1. Covid-19 Café
2. Rainbow of Cognitive Dissonance (1)
3. The Hermit and the Hospital
4. Rainbow of Cognitive Dissonance (2)
5. My Apocalypse Outfit
Photo by The Grey Monk, Tablecloth: Sand Hill by Anna Pitjara
Somewhere in the Australian desert... there is a large network of
underground caves, as in Coober Pedy. A secret society is gathering
here for End Times. Covert operations have been underway for many
years. The site is equipped with food and supplies and a
pentobarbital lab. The number of bodies discovered later will greatly
exceed the total number of deaths worldwide due to Covid-19. A note
addressed to Australians and Citizens of the World will be found with
We are not a death cult or a religious cult. This is our statement
about lack of humane end of life options. We have all suffered enough
and will not be put off by false promises, nor will we be guilted
into a convenient but false positivity. We feel you have forgotten
us, put us indefinitely on hold, and that when a worldwide crisis
occurs, we are hypocritically counted or measured as part of your
'success', your 'compassion' in not abandoning any of your citizens.
Dr Velvet Thong: That looks suspiciously like a bottle of
wine on the table.
Velvet: Just as I was feeling like I needed to get out into
the world somewhere, the Covid Crisis hit. I had managed 18 weeks
without alcohol. When I cracked, rather than drink in my room I came
up with some ideas to create a café here.
Covid-19 restrictions haven't changed my 'lifestyle' much, except
when it comes to the possibility of being able to go anywhere, once
I'm 'ready'. In April, it was one of those rare times when I was
'ready', or close to it, and I couldn't go anywhere, and that was one
of the contributing factors to me drinking again, and now I'm in the
I empathize with what the world is going through.
Dr Velvet Thong: So much has happened since last we spoke.
You've been conspicuously silent.
Velvet: I'll start by breaking the silence with a quote from
my 2007 response to John Howard's Intervention:
As long as John Howard refuses to acknowledge that Indigenous
Australians have good reason to fear that they will be unfairly
treated by those with more power and resources, and as long as no
long-term commitment to health and social planning is made, he is not
'doing the right thing'. His motives are questionable, as is his
version of 'help'.
I am not saying it's fine to say something once a million years ago
and that's it, you've done your part, you've proven you're one of the
good guys. I'm saying that to repost this now is what it's possible
for me to do, right now, rather than say nothing, before any more
time goes by. The current government doesn't get it.
It's my way of trying to show support, and of saying it's not all in
your heads, you are not complaining too much.
[If you want to see the full 2007 article, which contains various
offshoots and angles, click land
of grog and porn. I know it's flawed, and I'm hoping I will
be forgiven for the flaws. It might be obvious, but the title is a
comment regarding white culture.]
Dr Velvet Thong: How's the ankle?
Velvet: I like the idea of being a cyborg, but the contact I
had with the Australian Medical System proved catastrophic.
My ankle is fully functional.
I have a plate and 12 screws in my ankle. X-rays are cool. I was in
the hospital for just under a week in December 2019, I had one
appointment to get stitches out just before xmas, and then I had a
final outpatient appointment for x-rays and a physiotherapy consult
in January 2020, just before Covid-19 became a matter of urgent
I was put in the queue for psych services, but due to Covid-19
restrictions they needed to either cross people off the waiting
lists, or get them to do telephone or video therapy sessions. As
there were no other options, I gave up in early April, although at
that point I had felt I really wanted and needed to talk to
That's when I started drinking again.
Dr Velvet Thong: How have you been getting through the
Velvet: While I was recuperating and doing the rehab, I
watched SBS On Demand (pretty much) all day, every day. And
then I had my alcoholic relapse, and after that I tried watching to
help focus on keeping myself sober. That hasn't been working out so
Dr Velvet Thong: What about music?
Velvet: Last year, I threw an iPod full of pirated material
off the Story Bridge. I had to ask The Grey Monk to take me there, as
I had as little energy as Frodo in Mordor at the foot of Mount Doom.
I don't really know what music I want to listen to any more. I'm
open to something new.
Although I still feel I have accomplished something important
through cumulative effort over the years, through many trips to Mount
Doom and back, the feeling of peace I had and wrote of was
Dr Velvet Thong: You saved The Shire, but not for you?
Velvet: I think I felt pressure to put a positive message out
into the world, but there was also some risk that I'd make myself
ridiculous, untrustworthy from then on, and so after 30 years, I
didn't state a change of mind lightly.
When I couldn't stop drinking even though it seemed to me there was
lots to be happy for in my life, and when I had my accident as a
result, it made me realize that in some ways I had understandably
caved in to pressure to define my peace and positivity in ways
that might help me to feel connected, and happy.
I've always wanted to somehow help those who can't relate to
institutionalized positivity. And I also wanted to feel connected,
The positive thing was that I'd told my story, and I felt that I had
done what I needed to do. I believe that Voluntary Dying can be a
positive choice. I believe I am one of the people for whom it can be
a positive choice.
The reality is that there are painful and debilitating illnesses and
conditions in the world, some of them psychological in nature, that
we do not know how to adequately address, and that we do not
currently have the resources to address. Aussie stoicism is not
enough of an answer.
I've been fighting for a long time to help people understand people
like me, but despite all I've tried and expressed, when I faced the
Australian Medical Establishment, it felt like all of that counted
The resources and know-how do not currently exist for people like me,
and we are right to fear that facing the medical system will be a
Many Australians had only recently recovered from, or are still
trying to recover from, a horrific bushfire season, and now they are
also dealing with Covid-19 and all of its implications.
