The new album by a lovely Danish singer who’s very popular in this house was playing in the background as I pottered this morning. My peace was momentarily shattered when one of the tracks catapulted me entirely unexpectedly back to the hospital. There was a particular playlist I used to listen to while I was in there (needless to say I haven’t listened to it since), this song wasn’t on it, but it sounded so very like those that were. It’s incredible how powerful sense memory is. For just a couple of minutes, I was exactly back in the frame of mind I was in in the hospital.
I know I’ve talked about it before, but it’s on my mind now so I need to talk about it again. I don’t want the memory to linger and influence my day, because so far it’s been a really pleasant morning. The first week or so that I was there is so very blurry. There were 6 beds to each ward, and all were full. I like privacy. So, mostly the first week I hid in my cubicle with the curtains closed. I had no clue where to put myself, what to do, or what was expected of me. I nearly lost my life when they graduated me from having meals at my bed to down in the dining room with everyone else (unexpected bonus of sharing table space with other psych patients?? No small talk required). When I got brave enough to venture beyond the safety of the curtains, there was a ‘quiet’ room where patients could read, watch tv etc. I use inverted commas here because generally it was anything but quiet. In my first couple of weeks though, there were times when I had it all to myself. Those times I would go down with my book and my headphones, make myself as small as possible and curl up in a chair. Inevitably reading didn’t last long, I couldn’t concentrate. So I just sat there, listened to music, and stared. So much of my time there was spent sitting and staring at nothing. At the time, I don’t think it seemed so bad, or at least, when I think of it from the safe distance of a few months, I don’t remember it as being all that bad.
But then, music triggers a memory. The memory that I honestly couldn’t see myself ever getting out of there. I had no idea how we could begin to put out lives back together after so much upheaval. Would anyone ever be able to look at me the same way again? Would I? But it was more than that. Not only could I not see myself getting out, I genuinely didn’t want to get out. How bad must things have been in my head that staying in hospital, with all the associated lack of privacy, monotony, hospital food etc seemed preferable to being at home with my family and living my life? Part of that memory today was a physical memory – the sense of absolute emptiness inside me. I was either numb, angry, or completely distraught. There was no positive emotion. There was a lot of fear. Despite being on a psych ward, I still hid my emotions – if I needed to cry, I generally hid. Smart, eh?? I suspect I wasn’t fooling anyone.
But the point of this post isn’t to relive that time. Once was more than enough. The point is to remind me of just how far we’ve come, all of us. We came from absolute breaking point, completely lost and with no clue how to move forward, to here. And for reminding me of that, I’m grateful for my little trip down memory lane today.