“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”
Apologies for the gap between the last post and this, hopefully when you read this you’ll understand why that happened…
MANAGING THE RELUCTANCE TO EVEN GO TO HOSPITAL
You know, when my mental health was at its most poorly – when I was finding myself in hospitals two and three times a week – one key reason for me going there tended be that I had self-harmed (in a way which could have actually cost me my life, but it wasn’t always a suicide attempt) in response to auditory hallucinations. Then, when they were content with my actions and silenced, I didn’t want to die or experience pain in any way, so I would seek medical attention for whatever I had done.
But, the professionals attitude changed toward me when they couldn’t understand the power of the hallucinations, and in their eyes; I was just wasting their time and resources. From then, I found myself being met with disdain and contempt from the moment I checked in at the A&E reception desk and that – I’d like to think, understandably – led to an intense reluctance to ever set foot in a hospital. It was like every time I entered the building, I could almost hear the eyes of all the hospital staff roll in their sockets, coupled with their overwhelming urge to comment; “it’s her again.”
So, when my shoulder dislocated on Monday 4th, it took quite some self-convincing for me to take myself to the local Urgent Care Centre. My shoulder has been dislocating numerous times for quite a while now – so often that I’ve actually been taught how to pop it back in myself in order to avoid frequent trips to hospital. On the Monday, however, I was in more pain than I usually experienced when I thought the shoulder was in. So, begrudgingly, I made my way to hospital with the prediction that I’d simply need an X-ray to confirm whether or not it was in place…
The key factor in helping comfort me in the notion of going to hospital was taking some bits and pieces with me e.g. my headphones and iPad, makeup, a book… I’ve talked before on I’m NOT Disordered about the importance of a person not being considered to be superficial just because their own property and items provide them with a level of comfort, reassurance, and general happiness. I think that, instead, this should be seen as an opportunity to help the person e.g. by allowing them to have, or providing them with, specific products.
“HOW MANY STAIRS DO YOU RECKON THERE WAS?”
I remember trying to find my way back from the X-ray department to the Minor Injuries Unit where the triage Nurse had assessed me and deemed my shoulder worthy of an X-ray. I was lost in the maze of corridors until I found myself on the landing at the top of some stairs; and I remember a lady coming along and I said I was lost. She asked me where I was trying to get to and then I remember saying I felt dizzy…
The next thing I knew, I was being sick but without even trying. It was just like, pouring out of me – as were the screams of pain and the frightened tears. I was lying face down – apparently on the two bottom stairs – but if I looked to the side, I could see that I was surrounded by people in different coloured scrubs and had various medical equipment attached to me. As I started to feel less dazed, I managed to place the pain to actually ‘just’ being in my left wrist and not my entire body (as it had immediately felt). I remember lifting my head to look at my wrist but as soon as any pressure was lifted from it, the pain was just… suffocating. It was like I was drowning in it. Surrounded by it from every angle. Every breath I took seemed to just fill my lungs with more pain and my head became submerged in all of it. Until I looked at my wrist… There was a colossal lump on the inside and I remember just repeating “that’s the bone, isn’t it?!” over and over again until someone said “yes, it probably is.” And whilst that just added to the nausea, I couldn’t stop looking!
Fortunately, falling down the stairs of a hospital meant that I was given painkillers a whole lot more quickly! The various staff I had circling me tried to coax me up and I finally managed to get off the stairs to a waiting wheelchair with a tank full of entonox (laughing gas) beside it. But, with the hospital not being a designated Accident and Emergency (A&E), when they had wheeled me to a bed – whilst sucking on that gas the entire time – they called for an Ambulance to transfer me to the nearest A&E.
From the moment that unconscious daze wore off, I was 100% sure that it was the worst pain I’d ever felt… I mean, when the Doctors and Nurses were helping me to get off the stairs I was literally screaming in agony. If I had to describe it (the pain) it was a very sharp throb with more powerful, unbearable, and shooting pain when I tried to move my wrist or any part of my hand.
