Tuesday, 30 June 2009

My experience of a Swiss Psycho Clinic Part 3

If ever there was a day when I felt truly like a mental patient, it was this one. I don't usually get aggressive with depression but I sure as hell wanted to start throwing a massive hissy fit and start throwing things. Still wondereing if it was some sort of test.

Anyhoo, here's my recollection of a "craft" afternoon which was optional but you got more hassle if you didn't go. You Will Comply.

We trudged into the small art room. I still wasn’t really sure what was going on because I hadn’t listened at our ward meeting the day before, but the situation became clearer when I surveyed the table. On it were four boxes which contained envelopes and cards in an assortment of colours; blues, pinks, recycled brown, green fleck and shiny white. A small pile of dry silk screen prints were set beside them. Our care worker AR placed three pairs of scissors on the table. Scissors! Lovely, shiny, new, sharp scissors glinted in the light in their packaging, calling to me and winking hello with their two eyeholes! I snatched a guilty looking pair before anyone else could touch them.

I sat at one end of the table, slightly away from the other three patients and opposite to AR. She was my designated carer so I knew I was being watched. See, they make you paranoid too.

I tried to show some enthusiasm by flicking through the array of blotchy, colour clashing silk screen prints made by the other patients on my floor that morning but it was hard to find anything that didn’t resemble a car crash, so selected a vomit inducing green sheet.

“So” said AR, “we cut the fabric like so and stick it to the card with these (holds up photo mounts) and then make it neat with a sheet of paper to hide the back of the fabric.”

Oh, I get how to do it. Why though?

“There are lots of shapes of cards to choose from – hearts, stars, windows, circles.....”

Flashback to four years old and finger painting with a yellow apron on in pre-school playgroup.

We began snipping the fabric. Was it me, or was everyone else engrossed in the project with a determined enthusiasm? Snip, rustle card, stick, stick, stick photo mount, stick fabric, bang to stick, put on pile with envelope. Snip, rustle, stick, stick, bang, pile.

I had hoped that if I used up the A5 sheet of silk screen print that my contribution to the task would be complete and that I could go. But no, it continued, Snip, rustle, stick, stick, bang, pile. I huffily took another sheet of silk screen print (heart attack pink this time) and started cutting it with a vengeance. I was so bored and it was only fifteen minutes into the exercise.

The other patients must have made the silk screen prints before their morning medication kicked in – the designs were trip inspiring to say the least. Danny de Vito lookalike clearly thought they were wonderful. Sitting in an Hawaiian shirt which could have been made by the same patients, he decided to perform a running commentary throughout.

“Look! Look at this piece of fabric! (Holds up purple, yellow and green splattered fabric). Sehr schon! (Very nice!). Wunderbar! (Wonderful!). I’ll make a nice card with this! Look! I can cut the fabric¨! And stick it to the card! Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t it beautiful I’ve made the card so neat, haven’t I!”

We all hmmd in reply except AR who just encouraged him more (I suppose that is one of the jobs she was paid for).

“Bloody man”, I thought to myself and tried to block out his inane chatter. Not easy when the snip, stick, rustle, bang, pile is starting to get to your subconscious.

“And we can sell these for Weihnachten” (Christmas), smiles AR.

Oh effing wonderful. I (well my insurance company) was paying them to look after me and in the meantime our labour was being exploited to make hideous cards for someone to sell at a market after labelling them with “lovingly handmade by mental people” and sell them for 50 rappen to a little old lady who felt sorry for the mad people in the clinic. After all, she might catch Alzheimer’s one day and be making these herself.

CUT, rustle, stick; stick; BANG! I moodily made another five cards and added them to the pile. I compared this to everyone else’s three or four in total (Danny De Vito still on his first).

It wasn’t bloody fair! I had asked to go home this afternoon and was being made to sit in a stuffy room instead. The only person who seemed to be getting any enjoyment out of this was Mr De Vito and his constant chatter was seriously getting on my already frayed nerves. What I would have given for 20 Marlboro Lights and a decent bottle or red wine at that moment.

“It’s how they get you to stay”, I thought to myself. “Make sure you are in tense situations and crave the very stuff that you can’t have until you crack and then GOTCHA!”

“All right Frau Els?” AR asked me, concerned. I jumped, wiped my thoughts from my face, fixed a sweet smile and replied, “Super, danke”. I returned to my sulking and the monotony of the task. I felt like crying. I missed my boyfriend. I felt brain dead doing this stupid task and wanted to be outside.

