Day 346: This was the room where I entered at my lowest. I didn’t exactly leave it on a high but I left with hope. I left it still alive and with a second chance. I don’t remember arriving and I don’t remember the first few days in it because I was sedated and didn’t take well to the detoxing. I do remember that due to Covid I wasn’t allowed to leave my room as I had to isolate for the first 7 days. No visitors. Nothing.
It was a painfully lonely and confusing time. The nurses were kind and reassuring but I spent most of my waking hours alone, but never truly alone as somebody would constantly be on watch ‘checking through the small window’ on your door. On a night you’d be interrupted again and again with your light turning on from the corridor and a silhouette looking through the panel. People talk about sleep being a big part of recovery but anyone who has been in a mental health hospital will tell you sleep is hard to come by. If it wasn’t the big brother aspect keeping you awake you would have to contend with the screams, crying and banging coming from other rooms in the corridor and staff loudly instructing or reassuring patients. I felt like I shouldn’t have been there and wasn’t ‘crazy’ enough to be amongst these people. Of course, on reflection it was an ignorant view to have but let’s remember I was broken and trying to come to terms with my own predicament. I remained polite, quiet and respectful of the environment whilst I remained in the hospital but the same couldn’t be said for others. I guess it’s important to appreciate that the range of mental illnesses, various conditions and symptoms are so vast and it emphasises the fact that one size doesn’t fit all when categorising this illness.
We weren’t allowed electric chargers in our rooms incase we used the wires to harm ourselves so our phones were locked away on charge at reception a lot of the time. The fact I was an isolating patient meant I couldn’t just walk to reception as I pleased to collect / return my phone. Ordinarily it wouldn’t have bothered me going phone free but I was away from my wife and children. My parents. Brother. Friends. Work colleagues. I wanted to apologise. I wanted to reassure. I wanted to hear from them.
We had no TV (again I suspect this was to do with the risk involved to both the TV and the patient?) so I was so so grateful when my wife delivered me a bag with books in and a weekend newspaper (you know, the bulkier ones with all the glossy supplements). I spent a lot of time reading and completing crosswords and word searches but never took to Suduko. I tried to sit at my small desk as much as I could. I had a routine where I would get up on a morning and get showered / dressed. I’d do some stretches and then make my bed. I did a lot of thinking, pacing and reading. It did me good in hindsight but at the time I was becoming resentful towards the situation I was in. I felt like a prisoner. Never once did I go outside in the time I was in hospital which thinking back was another thing we are told helps with recovery. Sleep and the outdoors? Not in a psychiatric hospital.
I say this but of course the hospital was following protocol and Covid was an additional barrier to housing and caring for inpatients in a clinical mental health space. It wasn’t until my second last day in the place that I finally got invited to the Gym on site. It was great to run albeit on a treadmill which I normally turn my nose up at and despite the incapacity of the previous two weeks I managed 4 miles!
I’m a fussy eater so the meals didn’t really do anything for me. It wasn’t until I was recovering my discharge paperwork that another patient told me you can order in takeaways and the nurses collect them from the front entrance. “At least I know for next time” I joked as I awkwardly left the ward hoping to never set foot in there again.
That room I lived in was the birth of my blog though and it has continued to be a big part of my journey. Happy Daddy is where I share without judgement, with no fear and hope that people reading this can at least understand where I’m coming from even if you don’t agree with every detail. I use Twitter and Instagram too under the @the_happydaddy handle and it has given me the opportunity to engage with other people in recovery from all over the World.
The room is part of my past. I’m not ashamed of it. It was a moment in time and at the time of writing it was the starting point of a pretty decent life in the past 345 days.