My last post detailed the first visit to Stratheden Hospital on the 28th March which ended in me being released into Nova’s care. The story continues that day with me acting on a horrendous compulsion and being rushed back to the hospital. That evening Nova and I were sitting outside in the garden when suddenly I held a lit cigarette to the skin of my hand for what felt like several minutes, it was probably only seconds. It did the damage though and as usual the action was completely separate from any logical thought. I could not explain why I had done it and Nova was justifiably freaked out. After a lengthy debate she persuaded me to go back to Stratheden and off we went in the car again. Once there I remember being in a room with no windows and having, yet another, series of tests performed on me. I really thought this was it. I was going to be sectioned, my worst nightmare come true and I would lose everything. Fragment-me knew how this must look but I had no power to describe what had come over me. I remember begging and begging them not to section me, not to make me stay there and then the immense relief when I realised that once again I had escaped the devastation of a section. Somehow I must have agreed to come back the next day and stay for a 72 hour assessment.
The next day came and we set off for the hospital. It was on this journey that the electrical current seizure got worse, I hadn’t thought it could, but it did. Now not only my whole body was jarring but the whole world around me was vibrating and fragmenting. A bit like the earlier experience when the rain fragmented for a second or two. My teeth were clenched and my body was rigid. I couldn’t speak for the sheer effort of surviving the sensation. It was a bit like how I imagine it must feel to have a dentist with the biggest drill imaginable drilling straight into your brain. I couldn’t cry or scream, I was just silently rigid. It couldn’t be seen by anyone on the outside which was one of the cruellest aspects of the seizures I mainly experienced. They were so intense and I would be staring desperately at whatever doctor was treating me at the time, praying they could see, but they never did, it was exhausting.
I did have other forms of seizures which were more visible but I will get to these in future posts.
This seizure went on as we went into the hospital and I was shown into a bay with several beds. I was given the one nearest the door (big mistake!) and I lay on the bed, gripping Nova’s hand, as the seizure went on and on and on. Eventually it calmed down and I remember going with Nova to the outdoor area of the ward where several other patients were milling around smoking cigarettes.
This is when I experienced what I call the ‘world-stops’ episode which also became regular occurrences as the illness dragged on. The ‘world-stops’ went like this – in my mind I would suddenly feel, or know, that the world was about to stop. It was going to end. This was not actually a scary thought as at this time I would have welcomed it. I would hurtle towards this moment when it would end and then, instead of the world stopping, I would become suspended in time as everything continued to move around me. This is probably one of the hardest things to describe but I would end up completely motionless and silent and it truly felt as if everything had stopped. I had one of these episodes once in the back of an ambulance as I was taken to Ninewells a few days later and I honestly could not get a word out or move a muscle. The paramedic was looking at me like he thought I was taking the utter p***. But to me, the world had stopped.
Anyway, there I was, in the garden area of the psychiatric hospital suspended in time and reality. I know from talking to her after I recovered, that leaving me in this place was one of the hardest things Nova ever had to do and she stayed with me for hours that day. She tidied that garden area and chatted to other patients while I stared mindlessly in to space, a vague smile on my face as I knew the world has stopped, I knew the truth. Eventually Nova had to go and she took me back through to the bed that was to be mine.
It can’t have been more than ten minutes after she left that fragment-me kicked in. Deeply unimpressed by the fact that my bed had no covers and was simply a bare mattress and that no staff member had been to check on me or even speak to me, fragment-me knew, absolutely knew, that this was not the right place for me. As much as I was terrified I was going mad I knew something was different to the other people I saw in that ward. I decided to go home.
It was easy to get up from the bed and walk the short distance to the front door. No-one stopped me and I was jubilant. I found my way out of the hospital grounds and made for a path I knew which linked the hospital to the road home. I was so determined and I also had a plan. I knew that a friend’s house was on my route home and I would stop there for a glass of water to keep me going. I still had my mobile phone at this point and I phoned Nova to tell her I was on my way home from work. Yes, from work, as if that was a perfectly normal thing to say.
As I continued on my merry way Nova was frantically driving round the area trying to find me. She and her friend eventually tracked me down a couple of miles from the hospital. We went back to our friend’s house and I sat with a cup of tea while Nova was on the phone to the ward having a few choice words. Our friend’s little boy was there that afternoon and I remember being amazed that she seemed ok with me being around him. She was so sweet to me and I couldn’t understand why Nova looked so sad and upset. We didn’t go back to the hospital but I was given a diagnosis of ‘acute and transient psychotic disorder’ and they suggested that I may also be suffering from a conversion disorder. “A conversion disorder causes patients to suffer from neurological symptoms, such as numbness, blindness, paralysis or fits without a definable organic cause.” There were a few other attempts at diagnosis thrown my way before they finally got it right, another several weeks from this day.