Aug 31, 2016
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
How my friend ended up in the mental ward.
I walk past the receptionist who told me what room number my friend Matt is going to be residing in for the next two weeks. Past the three gravely monitored white doors, I find my best friend ordained in grey hospital robes reading the latest GQ magazine. He gets up from his bed and greets me with a big smile.
“Anna, thanks for coming to visit me.” I smile and plop myself at the edge of his bed.
Matt has been admitted for bipolar disorder, the first time in September of 2014 and now in July of 2016 – for two and a half weeks both times. Matthew is ambitious, social and, like an experienced circus performer, able to juggle multiple things at the same time. This is why it is so difficult for him to remain in a confined space with strict regulations for the next while.
“They took my phone away so I get bored a lot of the time. I’ve been drawing and coming up with game plans for after I get out of here. I haven’t seen him in days,” pointing to the spare bed beside his, “So I think he must’ve been released.” He gets up, puts on a tank and shorts and takes my hand. “I’ll show you the game room.”
Matt knows many people in the same wing. He greets the lady in room 21, waves to the teenager in room 17 and smiles at the guy in room 9. “I’m a celebrity around here.”
We reach a small room where a petite woman in her early 20’s is playing Mario Kart on top of a plastic table, while an older Ukrainian lady is watching the screen.
“Rita, this is my best friend Anna.” The young girl pauses the game and shakes my hand. “This is Oksana.” The older lady gets up and gives me a handshake with both hands.
“So what do you guys do every day?” Looking around the room, I observed plenty of hand-written letters addressed to no one that were framed and hung at eye-level.
“Lots of things,” Rita answers.
“During the week, we wake up at 7 am, we have breakfast, and there are group and fitness classes we can do like yoga and arts and crafts. Then there’s a small break and lunch and resume the classes. After 4 it’s free time and visiting hours. On the weekend, the hospital just offers breakfast and lunch and we have the option to come here and play games or enjoy the outside.”
Rita looks at Matt.
“Well some of us can go outside; others can’t because they are considered â€˜severe’.” Matt later explained to me that â€˜severe’ cases are considered dangerous to themselves and others, like suicidal and drug dependant patients, and are not allowed to leave their room as they are closely monitored.
I take a picture of Matt and Rita by the word â€˜Optimism’, say our goodbyes and we head back to his room.
“I feel like I’m in jail. I’m off work until September, but at least I get Employment Insurance money.” He’s organizing the magazines his family and friends brought for him and neatly arranges his few clothes in his dresser.
“Last time I was here, I understood. This time, I shouldn’t be here.”
“Matt, you weren’t acting like yourself when you got back from Europe. Everyone wants you to be all right so we had to take precautions.”
“I know, but my whole summer has been ruined. At least I get to rest more, and I have met some amazing people, not like last time.” When Matt got admitted into the mental ward for the first time in 2014, he appeared delusional and cartoonish. He had tried sending invitations to the Prime Minister of Canada for a barbecue to his house, had tried contacting Miley Cyrus and had even dropped out of school. He might never admit it, but staying in the hospital for two weeks changed his life for the better.
“Can you come see me again?” The only times I have ever seen Matt vulnerable was in the hospital.
“Yeah, I’ll come see you Tuesday after work. I’ll bring you the new Cosmo.”
I got up, gave him a big hug and opened the door.
“Love you, Matty.”
“Love you, Anna.”
I got into my car and recollected the events from the past hour. It was hard for him to quit his known life, his job, his social life and be forced to follow a tight regimen under hospital rules, but the light that will reach him in the end will illuminate him for the better. When you are forced into a situation, you either have two options: Resent your circumstances or make the best of it. Matt is making the best of it.