I remember years ago, when I was travelling round Australia with a friend who began to experience troubling mental health symptoms, going with her to a psychiatric clinic. I recall the kindly nurse, Sister Ooui, taking us to see her colleague, Dr Yeti. And I remember, as my friend went in to the assessment with Dr Yeti, him saying to her, in the most curious accent, “What you need is a nice little rest“. Remembering that phrase, with its comic pronunciation and enunciation, almost in the manner of a Sigmund Freud caricature, still makes me smile.
I’ve been thinking this week that I might need a nice little rest myself. What I’ve been preoccupied with recently is taking a permanent holiday but I thought, what the heck, why not go for a sunny little trip first? Why not walk away from everything and head for somewhere warmer? Perhaps, I’ve been thinking, I’ll feel renewed and reinvigorated and better able to face the challenges ahead (and I do face some tricky ones) after a nice little rest. Or perhaps I’ll just never come back, one way or the other.
Here are some thoughts on why I’ve been feeling this way. (It’s not happy reading.) I may write them up into a blog post at some point. Or I may, as seems to be the case at the moment, find I’m not able to. Tweets ‘R’ Us.
After Dr Yeti took my friend into his office, I recall waiting in the half-lit clinic which seemed to take up a whole floor several floors up in the large hospital building. After a while, I decided to stretch my legs. I wandered round the floor, which was divided into glass-walled rooms. All of a sudden, I noticed a room full of half-finished little baskets. A basket weaving workshop.
I was hit with a jolt of fear. I still remember being stopped in my tracks, standing there, at the sight of those baskets and what it might mean for my friend. Like many people, my only previous knowledge of psychiatric wards or clinics was what I’d seen on that historical US film Cuckoo’s Nest. For some reason, those baskets represented for me all that was worst about psychiatric care as portrayed in that dramatisation. I remember my eyes widening and my pace quickening as I completed the circuit of the floor and reached the exit to find it was … locked.
How had I not noticed? As Sister Yeti had brought us to see Dr Yeti, we’d been let in through double locked doors – a sort of airlock – by another nurse. The realisation rose up in me that there was my friend, being assessed by a psychiatrist, on a locked floor, with a basket weaving workshop.
I cannot tell you the fear I felt for my friend – and how relieved I was when she emerged, shortly afterwards and we were able to leave. We left quickly, my friend somewhat reassured (though not entirely convinced) that she’d just been experiencing the ancient after-effects of previous illicit drug-taking; and me, determined to ‘rescue’ her from a potentially horrible fate as quickly as possible without alarming her too much.
My friend flew back home to England shortly afterwards, but that’s another story. And I did end up on a locked psychiatric ward myself, many years later. But there were no basket weaving workshops. And it wasn’t a ‘nice little rest’ by any means, which was what I really needed at the time. And that really is another story.