Australia has put off addressing many equality issues, refugee
issues, quality of life, quality of aged care, disability care and
euthanasia debates for too long (and Australia is not alone in
In this crisis, we don't get to know what elderly sufferers or
potential sufferers really feel, we don't have statistics regarding
wishes, and it all becomes 'save any life at any cost', even when we
don't know how those most affected feel.
I want to stand up for those who do not want their lives prolonged no
matter the cost, and who in fact have been trying to call attention
to the fact that they want more humane end of life options available
But, this does not mean that I want to take away care, life or hope
from any individual who wants to continue living, despite their
suffering or prognosis, despite the expense of their treatment, or
lack of support from friends, family or a community.
I am not buying any of the slippery slope arguments. Life and death
mistakes are made in all medical fields, and there's no reason to
fear there would be a disproportionate amount in this area. It's more
likely that those who are severely suffering would have that
Yes, small strides for Voluntary Dying have been made in places like
Victoria, but the criteria are still too strict, and don't include
people who suffer horribly and are not going to die in 6 months, or
there's no way to be sure, or they have some condition that doesn't
meet the criteria for whatever reason, or they're too sick to inquire
as to their options/rights.
It seems to be common knowledge that Australia has a problem when it
comes to aged care. Where was all this concern for the old folks
before this virus?
Ethics regarding allocation of ventilators and other resources,
including staff effort when it becomes necessary to triage: Prognosis
for recovery is what matters. For those with a poor prognosis, when
it comes to Covid-19 or any other future problems with pandemics and
lack of resources, how will those people be expected to die? Where's
the humanity? Where are the provisions, where's the foresight?
Dr Velvet Thong: Why are you calling him The Grey Monk now?
Isn't that somewhat unkind?
Velvet: I don't mean to be unkind, but I need to make a
statement. I don't think he's hearing me. He is the most monklike man
I've ever had contact with. He has no sense of entitlement at all to
sex, love, pleasure. I want him to know that I think this is a
tragedy. I've tried to express it and tackle it in different ways,
I've tried to find out what it is he wants in life still, and I think
it's that unless something outside of him breaks through his
unconscious self-sabotage, he will never believe he deserves those
He himself came up with the name years ago. It was an attempt to see
the humour in his personal situation.
Dr Velvet Thong: We've been through this before, and I feel it
is my duty to ask you to get back to the topic in hand.
Velvet: Fine. Attention Capitalists: when it comes to this
Covid-19 situation, Epic Fail!
Except companies like Dan Murphy's and Domino's, who have seemed
organized and competent, and very good at preventing panic and
Dr Velvet Thong: Hey! Who's there? This is a private
Okti and Blinky emerge non-sheepishly from behind the
Velvet: It's Okti and Blinky. I asked them to come.
Dr Velvet Thong: Who's up for a vegan wine tasting
At the time of writing, a Dan Murphy's site search turned up 23
pages of vegan wines. Although we know everyone already has a lot to
worry about, we ask that members of the audience please check out
Earthlings and/or Dominion, if you have not already done
Rainbow of Cognitive Dissonance
Rainbow of Cognitive Dissonance 2018
Dr Velvet Thong: Yikes. Or should I say wtf?
Velvet: I tried to paint using my collection of nail polish.
Maybe the only way to make sense of it is to say I'm still trying to
accept what I can't change, find the courage to change the
things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The title
pulls it all together, makes it work, makes me smile.
It represents one of my biggest relationship patterns. I'm in a Bad
Romance with the universe, and I'm trying to break up with
it. I've had it with all the revenge.
Dr Velvet Thong: For what it's worth, these images are not the
whole truth of how you appear to me.
Okti and Blinky are still in the room. They're playing The Quiet
Velvet: I'm struggling not to get weighed down by new baggage
that was attracted by the old baggage.
The Hermit and the Hospital
I can now say I know what it's like to enter an Australian Public
Hospital after living as a fugitive from the medical and mental
health Establishment for approximately 3 decades. I am in a unique
position to report/write an exposé.
Also, I would like to put forth an analogy of my illness as a kind of
'climate change' issue: I've been warning people for a long time, and
I see my accident as a sign that my condition is progressing, getting
worse (perhaps as the planet gets sicker). The Grey Monk is a kind of
traumatized, overwhelmed veteran volunteer firefighter, who thought
he'd seen it all with me, but we managed to reach fire tornado level
this time, such that he symbolizes an Australian Value that
originally represented a decent character/heroic nature, but is
something that now must be questioned, must evolve.
The Grey Monk focused on the positives: that I made it through the
experience without going feral (as I had feared in the preceding
years I might if it ever came to hospitalization), that I was
actually quite articulate, calm and respectful throughout, that we
figured out many difficult practical problems together, that we got
through the stress of it together, that I managed my PT almost
completely on my own.
I eventually brought it back to: 'Communities came together through
the bushfire crisis, but climate change hasn't been resolved. More
fires are coming.'
If you would like to read this article separately from the whole
Covid-19, Rainbow of Cognitive Dissoance entry, click here.
