“I’ve been there, Caroline. I’ve been there.” My Dad repeated, his voice heavy with tears. My body felt like it was made of lead. I lifted my hand to my face. I had a breathing tube in my nose. It was tight around my face. I had canulas in both my wrists, and my left foot. The creases behind my elbows were bruised and punctured. Whoever had inserted the canulas, had obviously had a tough battle with my veins. Above my head, monitors beeped and pulsed. My left forefinger burned. I looked at it and saw that I had an oxygen monitor tightly clamped onto it. I felt naked. An ill fitting hospital gown covered the last shred of dignity I had left. Flashbacks of doctors and tubes and nurses flooded my brain. I lost consciousness again.
“Because of what you’ve done, we’ve informed social services. They will assess your children.” The nurse’s face was very close to mine. I was sat up. An unfamiliar, female voice in the corner of the room asked me a series of questions. The questions she asked were peculiar. The voice asked me questions about my childhood. But not just ordinary questions, they were specific questions. This person knew details from my childhood, that only people who were there knew. I answered the questions, still trying to wrap my massive tongue around the words. What came out was garbled nonsense. The nurse stared at me, with a strange expression on her face. “What are you trying to tell me?” She asked. After several attempts, I finally managed to make myself understood by her. I explained that I was answering the other nurse’s questions. She looked confused.”What other nurse? There’s only me and you in this room, Caroline.” Oh great, I’m hallucinating again.
It was dark. There was a different nurse stood by the monitors above my head. She was very young – maybe in her early twenties. She was reading whatever was on the monitors and writing in a folder. She realised I was awake, glanced at me momentarily, then continued taking notes. I asked her if I was dying. She didn’t answer my question.Instead,she responded by asking me a question. “Why did you do it?” As she asked the question, one side of her upper lip curled up to reveal her perfect teeth. I know that expression I thought, as I gathered my strength to reply to her. Then I remembered. I’d watched documentaries on body language and micro expressions, and how body language experts had helped to catch high profile killers. The one sided lip curl was discussed repeatedly in these documentaries. It was the trademark expression of contempt. The nurse regarded me and what I had done, with distaste. Tears ran down my cheeks. “I don’t know.” I slurred. She patted my hand, sighed and left the room.
I woke up, feeling less heavy. My husband was sat by my bed. A doctor I remembered from my flashbacks entered the room. I don’t recall much of what he said, but I remember the words “high heart rate” and “moving her to a ward.” I just wanted to go home. I wanted to be away from staring eyes and curling lips. I wanted to shut myself away. My speech was still slurred and my tongue still felt alien to my mouth. I shook my head violently. No. My already high heart rate quickened, making the monitor sound like a smoke alarm. My husband and the doctor tried to calm me down. “OK” the doctor said. “I’ll see if we can let you go home.” He left the room.
“Hello Caroline. I’m one of the psych doctors here.” A young man was sitting by my bed. He looked a lot like the psychiatrist from the film, Groundhog Day. He did tell me his name, but I can’t remember it. He asked me some questions. What was my history with mental illness? Do I still want to kill myself? I told him everything he needed to know, and he said he’d get me some phone numbers of organisations I could speak to. Then he left the room.
My husband had brought me some pyjamas to change into. I got dressed and waited for my next visitor. A bubbly nurse with a friendly face, bounced into the room. She served something that looked like a roast beef dinner to me. The last thing I wanted to do was eat. My throat still burned and my tongue still felt enormous. I picked at the cold mashed potato, and gulped the water down. Bubbly nurse came back and did my observations. She asked the same question, everyone seemed to want an answer to – why did I do it? I maintained my story of not knowing and she admitted defeat. She informed me that another doctor would be visiting me, to discuss where I was going next. I told her I wanted to go home. She gave me a sympathetic smile.
“Your heart rate is still a little high. I wanted to send you to the ward for further observations, but we have a shortage of beds.” A new doctor was pressing buttons on my monitors and speaking to me. “I’m going to take you off the monitors and see how you are in another hour.” He proceeded to unplug me. The room fell silent. Please don’t ask me that stupid question. I screamed at him, in my head. He must have read my mind, because the question didn’t come. “I’ll be back in an hour.” He said, before leaving me to sit in silence.
My husband returned, with a bag full of clothes. The doctor had been back to observe me, and phoned my husband to tell him I was being discharged. “Right. What do you want to wear?” he asked, holding up various items of clothing from my wardrobe. “What? No straight jacket and muzzle?” I replied, playfully. My husband smiled briefly, before returning to his recent super-serious self. Oh God. He hates me. I pointed at the top and jeans I wanted to wear for the journey home and quickly changed into them. “Why do they keep talking about a ward? Aren’t I on a ward already?” I asked, as I studied my reflection in the small mirror on the wall. I looked dreadful. “No you’re not on a ward, Caroline. You’re in Intensive Care.”
To be continued….
Photo by Christopher Campbell, courtesy of Unsplash