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.


  1. Oh jasysu the determinedly encouraging OT staff. Who kept praising my every little move, so as to remind me that although I might be an IT project manager, thanks to this episode of illness all I was good for was inexpertly slopping paint around or fucking up craft projects. Sigh.

  2. As we say in German, Genau (exactly). That's after the three week waiting list to actually be able to do any OT whatsoever, because they "lost" my form.