This is what I was training for; my first Mental Health placement on a mixed Acute In-patient ward in East London.
I’m normally a bit of a snob about public transport but, unsure whether I’d find a parking space, I headed off towards the bus stop at an ungodly hour. I relaxed and enjoyed the ride, seeing places I’d not previously spotted when driving. Your proverbial man in a not-so-grubby mac sauntered out of a grimy massage parlour, picking his nose with his pinky and devouring the contents. Nail bars and lots of them, a more upmarket Gentlemen’s Club next door to a greasy spoon where two young girls stood brushing their long ponytails into place, right behind the counter from where they’ll be plating up full English soon. It was all over too soon, the hospital came in to view and off I hopped, keeping my eye out for parking I could use tomorrow.
If the reception that greeted me on arrival was an any indication of the day to come, I’d have turned on my heels pronto. It was cold and still dark when I arrived at the huge glass doors where there were too many buzzers to comprehend this early in the day. I slapped my already freezing knuckles on the cold glass and waved frantically at the obese gentleman, who was wearing a white shirt that said Security and appeared be asleep with his eyes open, behind a flexiglass screened reception desk. I heard a click, the doors opened and said gentleman nodded me in, urging me forward with another tip of the head and barked “Yes!” while I was still half a dozen paces from him.
‘Hello, Lavender Ward please, I’m a stu …….’ Obese man harrumphs ‘Sign in. Along the corridor, left and left, in the lift, first floor’. I got the corridor bit so off I went, my trainers squeaking on the lino covered floor, loud and lonely in the silence that pervaded the building. The scuffed mint green walls were adorned with patient artwork, some almost childlike though many screamed of fear and desperation. I did wonder whether this was the right place for the display. Others may think differently but if I was visiting a relative or being admitted during my psychotic state and taken along this corridor I might have felt apprehensive. Distressed and paranoid possibly.
As the door to the lift opened, the acrid smell of pee nipped the inside of my nostrils, and I gagged at the the freshley gobbed phlegm slithering down towards the buttons. I pushed the first floor button with a spare pen and as there was no place for it in my bag, I cheekily I dropped it down the gap in the lift.
Outside the lift there were five wards and I stood at the locked door to Lavender ward with its wire mesh glass window and another buzzer at the side. I’d arrived and just took a moment to breathe.
Note to self: Must ask why the flexiglass reception and a rude security guard in a Mental Health Hospital? It certainly didn’t give off a welcoming environment.