Now, it’s no secret that – mostly due to my seizures, but also self-harm – I’ve had a number of injuries over the years, but I think that one thing I’ve not done on any of those occasions was to say one was ‘the worst’ out of all previous instances. But that’s one thing I’ll say about the pain I’ve been in with this injury (and the pain which I’m still experiencing). And those who know me, will hopefully really recognise what a huge statement that is considering my previous injuries or causes of pain have included broken ribs, a torn tendon, a dislocated shoulder, and some burst ovarian cysts – all medical dilemmas and scenarios that are pretty much renowned for the pain they can inflict!
You know the whole ‘boy-who-cries-wolf’ story where a boy was known for his frequent, fake claims there was a wolf and it meant that when there actually was one, no one believed him? I mean, there definitely wasn’t any questioning of the validity of both what had happened and the pain I was in; but it did feel that since I have had numerous accidents and injuries, people didn’t really appreciate my thoughts around the belief that this one felt so much worse. So much more influential on my mental health…
In fairness, the number of accidents and injuries I’ve had over the years have meant that I’m also usually good at shrugging them off and not paying them a whole lot of attention. But this one? This one is definitely staying with me; at the forefront of my mind. And one huge reason for this has been the impact the pain has had on me.
DEEMING IT A TRAUMA
Now, every time I’ve said this next thing to people, I recognise how dramatic it sounds, so please know that I’m aware of that, and that I don’t mean for it to be. But, basically, I genuinely feel as though I’ve been through a real trauma this past week or so. Hopefully, similarly to my thoughts on pain and previous experiences of it, the fact I’ve been through a trauma of abuse and rape, will illustrate that for me to label something traumatic… Well, I do so with a great and proper understanding of what that really means.
The thing that most led to me summing this all up as a trauma, was that it felt like there had been no pause or time to think throughout all of the events across that entire week. It had seemed to be one thing after another. Like, first the fall down the stairs, then the transfer to the larger hospital, then the x-ray showing how many places my wrist was broken, and then Orthopaedics assessing it and deciding to let me go home and return in two days to have a nerve block and the wrist pulled back into alignment whilst conscious. Then, it felt like I was home for a matter of minutes and not just over 24 hours when I was travelling back to the hospital and having the Orthopaedic Surgeon agree that if I couldn’t tolerate the conscious alignment, they would put me under a general anaesthetic and do it whilst I was sedated.
Another contributor to my thoughts of deeming this to be a trauma, is that similarly to my experience with the rape and abuse (and on a ton of other occasions in between then and now, I’ve found that the more people I tell and the more frequently I talk about it, the more real it becomes. As though until it’s said out loud, it’s fuzzy, blurred, unclear, and insignificant. Forgettable. Like the entire thing is unworthy of speech. But then I speak it… I speak it and all of a sudden memories of that moment just before I fell when I knew I was going to but didn’t have enough time to stop myself. And then the blackness melting away so that my vision was filled with vomit. And people. So many people and so much pain. And it was because of that memorable, unbearable, pain that I would disagree with anyone trying to rule the entire thing as anything less than a trauma.
BITS & PIECES FROM ASOS (AD) FOR AN OVERNIGHT HOSPITAL ADMISSION
So, I talked earlier about the positives and benefits having your own possessions can have whilst you’re in hospital – and this is especially true for an overnight admission. Fortunately, the Nurse who called to give me the details for my return to hospital to have the conscious alignment, recommended that I bring an overnight bag. It meant that when I couldn’t tolerate the nerve block, and the Surgeon decided to put me under a general anaesthetic, it didn’t matter so much that it would mean staying. there overnight because I already had all of my things.
