Struggling with depression for many years, I found myself spending three joyless Christmases (over the nine years of repeateded hospitalizations) on the dingy psych ward of a medical hospital. Two years of which I was deemed too risky, therefore, forbidden to enjoy Christmas dinner at home with family. Difficult to resign yourself to yet too unwell to converse with people anyways.
Rudolph was banned from the hospital.
So, four of us sat around a laminated and steel table (minus a tablecloth), in the gloomy dining/craft room and picked at our ‘festive turkey dinner’. Each meal consisted of turkey roll, faux mashed potatoes, lukewarm gravy, a scarce array of ho-hum veggies, stale roll, two packets of cranberry sauce and butter.
To my surprise, I did awaken to a gift planted on my side table; a red sparkly colored gift bag stuffed with loads of goodies including handmade crocheted kitchen items and knitted bright aqua mittens, yummy chocolates, which I thought very thoughtful and caring.
The Christmas year when permitted home for a two-hour visit, allotted barely enough time to wolf down a holiday dinner. As memory serves me, I believe we discovered a welcoming diner open Christmas Day, yet unsure if we truly ate turkey!
Christmas mood in the hospital was somber, the three-foot fake tree standing in the TV room was virtually naked due to prohibited string lights, (potential suicide risk) and only a few crocheted and cardboard decorations placed on branches sparingly. Underneath was a dull green round skirt covered with empty wrapped gold boxes assumed to resemble gifts sourced from years before.
TV and dog-eared magazines were there for our amusement, as well as visitors allowed for extended hours. Quick thinking by nurses, miniature candy canes in plastic wrappers were located at the ‘medication station’.
Most patients were struggling significantly with the season; pressure put upon them by family, some asking “are you even trying to get better?”. A façade of ‘smiles and cheer’, nevertheless drowning inside.
Thoughts of exchanging gifts or what I desired caused stress and misery as I was up to my neck in quicksand with a jail sentence called depression, and tremendously frustrated.
The doctors; the psychiatry profession, expected to release me from this ‘mess and pain’, failed. Christmas Day eating turkey roll off a styrofoam plate, while they were ‘roasting chestnuts on the open fire’ the night before and excitedly gobbling a luscious turkey meal, seemed a trifle unfair.
So, for this holiday season, only for a moment think of someone with mental illness who may be spending Christmas in the hospital. That person deserves to be home looking at a brightly lit tree. If he/she is trapped in a hospital, I can assure you it will be turkey roll with fake mashed potatoes.
Written and copyrighted by Deb McCarthy 2016 originally posted on https://niume.com/post/195917