Click the links below, or read all the way through from the bottom of
the contents list:
The Hermit and the Hospital
2. The Accident - The details
3. The Accident - Why?
4. Calling an ambulance
5. Ambulance ride
7. When you can't act normal, even if you try
8. Asking for a psych consult
9. Personal history/previous hospitalization
10. Extremes: too little vs too much stimuli
11. Privacy issues
12. The importance of trust
13. What's in a name?
14. My non-Australian accent
15. Prejudice re: eating disorders and vegetarianism
17. Management of physical pain
18. Unusual stress above and beyond
19. Leaving hospital against medical advice
20. Arranging psych services after release
21. Rehab at home
22. The Grey Nurse
23. Possum Therapy
24. PTSD symptoms
25. Two followup appointments
26. How's the ankle now?
27. Last thoughts
In 2018, I warned The Grey Monk that I felt things were not
controllable, that at any time something might happen that I
consciously did not want to happen, that my unconscious might
overwhelm my consciousness. That very night, he had an
accident and broke his little toe and we went to the hospital
together and I tried to be supportive, but also tried to point out I
didn't think it was a random incident - to me it seemed like his
unconscious was also having a say, and my consciousness interpreted
it as: he was scared, and didn't know what to do and was going to
continue burying his head in the sand and reassuring himself and me
that I was strong, I could probably drink forever and have no ill
effects, and meanwhile a really big fire was coming.
2. The Accident - the details
In late November, I was alone in the house on a major bender. I had
been trying to stop drinking for months, and hadn't been successful.
I was drinking large amounts of alcohol, usually 2.5-3 bottles of
wine per session. The Grey Monk was away for work, and when I ran out
of alcohol, I called him, in case he had hidden alcohol somewhere in
the house. As it turned out he had - a lot more than I bargained on,
and I felt sick and scared when I saw how much, because I knew I'd
drink my way through it all.
I was on the last bottle, I only had half a bottle to go, and he'd
be home the next day, I'd drunk 2.5 bottles and was at maximum
drunkenness, just trying to maintain for the rest of the night, when
I don't remember exactly what happened, but I knew right away
something wasn't right, and I suspected my ankle was broken. My glass
was shattered and the pieces were everywhere. I had been going down
the stairs to get a refill.
My ankle was broken in 3 places, and it was dislocated. I didn't have
any other physical injuries.
3. The Accident - Why?
I don't expect that anyone who believes my only problem is drinking
too much and not trying hard enough to quit has read this far, but
just in case there are any stragglers here.. I know I have a problem,
and I've been trying to quit since I was 13 years of age. It's not
really working out for me.
What motives could my unconscious possibly have for putting me
through that horror? Was it because I had decided the way to have
peace and be happy with what I have is to make sure I never had
contact with people again, and accepted that I have drinking and
non-drinking phases? The accident showed me that I wasn't
unconditionally happy with that arrangement.
It could have been a last ditch effort to try to get 'help' and
contact with other human beings, and there were a lot to choose from,
but it was more likely another horrible low designed to show me the
future. The positive take I suppose is that it was a creative
strategy to find me material to write about. It could be something
like a self-regulating thing that wakes me up and forces me to get
certain kinds of exercise before some abilities atrophy beyond
I don't think it was 'deserved' or that it was poetic justice or
anything along those lines. I saw it coming and couldn't stop it. I
think it's a sign that my illness is progressing, or, that it is a
'natural' part of the aging process, for me.
4. Calling an ambulance
The best thing, once I had realized my predicament, would have been
to find a way to kill myself without further ado. I had promised not
to do it in The Grey Monk's house, but I thought in the circumstances
he might have understood. He was due to arrive in 20 hours or so, and
in a way, it might have been convenient. He would have just completed
a work assignment, and while it would have been stressful dealing
with all the arrangements, in some ways it might have been a relief
that it had finally happened and was no longer hanging over both our
But only if I'd just done it, and not draggled him into it.
I didn't have a good plan, and the discomfort from the ankle made it
difficult to concentrate. The main issue was that I should have been
ready for such a situation beforehand, and I wasn't.
To leave the house would have been difficult. My assessment had been
that it was better not to stand up, so I was basically dragging
myself around the house, trying to protect the ankle, and the only
time I put in effort to stand/put my weight on the other leg was when
I went to urinate. If I was going to go somewhere, where? The
driveway is very steep, and while I could get up that, I'd probably
draw too much attention to myself, whether I tried to get in a taxi,
or just crawl around the neighbourhood.
I called The Grey Monk in distress, and it was a horror, something
along the lines of 'I know I promised not to kill myself in your
house, but I think this might be an exception', but I was not calm, I
was crying and very upset and I know that makes the whole thing
worse, and I never wanted to be like that. I'd had to make it up a
flight of stairs and past all the obstacles in The Grey Monk's
non-tidy bedroom to get to a landline phone. I ended up saying I'd take
some time to think about it, then when I'd made my decision, I called
him to say I was about to call the ambulance. He said he'd get the
earliest flight he could, and meet me at the hospital.
I was telling myself to try to hold it together for 12 hours or so.
They'd slap a cast on me, the Grey Monk would come to collect me, and
then when I had a chance to think back at home, I'd get ready to deal
with the rest, whatever it was.
As it turns out, I didn't know much about broken ankles, but we'll
get to that.
I remembered to/managed to blow out candles, turn off my
entertainment centre and grab my backpack.
When I made the call, I said 'Hello, I'm very drunk, I'm alone, and I
think I've broken my ankle.' I suppose I could have said 'Hello, I'm
very drunk, I'm a recluse and I think I've broken my ankle. What
should I do?'
I was not 'my best self', or the self you want to be when forced to
have contact with the public after years of isolation. I had actually
just done the laundry - it's something I often have done just before
The Grey Monk is set to return from wherever - and I had showered
that night. I was wearing makeup, a wig, and my usual black uniform
of many layers. I was wearing clean underwear. My finger and toenails
were painted black, but there were some chips on the fingernails, and
I think a couple of toenails were chipped in the fall.
But I was in a very bad psychological headspace, and I couldn't have
called if I hadn't been drunk, and deluded about what I was about to
5. Ambulance ride
I had made the decision to try to appear 'normal' and non-fussy.
