This week I left the ward for the first time in five weeks. In those five weeks, the only time I’ve had contact with the open air, is through the odd trip down to our little courtyard (surrounded by a tall, opaque fence), a few trips down to stand at the front of the hospital (a change of scenery from the courtyard), and a trip to another hospital for a bone scan (a taxi from door to door).
I’ve been given my ‘hours out’ this week. This means that I’m allowed to leave the ward alone three times a week for one hour at a time.
One of the HCAs on my team took me out for half an hour on Sunday, just to see how I managed with it. From this week, I can go out alone.
You can’t do a huge amount in an hour when you don’t have a car. But the hospital that I’m in is opposite a small shopping park, containing an Asda, McDonalds, B&Q, B&M and Carpet Right. This means that the go-to destination for us all is Asda. This might not sound particularly exciting, but when you’ve been stuck in a building for four weeks (and are heading to get some different flavours of tea and coffee), it’s quite an exciting trip!
Leaving the ward after being inside for so long, is highly anxiety-provoking. As much as it can be exciting, it can also be terrifying. This fear is the reason that I’ve not pushed for my hours out any sooner. People reading this might think that this is a bit odd. After staring at the same few walls for weeks on end, why wouldn’t you want to get out as soon as possible?!
The thing is, the ward is safe. The ward is familiar. As much as there are times when I hate it, as homesick as I get, and as much as I become frustrated and upset over my lack of independence, it is a safe space. It’s predictable. Everything runs according to a timetable. I know the names and faces of everyone who appears. The ‘unknown’ has largely been removed.
It’s very artificial. It’s not real life. But it’s predictable, and I take comfort in the rhythm of the ward, and the routine that it follows.
The outside world is a stark contrast to this. It’s noisy. It’s messy. It’s unpredictable. Nothing happens according to a timetable or a routine. You encounter strangers at every turn. People look at you. People talk to you. People invade your personal space.
This hospital is on a main road and oh my goodness it’s noisy. Noise is something I’ve struggled with since coming to the ward. Having lived alone prior to arriving here, the constant chatter (and noise from other wards, and beeps from the alarm), have taken a lot of getting used to. Five weeks in, I’m still struggling with it at times, but I’m a little more accustomed to it than I was. I thought I’d pretty much sorted my noise issues, but the noise of the ward is nothing compared to the noise of the main road.
I haven’t been out since my first trip. Partly because the whether has been naff. Partly because I’m trying to spread out my hours. Partly because my anxiety is bubbling away again. My brain thinks that something bad could happen. My brain isn’t used to the noise and the people. My brain needs to get used to it all again.