my little madness – 5a

I woke up to find I’d not escaped from anything. I was glued into my bed with dried blood and there was someone kicking in the door downstairs. They took me to hospital where I laid dejectedly on a bed with my balls hanging out of my rancid underpants, watching as people I knew from work cleaned and stitched my wounds. Then I was driven back home and left there.

Over the next few days I had visits from the teaching staff from the hospital at which I worked. They were very kind. I sat fiddling with my stitches, staring into space, while they told me they thought the best course of action would be to admit myself to a psychiatric unit on a voluntary basis. I mulled this over for a week. I’d made no contact with my family or friends from back home, so nobody in my real life knew what was happening. They were used to me going off radar for long periods. I spent about a week falling to bits, then a friend drove me to the psychiatric unit at Halifax General Hospital. I worked in Halifax for a little while, years later, on a building site. I ended up getting chemical burns on the backs of my legs from the cement. I’ve never been fond of Halifax. My friend took me in and handed me over and I was on my own in the mouth of madness. I sat in a little room on my own for a while, smoking, then a bored nurse took me into another little room and asked me a load of questions from a piece of paper. I felt like a fake – here I was, articulate and appropriate, telling him about how mad I reckoned I was. The fact I was a nurse worked to my advantage initially – I was given a room to myself. I sat there and read some William Burroughs and wrote some self-pitying drivel in one of my notebooks until the shrink turned up. He was a Pakistani with a clunky command of English and a thick accent, who only seemed to understand half of what I was telling him and wasn’t interested in the other half, but he wrote me up for a stupifying cocktail of drugs which took care of the next two weeks. A couple of my colleagues came to visit me after a fortnight and when they asked me how I was getting on I told them it was hard to say after only a couple of days. I’ve still got no memories of those lost days and nights, but I imagine I spent them asleep or dribbling in a chair. After this I tried to hang myself from the piping in my bathroom so I got moved into a dorm. My fellow loonys were largely okay. There was a Jehova’s Witness who looked like Paul Calf and spoke endlessly about Armageddon, there was a big bearded guy who’d burnt hid own home down to annoy his wife and was only pretending to be mad to avoid criminal charges – allegedly, there was a very handsome young man with dark eyes and a floppy fringe who played guitar and never spoke but occasionally channeled the spirit of David Byrne musically burbling. There was the odd punch up in the telly room, but everyone was pretty well anaesthetised on legal drugs. I read a bit, listened to music on my Walkman, wrote nonsense, picked at my stitches, bullshitted the shrink, walked around the ward muttering, just like everyone else. After a month I called my best friend back home and told him where I was. He promised not to tell anyone else, then turned up an hour later with my sister. They managed to get me a pass for the night and took me back to the house I was renting. There was dried blood everywhere – handprints up the stairs, crusted spatters on the lino. We sat in the nightmare dim front room with the insanely high ceiling and the impotently hissing gas fire, not talking much, then I fell asleep in the chair. They took me back to the hospital the next morning. That afternoon, my mum and stepdad turned up. My mum burst into tears and punched me on the arm and my stepdad comforted her in stoic, Yorkshire fashion while I sat there woefully, breaking everyone’s hearts.

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