What is it with me and my bowel this time of year? Fekin thing was in the process of killing me a year ago and last week decided to give up my appendix. It seems that I may have had a grumbling appendix for quite some time and this may be the reason for me feeling like crap for the past six months. The symptoms are very similar to my diverticulitis problem hence the wait in diagnosis. The wee fecker is gone now and I’m getting better each and every day.
As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week I thought I’d take a bit of a more in depth look of the events leading up to and during my stay at
HMP sorry, Hospital. See how easy the mind slips? But why is this? For the purpose of this blog I’ll do my best to keep it general as I’ve agreed to co-write a proper academic paper on this under-explored area.
As always, I’d like to convey me sincerest gratitude and heart felt thanks to the consultant, his team and the staff of wards 6c and 6b at The Royal Victory Hospital Belfast. They catered to my every irrational whim and sporadic doses of incomprehensible fury. In fact, two of the nurses were genuinely amazed and interested as to why I was the way I was. I did think I was going to write academically about this last year, but it fell by the wayside. I’m glad in a way that it did as I now have two sets of field notes, two lived experiences of same time and place in same environment with many of the same participants.
In the past few months my trips to my GP have been more frequent and my fear of going to hospital has not been lost as my Dr’s have done everything in their power to keep me out of prison/hospital. It’s quite simple really when I think about it. I couldn’t have done another minute in jail and made my promise that I’d never do another minute. If that meant ending it all then so be it. That is how much prison worked for me. I’d kill myself if I had to go back. End of.
When the stomach pains started up again last week I thought ‘oh shit here we go again’ and that constant fear of hospital and leaving with a colostomy bag fries my head, the anxiety builds up and I always ask the Doc for some emergency Diazepam. After four days of constant pain and no sleep, last Thursday morning, the dreaded words are uttered ‘it’s off to A&E at the Royal for you Mr Irwin’. To be fair I knew I had to and had already backed a bag. I was on the morphine and on the ward within four hours. When the A&E Dr pressed in a certain place I was quite surprised at my suppleness of folding in half like a deck chair, whilst trying to take a swing for him and exhaling one very long ‘fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuckin ‘ell. X marks the spot so to speak.
Upon arrival on the ward the Sister half remembered me and then when I explained my situation fully remembered and said ‘not to worry. I’ll get you sorted and make sure the other Sisters and staff are aware of your situation.’ This was really cool but of course it did not belay my fears or my uncontrollable bouts of ‘PTSD Terror’. I was put on the emergency procedure list and after the results of a CAT scan an operation (treatment) would follow depending on outcome of scan. But, it was almost certainly appendicitis.
I’d had an avocado at 5.00pm the previous evening and at 12.00pm on the Thursday I had my last glass of water. Scan was done in the morning, registrar arrived and told me appendix would be removed laparoscopic-ally (all being well). I was on a list and depending on how many emergency emergencies needed to be done I was fourth on a list within a list. It was now a waiting game and managing pain. I’m not going to go into the fine detail as I will do this in academic paper but let me just clarify that without my ‘emergency supply’ of dizzies from GP I’d have had to be strapped down and sedated. I would have left the hospital and probably died from a burst appendix. I lost count of how many times I span out of control. Crying, screaming, ranting, hallucinating et al. I had one episode the last time, this time I had several. I got my OP at 4.30am on Sunday and home on Monday.
On hindsight and with clarity I now see how it all fits with the policies and procedures of prison and hospital being so similar. The bureaucracy, the blame culture of modern day society and the fear of staff of not ticking the right box or heavens forbid thinking outside it. The easiest observation to make is that hospital visits are generally between a week and a month. A horrible experience but receiving, mostly, lifesaving treatment from attentive and caring staff. In contrast to the six months to fifteen plus years a person can spend in prison not receiving care by staff who nine times out of ten don’t give a flying… You get my drift.
In June 2017 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and referred to a mental health specialist. After two evaluations I had two sessions with a mental health specialist in December 2017. This person informed me that they were unable to see me for the remaining four sessions as my need was beyond their professional capacity and I had to be referred to a more professional preprofessional. In January 2018 I had a further assessment at the same place I had the first two assessments and was referred to see a more experienced mental health professional as ‘long term’ treatment would be required. When I was with my GP last Wednesday we brokered this topic and I was informed that I would be seeing a mental health professional in or around October.
That works out at one year and three months after being diagnosed with pretty severe mental illness I will finally get some sit-down time with a psychiatrist. I do so love being a human Guinea pig (no offense to little cute balls of fluff) but have to ask the obvious question. In fact this was one of the main reasons why I wanted to do a PhD, how many men and woman who leave prison with PTSD will kill themselves due to the fact that they, nor their GP, knows what’s wrong with them. I’ve been out of jail five years now and it was only by going to hospital last year that I found out I had PTSD and had been suffering from it for four years and perhaps during my time in prison. It most certainly is a direct result of it and not this fucking stupid ‘adjusting’ period that so many academics and people in the criminal justice system refer to so readily.
Just remember I am a clean, often sober, middle aged man with a lifetime of knowledge and experience of the big bad world and I’m struggling and waiting for professional help. From day one, and one of the main reasons for writing my book has been, “If I feel hopeless and suicidal and suffer from a crippling mental illness, what about those who don’t know?” I hold on by the skin of my teeth some days because I know these episodes will pass. Is there a statistic for those who don’t?
For now, I’m feeling better each and every day and looking forward to watching Chelsea kick Man Utd’s ass tomorrow. I had such a laugh with one of the auxiliary nurses in hospital. I rang my bell to get the drip changed over and he came in to the room cried with horror and said, ‘I’m sorry man I can’t help you. I have to go get someone else” and proceeded to walk out the room. He was pointing at me and shaking his head. I quickly twigged it was because I was wearing a Chelsea top. We both had a good old laugh and a bit of banter. Good fun during the bad stuff. Maybe I’ll stay off the tablets tomorrow, have a beer and watch it with my mate Les.