When the unit corridors turn dark and the clinic doors (where all patient medications are kept in metal boxes) are locked for the final time – a new day dawns at he ward – night. Some patients during the day eagerly count the hours till the time final meds are administered between 9-11pm. Maybe they do it because they’re bored, or maybe because they love the night and the silence that comes with it.
The ward silence isn’t noiseless either, you can hear faint echoes of staff voices, occasional footsteps and if you’re awake – you’ll see the clipboard duty officer pass your window every 10 minutes with a flash lamp torch to check that you’re still accounted for. The dining room (usually a bustling space) is dark, filled with shadows thrown by the low light of the adjacent corridor. Chair legs stand strong like statues in the night.
For me, nights are really just a different kind of day here on the ward. The sleepers will sleep, others will read books or sort their life out on IPhone/Android or Smart Phone. But, unlike the scheduled, busy nature of days, the dead of night offers stillness and a silence where voices previously dominated the corridors and ward. The night becomes an abyss, an immeasurable space for personal thought and fear. We all lie in bed hoping the ‘meds will kick in soon’, hoping that they curb our fears and silence our inner self-destructive voices. But, of curse, it’s not as easy as that. I’m sat on my bed at 1am writing this blog post, I took my meds at 11pm.I don’t feel that different.
Freedom of space in this abyss invites places for new and sometimes, dangerous ideas, ideas that can easily latch onto old ones or serve their purpose independently. The force of emotional gravity felt in this abyss we call night can burden a soul ten times worse than in daylight. Why? Because we’re alone, I guess. Being alone is one thing I can deal with as I quite like my own company – we’re born alone and most of us will at some point die alone. But, to feel lonely in this abyss is quite another matter. They say that loneliness is amongst the most terrible poverty.
Along with that invasive loneliness that comes so fearlessly at night to consume my low mood becomes the realisation that at my worst, I don’t even know myself anymore; I have lost myself in the vastness of night. Lying here – not knowing myself any more means I’m nothing, and that’s one thing the world does not need.
There is no greater battle in here than night. I’m hoping each night when I close my eyes that I’ll wake up to a new dawn, a dawn that will give way to a much gentler and less brutal night.