What a strange thing it is to be a patient.
Here we are in my little bay on ward C6, four ordinary women, various ages, various professions, various symptoms.
Just a few days ago we were free. We chose when to eat, when to sleep, what to wear. We never stopped to think about our freedom, it was just a part of the chilly autumn mornings like the frost and falling leaves.
Now we are here. Incarcerated , observed and restricted. We can't leave. We can't get a nice chilled glass of Chardonnay as we normally might. We can't boil a kettle in case we scald ourselves. We can't sleep in in the mornings and we can't stay up late at night. (Lights go off at 11pm.) We can't keep our own meds in our own bags and we can't make a cup of tea when we fancy one. We can't see our friends or our family at a whim - we have to arrange "visits."
We can't smoke, though of course we all do. Like a scene from The Night of the Living Dead, we huddle together in a drafty bus stop, our various bleeping machines supporting life through tubes and pumps. We are a motley crew, us lawyers and teachers and bin men and alcoholics, anonymous yet resplendent in embarrassing pyjamas and novelty slippers. We are levelled by our shared horrors, united by fear.
Our hairstyles, moustaches and beards reach levels of neglect, that, frankly, would not be acceptable in the outside world, but we are beyond noticing, pre-occupied as we are, with survival . We get surprisingly attached to one another, become intimate through our shared dependency.