Two hours (TWO HOURS!!!!) later one of the patients decided he wasn’t going to be kept away from his fag break anymore. I could have kissed him if that had been allowed. Or I had in any way shape or form fancied him which I didnt.

“I think we’ve made enough”, said AR. “Let’s clear up”.


“Super effort, well done”, AR enthused. “You can each take one card for yourselves if you like.” I stared at the mountain in front of me (my pile). “No, you’re all right”, I smiled, “there are too many beautiful cards for me to choose from.

This was the moment that enough was enough – I had to get home to save my sanity. I swear I was more mentally stable before I went in there. I even tried phoning my doctor that afternoon who responded with, well you know its going to be difficult and stick it out kind of response. AAAARGGGHHH.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Drugged and disorderly?

Well things were getting a bit much for me last week and I was munching the tablets like Maltesers.

The first thing was I was cranky with my boyfriend. Don't know why, he hadn't done anything wrong. This of course put him in a mood, which then made my mood worse because I knew it was my fault and I was raving inside about the domesticicity (is that a word) of a relationship.

I then had the humiliation of an appointment with the Swiss social services as my bank account is seriously in the minus (overdrafts are the exception rather than the norm) and I have no access to any money at all and have been living on Prix Garantie Pasta for a week. (Don't anyone dare give me a lecture about carbs because it will go straight back at ya). Herr M. was very pleasant but I am sure that he was really thinking "another Auslander (foreigner) taking our taxes." He gave me some advice and a leaflet to make an appointment in a town about an hour and a half away from home who will be able to help me. So I left, red eyed, wondering where the hell I was going to get the train fare from and took a seroquel to calm me down. Unfortunately I dropped a 100mg instead of 25mg and didn't really notice at the time. This was on top of the Rivotril from before the appointment. Really should check those numbers.

By the time I got back to the village I was feeling a bit drowsy and thought it was probably due to the anxiety of the appointment and the subsequent stuff I needed to do. In the meantime the bills are still piled up - theres not much I can do except look at them - like my boyfriend says, its happened so there's no point worrying about it.

I called in on my colleague in the shop where I work part time (one of my five part time jobs) and we talked about the schedule for the upcoming week. I could feel my eyes drooping and I was really struggling to keep them open, while all the time I was thinking, "please shut up because I have to get home now". Eventually I escaped, got home and crashed out on the sofa. Apparently my boyfriend was already home but I didnt even notice him. When I woke up two hours later I felt groggy and numb - not a state to teach aerobics in. Managed to type and SMS to the attendees saying I was ill. J not happy. Gets cross with me and I have no reaction - too tired to speak or have any emotions. Went to bed and left him to do whatever blokes do of an evening.

It didn't fare much better the next day - the weather was shit, so no work at the swimming pool. That means no pay. No pay means more struggle top pay the bills. More struggle to pay the bills means more seroquel to stop me thinking about them.

And then things were OK, had a sunny day at the pool, the kids didnt play up at all, until I went for one drink after work. Which turned into a few and a very large bar tab which I still don't have the guts to ask how much it is. Might see how long I can get away with that one.

The next day I had one of my creditors phone me up at 6 in the evening and he was screaming at me down the phone, calling me a liar, saying that he was going to make sure I never get credit again in Switzerland, that I will have a black mark against my name etc. etc. I must admit I was quite calm. I told him that my situation has not changed, that I still dont have the money and that screaming down the phone at me doesn't change the situation. He carried on screaming, getting more threatening and saying he knew where I lived and was going to turn up on my doorstep. Now that could be interesting - J was in the British Army and lets just say is pretty good at....erm.....self defence, particularly where I am concerned (god I love him so much). The creditor has been warned. I had to put the phone down on him in the end because I could feel him starting to get into my head. The Swiss take not paying sooooo personally. Its ridiculous - I thought I could pay and then didnt quite have enough to pay. I offered a payment plan, he refused. So I've now had the nasty official letters through before court action or something.

Anyhoo, enough of my financial crap and lets concentrate on something else, like how crap I am in general. Oh yes, the innercriticvoicesinmyheadunconsciousmind is becoming more frequent. I've tried the telling myself positive stuff but what a load of bullshit that is, because of course its not true so I can tell myself a million times, its still not going to change the fact that I am crap.

