I arrived on Stanage Ward at the Michael Carlisle Centre in Sheffield late on the evening of 26th October. I was met by the Ward Manager, Tom, and told the basics of how everything worked. I was shown past the nurses’ office, through the communal area (including ping pong table and some plastic sofas), down a long corridor to my own (!) room, which had a mini en suite (!!!). Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t The Ritz, but it was mine, and I could close the door on the rest of the ward, and the world. The shower that evening, after the day I had had, could not have felt better. Even if Dwayne The Rock Johnson had joined me. Mmm, Dwayne The Rock Johnson.
I waited until 10pm when I could go and collect my sleeping medication, then I crashed out my teeny hospital bed, under a very thin duvet, right up against a radiator belting out some RIGHT heat. I must have been exhausted from the previous day as I slept until about 6am the next day, which at that point was a lie-in for me.
If I’m honest I can’t remember many details about that first day, which is weird as my memory is generally pretty good. I can’t even tell you what I ate that day, which is unheard of. (My mum will tell you that as a kid she could ask me what she’d served to guests the last time they had visited, in order to not serve them the same meal this time.)
That first day on the ward was a Saturday, which is a pretty quiet day on wards in general. The doctors weren’t doing rounds and there was no chance of me seeing the consultant psychiatrist until at least the Monday. That was at least two days stretching ahead of me, two days with no contact with the people who I was hoping were going to help me get better. After the initial relief of being admitted and of accepting the help I so desperately needed, I started to feel hopeless again.
I remember speaking to one of the support workers on the ward (a poorly-paid and mainly thankless job, but the SWs were some of the most amazing people I have ever met), Sally, who was very kind and let me pour out my mixed-up thoughts to her. I saw a lot of her during my time on Stanage – she was straight-talking, funny and bonkers (in a good way). I will always remember that chat, the first proper one I’d had with anyone there, and although the details are hazy, I do recall that the overriding message from her was to try and use the time on the ward to take pressure off myself and relax as much as I could. She told me to treat it ‘like a really shit holiday camp’. At the time I had no idea what she was talking about, but looking back I know what she was doing was telling me to trust the process and let go of what I couldn’t control.
I don’t remember much else about that day. I must have met more people, staff and patients, that day but all I really remember is mainly thinking one thing over and over:
‘What if this doesn’t make me better?’