During my last 3 week stay in the inpatient mental health ward, I had a very interesting experience. It was terrifying in the beginning and heart warming by the end. I was terrified and then I laughed hysterically. And no that wasn’t a part of my mood disorder 🙂
I was walking with my cane at the time, when I came across another patient. A Jamaican woman in her 60s, Miss P. She was a calm and helpful person from what I’d seen but my cane seemed to trigger her. I won’t write everything that she said because some of it was foul, but the gist was “move your **** from me! Nuh come back here or I will take your blood**** cane and smash you head in, and splatter your brain pon di blood**** walls.”
I was like what the heck? People usually like me! I couldn’t understand why this woman had such a strong hatred for me and we’d never met. I told the staff because I was convinced I would be murdered in my sleep!! I think the staff thought I was paranoid and delusional. They never witnessed the behaviour I described. They simply said “she’s harmless, she’s never hurt anyone.” Ummmmm that’s not helping me very much. You could have at least tried to seem concerned.
This kept happening so I would always lower my eyes to the floor so I wouldn’t be making eye contact with her when she started to rant. I didn’t want her to think I was confronting her. I would always turn and move in a different direction. This was very scary for me because I honestly believed she would attack me if she had the chance.
Then one day the same woman, Miss P, came right up to me with a big warm smile on her face apologizing to me for threatening me. She said she has a daughter who looks like me and has a cane like me. At the time she was threatening me she believed that I was her daughter and she thought I was there trying to break her out of the “prison” (the psychiatric ward). She said those things to me because she was trying to scare me (her daughter) away so she wouldn’t get in trouble for trying to break her mother out of the hospital. She apologized profusely every time she saw me and then we would just laugh! Wow, what a turn of events.
The icing on the cake. Miss P came to me and said her daughter was there and I had to meet her. I met her son and daughter and we both basically said “she is real!!”. Like the Christmas M&M’s commercial when the see Santa Clause and realized he is real. Up until then, neither one of us knew if the other existed. We were about the same height, same age, both had similar hair and both had canes! We laughed so hard as Miss P said “I told you so” and she was beaming.
Miss P had so much respect from the staff and patients. She would give me extra desserts and juice. She would offer to let me go to the front of the line for food. We built a nice friendship and we had some wonderful conversations. I was even able to de-escalte a situation between her and the staff which stopped them from calling security on her and forcibly giving her an injection. Even though I was unwell I was easily able to recall my training. She was a mother figure to me during my stay. Warm, loving, caring and funny. Just imagine how the relationship began.
Inside of every person with mental illness there is a person in there. They are a person first. I always make sure I remember that. That’s why I’ve had so much success working in mental health. I believe they are the same as me. Not because my mental illness, but because we are all human.
Peace Love and Understanding,