Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tales from the schizophrenia ward - Part I: An introduction

Before I start, this being my first post in this new blog let me say "hello" to everyone reading this. As you can read in the blog description I will use this little thingy to talk about my weird life and hope some of you will enjoy reading a different perspective on life than most people have. Maybe have a laugh here and there, maybe find something you can relate to, or maybe something you can tell your parents and pretend it's something you did or experienced to freak them out. The possibilities are endless. :)

"Tales from the schizophrenia ward" is the first of a few series of posts I will make, this one being dedicated to a very interesting two months of my life from January 15th, 2013 to March 15th, 2013. Basically, I told my doc I wasn't feeling well, and he decided to write down a "paranoid schizophrenia" diagnosis and send me to a pleasant little in-patient institution for me to rot to a suffocating death, or get better, depending on your perspective.

This first part of said series is basically just a few collected thoughts and snippets of impressions telling you more or less what every day life was like in these two months. I'll start with an average day:

About seven in the morning, if I recall correctly, a nurse would come in, turn on the light, tell everyone to wake up and leave the room again. The catch was that I am a heavy sleeper, and these nurses are so mentally worn down by their job that they have zero motivation to check if their intending to wake you did actually succeed, so most of the time I either wouldn't register anything happened and sleep through it, or wake up for a brief moment and go right back to sleep. This bugged me in the beginning, because it meant I would miss breakfast, but after a few days I would accept that the bone-dry bread with rock-hard butter we got for breakfast wasn't worth shedding a tear over. So I eventually woke up and tumbled to the kitchen to make myself an instant coffee - we had to bring our own because the coffee they made at the ward lasted about ten minutes and was usually gone before breakfast even started (and before most people arrived) - then tumble to the smoker's room.

Yes, we had a smoker's room. You will hear about that one a few more times in this post because basically that's where you spend your time when you're in such a place. A delightful two by two meters, usually with five to six people crammed into it, an air quality that you could fill the air in tanks, ship it off to Syria and use it to kill off the civilian population, and inviting yellow-brown walls, it certainly was a place to gladly call your home, which it would be for the majority of my two months at the institution.

There were activities! Some time between breakfast and lunch I had an hour of music therapy, which was basically the only thing I enjoyed about my stay. A welcome change of pace. Mind you, there were four hours between breakfast and lunch, and only one hour of music therapy, which means, you guessed it, three hours of the smoker's room. Then came lunch. I will devote an entire post about the highlights of this fine cuisine at a later point, but I'll hint at the fact that it wasn't quite enjoyable. Anyway, more activities were to be had. After lunch, I went right to the gardening group. I only agreed to be in this particular group for two basic reasons, one being that doctors and nurses quite tenaciously insisted that I do *something*, and the other being that I was paid a whopping €1.50 an hour for attending the group. Now I was there in the winter, so there wasn't much gardening to be done, so we spent the entire two hours raking leaves, which, as you can imagine, was wonderfully enjoyable and of course very therapeutic, and you didn't feel like you were being taken advantage of at all! Two hours later you were done, three more hours to dinner (which I would skip anyway because it was more dry bread and hard butter), so three more hours of the smoker's room.

The evenings varied in quality, because on most days, by that time everyone was so sick of the smoker's room and basically had all organs encrusted with tar and nicotine that there was a constant desire to find alternate activities before going to sleep. Of course it didn't always work out and there were more hours spent smoking, but a lot of the time we hung out in sort of a relaxation room which had couches and armchairs and a cd player, and we would listen to music and talk (more on that later.) It certainly had its moments depending on the patients that were there. There was a constant coming and going at the ward so the people you were surrounded with were ever-changing and not always equally amicable and/or interesting.

The aforementioned talking was probably the one thing you did the most besides smoking. You don't spend six to eight hours a day crammed into that tiny smoker's room with a bunch of people to sit there in silence, you interact and converse with your fellow patients. This is where things get interesting. You see, all of them were schizophrenic. So there were a lot of weird topics to be talked about, which I will go into detail about in a later installment of this series. For now I'll say that recurring topics included astrology, talking to the dead, conspiracy theories, all the strangest experiences you can imagine... and drugs. Lots of talk about drugs. Both illegal drugs and the drugs we were fed by the staff.

Drugs, drugs, drugs. There sure were a lot of those consumed at the ward. And with this I am not referring to the illegal kind, but to those prescribed by our gods in white, as we call them in Germany. There were four "feeding times" a day, though not everyone took something all four times, many did, but some of the lighter cases only needed something in the morning and something in the evening. Another subject I will at one point devote an entire chapter to, so I'll just sum it up that we had our fair share of people who were completely fucked by what they were fed, such as that one woman who took so much haldol (infamous zombifying antipsychotic and sedative) that she could no longer utter a word and barely walk and was completely oblivious and unresponsive to her surroundings, or that one guy who was given so many funky pills that he had to wear a diaper at all times. I wish I was making this shit up, believe me.

So that's an average day at the schizophrenia ward. There were days here and there that were different in one aspect or another, but I'd wager at least two thirds to three quarters of the days we spent there were exactly as I described, while the ones that did vary only did so for a short while of the day with the rest of the day being as I described.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading my first post, and first part of this series, and hope you will come back for more. I enjoyed writing it, and it did get unexpectedly lengthy, and that's not even a two-digit percentage of what I have to say about these memorable two months of my life. Stay tuned for part II!!