The introductions were brief since most of us had either met before or been a reading a lot about each other.
“Do you mind if I start first?”, the young student asked Doctor SH. She had a nice round face, and a fairly large forehead leading up to her blonde hair.
“No go ahead”, Doctor SH replied in an indeterminable South American accent – obviously pleased that this student was taking the initiative.
“Hi Matthew…”, the student launched into a very pleasant introductory salvo before she got started. “Now could you tell me how old you are?”
“24”, I replied directly
“And you’ve been suffering from these thoughts for…”
I tried my hardest to suppress a smirk as I replied, “The past twelve years”.
That was enough to make her composure slip a little. I could see her eyes widen slightly before she dropped her head momentarily to double check her notes / hide her gaze. She should have read that before the interview started. Her head popped back up again almost immediately and continued the questioning very naturally.
“That’s…”, her head moving forward slightly to ease herself back into the conversation
“Just about half my life now”, I nodded.
“Yes”, her head bobbing along with mine, “that’s a very long time”
Her smile had returned and the rest of her questioning went very well. I found it difficult to look her in the eye when she started asking the harder questions, but I guess that’s to be expected when you are being questioned by three strangers about something you have hidden from everybody you have ever known in life. The answers I gave were clear and succinct but I was trying my best to put as much detail in as possible. By gauging their reaction to my answers I was able to throw more information in or clarify certain points without being asked for it. I managed to make them laugh a little along the way and attempted to phrase things as politely as I could.
The real decision however lay with Doctor SH and eventually the interrogation was passed over to him. He was able to provide a lot more physiological feedback on my responses than the student, most likely because he had nothing to fear from being incorrect. After passing through the hands of several different medical professionals over the past month or so I was able to anticipate most of their reactions to my answers. Finally we reach the line of questioning that I had been waiting 14 hours to start.
“So how do you feel about staying here in the psychiatric ward Matt?”, asked Doctor SH causally.
“Well I’m not too happy about it”, I began. “I recognise that there are facilities within this ward which may be of benefit to me, however I feel very uncomfortable here”
“No it’s not a nice place is it, but it is my job to look after your safety. I believe that this is the safest place for you at the moment”
“I respect your opinion Doctor, but this place makes me feel worse. I would very much prefer to be at home. I realise that this place is a benefit to people here, but I’m not like those people. I feel a little bit uncomfortable being surrounded by weirdos…”, I began to trail off but luckily that was masked by the sound of the student doctor laughing. Nobody else was laughing and out of the corner of my eye I could see my nurse’s face frighteningly deadpan – I had to make a quick recovery. I put on my best sneaky grin and continued.
“Well ok it’s not fair to say that, I’m sure they are nice but they are a little…”, my shoulders lifted up into a shrug as I searched for the right word, “… odd”. My nurse’s face broke into a careful smile and Doctor SH beamed – the student doctor begun to look a little less sheepish as Doctor SH continued,
“Yes they are a little odd, however normally we would insist that you stay here. However since you are functioning so highly I think yours is a special case”. BAM! My mind broke out into song and for a little while it completely forgot it had to keep itself together for just a little bit longer.
I remained cautiously optimistic for the rest of the interview. We talked about my plans for when I left the hospital and what kind of support network I would have. I talked about wanting to regain control of my drinking and we agreed that I should see somebody from the drug and alcohol unit.
Unfortunately I had to be seen by a doctor higher up the chain of command than Doctor SH to be released from hospital. She wouldn’t be available until the afternoon and I would have to wait until then.
“Recovering from this type of illness takes a lot of focus. Similar to when you were studying for your degree at university… Why are you laughing?”, Doctor SH asked.
“I skipped most of my lectures toward the end”, I grinned. Everybody in the room starting laughing. The interview ended happily and I was informed that lunch would be served in 15 minutes. I went up to the dining room and ate a rather dry chicken dish. Then I returned to my room and waited.
Sister 1 arrived at around 2pm and she wasn’t particularly happy when she heard the news.
“What do you mean? Letting you go?”, her brow furrowed
“I need to see the senior doctor this afternoon and then I can go home”, I grinned.
She went straight out of the room to see my nurse. While she was gone I had a chat with one of the people from the drug and alcohol unit. It was a fairly amicable discussion since I was the one who asked for them. I don’t consider my drinking a major problem, but I really need to stop drinking whisky from the bottle in copious amounts. My social drinking is ok, it’s just my anti-social drinking that’s getting a bit out of hand.
My sister was gone for a long time and when she returned we began to exchange notes. Here is her take on what happened that Monday.
She didn’t receive my text message straight away, but one of my housemates called her as soon as they got it. Housemate B got a lift home from work to come and look for me. Housemate B works with a lot of Christians and they all started praying for me as well. Housemate A started praying for me as soon as she got the text message. Housemate B called her friend and she left work straight away as well. She texted her family and asked them to pray as well. Sister 1 called my doctor to ask if I had been to see him. I hadn’t, he was sick and had cancelled all his appointments the night before. When he heard what was happening he jumped out of bed, got on his knees with his rosary beads and also started praying. His wife was praying in another room. Sister 1 called the police and they started searching for me as well. Surprisingly enough they rang her back and told her that the helicopter wasn’t available (!). Sister 1 begun to distribute a photo of myself among her friends and my housemates formed search parties…
Long story short a lot of people got involved.
After we had run through our experiences we started talking about the next few steps. Apparently all the doctors were enamoured with me and according to Doctor SH ‘everybody that meets Matthew loves him’. Cha-ching. I had the doctors on my side, but something still wasn’t right.
My sister still didn’t trust me. She burst into tears and she asked me what went wrong. I told her that I missed my appointments, came off my meds and decided to kill myself. On Sunday I had told her that I had been to my appointments, and she was gutted that I had lied to her.
“You lied to me! How can I trust you?”, she cried
“I don’t think you can”
“No. I can’t. You never reach out for help! You just clam up and hide from everyone!”
“Sister 1….”, I took a breath, wiped my hands over my face and looked up at the ceiling,” I have been dealing with this on my own all my life. How am I supposed to reach out to somebody that doesn’t even know me? Families are supposed to know each other, but we don’t. I would rather confide in a complete stranger than in my own sister. I can’t trust you either. I can’t trust anybody”
So we both sat there crying. Neither of us able to trust the other. I still had a long way to go before I got out.