Ward Life: A letter to Heaven (Notes from a Psychiatric Unit

Tonight, I’m writing a letter to heaven. A letter to the dearest of people who gave me all she could and more, before losing her battle to Cancer, which she bravely fought three times. I lost my mother when I was 17 years old.

thumbnail_IMG_2183Tonight, I’m sat staring at an armed chair opposite my hospital bed. It’s the same chair staff over here use to sit on and observe me when I’m on Status 3 (24/7 watch). I’m glad to say I haven’t been on Status 3 for a while (touch wood) but the chair is still there. I have flipped my sleeping position tonight to vary things a little, and the chair appears a little closer than usual. There have been nights in this psychiatric unit where  I have attempted death, self-harmed and sobbed tears of desperation and heartbreak. I’ve had hopeless nights and slightly better nights. But, every single night, I think of you. Tonight, for the first time, I’ll imagine that you’re siting in that chair with me for a short while.

I often catch myself thinking what you must think of me. You gave birth to triplets. I was always the stubborn one, the one that learnt things the hard way, the enthusiastically inquisitive and challenging one. I took on all I could in life and you loved me every little bit for it. I’m so thankful to you for that. I promised to give all that I chose to do my very best and I sincerely hope that you’ve been witness to my efforts over the last 14 years. I didn’t quite make it to professional level as a concert Pianist, but I still regard playing piano as my first love and it is also, by now, a healer. I get to play piano on the ward at the psychiatric unit any time I want. It helps lift my spirit.

I have struggled immensely over the last 4 years. Good for me has never felt good enough, although I openly acknowledge the fact that I always give of my best at the task in hand. This constant undermining of my work has become so bad that I believe myself to be utterly useless at all things imaginable and believe myself to be contribution-less, in a world that’s moving so fast I’ve lost my place. This niggling and debilitating belief has grown monstrously over the last decade and in turn, has done a meticulous job at carving large entry holes for depression to pour fearlessly into my system drowning my spirit. I want you to know I have no control of this illness; Depression/ Borderline Personality Disorder, whatever they  wish to call it. I’d do anything to see it gone and my life back to how it was pre 17 years of age. I often grieve the loss of those golden days quietly. It makes me sad to think that I’ve been hospitalised 3/4 times in the last 4 years. I got quoted after coming in for the first time saying that I ‘didn’t want a season ticket’ in here! Ironic post after 4 years/ 4 hospitalisations. I want you to know in your heart that I’m giving this all I have, I’m digging deeper than I’ve ever dug before as I’m grappling with emotions that seem to exist in unprecedented depths. In school, it was always pass or fail or an A B or C later on. Now, it’s life (and quality of life) or death. Aneurin Care Assistant staff and Nurses have delivered exceptional care, flawless care to be more precise, but they can only do so much – the rest is up to me. I wonder often what life will be like in the future – although the future feels insurmountable, will I be in hospital again? Can I ever find peace of mind to strive, move forward and beat this condition? Or, will I eventually have enough of it all, and call it a day?

I often wonder after all I’ve been through whether I’ll make the grade when it becomes time for me to join you and Nain in heaven? I’m hoping I have not embarrassed you and that I’m enough as I am, regardless of my failures and hospitalisations. I have so much support out in the community, my sisters and father are exceptionally supportive and loving and I also have the kindest friends imaginable. But, I still find myself lonely in this thing called life. I feel that I’ve somehow lost myself in the middle of it all whilst clutching at straws. I’m not too sure about the future right now, It seems too far away to comprehend. A day or two can feel like an eternity, so my plan is to stick to bite sized time unit at the moment and take it hour by hour. Today for the first time in the whole of 5 weeks, I have 4 hours leave to see Manon and the dogs in Bangor! Excited is an understatement, although I’ll naturally be a tad anxious I guess after being on the ward so long without leave.

Please believe only in whole hearted love. Words, phrases and jargon used in the world of Psychiatry can be brutal and senseless. Please know, whatever happens, that I am still the loving 17 year old daughter that you brought up – wanting to give life my all – even when forced to navigate the uncertainties of bleak emotional deserts. I love playing piano, writing, reading factual material and listening to jazz. I adore my sheep dog Wini Lwyd and my sisters and father. And,  yes, I still have a continuous and inherent dislike of mushrooms, pylons and Semolina. This is who I am. I am not depression or Borderline Personality Disorder. 

Cariad filiwn a diolch am bopeth,

Malan xxx

Mam – Sian Vaughan Wilkinson 


  1. Hyfryd Malan. Cofio dy fam yn iawn. Andros o gymeriad a mi fues i’n beirniadu mewn lot o steddfodau a chynhyrfu’n lân pan oedd y dripled dalentog a’i mam yn cyrraedd y steddfode a’n diddanu gyda ffasiwn dalent a chdithe’n wych ar y piano. Dal ymlaen i fwynhau dy gerddoriaeth. Xx

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  2. Welish i chdi unwaith yn siarad yn Amgueddfa Sain Ffagan. Mi oedd hi’n amlwg dy fod ti’n berson arbennig efo lot i gynnig i’r byd. Wedi meddwl amdana ti sawl gwaith ers hynny. Paid gadael fynd, fe ddaw haul ar fryn.


  3. Diolch am hwn. Wir yn gwerthfawrogi eich cyfraniad ar fater mor ddwys.

    Mae gen i ffrindie mewn pob math o lefydd gyda’u galaru. Rhai yn newydd iddo ac yn ofni suddo, rhai wedi bod ynddo ers amser hir ac yn dal i ofni suddo. Rwy wedi bod yn eu cyfeirio at feddyliau John Pavlovitz am ei alaru ef ond mi fyddsf nawr hefyd yn rhannu hwn gydag ambell un sydd yn mynd i’w werthfawrogi. Yn gobeithio y bydd hynny’n iawn. Dymuniadau gorau a diolch,


  4. This was so beautiful. I’ve just commented on another one of your posts, but just had to say that I really loved reading your candid thoughts to your mother. It was inspiring and made me tear up. Thank you for sharing!

    (If you’re up for it, I’m really interested in how you felt while you were on status 3. What did it feel like to be watched 24/7?)


    1. Hi Crystal! It was a really difficult experience. Having no privacy even in the toilet/bath/shower was really unnerving. I was on it for so long, i kind of got used to a shadow by the end. Some nurses /health care staff would talk to me, others would just be quiet! I can SO remeber the freedom of closing my bedroom door knowing there wasn’t anyone there with me! No light above me as I sleep! I had to sleep woith my arms/hands above the duvet – which I also really found difficult! But, I suppose they saved my life, so I’m grateful lookingback xxx

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