So Good, So Good, So: My psychiatric inpatient experience

I am ‘admitted’
They rock and dribble
Like all the scary pictures
I’ve ever had in my head.

One edges towards me
like an antelope to a water hole
Where are you from?
Your skin is so smooth.

Have you had your medication yet?
I don’t know why I’m here, I say.
Have you ever scored
a treble word score in Scrabble? He replies.

__

Mum said I had always seemed happy enough.
But I remember as a teen
The Pompidou Centre
With its innards out.

__

I abscond
spend the afternoon by the scuzzy pond
at the end of the path lined with crusty dog shit

When I eventually return
They say they are disappointed.

__

When I was 15, Grandma
brought us her homemade chocolate layer cake
with no chocolate between the layers.

That was the Summer
our mini got stuck in the flash flood
on the way to clear up her flat
after she’d set fire to the kitchen.

___

One of them is 15.
He walks around naked
And wants hugs.
He even wants to hug me.
But I won’t let him.
He tries to bite me.
Next morning, he’s gone.
I can’t remember his name.

Every pillow
Every pillow of squeaky vinyl
Property of Barnet Psychiatric Unit.
Every sheet
Every thin grey sheet
Every blanket is labelled
Property of Barnet Psychiatric Unit.

___

Mum reminds me – ‘You were so good
at science. So good, so good, so…’

Fume cupboards in the science lab.
Dissected dogfish.
Exams in a month.
Swimming galas every Saturday.
I felt sick.

___

I get a letter from my brother in Japan –
I’ll visit when I can.

My dad takes me for coffee and cakes.
He sighs a lot. I understand
why he sighs. I understand
why people sigh. Why everyone sighs. I dream later
I’m filled with sighs and lift
above Barnet like The Red Balloon
before being shot down.

They change the policy, lock the doors at eight
Risk management.
I spend the night picking scabs
Later they will become
White constellations
When my arms brown.

___

I was 15 when
my dad burst in:

Mum’s leaving me.
I begged
them not to tell my brothers
until after the football game next day
Because that would have been unfair

I told my brothers after the match.
They had lost 3-0.
Richard ended up in casualty.
I remember he took an early corner
that failed to get past the first defender.

Dad watched from the other end of the field.
I can’t remember where mum stood.

___

My guts
Wake me from a dreamless dry mouth sleep.
The night shift are leaving.

I am explaining myself
to myself each night.
I am explaining why
Nobody will hold me. Why
I will not get out.

___

Mum reminds me – ‘You were so good
at English. So good, so good, so…’

At 11, the spelling ability of a 15 year old
Mr Baldwin had me read Romeo’s lines
Recite Wilfred Owen
I was sick before school
sprayed lavender aerosol around the bathroom.

____

Grandma died the weekend mum moved out.
Dad took me to the Peak District
We went scouting for badgers at dusk.
I went back to the cottage because I was cold.
He stayed out until after I was asleep.

___

They find Eddie face down in the reservoir
He used to cadge cigarettes
Move from bench to bench
I’m not well, he would say
over and over again.

A few days later, Steve
will strap up a noose in his caravan.

___

My biology project on daphnia
focused on the factors that affected
how long it took them to rise
to the surface of the water.

___

John hunches motionless
in the plastic chair all night.
Robert snores.
Maureen next door bay chants
N-E-E-R-U-A-M
I work it out eventually.

I find a friend and cling. We watch
fireworks break over the car park
from the laundry room.

I hold her hand.
It won’t last
say the nurses, say the doctors
says the washing machine.

I abscond again
Dorothea, the cook, keeps my plate
of roast beef warm

____

Mum reminds me – ‘You were so good
at science. So good, so good, so…’

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