Lydia – a blast from the past…

Yesterday I was doing some work in a psychiatric unit in one of the local hospitals examining patients’ notes for a piece of research I am involved with at Manchester University…Looking at  mental health patients’ notes is quite a difficult emotional process for me as I tend to experience the full range of human emotions possible throughout- from deep sadness to righteous anger interspersed with fits of laughter often brought about by reading professionals’ statements that verge on the comical or the ridiculous…Reading my own care notes from the period of my hospitalisation and sectioning back in 2009 was a real emotional roller-coaster…

Yesterday was one of those emotionally tough days…and then came Lydia-a blast from the past…

As I was leaving the psychiatric unit and going past a lift, the lift door opened and a nurse or support worker came out pushing a wheel chair…I caught a glimpse of the woman on the wheel chair and my heart sank…there she was, Lydia*, a woman who was detained on Willow ward in North Manchester hospital when I was detained there too…I do not remember many people from that ward as I was acutely unwell at the time and on copious amounts of medication…but I could never forget Lydia…she was in her early 50s (or so I thought),  painfully thin, a chain smoker, with reddish (dyed) thin hair and hardly any teeth…the only visitor she had was her teenage son…I remember I was in the same dormitory with her for a few nights towards the end of my detention… I noticed she kept a large bright red Valentine’s  heart (a heart shape plush toy cushion) beside her bed that possibly her son had given her…I also remember that -again towards the end of my stay there -she had her leave suspended as ‘a punishment’ for something…I am not sure why…possibly for refusing to take her medication?! Lydia was always kind to me on the ward, she always asked me how I was and she called me ‘Connie’ (my full name is Konstantina)…on my discharge day, when I went up to her to say ‘goodbye’, Lydia said to me emphatically ‘Go home and do not come back here again!’…

And then yesterday there she was…still in hospital 4 years later…a ‘revolving door’ patient…possibly on a section…on a wheel chair…she clearly did not make it out…she did not go home…

The nurse or support worker had taken Lydia into a small garden at the back of the psychiatric unit and he was standing close to her whilst she was having a cigarette…I went up to him and asked him whether I could speak to Lydia…he looked at me very suspiciously and asked me where (which organisation?) I was from…I said that I was not from an organisation, I just wanted to speak to Lydia…he reluctantly let me approach Lydia who was enjoying her cigarette…she looked extremely pale and the reddish dye of her hair had faded…I thought that she had really aged…I introduced myself and asked her whether she remembered me…she looked clearly perplexed when she asked me whether I was there to visit her…I said that I was in the hospital and when I saw her, I just wanted to say ‘hello’ as I knew her from Willow ward…Lydia said ‘No, no, I don’t know you, love!’

I left the psychiatric unit still in shock and  feeling a deep sadness for Lydia…I wondered whether she would have remembered me if I had introduced myself as ‘Connie’…survivor guilt also kicked in…guilt for having made me it out and also having stayed out…guilt for having left Lydia and all the Lydias of the world behind in the madhouse…

After my work in the psychiatric unit I went to a Christmas work do in the centre of Manchester…It was very enjoyable and I had a lovely time…every now and then I thought of Lydia and wished she could be there too…

*Lydia is a pseudonym 

 

 

 Fog Lane Park, Manchester, 2010

 

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