Recognising the importance of the reassurance and comfort you can experience when you have even the smallest of your own, familiar things around you, I picked out a few items from ASOS that would be hugely helpful for this…
All Saints Canvas Tote: £79.00
Ted Baker Tote: £55.00
River Island Canvas Shopper: £38.00
Moschino Toiletries Bag: £44.00
Drawstring Lilac Towelling Bag: £22.00
Revolution Micellar Water: £3.50
Eye Mask: £12.50
Chelsea Peers Pyjamas Set: £30.00
Ugg Slippers: £85.00
WHY THE FEELING OF WORTH CAME INTO MY HOSPITALISATION
I believe that a very common feeling to experience if you’re in hospital due to self-harm or a suicide attempt is that you’re unworthy of any care and attention – ironic considering the huge controversy over the opinions of these acts being purely ‘attention-seeking.’ And you know what, sometimes – a lot of the time actually – it is the medical professionals who influence and inspire these notions through their comments… I mean, the number of times that I’ve had “we’ve got other really poorly patients…” or “I should be helping…” The one that angered me the most was by an Anaesthetist who said that he’d been called to help a dying child but had to see me. I was in such a horrible place back then that I didn’t think to tell him that surely it was his responsibility to prioritise his patients…?
And I totally get the whole ‘if-you-self-harm-you’ve-put-yourself-there’ sort of thought process, but having seen the side of it where when I was self harming or making suicidal attempts, it definitely didn’t feel like it was in any way a choice; I struggle to agree that anyone would actually ‘put their self’ in such a situation. I think that, for some people, to blame the person self harming, is so much easier and simpler than actually looking at each person as an individual and recognising their very personal – and typically completely different – motivations for using such coping mechanisms.
This conviction that being admitted to hospital for self-harm makes you less worthy of care and treatment than someone who is there for absolutely any other reason, is a hard thing to shake when you have others (Doctors and Nurses etc) reinforcing it. So, as much as I finally do know it isn’t true, I couldn’t help but feel more worthy and entitled to everything – from the painkillers to the food! – I was receiving during this admission. Yet, one thing remained; I still felt incredibly grateful and appreciative of the care and treatment I was given.
REALISING THINGS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
So after making the decision to put me under a general anaesthetic, the surgeon found me a slot in the emergency operating theatre timetable and a few hours later I was in the anaesthetic room with a mask over my face and someone saying “don’t fight it; just go to sleep!”
When I woke up in the recovery part of the surgical department, I can’t quite remember what I asked but it meant that the Nurse who was sat next to my bed called across to another one and he said that they’d had to put a metal plate and eight screws into my wrist to hold it in place. And I remember just saying “oh my God!” and feeling completely overwhelmed and flooded by feelings of shock and fear, that were coupled with thoughts of ‘things will never be the same’ and ‘how will I use any stairs ever again?!’
I think that a lot of the fear and panic I’m experiencing (because even a week later, it’s still pretty much a daily battle) stems from my mental health journey. This is mostly because throughout the years from my first suicide attempt to now, I very often find myself really sad at the realisation that all my instances of self-harm have meant my body will never look the same again. It will never go back to being a blank canvas that doesn’t immediately provide hints of what I’ve been through to the complete strangers who see my scars. It will never get a fresh start. And now, I’ll always have these pieces of metal holding my bones together.
The other part of my mental health journey that has impacted this whole ordeal has been that for such a long time (I’d say at least ten years) I felt like my life was… not on pause but… like…I don’t know, I just feel as though for that huge amount of time, I wasn’t really living. And spending more than two and a half years of those ten as a psychiatric hospital inpatient and sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act, I literally had so much freedom and opportunity snatched from my life. I was literally physically incapable of doing all the things my friends were. I couldn’t go on holiday, I couldn’t attend University, I couldn’t even just go shopping whenever I fancied it…
Having my life controlled by others for all of that time, means that I’m a very grateful and appreciative person when it comes to things others may deem as ‘small’ or ‘insignificant.’ Which also means that sometimes something will happen that really upsets me and others wouldn’t think it to be important and would struggle to understand why I’m feeling the way I am. So, now, when I can’t pick my bunny up for cuddles (strictly no lifting with the left hand) or have to wash my hair with one hand (can’t get the cast wet), I might find it more frustrating and challenging than others who might simply see those things as a Doctors orders and recognise that they’re both necessary and temporary. But I see them as things I enjoy but can no longer do. And the fact it’s ‘temporary’ doesn’t mean much to me because having been on life support after a suicide attempt, I really appreciate and recognise that life can be too short and it’s so important to live it to the fullest.