The Trouble With Dimps, the Vulcan, and the Hypersexuals
One Man’s Journey With Mental Illness
In 2006, my wife accidentally found out about my 70k credit card debts. She feared she would be made homeless if I stuck around so she asked me to leave. It was October and I was on a manic high at the time. I was living in a cartoon world, disappearing for days without even mentioning where I was going. One day, I received a phone call from my psychiatrist. He was concerned about my behavior and wanted to see me. I didn’t want to see him, and said I was fine. But he insisted.
At the hospital, I was met by the senior house officer (who resembled a Star Trek Vulcan), and led me to a room. The door shut behind me with a thud. There was no handle on the inside, just another door that led to another world. She asked me some questions to evaluate me.
Did I hear voices ? “No.” When I read a book, did I think it was written just for me? “NO.” When I watch TV, were there hidden messages for me? “No.” She asked me what year it was: “2006.” The month: “October.” The day: “The 15th.”
I was doing pretty well, but then came the killer: Spell the word “WORLD” backwards. I tried “D-R-L-O-W.” WRONG ANSWER! So she decided I wasn’t fit to be at large and I could admit myself for observation as a voluntary patient, or they could get a doctor and section me. That’s a minimum six-week stay. So, I chose the voluntary option.
I was shown to my room, the windows of which did not open. There was a bed, chair and wardrobe. A member of the staff came in. John with keys around his belt (that type) said, “Come on, I’ll show you around.” There was a game room with a three-legged pool table and about six billiard balls, a kitchen, a laundry room, and a lounge where the other patients sat watching daytime TV drivel. John said, “Make yourself a drink and join the others.”
A few residents were wearing dressing gowns. One girl had bandages on her wrists. Mike was talking on a cell to a girl he was waving at through the window. She was in another ward. Upstairs he turned to me and said she wants to know your name. This was Lorraine, who I became good friends with; we even had a fling in the laundry room. All the manic patients are hypersexual.
A new patient discovers quite soon that a ward has its own rules. I was having a cigarette in the smoke room chatting to ‘Jesus of Stockport’—an Asian with long hair and a beard. Jesus tells me he has a haulage firm and can get me cheap trainers. He also tells me he is undercover, working for the NHS. His job is to assess which patients are suitable for jobs in the outside world and in his haulage firm. The strange thing is with all this money you would expect he could afford a pack of cigarettes .He watches me as I put my dimp out in the ash tray. There is still a full centimeter left on it, and in the Arden ward that’s a lot of dimp. Gerry is keeping an eye on that dimp as well. Then Tony comes in and says, “Don’t leave your dimp in the ashtray, the Paki will get it.”
Lorraine used to pretend she was my doctor during family visits. She asked Tom who was visiting me to help put up the Christmas tree even though it was only October. It was a plastic one kept in the toy cupboard. When the tree was up, all the patients in the ward applauded. This attracted the attention of the staff, who quickly removed the tree. But an idea had been planted, and it had made everyone happy. So, every night for the next two months, when the staff had been reduced, we would put that tree up and decorate it.
I was in demand for interviews with visiting doctors and students. I was a textbook bipolar guy. They could not take notes fast enough. If they needed help, I could prompt them or lead them to the next question. I could tell the truth or lie, mix it up, do anything they wanted. I remember a Chinese student practically wetting herself when I got going. She could not believe her luck. I was released just before Christmas, after the kitchen was closed down by the health and safety inspectors.
Note: Joe's story takes place in the United Kingdom.