The road to rehab is not a quick one. It’s a journey that begins from the very first hurt experienced. It’s a result of abuse, physical, emotional, sexual. And as the layers build over the years it gets more and more difficult to pinpoint that ONE thing that hurts so much. We think to ourselves that it’s all in our head. We tell ourselves it wasn’t that bad. We drive ourselves a little more insane with the guilt and the shame.

The journey is a lonely one. You try and let people know you’re not coping. You starve yourself. You cut yourself. You abuse drugs and yourself. The plea is misinterpreted as sad attempts to get attention. Family and friends tell you to pull yourself together. And instead you fall apart.

Spending time in the clinic was the best of times and the worst of times for me. My frailties showed themselves amongst absolute strangers. I confided in people I had never met. Nameless inmates understood me better than people who had known me for years. Everyday had its ups and downs. It was like walking around with a mirror all day – having to look at yourself, flaws and all and reflect on the why’s, the when’s, the how’s and what’s. It was an opportunity to take responsibility for my role in all of this BUT also to admit that I wasn’t to blame for a lot of the ‘stuff’.

It’s a strange place to be, but it feels safe. You see your pain in other people’s eyes and you relive moments through other survivors narratives. It’s an opportunity to stop being so serious about everything and having a non-judgemental giggle at those floating to nowhere in the same boat as you.

The days leading up to me being admitted and a few days in my mind and body were in survival mode. I had shut down completely and walked through moments in a haze. I slept a lot and cried a lot more. There were incredibly sad moments. My heart broke watching one of the EDU (eating disorder unit) girls take 2 hours to eat half a slice of bread, crying the entire time. My heart broke a little more listening to Andre’s story of abuse (by his mother)…but there were some funny moments and I cherished each and every one.

Michael, or Mad Mike was an addict. He had stopped the drugs but had replaced the one addiction with another. Religion. He saw God in everything. Even in the maltabella. He heard God all day (no-one wanted to tell him it was the schizophrenia) and the messages were sometimes clear, other times, not so much.

Days with Mike were long. And tiring. And took a lot of energy. But as a people-pleaser I suffered him gladly. Let me share with you a typical day with Mike

Sunday Morning, 8am, Mike and I in the breakfast room, Mike chatting to his maltabella (I mean God).

8am Mike says: Do you think my dad will come visit today?

Me: I’m sure he will

Mike: Well he said he will so…[off chatting to the porridge again]

Me: If he said he will then I’m sure he will

Mike at 8:02am: Do you think my dad will come visit today?

Me: Ummmmm, I’m sure he will

Mike: I want to save the babies

Me: Which babies?

Mike: All of them. It’s what God has told me to do

Me: I think that’s a great idea and I’m sure you’ll be very good at it

Mike: Do you think my dad will come visit today?

Mike smoked more than a smouldering just-burnt down house. On this particular Sunday Gold told him to stop. At 6pm he took his carton of 20 to the nurse and told her to get rid of the cigarettes. Makes sense? Makes sense!

Mike (on his way back from the nursing station): I’ve stopped smoking. God told me to and I have

Me: Well done! See you later, I’m going to watch TV

Mike: Can I come with?

Me: Sure, let’s go to the non-smoking lounge?

Mike: Why are we going to the non-smoking lounge?

Me: I thought it will be better for you seen you’ve stopped smoking

Mike: Oh okay…just got to do something. I’ll meet you there

Me: Cool…see you in a tick, schizophrenic

An hour or so passes and Mike rushes into the lounge, dazed and confused

Me: Mike, you okay?

Mike: No! Someone stole my cigarettes!!!!!!


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