The first thing you have to get used to at the PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) is boredom. I was told that the PICU was a low stimulus unit so there was nothing going on. That’s the hard part, getting used to the dull routine.
Different patients did different things to break the monotony. Some clients watched TV, listened to music or wrote poetry and stories and others just sat on sofas for hours on end. The staff engaged well with the patients and would sit with us and talk.
There was no patient access to the kitchen so we would need a member of staff if we wanted a hot drink or crisps. The TV was in a cabinet so it couldn’t be smashed. Everything was locked. It was Ramadhan at the time so I told staff that I would be fasting. Even though I was going through mental distress I still wanted to fulfil my religious obligations. It was my first time fasting on a psychiatric ward.
My family visited me regularly and they would bring me pizzas whenever they visited. I put on weight as a result. At that time takeaway food was allowed on the ward every day. I would finish my fast with tasty food such as kebabs and chickpeas and sweet dishes courtesy of my family.
At this point a new patient joined the unit, he was called L and he suffered from bipolar disorder. He was always hyper and active, cutting other patients hair or flooding his room or dancing. He used to joke around with me and eventually told me that he wanted to embrace Islam.
It is easy to become a Muslim you just have to testify that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger. So I guided him through the process and taught him about Islam. Every morning I would sit with him and teach him the basics of the religion. He named himself humorously as L bin Laden.
It was at this point that I had a few altercations with G, but before he left the unit a few weeks later, he apologised to me. I am truly sad to say he committed suicide a few years later.
I grew fond of L who was from Rochdale and was sad when he had to leave. At the PICU patients are seen once a week by the doctor. I would go to my weekly meeting hoping that I would soon be moved to an open ward. But I eventually spent nearly three months at the unit. Throughout my time there I didn’t go out once.
I feel like I wasted so much time while at the PICU, if there were constructive activities I could have developed some kind of skill or maybe learned the basics of a language. There were incidents when patients would get aggressive or violent and they would be taken into the isolation room which was referred to as the extra care area.
I spent some time in there and it was horrendous, just a room and a mattress. Just you and your thoughts. It reminded me of being in police cells. Thankfully I didn’t spend too much time in there.
After nearly three months of inactivity I was finally put on the waiting list for the acute ward in Oldham and my first stay at the PICU was nearly over.
The day I found out that I would be moving back to an open ward in Oldham was one of my happiest. Finally I would have a little freedom as leave to go out is granted on acute wards and everything isn’t locked.
I firmly believe that there should be more activities on PICUs because the dull atmosphere leads to rumination and negative thoughts. There should be short courses on literacy and numeracy so patients can develop at least a little during their stay.
How did you find your stay at a PICU, how did you cope?