I was told the paramedics couldn't get to me upstairs, so I had to
make it down 2 flights of stairs to the front door. I asked one
ambulance attendant to lock 2 doors for me. An old social mode kicked
in and I think I was chatty and friendly throughout the ambulance
ride, but it's possible I was annoying and I was being made fun of or
looked down on.
I made it to the hospital, although the ride seemed long, still
determined to try to appear 'normal' until a cast was on and I could
Was I actually sort of charming and cute, drunk as I was? What I
think of as perfect drunkenness is when I can sing along with Moulin
Rouge and feel like I am hitting the notes. I think the likelihood of
me being charming and cute is about as likely as me hitting any of
the notes, at any time.
Australia doesn't prioritize mental health.
There are no psychologists, psychiatrists or therapists on call.
Medical injuries or health issues can occur at any time, and
Emergency Departments are prepared for this, but not for
The Emergency Department was brightly lit and to me it seemed like
patients accepted they wouldn't have much privacy. They had an
automatic obedience to hospital authorities. I sometimes found myself
automatically doing things I don't like doing, including shaking
hands with a couple of people. People would probably think there's a
discrepancy if suddenly I start saying I don't want to be touched,
but it's one of those odd things, an automatic ingrained polite
response vs mounting sense of panic. I had originally decided to try
to act 'normal' for 12 hours. I thought I could pull it off, partly
because I was going to be feeling the effects of alcohol, plus
whatever pain relief they gave me, for some time. I don't remember
exactly when, but I received Fentanyl, and it seemed effective and
The first x-rays are a blur, but I was able to deal with having my
yoga pantleg rolled up to the knee. It was summer in a subtropical
climate, and my skin wasn't in terrible condition. I had decided I
would have to be brave about my weight/body issues, and in writing
this up I am going to make an effort not to reinforce too many
negative self-perceptions, while still getting across the facts of
I was seeing many people, and perhaps because up until that point
I had seemed friendly and chatty, they were surprised when I didn't
want someone to lift my top (technically, 3 layers of 'tops', not
counting the sport bra) in the crowded Emergency so they could
put on those little things for resuscitation. That was the first
major hurdle, and when I could no longer even pretend to be 'normal'.
I wasn't able to think on the spot and say I refuse this option, and
if I need 'help', I don't want it, let me go. I have an Advance
Health Directive. I don't want my life prolonged by any mechanical
or artificial means, and maybe that doesn't count in this case, but
I might have had a right to refuse any 'care' I did not wish to
They had to put me under anaesthesia in order to get those things on
(but they also needed me under so they could set the bones). I
saw a lot of different people in the hospital, with different skin
colours, gender and sexual identities/orientations, and I did worry
about my reactions hurting others I really didn't want to hurt. I
responded better in hospital to people who weren't impatient, or
dismissive or who clearly wanted me to stop being silly, but in that
moment, there was no person in the universe who could have got
me to just comply. That's why I asked for a psych consult. My
original plan to just 'play it normal' wasn't going to hold up and I
I was basically so upset by the whole thing, even having been put
under anaesthetic, that it felt like I had been raped, although I
could understand that isn't what happened, it was just that my
problems had been left unaddressed for years, like climate change,
and suddenly I'm in an emergency I'm not prepared for, and from then
on, there were more and more people, and it all seemed to escalate. I
think someone said something, and then they began to treat me with an
I was taken to a special part of the Emergency Department, curtains
were closed around me, and I think the lights were dimmer. One nurse
in particular tried to find out what I needed to make me stay in
They sent me a drug and alcohol counsellor who I thought was nice. I
did like him.
What I needed immediate help with was my trauma response to being
hospitalized, and while some people definitely tried, the timebomb
finally exploded, and the entire stay was like an extended
I know it's not rape if you give consent, but allowing people to
touch me was required. It was a nightmare I had no escape from, for a
week. I was constantly aware that if I did not consent scores of
times per day, I might lose my leg, never walk again, whatever. Once
I understood the seriousness of my injury, and the implications and
specifics of treatment and rehab, I knew that what I wanted was
pentobarbital. I didn't want to go through with the treatment,
surgery and physical rehabilitation process. I didn't want people to
invest time, energy, resources, the expense of CTs and surgery and
all the rest. So for me, consent was not really consent, as I didn't
have any good options, or any chance for dignity.
I was planning to go home (once The Grey Monk arrived) and focus
right away on killing myself (I did not express this out loud), but I
was told if I left the hospital I would not be given any pain
medication. And so if I could manage to plan and execute a suicide
before the last pills wore off (at that point I was on Oxy, and it
would only have been a couple of hours), there was still the serious
problem of The Grey Monk. He was in distress himself, because he knew
what the situation was.
While I had waited for The Grey Monk in Emergency, the curtains were
closed but I remember at times having glimpses of a man opposite me.
For a very long time, his breathing was very labored and sounded
excruciating, and this continued and escalated when The Grey Monk
arrived, as he also remembers it, as well as the nurse's reactions.
The nurse with me seemed almost casual about it when she told me he
was dying and would be removed soon. I was thinking that nurses must
be so used to certain things that this kind of death does seem
natural to them since it happens so often, but I felt like a failure
as a human being. I didn't even volunteer, I didn't ask for a
wheelchair to go over and sit with him, but I also realized that
maybe he wouldn't have wanted a stranger sitting with him, anyway. I
wouldn't have. But this incident emphasized to me that many people
die very painful and unpleasant deaths, and it doesn't seem like
anything can be done to ease their suffering. I told the nurse that I
could wait, and that it was more important to attend to this man.
