV itself and she eventually found out who did it. It was disappointing that she'd managed to change the channel but more disappointing that we hadn't made her question her memory or her very questionable sanity.

One morning, I was due my fortnightly depot injection, something I always tried to avoid. No amount of pleading ever got me out of it and so I had to make myself scarce to try and avoid it. One morning, the nurse brought the injection in early and I refused it. She told me she would have to get help (ie more staff) and when she left the room, I hid underneath the sink. I should add here that the sink was the size of the sinks you get in the school bathrooms of five year olds. It was tiny. The only thing that really kept me hidden was the chair with a load of clothes on it. I didn't think it would last long but I just needed them to give up the search for me long enough so that I could get out. For some reason, I thought that if I vanished for 24 hours, they wouldn't be able to give me the depot. I'm not sure if that was delusional thought or a thought based on fact that had got loonified in translation.

Either way, I thought that if I made it to the next day, they couldn't give me the depot. Underneath the sink wasn't the greatest hiding place in the world. Or was it? I managed to stay hidden for 20 minutes, long enough for the staff to go hunting for me around the hospital grounds in the snow! Har har! But I was eventually found and got the booby prize: a whacking great needle in my backside.

Probably the most embarrassing incident in there which is also the funniest (now I mean, it wasn't at the time) was the time I did a runner. Or rather, one of the times I did a runner. I had a 'few' escape attempts *cough cough*. This incident though, I had warned the nurses I would run away if I left my room but they wouldn't listen. They insisted that I went for a walk and told me that if I didn't put my shoes on, I wouldn't run away. Right? Wrong. Half way down the corridor, I made a break for it. I got out through the main doors and ran through the car park in my socks. I was mere inches away from getting off the hospital grounds when a kerb had other ideas. I could see the kerb coming but it was one of those things that you can see happening but just can't avoid. Thankfully the fall wasn't very spectacular but it did scare the wits out of the poor women trying to walk into the hospital.

These three women had probably been on their lunch break (they had hospital badges displayed so most likely worked in the hospital somewhere) and were returning to their afternoon shift in the hospital. Oh the weather's nice today, I'm leaving an hour early tonight and WHAT THE??? Some nutter trips up, falls flat on her face right in front of them with half a dozen nurses chasing after her. They stopped where they were, possibly to try and stop me from getting out of the car park or maybe because they didn't have a blinking clue what do to. I mean, what is the protocol for when this happens? What is the correct etiquette? All I know is every time one of the women said "It's OK Katy" (the nurses were shouting my name) I wanted to die of shame. I had thought I'd hurt my knee at first but the only thing damaged was my pride. And my jeans. My poor jeans had a hole in the knee I'd landed on, a permanent reminder of the embarrassing escape attempt in the nuthouse. Until my sister turned those jeans into a denim patchwork cushion cover. I really didn't mind seeing the back of those jeans!

It is possible to have laughs in loony bins. Sometimes the laughing happens after an incident, sometimes during and sometimes because the voices are so darn funny! Despite the devil voice being evil, there were some things he said that were hilarious. These laughs were few and far between but no matter how crazy you are or how bleak the situation you may be in, there are always opportunities for giggles. The opportunities may not be easy to find but they're there!

And remember, always look back on embarrassing moments with laughter. After all, how many people can say they managed to hide from two different people for 20 minutes using only a sink, a chair and a bundle of clothes?!



  1. I'm looking forward to reading your book even more now. I'll proof read it for you if you like...

  2. While I appreciate the kind offer, I would rather have a proof reader who can read it with me! I'd rather not send it somewhere over the internet or worse, snail mail!