Sunday, 9 August 2009

My experience of a Swiss Psychiatric Clinic 5

Morgenrunde was just an excuse to get us out of bed. In Ost 1 this was to allocate tasks to us for the day and to remind us of appointments. Here it was different. 15 of us in a circle in the “living room”. The gong would sound (one of those brass bowls rested on a patchwork cushion) and an exercise would be read out by whichever nurse was dedicated to that day (usually the trainees). Luckily the card they read from was in Hochdeutsch so I was able to understand a little more.

I think it was meant to be for relaxation before the day began proper, but as I didn’t like the groups I found it difficult. Plus I was always translating in my head, picking out the words that I knew and following the exercise, occasionally peeping under my eyelids to check what everyone else was doing. It didn’t relax me! I had to concentrate on understanding the German and if there was a word used repetitively that I didn’t know I would peep through my eyelids to see that everyone else was doing – also, I didn’t like having my eyes shut in a group of people. Anyhow, it was compulsory to attend and I would have paid anyone to get out of it – half an hour extra sleep would have relaxed me more.

My favourite one was the “in and out” breath. We had to imagine our breath was a colour and focus on the action. Mine never changed from black. Breathe out the badness from within; breathe in a grey air that was bringing more badness into me.

Of course, I always ended up next to Mr Letch or Danny de Vito so couldn’t relax anyway in case one of them brushed my thigh. Plus some exercises were plain ridiculous (standing and doing something like the hokey cokey in the guise of energising) and just didn’t do anything for me. Either way I usually ended up more tense than before . It was hard not to drift back to bed afterwards; I’d traumatised myself that much.

I did try, at the beginning. It just wasn’t something I found helpful to me in a larger group. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. And on Thursdays we had double dose! Morgenrunde plus in the afternoon a station meeting, all compulsory. Each morning after the relaxation exercise the patients of the station met for 15 minutes as a group, led by one of the nurses. In Ost 2, this was to volunteer for housekeeping jobs each day (keeping the kitchen tidy, taking the compost out, collecting the meal wagon for example) and to run through who had appointments that day or to book in appointments with the doctor. In Des Alpes 3 each Thursday afternoon we had the real “housekeeping” meeting, again to allocate washing up tasks and so on, to welcome new people and confirm who was leaving. Another reminder that I was stuck here for another week. I could see some benefit to all meeting together – at least I knew who was on our floor and so we were a loose “team” ready to help each other out, but I wasn’t into the crowd thing. Morgenrunde was an unnecessary interruption to my morning, I wasn’t keen to be surrounded by people until at least 10 a.m. No, I much preferred my solitude in the mornings but was well aware I was being watched all the time.

The station occupied the fourth floor of an old hotel and its layout was fairly similar. Perhaps ten en-suite twin and single rooms branched to the left and right of the corridor. At the centre of the corridor facing the front of the building was the “common room” with sofas, an up to the minute TV & DVD player, stereo, books, games and a long dining table (not used for dining). Complete with laminate wood flooring it was cosy but modern. A small balcony jutted out and was a smoking area.

We had a small kitchen complete with microwave oven, hob, fridge freezer (and knives!) but mostly on my part to make decaffeinated or vanilla tea although I didn’t object if anyone tried their hand at cake making. When someone was allowed to leave after their “term”, leaving chocolates for the remaining was expected. Then the curiosity followed as to who would arrive next and I would hope it wouldn’t be some weirdo – I am very untrusting of strangers as when I have trusted them it has flown back in my face. Keep myself to myself and be pleasant was enough for me.

Further along the front facing part of the corridor was a washroom and the nurses’ station with ante-room for meetings. Opposite was a smoking room (no EU ban for Switzerland although I have heard some UK psychiatric wards still have smoking areas – not sure if that is true) and more bedrooms. My room was opposite the common room and seemed to be large compared to some of the other rooms. The bathroom was certainly six times the size of my bathroom at home. I say bathroom, but in fact there was no bath. I guess in terms of not enough space or maybe they didn’t want us topping ourselves. I didn’t mind – we could request a bath housed in a separate room and nurses would prepare scented oils which were very potent but relaxing. Not quite a luxury health spa though! 20 minutes was recommended for a bath after which I guess you could become intoxicated on the wierd and wonderful bath mix that had been made up for you.

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