When The Grey Monk's mother was dying of cancer, I remember a woman
in her ward moaning in pain, and we tried to alert someone, and were
brushed off. I also remember patients being left in their diapers too
I don't blame nurses for these, or other problems. I think they are
overworked, and that the system is not set up to allow people
more options, comfort and dignity, or better communication, such
that the demands of a nurse's schedule are understood and respected,
while a patient doesn't have to abandon all attempts to advocate for
After the initial x-rays were taken, a cast was placed on my ankle
and I was told the surgeon would decide on a course of action once
the swelling had gone down. (It was just after this that I was
transferred to the quiet area in Emergency, opposite the dying
Later that day, I was transferred to the ward where I spent the
remainder of my stay.
Two days later, x-rays were taken again (maybe this was CT) and it
was discovered that the ankle had redislocated. I was then taken for
an ex-fix (an external fix) which is pictured in the photo below.
Three days later I had surgery during which the ex-fix was removed
and I was fitted with a plate and 12 screws. I checked out of the
hospital the next day, against medical advice.
Ex-fix Ankle 2019 - photo by The Grey Monk
7. When you can't act normal, even if you try
A person who was in a vulnerable state and wanted as little attention
drawn to herself in that state as possible actually attracted more
attention than those who kept their heads down and followed the
hidden automatic response to rules/authority.
As the Fentanyl was due to wear off, they switched me to Oxycodone
and I was also offered Valium for both my withdrawal symptoms and my
anxiety. After it was supposed to have kicked in a nurse asked me if
I could feel the effects and I said I really couldn't tell.
I was anxious enough that I didn't urinate for 17 hours, and for me,
after having drunk 2.5 bottles of wine, that's extremely unusual. Not
to mention that normally I'm well-hydrated, drinking up to 2 litres
of water a day to help me feel hangovers less, and to attempt to keep
my skin in better condition.
When I was awake and did not have to talk to anyone, throughout my
stay, I tried to close my eyes and keep doing breathing and
relaxation exercises, almost constantly.
While hospitalized, I never used a phone or computer, I didn't listen
to music, I didn't read books or magazines, and I didn't watch tv. I
had one stressful conversation with another patient on the ward. The
Grey Monk visited once per day. The rest of the time I did what I
have written in the paragraph above.
I had managed to stay out of hospital for almost 30 years, and that
streak was broken. I now could not trust myself to be safe in my own
home, which was never really my home, anyway.
8. Asking for a psych consult
During my hospitalization of 6.5 days, I asked at least 3
times for a psych consult. I never received a clear or comprehensive
answer. I was told that psych staff were available only 9-5, Monday
to Friday. I think once I was told it would take a week, but again I
did not feel I understood the explanation. I think it represents that
Australian hospitals do not prioritize mental health, or understand
the mind-body connection as it pertains to hospitalization. My
understanding was that when people are in hospital, they will know
not to be 'silly'.
I was told I had to put certain things on hold for now, and
concentrate on my ankle.
It could be that medical staff aren't completely familiar with psych
protocol, and it could be that the hospital is split, the way
universities are split - 'we're the smart ones, and the psych
(humanities, arts) people are the mental defectives.'
It is framed as a resource issue, but what's underneath that relates
to a belief system that affects hospital structure and
I saw the same drug and alcohol counsellor once more during
my stay, and again, I liked him. I was not at that time having any
trouble staying sober.
I think he might have understood that it didn't seem realistic to me
that I could stop drinking permanently.
During my stay I saw so many different nurses, physiotherapists,
surgeons, doctors and technicians that it was difficult to keep track
of everyone, and people in the same discipline often said
9. Personal history
I have problems with being touched and even being looked at, although
I don't have trouble looking people in the eye when we are speaking.
I don't have trouble in public when I am in the zone and have made a
choice to go out into public, in search of adventure or enjoyment.
I have been hospitalized 3 times in my life (in Canada, where I was
born and lived until 2000) for psych-related issues. The last time
occurred in 1990, and since then I have done my best to avoid
hospitalization, not because I was functioning well, but as a
fugitive from the mental health system and society. My diagnosis at
that time was: Long-term Depression, Anxiety and Bulimia. I think
what was missed was: PTSD and BDD, partly because in my 20s, I was
still somewhat 'robust'.
I realize many people might believe that I ended up in the
hospital through making bad choices, and because when you're a drunk
it inevitably catches up with you, but I see it as an unfortunate
consequence of unresolved psychological issues, such that this was
my 4th incarceration for psych-related issues.
Addiction is currently defined, in part, as the inability to stop,
despite mounting consequences (and an accurate appraisal or
understanding of the consequences). Apparently to a signficant number
of those who work in the Australian Medical Professions, this is
One young white male doctor wondered aloud as to whether now might
not be the time to consider making some 'lifestyle changes'. I said
nothing. Ah, that's another point. He was in a swarm of doctors when
he said it, and that reminds me that often it felt like nurses or
groups of medical professionals were ganging up on me, or like the
odds weren't fair.
