Monday, February 15, 2010

On the ward and out of my mind- I'm Bored!!!!!

Ok.. well it appears I won't be sleeping any time soon, so I might as well continue with these posts. See part one here and part two here.

Once you are confined to a MH ward there is not a lot to do, other than sit and think. And the last thing they want you doing is thinking! So they have a little schedule they run through each day to keep the crazies happy. Ward B "OT" time was not run by a qualified OT, rather two Recreation Officers, ( read nurse who got sick of nursing and decided to spend the rest of her career beading and sum dood with no neck who liked to take the male patients down to the gym to bond and got sulky if a female patient, say, thought she might like to go for a run on the treadmill.)

Morning meetings started at 8.30am every morning. The R.O. would first take meal orders, introduce new patients, and take care of housekeeping. It was also an opportunity for patients air minor grievances. The R.O. would then write the schedule for the day, and take names for excursions and banking, as well as the Centrelink lady who came in once a week to help clients sort their benefits out. We would then do the Petal Puzzle from the paper (word puzzle) together and then scatter back out to the courtyard to smoke. Some people were very vocal in these meetings, a great deal of us were pretty quiet. The only time I really spoke was during the Petal Puzzle, the only real form of intellectual stimulation I was getting.

Some activities were regular. Gentle exercise on Monday and Thursdays, which I had to attend because my lovely Physio (S) came down to run it, and she thought it would be good for my physical rehab. Of course, to rub in the humiliation of being the only one under 50 doing it (the younger patients pissed off outside for a smoke, and spent the whole hour staring through the glass and laughing) I also had to wear the belt. The belt is a thick canvas thing that velcro's and buckles around your waist with handles on the side or at the back. Its used in Rehab for patients who are learning to balance and walk again, so the physios have something solid and strong to grab if you start to fall. On Wednesday lunch they took the bus to a local Mental Health Clubhouse that hosted a wednesday lunch for $2. The idea was to introduce patients to other service users and the facility, so that when they were discharged they had community support. I think its a great concept, just not for me.. I found it kind of creepy and depressing.

Other activities during the morning might include escorts to the gym, morning sing along (yeah... I said it...sing along!) Volleyball tournaments against Ward A. In the afternoon while male RO did shopping/banking for patients female RO did art, sewing, beading, trivia games. I must admit I actually did enjoy beading, not elaborate stuff, the precisness of it just appealed to my slightly OCD side.

This schedule was repeated week in, week out . Which was great if like most people on Ward B you were there for a short stay. (2 days average for an OD, 4-7 days for most other stuff) The only long termers like me were the geriatrics and one woman who I never found out what was wrong with. She was in her 30's but literally would not move or look at anyone. She just stayed where she was put and stared off into whatever world she was in. She was pretty, her husband came to visit her regulalry and I always felt quite sorry for him....and her too, of course. The point is Ward B was a temporary stop for most people, the long termers ended up on Ward A. But somehow, I, as a long termer, ended up on Ward B. And there is only so much beading one can do!

Occasionally, the week would be shaken up by an exciting once off activity. BBQ in the park, bus trip to local national park and dam (they drove us through mcdonalds drive through and got us soft serve cones on the way back...giggle...) Other times we would head over to Ward A for social time and a bbq

Interspersed with 'activities' were workshops. Patients were 'strongly encouraged' to attend ones that the nurse or doctor thought relevant to their current issue. I got shoulder tapped for the anxiety one. I also got bullied into the relaxation class, which I walked out of after a few minutes. I find a lot of relaxation strategies to actually be quite triggering and make me quite agitated. The workshops were all very short, language aimed at the lowest common denominator and of course had a very heavy CBT bent. Out of boredom, I believe I probably attended all of the workshops over the course of the two months (they cycled through on a two week rotation) including ones that were clearly not apllicable to me at times. the staff tolerated this as I sat quietly and they didn't really know what else to do with me.

