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perkreations

Honesty about creativity, art, mental illness, grief, feminism, human rights and chronic pain with a healthy dose of sarcasm

Humourous Psych Ward Tales

The psych ward can be a little scary at times and is often fraught with emotions running high. In order to keep some semblance of normalcy one must keep a sense of humour. Here are a couple of amusing incidents I recall from my time spent as an inpatient.

In order to protect the identities of those involved I’ll be using gender neutral pronouns such as them and they. I will not provide any names nor physical descriptions.

Please understand these stories aren’t meant to make a mockery of psychiatric patients. I am simply trying to highlight the fact there is light and levity to be found even during the darkest of times.

One day I was invited by another patient to join in a lesson they’d be offering on tantric kissing. The patient pointed to the ring on my left hand and said this lesson would be especially important for me to attend as a married woman. I politely declined the offer but couldn’t help chuckling as I walked away wondering what teaching techniques were planned.

In another situation an apple was left on the coffee table in the common area. A patient asked if it belonged to anyone. I said it was without an owner and they were welcome to it.

The patient recoiled at my suggestion and said, “no way! It could belong to a woman and you know how Eve tricked Adam into eating an apple in Eden. I’m not going to let that happen to me.”

“Yeah, the women are always trying to lead men into temptation!” another patient chimed in.

In another situation it was brought to my attention the best way to dispose of a body would be to throw it out concealed within a Christmas tree.

My absolute favourite moment happened one day when I finally was feeling well enough to draw a little bit. Another patient, who was very withdrawn with constant delusions, approached me and peaked over at the sketch I’d just started. For the first time in the week I’d been there I saw a sense of lucid clarity as my gaze was met.

“That’s a really ugly drawing!” the patient declared then nodded at me and withdrew again, striding away speaking to unseen partners in conversation.

I couldn’t help but laugh as I’d been hoping the patient would start to have more moments of clarity. I just didn’t expect my unfinished art would be the thing to draw out the lucidity!

K

Psych Ward Humour

The psych ward can be a little scary at times and is often fraught with emotions running high. In order to keep some semblance of normalcy one must keep a sense of humour. Here are a couple of amusing incidents I recall from my time spent as an inpatient.

In order to protect the identities of those involved I’ll be using gender neutral pronouns such as them and they. I will not provide any names nor physical descriptions.

Please understand these stories aren’t meant to make a mockery of psychiatric patients. I am simply trying to highlight the fact there is light and levity to be found even during the darkest of times.

One day I was invited by another patient to join in a lesson they’d be offering on tantric kissing. The patient pointed to the ring on my left hand and said this lesson would be especially important for me to attend as a married woman. I politely declined the offer but couldn’t help chuckling as I walked away wondering what teaching techniques were planned.

In another situation an apple was left on the coffee table in the common area. A patient asked if it belonged to anyone. I said it was without an owner and they were welcome to it.

The patient recoiled at my suggestion and said, “no way! It could belong to a woman and you know how Eve tricked Adam into eating an apple in Eden. I’m not going to let that happen to me.”

“Yeah, the women are always trying to lead men into temptation!” another patient chimed in.

In another situation it was brought to my attention the best way to dispose of a body would be to throw it out concealed within a Christmas tree.

My absolute favourite moment happened one day when I finally was feeling well enough to draw a little bit. Another patient, who was very withdrawn with constant delusions, approached me and peaked over at the sketch I’d just started. For the first time in the week I’d been there I saw a sense of lucid clarity as my gaze was met.

“That’s a really ugly drawing!” the patient declared then nodded at me and withdrew again, striding away speaking to unseen partners in conversation.

I couldn’t help but laugh as I’d been hoping the patient would start to have more moments of clarity. I just didn’t expect my unfinished art would be the thing to draw out the lucidity!

K

Welcome to the Psych Ward

I’ve often alluded to my time spent in the psych ward for anxiety and severe depression but I’ve put off writing about it directly as it was an extremely difficult time. I’m still not sure I’m ready to talk about this but I’ll try.

