Yesterday I spent a day in a place of safety. Fortunately we don’t own any super sharp knives that would slice cleanly, so all I have are scratches. I didn’t have the courage to stab the knife into my wrist, it wasn’t the fear of pain, but actually a more sober thought of the damage it would cause to tendons and bone, if I survived the bleeding out, which I probably thought was likely. The thoughts all moved through my mind like lightening in the space of a second. Fear is good. It means I am still here.
So, the police came, because R had no choice but to call them, and I was moved to a place of safety under section 136. This allows you to be held for up to three days, whilst you are assessed for hospital treatment or crisis treatment. Much of my wait was with two police in a hospital waiting room in Margate. 12 hours sitting basically. No food provided. I had one cup of coffee. It was lonely. Police don’t talk very much. Other patients once it became daylight, stared at me quite openly. The police changed shifts. They were bored, and expressed the view that tax payers wouldn’t be too happy if they knew what their money was being spent on. It was purely a waiting game. After 12 hours they moved me by police car to St M’s. I think this was a last resort to be fair on them, after they had tried to find an ambulance.
If you find yourself in this situation try not to worry as I did my own experience of mental health facilities being limited to Girl Interrupted and One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest. They don’t take you straight to the ward. You go to a place of safety, in this case a assessment centre, next to the hospital. On arrival I was shown into a room, soft green furniture, painted white, a little medical and austere. There were coffee stains on the ceiling, I told myself coffee stains, and somebody had scratched CUNT on the windowsill. I was immediately offered fresh coffee by J. I think J was a psychiatric nurse, though he may have been a Doctor, he had been doing the job 45 years, and in his house he told me he had 4000 books. He told me that the place of safety would prevent anybody harming me from outside, and inside, and if there were anybody who made me feel as though I were not safe, or who was to harm me, he would be held personally responsible.
I was not left alone at many points, and the door was left open. I was not locked in my room, and the staff told me that this couldn’t happen, though, they had to use special bands on their wrists to open the doors. There was an ensuite toilet. No lid. No tap handles, all automated. And there was a shower too. It was a little space age, because everything was white. I was treated with great respect and courtesy. They explained that if I was unable to care for myself, or they considered me a danger to myself, they would admit me to hospital, and they would ensure I would receive support on leaving from a crisis team, if I wasn’t admitted.
I was given two medicals, observed by more than one member of staff at all times. J explained that they used to check the oxygenation levels of blood by taking blood directly from an artery. Now they use a monitor that checks the colour of the blood through the skin of the fingers.
Everything was carefully explained. Later there would be a social worker, a doctor, another doctor, not from the same trust, but an objective observer, and a psychiatrist. They filed in just as I was eating my first meal in 20 hours. I thought I wasn’t hungry, but I was. I cried whilst I ate. It was lamb casserole with mash potato. It felt comforting. The warmth of the food going into me felt good.
Every item I took in with me was catalogued, and put in a locker, but they left me my phone, and the book I had taken in with me.
I had the continuum of suicide explained to me. That many people contemplate ending their lives, but then some move on to planning it, maybe hiding that they are planning it, maybe discussing it. Then, a much smaller percentage actually make it to the edge of the precipice. They don’t go through with it. But they might go to the edge many many times, and back out. The determinant factor for those that go over…Impulsivity. The Fuck it moment. They wanted me to give them a reason to draw back from that Fuck It Moment. I started to cry a few times. I felt guilty. They explained that guilt is common. I told them about getting angry- apparently that is a common side-effect of citalopram.
So what does keep me from the Fuck It Moment. R and J keep me from that moment. The damage it would do. The damage this illness has already done to R. How she has had to put up with all kinds of fuckery while I try to get myself on the level. How unfair it would be if that work she put in was all just flushed down the toilet. How damaging it would be to her son J who has treated me more like his annoying big brother than anything else. They asked me where I am on the continuum now. I was back at suicidal ideation, with no plans, so that at least was something to go with.
So, pretty quickly after that they let me know. They said the crisis care team would be in touch with me, and they arranged for a taxi to get me. I fell asleep a few times during the process, whenever I was left alone, and felt pretty safe, even if I broke down on numerous occasions.
When the taxi driver picked me up, he locked his doors. He had a wide-eyed look of earnest honest outrage. Bloody people keep trying to jump in my bloody taxi. She did it. He pointed to a women who was walking slowly up the driveway in the rain. She looked into the cab with a sad, and mournful expression as we passed her. Bloody woman, said the cabbie. And a bloody man, he jumped in and said Margate. I said we don’t go to Margate, if we go to Margate you must ring my company and tell them Margate, and then the hospital pays for Margate. Another man he jumped in my taxi the other day, and he was so drunk he didn’t know where he was going. He just sat and it took me ten minutes to get him out again. But nobody ever tried to jump in around the hospital before, and now two in one bloody day.
He kept looking at me in the mirror as he drove. It was a short drive. The rain was coming down hard enough to have flooded some of the roads. The cabbie pointed out the window. He said, ‘something is wrong to get this much rain in August.’