After a month or so it hit me, that no matter how lame the activity was, if i just grinned and beared it, it looked good in my notes and put me closer to discharge, so I threw myself in, barely concealing my disdain and trying not to ark up at the patronising undertones. Even (I'm ashamed to admit it) the sing alongs. I learnt that you had to play the game. Paint happy pictures, sing "You are my sunshine" and look damn well excited to be doing it.

Even with the reasonably full weekly activites, the weekends stretched on for ever, as there were no RO's on. I accumulated a plethora of art supplies (with sketch pads I didn't have to show anybody, I took up crocheting (also recommended as part of my "Fine Motor" rehab. I wore my MP3 player constantly. I spent weekends using a collection of Dr Seuss books that I had borrowed from the kids I used to nanny for, to try and prod my brain into remembering how to read again. I practiced writing with the sheets the OT from my rehab team supplied for me, as well as worksheets to improve my 'scanning' capabilities.

In addition to the activites on the ward, I was also doing a lot of rehab work. Aside from the stuff I mentioned above. I would have an individual session with (S) the Physio every day or two, as well as attending Balance and Movement group classes and Fine Motor Classed (mostly populated by patients who had suffered a stroke or had a hip replacement. I had speech and OT every few days. My designated nurse for each shift would also come and run through a series of exercise designed by (S) for 10 minutes or so each shift. They particularly liked the ones where they got to try and push me over (while sitting on a bed) so that I could practise using my core muscles. Some got a little over enthusiastic with this one! I think perhaps working out the frustration of their shift.

During my time in hospital and even as an outpatient (S) was my lifeline. She didn't take any bullshit. When I yelled at her, she yelled right on back. But she also seemed to know where my breaking point was, how hard to push me. She was honest about what she thought my recovery time would be (two years... she was pretty close, I last used my walking stick 22 months later) And she gave me something to focus on. I couldn't do anything to 'fix' my mind, but if I worked hard I could undo the damage I had done to my body. She was never judgemental, even when I complained, despite the fact I had done it to myself. I pretty devastated when a year into my physio she went off early on maternity leave. But I am eternally thankful for compassion and firmness she demonstrated in that first year. She was also a great advocate. When she found out that the room I was in had not been equipped with the necessary equipment she has requested she got it sorted straight away. Within 10 minutes I had the toilet chair, shower bench and transfer chair I needed in my room.

Ok. So moving onto Big City Hospital Program. I have been hospitalised there three times for periods from one week to two and a half weeks. And there activity program includes....erm... not a lot. They do have an RO, but she tends to set random activities up in the dining room, without letting people know she's doing it, so unless you happen to walk through you don't know its on. These activites are mainly arts and craft, beading, sewing and once cooking. So not a lot for the average male to do. But I'm a girl and I liked beading. I just managed to miss it most days. They also occasionally brought a Wii out to play. Other than that, no morning meetings, no real scheduled activities, no workshops, no trips. Just hours of sitting in a depressing, concrete courtyard chain smoking. Once again, my MP3 player was my friend. My own art supplies. And a stack of books. (Yes, I did get the hang of reading again). There aren't even any books or bookshelves in the ward, just hideously out of date, lame women's mags. I wanted to dontate some books, but there is no shelf.

Anyways. Next I will probably talk about MH professionals. When I have the energy to write it up.


  1. I've found my experiences in psych wards to be very similar to yours. You do have to play the game and go to the corny and unhelpful activities before they discharge you. I've found that it's a safe place for me to be if I'm having a lot of SI, but I don't make a lot of progress while there.

  2. BCH in particular sounds nightmarish. I know hospitals in general are boring to be in, but you'd think extra effort would be made in psychiatric units where people's minds are troubled. OK, I suppose in the first hospital, they did make an effort - but did it really have to be so horribly patronising?!

  3. BCH definately could use some improvement SI, but I guess maybe they figure if they make it as unappealing as possible we won't want to be there...?