This is me waiting in the secure emergency ward room. Note the word “useless” scrawled across my inner arm. This is a stark reminder of the other self-flagellating words I’d written in other places and the still bloody and red scars I had from harming myself with blades and flames. It is blatantly obvious to me now that I desperately needed to be where I was.

I’m going to break this story up into several smaller pieces to make it easier on myself and to make for easier reading. To begin with I’ll begin at the beginning. Admission.

I voluntarily asked to be admitted so I can only speak from my experience. I know others are admitted involuntarily for a myriad of reasons. Regardless, we must all wait our turn to be triaged through emergency.

In most psychiatric cases, including mine, not just any bed will do. A bed must open up in the secure area of the emergency ward, guarded by peace officers, void of creature comforts, and constantly surveiled via cameras.

This area is reserved for those on suicide and self harm watch (like me), others experiencing psychosis or other unpredictable psychiatric conditions, prison inmates or those under arrest needing medical attention, and any other patients who might cause harm to themselves or others. Bright side – you get a small private room.

There is one common washroom in the secure area I was in, no lock on the door, the words, “I died here,” etched into the wall along with a swastika which I attempted to turn into a peace sign. I left the words alone as they made sense to me.

I waited in this area for 2 nights the first time I was admitted and 1 night the second time. I consider myself very lucky as I met others who waited up to a week for a psych bed to open up.

Once a bed came available my belongings were hastily packed up and I was bundled into a wheelchair to make the trip to the ward that would be home for an indefinte period.

I cried and hid my face as I was wheeled along. I was sure I was being judged for taking up space and services I wasn’t entitled to. I felt there were others more deserving of admission and I was a lost cause anyway.

Upon arrival in the ward I was greeted by friendly nurses. They went through my belongings carefully, placing anything of value or that might cause harm, my purse, headphones, pencil sharpener, aresol hair spray, and nail scissors into a locker I could only access through a staff member.

I had to surrender my phone as nothing with a camera is allowed for privacy purposes and the environment is meant to be as low stimuli as possible. I would be able to use the communal landline on the ward or, once granted timed off-unit privileges, given my phone back temporarily.

I recall being completely overwhelmed by the co-ed ward at first. I could see into the high observation area behind the desk, a wall of windows penning acutely psychotic, violent, or destructively delusional patients into a locked ward within the locked ward. Many of these patients prowled back and forth, ranted and yelled, or pressed their faces to the glass, staring with glassy eyes and unkempt locks at anything and anyone.

I was told to wait in the common area until my nurse had time to give me an orientation and tour. I observed the other patients I’d be living with and grew nervous. I didn’t want to judge anyone, I wanted to be as empathetic as possible but I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed.

The ward was not just for the anxious and depressed like me. There were individuals pacing round and round talking and gesticulating wildly to themselves. Others sat and stared into space catatonically. I soon became familiar with the manic laughter of someone who cannot control their emotions despite trying desperately. It’s not a pleasant laugh… it’s hollow and pain filled and a little scary.

Some patients approached me and introduced themselves. One lady told me her entire life story within moments of meeting me. But she was kind and welcoming and I soon found that those I’d been unsure of because of their erratic behaviour were also wonderful people who’d just lost their way and needed time to rest and regroup…like me.

To be continued

K

Love Trolling

It seems to me the anonymity of modern technology has led to a culture often focused on mean. I too have occasionally capitulated to the urge to call others out for trolling which I see as nothing more than a bully’s wet dream and a filthy one at that. But trolling trolls is truly futile and has never once brought me a feeling of joy or peace or productivity. So I’ve decided to change tack and try something different and I have dubbed it, Love Trolling. On my Instagram account @perkreations I post pictures of my sketches, finished drawings, paintings, and photos. I began following a lot of other artists to begin with and offering words of praise and encouragement wherever I could… but that’s not Love Trolling, that’s just wanting to be a positive force.