The training to respect patients in various ways without showing
prejudice is often obvious, but overall, there is a sense that
patients aren't entitled to privacy or modesty - even if there are
roomfuls of staff present. It's all either matter-of-fact, and
expected that patients will comply with medical authority, or it
devolves into 'don't be silly' impatience. Patients must accept that
teams must regularly be relieved, and that there are many members of
each team, as well as a seemingly constant influx of other specialty
departments and excursions. We're all medical professionals, we all
have your best interests in mind, we know what we're doing, we're on
a tight schedule and time is money, you're not so special, do you
think we haven't seen it all a million times before, accept that
you're a piece of meat, or leave, you ungrateful cow. And you brought
this on yourself, so don't complain. It's the subtext beneath all the
I've never been violent in any of my hospitalizations (or dealings
with paramedics, or police.) I've never raised my voice or been
snarky. I've never needed to be restrained physically or
10. Extremes: too little vs too much stimuli
The only person I had had contact with in Australia for a very long
time was The Grey Monk. At the time of the accident, he wasn't home,
but even when he was home, there were/are times when we don't
communicate, and because of my issues, he walks around averting his
I have many unusual behaviours, including but not limited to
showering in the dark, and locking my bedroom door and bathroom
doors, even when I am in the house alone.
I went from that situation to having contact with hundreds of people
in a very short period of time. I was at my most vulnerable - dealing
with a serious, incapacitating physical injury on top of the existing
issues. We know that people who have been in solitary confinement, or
who have experienced extreme isolation can have trouble adjusting to
human contact and that chronic understimulation can lead to an
overwhelming perception of overstimulation when there's a drastic
change, as well as an increase in paranoid ideation.
I was asked many times a day how I was that day, and if it was ok to
touch me, take blood pressure, jab me with this or that, shift
positions, and I had to ask for assistance to be taken to the toilet.
My sense is that most patients were unconsciously affected by
Australian Values, affecting such things as not wanting to be a
bother, and stoically managing to hold it and not ask to go to the
toilet very often.
When the ex-fix was in place, my impression was that I was putting
the nurses out more to ask to be taken to the toilet than to use a
bedpan, so I reluctantly agreed to pee in a bedpan, and a couple of
times I accidentally spilled a bit (possibly because I was so
anxious), and the sheets had to be changed, and so it was more work,
and from then on I just asked to be taken to the toilet.
Once I had been moved from Emergency to a ward, I had no access to a
walker or anything else for the duration of my stay, except on the
final day when physiotherapists wanted to watch me walk with a
walker and with crutches, and took these implements with them when
they left. I spent a week on my back, with no escape.
Not only was I physically incapacitated and helpless, I was
undergoing alcohol and caffeine withdrawal, and although valium
helped with the physical symptoms, it didn't shut off my perception,
or help with psychological withdrawal/dependence, in a situation that
was a lot more stressful than being at home.
Some nurses seemed to think B1/thiamine was to help with symptoms of
withdrawal, and that I probably had no idea what it actually was when
I said I already took it regularly. I've been taking it for years on
a daily basis. I had looked into the idea of harm minimization. It
seemed to me that B1 was something I could take that would be
unlikely to cause any harm or damage, and that it might help prevent
the nutritional deficiency associated with the kind of brain damage
that occurs with chronic alcohol use.
Don Quixote explained to one physiotherapist that staying in the
hospital for me was akin to having a fear of spiders and being told
you can't have treatment unless you consent to lying in a pit with
spiders crawling all over you for the duration - and I think she
understood, because she said that she herself was afraid of spiders.
Doctors and surgeons have to figure out which life-threatening
problem is the most serious and needs to be prioritized, but in this
case, no one had the ability to diagnose one of the relevant
problems, and I believe this is because the training medical
professionals receive perpetuates misinformation and stigma in
relation to mental illness. As a result, they didn't know that
staying in hospital and complying with their rules and requests was
akin in a psychological sense to being asked to constantly walk on a
trimalleolar fracture before it had been set and operated on and
before I had done months of rehab.
But what could they have done? I realize there wasn't much they could
do, according to established protocols and available resources, and
the reality is that my condition is so far advanced that there might
not have been anything they could have done. In an ideal world, if
someone was able to diagnose the severity of my condition and
prognosis, they would have offered me the choice of Pento. Barring
that, maybe they could have let me go home with a script for
Oxycodone, such that I would have some time to make and carry out a
good plan. What they did say was 'if you leave now, you will get no
further meds'. They didn't give me a real choice when it came to
refusing medical treatment. I knew if I left, I'd be in serious pain
before long, and I needed all my wits about me to carry out a
Nobody will get any thanks from me for 'keeping me alive', or
tricking me into staying 'alive' longer, with new severe
(psychological) damage. Medical professionals have to deal with life
and death all the time. Don't be so fucking squeamish about
Maybe there could at least be an investigation, and discussion about
the costs of Pento vs the costs I incurred during my stay.
11. Privacy issues
When I was taken to a ward, the blue curtain was closed
around me and a sign was put on it. I don't know what the sign said,
but doctors passing by would comment on it 'There's a Patient
History here', and they'd speak in quiet tones.
The people on one shift might try to keep the curtains closed, but
people on other shifts forgot, and food service people and floor
moppers came and went at will and there's no way to knock on a
curtain. At one point when the curtains were open, there was a guy
with his phone pointed at me, and I wondered if he was sending my
picture with all the gossip everywhere. Probably in every hospital
there are people who do this sort of thing, it's part of human
The first day, there was a man opposite me who couldn't be left alone
for more than a moment, and he tried striking up a conversation with
me, through the closed curtain, despite the sign. He was sexist and
prejudiced against mental illness, and luckily after our awkward
conversation, there seemed to always be someone else for him to talk
to, until the time he left the ward.
I think some people understood my personal horror, at least to some
extent, and were sympathetic and tried their best to adapt hospital
protocol for me, but they had little power, and couldn't be on duty
I was allowed to wear my wig for my entire hospital stay, and in
surgery, I was allowed to wear a white cap over top of the wig. I
don't usually sleep in wigs, but I did for the entire hospital
Showering in the little room would have been a logistical nightmare,
aside from the fact I wondered if there might be cams for my 'safety'
in the room.
