Despite the care I was receiving from all the staff around me, I couldn't escape the feeling that I was being imprisoned. In many ways, the more I recovered the more frustrated I became. I had a limited sentence, but my release date was unknown. It could be weeks, it could be months.
I was getting better, and yet I was sick of having to ask for my phone charger, my razor, having to go to the hatch for medicine, visit the medical room for observations, label all my food, drink, plates, and mugs.
However, I am nothing if not adaptable, and I knew that if I had to live in this hospital I would have to do it with as much enthusiasm as I could generate. So I started to work the system. I begun to learn how to make the most of my stay.
I used to ask staff that I had good rapport with for towels so that I could get sometimes 5 or 6 stockpiled in my bottom drawer, thus reducing the number of times I needed to ask. Believe me, this was a vital step for maintaining high self esteem. Asking too regularly for essential items made me feel subservient and small, which in turn makes you start to question your capability in other areas of your life. It's these tiny choices that I made on a daily basis that added to my strength; that showed me I still had fight and enough cheekiness to know I was getting better.
One of my happiest discoveries was sent from God. No, I wasn't hearing voices. I discovered the Kosher menu. Oh my goodness. Who knew that by choosing the Kosher meals you could have steamed salmon, beautiful new potatoes and fresh vegetables, albeit still microwaved in a plastic bag. It was mana from Heaven. It was less stodgy, more tasty and far healthier than all the other hospital food. It didn't take long for other mothers to catch on too, and before long more staff were eating from the Kosher list as well. We were all at it, we had converted for lunchtime.
There was so much Jewish food being ordered on the mother and baby unit that a Rabbi was seen walking around, as he was under the understandable impression that his fellow believers were in the ward. I think I potentially cost the NHS thousands of pounds over my two month stay because I heard that the reason the Kosher menu wasn't promoted was because the meals cost a lot more. Whoops.
As I continued to recover, more and more of my personality started to come back. My contributions to ward round became increasingly cheeky and I began to question what I was being told again, rather than being utterly confused or aggressive. Like Chekov's Three Sisters, I was desperately looking forward to leave; to getting away from the tedium and routine to somewhere exciting. To Westfield! Then in ward rounds it was suggested in no uncertain terms that I shouldn't go anywhere too stimulating on my leave, and particularly not Westfield, as I was still getting better and still had a way to go. I remember leaving the meeting absolutely livid but still determined to get there. Unfortunately my still not-quite-quiet mind wasn't quite clever enough when I tried to slip in through the back door. Turning to my husband and mother-in-law, I said "Well, after that we all need some breakfast, and I think we can all agree that the best place to get that, is Westfield!" They didn't take me.
Luckily we didn't go. Even though I was annoyed and reactionary about being told what was best for me, they were absolutely right. The week after, I explained that I had been relieved I hadn't gone to Westfield, to which everyone agreed that it was a sign of my increasing sanity that an outing to that shopping centre seemed mad.
This place was starting to look friendlier. I was starting to connect to the world again. I could see the kindness on the faces that surrounded me. I still loved and hated my situation in equal measure, but there were signs beginning to appear and they said one word. Home.
Love and menorahs,
Mutha Courage x