Love Trolling came to be after falling down a number of Instagram rabbit holes regarding mental helth and I kept coming across individuals suffering from many all too familiar mental maladies such as self harm, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self hatred, shame, and general mental anguish.

I couldn’t help but notice the number of blatant cries for help, screams for love and a little understanding. I couldn’t believe the number of nasty, trolling responses these people were frequently subjected to rather than simple empathy or saying nothing at all.

I decided then and there to counter this anonymous hatred with anonymous love. I am not a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist or medical professional of any kind but I can reach out and offer more than a shred of kindness.

My first:

“I know I’m not in your shoes, living your life but I have been suicidal and I have self harmed. For me it took spending time in a psychiatric ward and coping with the effects of malnutrition because I’d been eating so poorly. I also went to group therapy and continue individual therapy along with medication. Things have begun to look a little better now in spite of some challenges I still have.

Try to be strong even though things suck right now. You ARE worth taking care of. You are. I promise.”

Moments later I received personal notes of thanks, even though they weren’t needed, from that particular individual as well as a couple of their friends. We’ve gone on to keep in touch and encourage each others art and lives.

I’ve reached out to others too. I’m by no means saying I’ve come close to fixing anything but by showing love whenever I can I truly hope it has had some small positive effect in the world. I can tell you this for sure, Love Trolling has brought me a sense of purpose, peace, and reflected self love.

I dare you to give it a try…

K

Never Say Die

Language has always been incredibly important to me. When my Mom died this didn’t change. I became fixated on one particular word. Died.

I found myself inwardly cringing every time someone uttered, “passed away,” or “lost” instead of just spitting out what had actually happened… My Mom DIED.
I don’t know why I became obsessed with not using silly-seeming platitudes rather than just spitting out the obvious. I suppose I thought, “why use 2 or 3 words when one will suffice?”

I recall my husband suggesting I soften my language rather than using the word, “die,” so as not to offend anyone. I couldn’t bring myself to call what had happened to my mother anything other than what it was. It sucks that she died but saying something like, “passed away,” doesn’t make it suck any less.

Sometimes I think my insistence on using short, sharp language isn’t fair to others. Why, exactly, is this language surrounding death so important to me? What am I really so upset about when someone utters something like, “we lost great aunt Molly last year?”

Any thoughts? I’d love to hear your insights and stories.

K

Fun?

Conversation with myself:

“When was the last time you had fun?”

“I’m not supposed to have fun.”

“Really? And why do you feel this way?

“It should be obvious. I don’t work, I’m on long-term disability benifits, I suffer from chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. I can’t even keep my house clean. I don’t deserve to have fun.”

“Wow! That’s a really harsh perspective. If you met someone in the same condition as you and that person told you they felt as though they weren’t entitled to have fun would you agree and list off all the reasons why not as you’ve just listed them off?

“Of course not, but I have different standards for myself than I do for others.”

“Huh, so you’re a suffering snob? Sounds to me like you think your suffering runs deeper than other’s… is that it?”

“Of course not. I just feel like I’ve caused too many inconveniences for those closest to me for far too long. Actually I would wish for my friends and family to have fun without having to worry about me and if I’m comfortable or if I might need to leave early because I’m in too much pain.”

“Sounds like your friends and family want you to have fun. Especially since they go out of their way to make you comfortable. Do you agree they think you’re entitled to fun despite your disability?

“I guess I do. But what is it I should do for fun? How much fun am I allowed to have?”

***

Cut to me in early April when I see an advertisement that one of my favourite bands will be playing in Edmonton in mid-july along with another band I enjoy. I gleefully book tickets and subsequently panic.

I panic because it’s the first time in years I’ve planned to do something so frivolous, fun, and selfish. How could I have possibly have bought tickets to something far away, expensive, and taxing on my body.

Before I can give up and sell the tickets online. I decide to come up with a plan to make it work.

