I go back and forth to Hackney another couple of times and every time I go I feel more like a transient lodger than a resident. I come in with one bag. I arrive at the latest moment and leave at the earliest opportunity.
The mood in the ward has altered. New patients are arriving. I see the fear and panic of these illnesses and it touches a nerve deep within me. I sense that terror and understood it physically. My bones remember and my body will never forget. I listen to the fast ramblings of a new mother that's just arrived and at once feel heartened at my recovery and shocked to the core at the horror of it all.
The women around me have been a family. We have laughed, cried and argued over food together. The final night at the Hackney Holiday Home contains such a mixture of emotions it is a challenge to give voice to them. I could feel my lost self move around me. I saw her desperately ill. Starving hungry, hideously exhausted. I saw her say goodbye to her husband and son every night and cry silent tears of frustration at being held captive by the Thing. I saw her opening gradually, flower-like to staff, other patients and to the treatment. I saw her fight and work and battle with this tyrannical demon that had taken root in her soul.
I saw her seeing me.
I was all set and completely ready for the off. I had collected my bag of medication and had done all my final jobs. My electrical equipment had been gathered from the drawer in the office and it was time to go.
"Oh Jess" I heard one of the staff call out from behind me as I was walking towards the communal area to say my goodbyes. "One of these is for you".I was presented with a large fluffy white teddy bear. "They were from Mother's Day and you didn't get yours". This type of cuddly toy is not my kind of thing at all, but unexpectedly I was deeply moved by it. I looked down at this soft, kind faced bear and experienced a swell in the sea of my heart. Embroidered on the foot in small letters were the words "No. 1 Mum". It didn't matter that I knew everyone had got one of these gifts, or that each teddy had heralded it's owner as number 1, because it was true. We all were. We had all done everything we could in the face of extreme internal adversity. We had all accepted help. We were all focused on recovering. We were all number one to our babies.
I stood in that dining room, holding my bear by the arm, momentarily orphaned in time. Here I stood alone. With others around me. I looked at these women, I looked at the staff. I have never known gratitude to be so huge and yet so silent. I just said thanks so much. See ya. Knowing that I probably wouldn't.
I walked out to the car, that was waiting in the same place we had been parked on the 15th February at 7am when I finally made it there. I saw myself being helped out of the car and led inside by three nurses to a place of safety. She looked at me as I drove away.
Love and nothing witty to say,Mutha Courage X