When I got home, I kept sleeping in the same wig for a while. (And I
slept fully clothed.) It was partly because I wasn't used to having
The Grey Monk pop in and out of my private room (he doesn't usually
enter the room at all), and I needed it as a security blanket. I had
to keep my door unlocked because it was too difficult to get up
quickly, and so I felt nervous. Even when I am alone in the house, I
usually lock my bedroom door, and the bathroom door.
My hair underneath was badly tangled, but less than I had expected.
(It was in a braid, and pinned, and I remembered while in hospital to
take out the metal clip.) I used my fingers first to detangle as best
I could, then very slowly brushed it out. I lost less hair to this
than I expected I would, but approximately 3 months after the date of
the accident, my hair started falling out. The rate has slowed down
considerably, but at the time of writing, it's still falling out a
bit more than 'normal'.
When I discovered I was allowed to do self-sponge baths in the
hospital behind my curtains, I started doing this regularly. I had to
direct The Grey Monk how to find my clothes and underwear at home,
and how to launder the ones I took off, but he wrote it all down on
For surgery, I was required to wear a gown, with nothing underneath.
I felt unsafe, my body unprotected with this arrangement. In the
hours before surgery, I would have liked to have had the option to
have a second gown, to wear it backward, like a robe. In 1990, I had
been offered this option during the first week of my 2 month psych
stay, when I was required to wear a red gown as I was deemed a flight
or suicide risk.
[The gown I was given had something like dried food or snot on it,
and when I pointed it out, the nurse shrugged and acted like I was
being overly picky. I guess whatever the substance was, it had at
least been cleaned through the laundering process.]
12. The importance of trust
Those blue curtains aren't soundproof, even if they remain shut.
There were some questions I didn't want to answer on the spot, or
before I knew someone was 'really listening'.
I couldn't develop a sense of trust with anyone there because I had
to talk to so many different people, constantly. There was no
continuity, and there wasn't enough integration of all data. Some of
the behind-the-scenes conversations I think led to well-meaning
people being sent in to see if they could get me to open up, and the
result was that while I was trying to heal, I found myself worrying
about other people's feelings and trying to stay centred in my own
In a large hospital, when you have contact with so many people, there
will undoubtedly be a wide range of personalities, communication
styles, beliefs, prejudices and personal preferences. If you have
any stigmatized or poorly understood conditions, the odds are not in
your favour, despite any sensitivity training staff receive. I would
say that I have amassed more than an average share of stigmatized
conditions over the course of my life.
It's one thing to roll with all the psychological diversity in a
setting when you're at the top of your game, and quite another when
you're physically incapacitated and psychologically overwhelmed.
And another again to begin to talk to anyone, for real, about things
that have been left unaddressed for more than 30 years.
I understand that maybe nothing could have been done, or not much,
but people could have tried harder to get me a Psych referral, at all
stages of my stay, or helped me to understand the process.
How frustrating it is when people want to try to address symptoms,
but don't seem to have a good grasp of the overall picture, and don't
seem interested in the cause or how an unrecognized cause might
continue to impact treatment of any or
Another trust issue: you can't assume that there are no patients or
visitors with criminal minds. Some people, upon hearing people's full
names and dates of birth (repeating these details clearly is a
requirement to receive medication and certain other treatment), might
be motivated to use that info, which means people aren't technically
'safe' in hospital.
The Grey Monk had a look around, and said that there wasn't much
monitoring of who was coming or going, and if he (or others) had been
so inclined, he (they) might have been able to pinch some
supplies, or get up to who knows what.
Everyone, from every walk of life, usually needs or visits a
hospital at some point.
13. What's in a name?
I had to repeat a name associated with trauma many times every day to
access drugs and treatment, a name that is not my chosen name and
that represents having no choice. This is the current hospital
protocol, and it has probably been established for the hospital's
safety and patients' safety, and I would hazard a guess that it might
have something to do with how many staff members deal with any
one particular patient.
How could I feel 'empowered' in such an environment, with such
rules? What would this do to my sense of personal identity?
In addition, I didn't feel safe explaining about the name Xesce,
because it wouldn't have been easy to repeat the explanation hundreds
of times, and because I wasn't sure it would have been safe to have
people there find all the easily searchable internet content,
factoring in all the different personalities and belief systems I
would encounter during my stay. I was worried I might face intense
prejudice, even if surreptitious in various ways, because what I have
expressed online is difficult to understand at a glance.
I suppose that's on me, that my treatment didn't start with me
secure in my identity?
When I was in the hospital, I automatically told one person when
asked what I do that I am a self-published author who writes about my
struggle with mental illness. And then I realized it wasn't so smart,
and that it might make my stay even worse if people were more
prejudiced about me and so I stopped saying it. I was afraid of
having no power and I was afraid of feeling like everyone was out to
get me. I felt that way because of the experiences I had already had
so far in that current hospital stay. And I still think that it
probably would have been too much information, and it would likely
have been taken the wrong way because it was too much to absorb. I
was in too vulnerable a position.
So after that, when asked by young nurses if I worked, I said no, and
I said it without self-deprecation or self-consciousness, but I could
hear the judgment, despite their sensitivity training.
Being socially inconsistent stresses me, but trying to be universally
considerate interferes with my ability to process in the moment.