#1 I ask my husband if we can spend two nights in Edmonton so I have lots of time to rest.

#2 I ask that we take at least two short breaks on the road so I can walk a little bit and stretch out.

#3 Even though I have a number of relatives and friends I would love to see while in Edmonton I decide visiting will add too much bodily stress. I also promise myself not feel too guilty about this. There will be time for visiting trips in the future.

#4 I promise myself a week of guilt free recovery as I know the trip will be incredibly exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting. So I keep plans and appointments to a bare minimum and set my recovery time as a priority.

Our trip to Edmonton was great. We saw Counting Crows and Matchbox 20 and it was brilliant and totally worth the planning. I’m so glad I gave myself permission to do something fun after years of insisting on punishing myself. I’m also greatful for the planned recovery time๐Ÿ˜Š

K

Finished Another Mixed Media Peice

One of my favourite coping strategies for anxiety, depression, grief, and chronic pain is art. I started this latest peice about 2 weeks ago with one pencil crayon portrait of the late George Carlin. I soon found myself creating 6 more portraits to be part of a project about George Carlin’s 7 Dirty Words stand up comedy routine.

I’ve always loved George Carlin and how he looked at freedom of speech, of freedom religion, freedom in general and I couldn’t help but think about how freedom may be in trouble because of leaders like Donald Trump. The world already has too many muzzled communities, this is not something to lay down and accept.

I am happy with how the project worked out. I love how there is more and more to it the longer and closer it’s viewed. I also enjoyed the thoughtful meditation I experienced on an important topic.

I’m glad to keep painting as it has helped me start to see more value in myself, more worth. This blog has also helped me to grow and stretch in ways I didn’t think I would and I have started to gain self confidence.

What do you do to cope with mental health issues? I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have.

K

Recovery

This was part of my recovery and self-care plan for today after over-doing it yesterday ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’– lol! It’s a great read.


I think others are worth taking care of… Just have to keep reminding myself I’m worth it too.

K

Pain Fog

Deciding to hit the grocery store yesterday may have been a bad idea but it was nessasary. The long weekend cleaned our fridge of fruits, veggies, and meal ingredients. So in spite of elevated pain levels I set out to pick up a few things.

learned yesterday that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when I need it.

First, ordering from the deli turned into a ridiculously difficult task. I stuttered out my order in drips and drabs because I couldn’t focus on what I wanted. My back was hurting so badly I had a tough time trying to push and pull my thoughts to anything else. Fortunately the clerk was friendly and patient with me.

I almost went to the check-out after the deli but I knew I would just have to go back so I pressed on. Trying to make decisions about what to choose in the produce section became more and more frustrating as the pain ratcheted upwards.

I saw someone I recognized but I couldn’t place her through my pain foggy brain. I grew nervous I’d embarrass myself talking to her so I hid my face and hoped she wouldn’t notice me.

Later on I, rather ironically, dropped a packet of muscle relaxants because my hands tremble more and more as my pain levels increase. I then slowly, almost comically, squatted down to retrieve the box and decided I had enough groceries, which was good, ‘cuz I’d sure as hell had enough in general๐Ÿ˜‰

I made my way to check out and scared the guy in front of me when I yelped as a spasm struck as I tried to reach into the cart to pick up my items. I then fumbled through small talk with the cashier as I didn’t want to be rude. It was busy and because my injuries aren’t easily visible and I am young-ish, I didn’t want to bother asking for help carrying my groceries out.

I beat myself up over my poor decision to not ask for help and slowly pushed the cart towards the doors. I suppose it was fortunant I was slow though as a clerk jogged after me to hand me the card I’d forgotten.

I used all the focus I had left to drive the 5 minutes home. Carrying my bags in and putting things away was done in conjunction with a few tears and taking medication. After finishing I finally was able to rest.

Have you ever experienced the brain fog chronic pain can sometimes cause? What tricks have you found to combat this? I look forward to hearing any thoughts you might have.

K

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