Tried a new workbook about DBT. It looks really good, but I can't even get past the first chapter. Something about radical acceptance. So thats that then. Failed.

My scars and nicks and cat scratches are starting to heal and I am really trying not to pick at them but its really hard at the moment. Why does my psychiatrist have to go on holiday right now?

Thursday, 18 June 2009

And then there was me and the cat

After the other day I wsasn't sure whether I was really in the mood for working yesterday - luckily it was one of my lifeguarding (ha!) duty days so I was being paid to sit in the sun and watch thirty swiss teenagers beat the crap out of each other in the pool and trying to drown each other. Now while I am not opposed to the thought of drowning (it's meant to be quite peaceful), I am getting paid to look after them, so I did my duty and distracted them with retrieving toys from the bottom of the pool and practising snorkelling which calmed them down for all of....ooh...one hour. It does get a bit tedious telling the same kids the same thing over and over again "Because I said it's the rule, because it IS dangerous" (despite the fact that their parents are watching them jumping from the edge onto a rubber ring and nearly cracking their head against the concrete edge, but what do I know, I'm only a qualified lifeguard?) but I know they are just testing me because I am new his year.

Their tactics to wind me up include: doing something again which I have just told them they can't, trying to think of new things that are more dangerous than the last to see what they can get away with, rounding up a few friends to go and play on the trampoline (away from the pool) and then get all ten of them to jump on it at the same time from the edge, answering back, taking the piss out of my german/swiss skills - you know, just the anticipated actions of teenagers that think what they have dreamt up is the most original idea ever thought of before.

My tactics at the moment are not as lengthy, but lets just say, the whistle is reserved for REALLY bad stuff so they know I am serious and a new one I thought up the other day - hold up my mobile phone and pretend I am taking a picture of them about to misbehave to give to my boss (who they are v.scared of), which works really well as they are always checking where I am and a mobile phone can take pictures from quite a way off. Of course, i don't need to take an actual photo but it's quite fun to phase them out and play with their heads for a change. Stalking individuals is also good - when they think you are just following them, they get really freaked out. Wonder if the ones predisposed to paranoia will crack - hmm, will have to watch that develop.

Don't get me wrong, I used to do Youth work back home and I enjoy the interaction and thinking up new stuff to entertain the kids so they don't get bored, but get bored very easily of the kids who think they can wind you up. These days what they don't realise is I have a lovely lovely pot of pills for anxiety which basically meant that while I am aware of the dangers and am still capable of doing my job, I don't give a crap about the amount of times they try to push me - I am completely calm! This must be really frustrating for them and I do feel quite sorry for their poorly thought out ideas (plus the fact that I can understand more swiss than I can speak so I usually know what they are plotting.)

Yes, I think I really am going to enjoy this job.

Taking care of people's safety for nine hours does get mentally exhausting - I just don't seem to be able to concentrate like I used to. So this morning I am mega tired and don't feel motivated to do anything, hence I am now curled up with my laptop and the cat. I'm thinking of maybe doing something useful like, ohh, lets say housework and eating something (is 2pm too late for breakfast?)

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Typical, am feeling atypically depressed today

So I had an appointment with my Psychiatrist yesterday. I wasn't really in the mood for talking anyway, so the appointment could have been over and done with in five minutes, but I woffled away for half an hour in the end about nothing in particular. He did well to listen - if he was as bored shitless as I felt talking crap then he didn't let it show.

Then today the weather turns shitty and rainy and foggy but I braved the outside to go to one of my many part time jobs - lifeguard at the open air pool in the village. Well it was shut because of the weather and I only get paid for the hours I work, so crappy weather = no money = more bills. Luckily over here most companies are pretty patient if you can't pay immediately - it is normal for purchases to be accompanied by an invoice, perfect for the addicted to internet shopping like myself (having set aside the addiction to smoking and drinking for the moment) as I can click away and soon have lots of lovely, exciting parcels sent my way. You can then phone them up and say, "look, I'm just a bit skint at the moment - could you wait until next month/next year/next century?"and theytell you "yes". Great, except for my shopping addiction which has caused debt again (why why why don't I learn from past mistakes?) and now have the embarassment of going to the social services to say, "look, I know I am a foreigner in your country and I do pay taxes here but I am a crap person and order stuff off the internet I don't need (except for CSI:Miami box sets which are a necessity) and now I can't pay my electric/phone/mobile/health insurance etc. My boyfriend has helped me as much as I can and it is getting embarassing now as I have to ask him to lend me money to buy a train ticket for my sodding appointments in another town and keep nicking his cigarettes which is a punishable offence for a nicotine addict himself. I don't think they can send me home at the moment though - my passport has run out and I can't afford the couple of hundred francs to get it renewed.

