All of us had different illnesses and all of us were at different stages of recovery, but what we all shared was that they had all struck post-natally and so, luckily for us, we could have our babies with us.
It only struck me a few weeks after I had arrived that the pain for some women was that the baby they had with them was not their only child like mine was. I shared many painful moments with other women who cried over the separation from their other children. Families sometimes miles from the unit. They were there because there was a bed, not because it was convenient.
The ladies I spent two months with were my joy and my frustration. The way we loved and supported each other was staggering, but regardless of my love for them they were also a perpetual reminder that I was there. Trapped. Unwell.
During the group therapy sessions we would talk, share, draw, occasionally be tossed around on a blue sheet (the drama student in me was loving it!) and I was honoured to be a part of the healing process of others. The emotion was so raw, the memories so distressing, the future so often overwhelming. We became each others' "can-do sisters" and reminded each other when we were at our lowest ebbs that we could do it, we were doing it, and we would get home.
It was always a sensitive navigation with the other women. When I was first admitted I was oblivious to the needs of others, but slowly, as I began to function as part of the group, I gradually became self-aware again. Wow. Self-aware. That meant that I had a self to be aware of again. This was a monumental step for me.
Tuesdays were always an interesting dance of joy, disappointment and caution. After ward round everyone would be checking in with each other to see what had been said, what had happened to medication levels, what had been said about your progress and the most important question of all, how much leave did you get? In hospital terms "leave" was the litmus test, the progress report made physical.
I learnt very quickly in the unit who to share my joys and successes with and who to play it down to, who to laugh with and who to lend a shoulder to. We all needed such different things at each stage of our time in there. One lady called Lucky got increasing amounts of leave until I hardly saw her and I always thought she had exactly the right name.
No matter what we were going through we ate together. I never could have predicted, just months before, that I would be here, in a psychiatric hospital, sitting around the table with my new family.
Love and dramatic blue sheets,
Mutha Courage X