The hospital where we went when he was ill is just down the road from where we live. It is 18 minutes by bus, 10 minutes but car on a quiet day. The Emergency department is on the left. The Mental hospital is on the right. There is a visitor’s car park in front of the Mental hospital. That is where we parked the car. That is where we waited for a couple of hours to be seen by a psychiatrist. That is where I had to make my own way that day because Saagar refused to have me in the car with him and his father. That is where he should have been when he was severely ill a few weeks later. That is where he could have been saved.
That is where I went this afternoon to watch a play called ‘Hearing Things’, a play co-produced by patients and professionals, based on insights derived from 6 weeks of workshops involving actors and people with a mental illness, offering both an opportunity for expression, transformation and co-creation. Through a cast of 3, we met people of different races and age groups. It was about challenging assumptions. It was about the empathy and personalities of patients. It was about ‘the system’ and the dynamics within it, mental well being of health care providers and role-reversal. It was about giving people a chance.
“I am off now to be mad and I don’t have to be sectioned for it”, remarked one of the participants as drama gave him the freedom to be who he is, without fear of judgment. It was about the possibility of being ‘re-assembled’. It was powerful and moving. It did not mince words. I spoke loud and clear. It was accessible, funny, clever and heart-breaking.
One young person describes his experience of drama:
“…after you do the drama you get this feeling…it feels as if whatever was bothering you went away and you feel light and can do whatever you want around you, it makes the day simpler and you can concentrate on your activities, it makes you feel better, like at the end of the day when you come home from work tired and you want to put your feet up, you don’t feel guilty relaxing as you have done a hard days work. I wanted to understand the person and put myself in their shoes. At the end of it I felt good. 150% happy!”
It was about creating a new paradigm of relating to people suffering with mental illness. It was all heart.
(Saagar playing Widow Twanky in Aladdin at Durham, Christmas 2012)
Recently a young man taught me how to save pictures from Facebook. I went to Saagar’s page and found a huge treasure! Smiles, fancy dress parties, gigs, hanging out with friends, pulling faces, playing the clown, doing a ‘Usain Bolt’, being on stage …
Memories warm me up from the inside but they also tear me apart. Sometimes they sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks.
They flood my mind with the light of a thousand bright stars.
A million memories. Countless thoughts. One person. One love.
Love you and miss you my delightful, beautiful boy!!!
(Comment: ‘Why can’t I stop myself from doing this at parties?’)
“Take a left and the M2 is right there. You can’t miss it”, said the man giving me directions. He had no idea what I was capable of missing. When I reached Bangor, I knew something was wrong. I stopped the car in a lay-by, rolled the window down and asked someone walking their dogs, “Can you please tell me the way to Antrim?” They tried unsuccessfully to hide their shock and amusement, asked me to turn around and go about 20 miles in the other direction on the M2.
Left and right is manageable but east and west is a bit much. North and south add further complications. My emotional and physical dependence on the Tom-tom is apparent from the panicked state I get into when it decides not to play. I feel abandoned without it. I can proudly claim to have successfully managed to go round in circles, despite a working sat-nav. Communication gaps between man and machine are inevitable. The small advantage is that the machine is not programmed to yell at me when I make a mistake. In a zen-like manner it states ‘recalculating’.
That’s our code. Si and I have chosen it as the most appropriate declaration at times of misunderstandings. It is a way of buying time, naming and identifying the probability of approaching danger. Luckily we haven’t had to use it much.
Bone doctors can sometimes forget there is a heart and a mind attached to the bone being fixed. Orthopaedic surgeons are the butt of many jokes for some unknown reason. They think it is because everyone is envious of the vast amounts of money they make and of course, they would like to think that.
What do you call two orthopaedic surgeons looking at a chest X-ray?
A double blind study.
What’s the difference between a carpenter and an orthopaedic surgeon?
A carpenter knows more than one antibiotic.
How do you hide a 20 pound note from an orthopaedic surgeon?
Put it in a textbook.
They are not what they are made out to be. Mostly. 😉
I am lucky to work with some funny, gentle and bright orthopods. One of them has changed from a purely professional colleague to a friend through the last 2 years. Yesterday, I shared with him my frustration over any meaningful improvement in the awareness of mental health issues within the medical community and beyond. I feel as if nothing has changed and no lessons have been learnt from Saagar’s death. Many others like him continue to suffer in silence. I feel that I go on banging my head against the walls completely in vain.
He wrote back:
“Saagar, has somehow had a profound effect on me, even though I never met him.
I have a young woman whose humerus I plated last week, and in clinic yesterday I could see her whole life starting to come unravelled: can’t exercise yet, not at work, not concentrating. All the things she used to give her self-worth are not available. Not despair, but the beginnings. So we talked about the dangers, and she agreed to see our psychologist.
You and Saagar have made that change in me, so keep doing what you do: it works.”
Being on holidays for most equals luxury. But we also hear of luxury apartments, luxury holidays, luxury hotels, luxury yachts …
What is luxury? Is it a physicality or an emotion or a bit of both?
For me, to wake up naturally (ie. without an alarm) to the rising sun, the sounds of the ocean and the birds, feeling calm within and enthusiastic about a new day is luxury.
To have a pain free body willing to spend a little more energy than it consumes everyday and a stress free mind with no compulsion to be chasing time all day long is luxury.
A generous warm rain shower and no need for air-conditioning or central heating, lots of Darjeeling tea, clean air and clean water, a pair of comfortable shoes, an afternoon siesta, a long walk along the beach, a spacious mattress, firm with a thin top cushion.
To have time for healthy sit down meals, free of anything processed and to be able to share it with Si and all my family, to be in a healing space to just be and be creative with writing, reading, flower arranging, dancing, listening to music, cooking or colouring a colouring-in book. To be able to contribute to our community in a positive way.
Laughter and sharing with friends, time for Yoga and meditation, to sleep under a star-lit sky, to have love and gratitude for this life, a spiritual experience in a human body.
Does any of this cost too much money or does the modern urban life-style just doesn’t allow for it?
To miss out on all the hype around the US presidential election because there is no TV and no one cares. Ignorance is indeed bliss.
Ha! Ha! Ha!