I ended up checking out the webpage of one of my exes "flames" who I noticed is 23 years younger than him!! He could be her father!! What a sicko! And the stuff she says she likes on her webpage is exactly like me. Of course, he doesn't know that I know who he sees/shags/dumps etc. but I have my contacts. I am now in the cycle of "why did he dump me, what's wrong with me, I want my old life back" etc. etc. and getting out the photo albums and start blaming myself for being such a crap girlfriend that no wonder he dumped me. Obviously can't tell my current boyfriend about it because I don't think that would go down very well after 4 years This has made me upset and have fleeting thoughts of a) taking a bucket load of every drug I can lay my hands on and go to sleep peacefully and not have to stress myself out with this crap anymore (plus J won't be there) or b) taking apart a razor blade and bloody well make some blood. I have persuaded myself at the moment that neither are a good idea because a) I have to work at the swimming pool tomorrow and I worked bloody hard for my lifeguard certificate IN SWISS so I'll be pissed off if they pump my stomach as I will feel guilty for missing work and upsetting my cat and b) it's summer, bikini time and scars will ruin my tan.

Bloody men. Fuck up your lives for years, even when you haven't seen or spoken to them cos they are in a different country and despite telling you that you remain friends forever, you find out that in fact, they really are lying bastards.

Anyhoo, this stress and anxiety has made me want a drink. So round we go again, bring on the red wine and get pissed, spend money that I don't have in the first place (thank god for bar tabs) and when I recover with the worlds worst hangover the bills are still there.

And there I was yesterday saying that my meds were fine and I feel great. Mind you, given all the stuff in the media and internet it serves me right for giving in to the evil that is the big Pharma and popping those pills like M&M's. (But it feels so gooooood and surely its better than snorting cocaine or something? - not that I have ever done that, I pass out and throw up even after a spliff. Plus I can't take another addiction, it's getting boring now.

Well, I think I will try the "distraction technique" which will not involve red pens or elastic bands (what a load of bollocks that is) and go and watch Holby City and play guess the illness.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

My experience of a Swiss psychiatric clinic (2)

The next morning, while walking to the station through the rain, my boyfriend and I formulated a story that I was going to England to update my Employment Law for my professional qualification in Human Resources – this was perfect because I would not be away for long and if I came back for the weekend it was a natural break between courses. . I purchased our tickets from the machine rather than going to the ticket desk – people knew me – they would surely notice I was buying a one way ticket to Meiringen and everyone knew what that meant.

J asked me how I was every 5 minutes. I just wanted to bawl my eyes out as I got more and more anxious – what was I doing? I had no clue as to who I was any more and the outside world became one big blur. The train journey was tense and I chain smoked at any opportunity. I felt confused, scared, numb, sad all at once and wished that the clinic was closer to home. With connections the journey took at best 1½ hours, at worst 2 hours even though it was only two valleys away as the crow flies. I was paranoid that everyone on the train could see me and my case and knew that I was mental. John was really calming and I felt guilty that he had to go through this experience. I remember that I kept apologising to him and he kept reassuring me – how draining that must have been for him.

We arrived at the destination station and although I had printed a map from the internet I couldn’t work out in which direction I should take to get to the clinic. So we called a taxi – I was so embarrassed that the taxi driver would know that I was being admitted, particularly when he dropped us off explaining that the entrance in front of us was for admissions. The drive wasn’t far to get there and to get to the admissions entrance, located in a large three storey building we passed the clinic tennis courts and the Funicular railway that takes you to the top of the Reichenbach Falls made famous by Sherlock Holmes. All was looking very high class.

I introduced myself to the receptionist (my boyfriend had joked that he looked more like the one who should be admitted) and we were asked to wait in the vestibule conservatory which looked out onto the gardens in front of the clinic. I was feeling very anxious by this stage and was nearly in tears – what was I doing?! I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend. We waited what seemed like an eternal five minutes for someone to arrive to take me to my home for the next week (or so I thought).

One thing I noticed about the clinic was that no-one looked like a nurse or doctor. In England it is very formal – suits and professionalism but in Switzerland I was likely to see my doctor in jeans. I didn’t mind this at all and felt comfortable as I think that suits create a formal barrier. Nurses both male and female at the clinic wore their own casual clothes and a name badge (which surprised me – think of the sharp pin on the back that some nutter could grab). My nurse for my admission was I think some kind of trainee, very pleasant and not great English but I managed to stumble through my German enough to be understood. She led us out of the building we were in across the forecourt and car park, past a restaurant (restaurant!) towards a two story building covered in overlapping blue/grey tiles which was open at one side of a square and overlooked a grass courtyard. Another building was attached to one corner of the square and this housed the thermal bath (wow – a spa!) and treatment rooms. I was led into a building labelled both old age care (I realised after a while that it was for geriatrics with mental health problems and not in fact anorexics) and emergency “acute” ward. The “akut” ward was the “closed ward” my doctor had spoke of.

This was to be my first experience of being locked up – all the carers, nurses and doctors had big bunches of keys and I came to spend many hours trying to figure out how I could get hold of a set without them knowing. Nora, my nurse assigned to me unlocked the door to the ward and led me and my boyfriend inside, closing and locking the door behind. We were led along a corridor with identical wide, white doors labelled with numbers or “Bad” (bathroom), “Besprechen” (meeting room) and suchlike. I was first led to a small medical room and asked to take my coat off. How humiliating – I was searched for sharp objects. I had kind of worked out that perhaps I wouldn’t be able to take my Gillette Venus razor “inside” and had to resort to hair removing cream (no way I was going to look like a gorilla when my boyfriend finally saw me again) but I was still shocked I was experiencing treatment like I was some kind of criminal in a police station, but I understood why they had to check – after all, there were a lot of nutters admitted who probably had whole knives on their person.

I was weighed (63 kilos – oooh, lost two since five months before without even trying), height measured, asked when I last had sex, bottom probed etc, etc, (Ok I am lying about the last two) and then we were taken to the “Besprechung” room where there was not one, but two other people, myself, my boyfriend and my new nurse. The doctor introduced himself (he looked so young how could he possibly be able to help me – I would give him a chance to prove himself though) as did another (male) nurse. They all sat there like it was an interview panel with pens and paper and a file in front of them. I didn’t like this. They asked me if I wanted to talk in German or English (English for this although I was embarrassed by it) and did I want my boyfriend present (No, because I hadn’t told him the full story and now was not the time or place). I was waiting for them to start taping the interview but they just took notes instead. John was released outside to smoke a packet of fags no doubt.

I began to talk. I cried. I stopped talking because I was too busy crying. Someone got me a fruit tea (one of many cups I was to drink in there), they interrogated me (every question to me in that state felt like a grilling) and finally they called my boyfriend back in the room. They asked him what I had been like. Now, my boyfriend is naturally suspicious of questions and of hospital like places, so I knew he wasn’t really going to lay it on thick. But he was as honest as he could be, the main worry for him was that he didn’t understand what was going on. It was surreal even to me, and I was the one who had agreed to go there.

The whole admission process took about two hours. Eventually I was shown to my allocated room for the night. It was a large, ground floor room with two “hospital” type beds in, overlooking a grass courtyard. To the other side of the courtyard were some outside tables and chairs where there was an old grey haired tramp (or so he looked) dressed in denim and smoking roll ups. The patio doors from my room to a small glass conservatory which led to this courtyard were locked. The other window next to my bed looking out was also locked. I started to feel oh so slightly claustrophobic.

While my boyfriend looked on, Nora let me unpack my few belongings and checked each item for more forbidden items. She took my mobile phone charger, iPod and charger and my purse. We were only allowed our mobile phones between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., they would be charged in the nurse’s station. If we needed money we could ask for it again from the nurse’s station. She finally took my medication to be stored in a safe place, presumably to prevent me from taking an overdose. From now on, my tablets would be counted out and issued to me at strict timings throughout the day, usually with mealtimes.

The time came for me to say goodbye to my boyfriend, J. Poor guy, he looked more shell shocked than me and I knew he was twitching at even stepping foot in an institution, let alone the shock that his girlfriend was seriously ill. Still, I reassured him I would be out next week. As we passed the smoking room (yes, smoking is allowed in Switzerland) and I thanked my stars that I wasn’t in the UK where smoking was banned, I became less and less confident. My J was going home – I wasn’t. The doors were finally unlocked for J to go home and I gave him a hug. It was a bear hug like I will never forget and a lot of unspoken words were passed between us.

The door closed behind him. I knew he would come and visit at the weekend.

I returned to my room alone and sad. While I placed my belongings in some kind of order in the lockable cupboards provided, I reflected on the morning and the emotions that had been brought up. Here I was in near isolation, exhausted, weepy, knowing that I wanted to die but unable to explain why, wanting my boyfriend desperately, worrying that he was going to leave me like the last one had. I felt totally alone. As I put my wash things in the small bathroom I noticed that even the door didn’t have a lock and that everything was nailed or screwed down with no sharp edges or potential weapons of self harm.

I finally collapsed onto my bed huddled in a ball and wept, thinking all the time what a failure I was.

I couldn’t even do that alone. Every five minutes it seemed that my self pity was interrupted with questions about my medical insurance, was I OK, did I know it was lunchtime (I was most definitely NOT hungry) and that it was time to take my medication. Would I ever get any peace I wondered?

I ventured out of my room and along the corridor to the kitchen and dining area. All of a sudden, people kept introducing themselves, shaking hands and asking my name as the Swiss do. I knew they were trying to make me feel at ease but I just wanted to be left alone. When the meal wagon arrived (a large metal cabinet with rows of ready prepared trays) it was explained how to find the tray with my name and how to clear up afterwards.

I nibbled at my food and couldn’t wait to bolt back to my room, my semi safe haven. Occasionally I would glance sideways at the other patients. M would rock backwards and forwards in his chair, seated at a table well away from the rest of us. I couldn’t help but stare at him – couldn’t anyone see how funny he looked, rocking each time he ate a mouthful of food. He was clearly a bit mad. Then there was Frau X who stood back until everyone had collected their tray before she would take hers, nervously stepping in. T would scrounge everyone’s leftovers and being on the large side I wondered if she was meant to be eating them. I tried to avoid the men as they could have been sex attackers for all I knew. I felt bad for viewing the other patients in this way as after all, they were all lovely once I got over my initial suspicion and I was no different to any of them (except for Herr M, who one of the nurses put was “just a bit mad” when I complained about his constant screaming all day. We never saw him but the nurses would frequently check on him especially when it sounded like he would kick the door down. He was a definite candidate for plastic utensils and crockery. (We were allowed real knives and forks, except we had to ask for the bread to be cut with a breadknife which was then locked away again by a member of staff).

After lunch I again curled up into a ball and varied between sleeping and crying. I was so scared and confused. The nurses checked on me about ever half an hour, taking blood pressure checks and pulse checks, asking me if I was OK and finally a humiliating physical check by the doctor. Humiliating because I felt exposed and vulnerable despite the female nurse observing and I was worried the doctor would find something medically wrong with me. Finally I was left alone again.

The cleaners came in and washed the floor and bathroom. I lay curled up on the bed, disinterested. I crept under my duvet after they went and slept some more. I felt numb and confused but began to feel more comfortable in my little bubble.

Nora came in and took my insurance details (the all important medical insurance which would fund my stay at the clinic). She also checked what food I would like daily from a checklist. I could choose a continental breakfast or muesli, fruit juice or milk, a yogurt. I could be vegetarian if I liked. I selected bread and conserve for breakfast with a plain yogurt and a no fish dinner. We had menu plans given to us in advance for the week so we had some idea of what we were to eat.

It is usual in Switzerland for the main meal to be at lunchtime and to have a light supper. All our mealtimes were regimented – breakfast between 7.30 – 8.10 a.m., lunch between 11.30 - 12.10 and evening supper at 5.30 – 6.10. We received our medication from the medical staff at the same time. There were no extra snacks unless we shopped in town, which we had to ask permission for and were usually restricted to how long we could leave the unit for. To begin with I was allowed half an hour a day on my own, presumably so I didn’t have time to go and get plastered on alcohol. But at the beginning I had no intention of leaving my room, I was happy with my duvet and book. I read the three books that I had with me over and over again. Soon it was time for evening dinner, so I crept from my room and waited nervously by the lunch wagon. I wasn’t really hungry to be honest, but didn’t want the nurses to be hassling me to get up and go and eat. When my meal finally arrived on the meal wagon, I snatched it and sat in a corner.