14. My non-Australian accent
I had to make small talk all the time. I'm not married, don't have
kids or family or job, and so I suppose it was natural I'd get asked
many times a day where my accent was from. Innocuous? It's all part
of trying to figure out what right I had to be there. With Covid-19,
I imagine people would instinctively distrust me if I opened my mouth
to speak. How long have you been in the country, do you travel a
lot... but the hidden subtext here is: what right do you have to be
here and what right do you have to Australian resources?
I've been a permanent resident since 2003, but I've made no secret of
the fact that I scammed my way into the country, and that the way The
Grey Monk sees it is that we made a political statement about fascist
immigration policies. And no, I don't feel entitled to any Australian
resources, and as far as that goes I've kept my nose pretty clean
over the years (I haven't even used my medicare card all that much),
before now, but on humanitarian grounds, I would like pentobarbital,
and I'd be willing to pay for it.
If you carefully read my report, you may conclude that I have
contributed (free of charge) much that you might have to pay others a
lot for, regarding how to improve the medical system.
Speak Australian, Mate.. all of the issues and hidden agendas
involved with asking me where my accent is from.. I mainly have a
problem with those who want people to speak English and adopt
Australian culture and values - while not realizing how bad their own
English is, and that some Australians seem to find it humorous how
dumb Americans and Canadians can sound, without realizing there are
many pasty Australian equivalents. I know, Canadians are so non-
threatening that even when they sound uneducated, they get a free
There is a very strong anti-American prejudice, and I do often
get the feeling that in order to fit in, I have to denounce the US,
whether I'm American or not. And that it's best not to say that
Australia is still behind the US in a lot of ways, or follows its
lead, as in legalizing same sex marriage. And they don't seem to
realize that the Labor party might be spelled the way it is because
Australia used to admire America.
At one point, one nurse took a long look at me and called me a silly
sausage. I don't like sausages, and I could have taken it as an
insult. I understood that was her sense of humour, however, I didn't
laugh, or play along. Australian Values. We've all got struggles and
hardship, get over yourself. Be apologetic about drinking. You're
supposed to bring up how silly and irresponsible you are before we
do, and show contrition.
15. Eating disorders and vegetarianism
I think eating disorders are still widely misunderstood.
It's possible I faced prejudice for being vegetarian.
I had mentioned my previous bulimia diagnosis. It has been a long
struggle to sort out my eating, and in a hospital it feels really
unfair to have people judging me for being fussy. It is still an
issue that if I give up caffeine and alcohol, I have to be careful
with food. Also, in a hospital, vegetarian and vegan options should
be a given, and no one should be hassled, or given attitude over
requesting them. Maybe it should be a job requirement for all
hospital management and staff to Watch Dominion online.
On the first night, a nurse had brought around a tray of sweets, and
I think that was to help my detox, but I didn't take any. I was
polite, but I'm not sure it was understood that in withdrawing from
alcohol and caffeine I have to be careful about what I eat so as not
to trigger binge behaviour, or other behaviour or an 'unsettled mind'
that will ultimately lead back to caffeine and alcohol.
When I detox at home, I've reached the stage in my drinking career
where I experience alcohol withdrawal syndrome. At present, the main
'safe' sugar boost is apple and blackcurrant juice.
I will usually avoid the orange juice offered on airplanes, and the
same type was offered in hospital. I associate it with an
unmanageable feeling of acidity later.
I was asked every day more than once if I wanted coffee or tea, and
maybe I was coming across as a puritan, but caffeine is a serious
problem for me. I had to say no every day. I was put in the position
of having to say no every day. For me, it's not the same, but it's
similar to being asked a few times every day if I would like a glass
of wine with my meal. It's a gateway drug.
I didn't want to be awake any longer than necessary in the
hospital, but more importantly, if I was going to do my rehab, I
couldn't be on caffeine of any description - because for me, it's
part of the slide back into alcohol, and just having it once can lead
to a lack of focus in my mind that leaves things unfinished, such
that as soon as I'm on my own, I go back to alcohol.
I'm also somewhat surprised that in light of me mentioning my
bulimia diagnosis I was prescribed laxatives and stool softeners in
case I had constipation from taking oxy - without a doctor
discussing it with me. Anyway, maybe it's not a big deal, because
I've never taken laxatives, and I didn't need them here, but maybe
medical professionals need to be more aware of what it means to have
an eating disorder, or to have related addictions, like caffeine
I was a 53 year old woman healing from a serious fracture. The main
sources of calcium available to me were full cream milk, full fat
yogurt and full fat Tasty cheese, although I was once offered and
accepted cottage cheese. It's not vegan, it's part soy and part cow,
but I asked The Grey Monk to bring me High Protein Up & Go from home,
and I continued to consume it upon my release. The soy milk I used to
drink had been discontinued some time ago and it was getting harder
to find anything suitable in supermarkets. At my age, it's a good
idea to make sure calcium and protein intake are sufficient to shore
up bones and muscles, regardless of any fractures.
Full fat doesn't equal evil, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be
better integrated with lower fat options, for a better overall
I liked the chickpea couscous.
Most people can't wrap their heads around what this really means,
and it's like they think there must be an app for that condition.
I don't have a phone and the only person in Australia I see in person
is The Grey Monk.
I wanted to note down that when I had my accident, I had no one to
tell. I could talk to GM, but he talked about the situation to me,
his sister, people he worked with, and a neighbour, and even then, he
probably would have benefitted from more support. I was too
physically and psychologically uncomfortable to write, and I waited 4
months, until I was better, to even inform Boo. I felt some guilt, as
if I were perpetuating unhealthy family communication patterns, but I
thought the best I could do was to say I had something to say I'd try
to say later. I felt that in a way I was carrying the weight of my
fears as well as GM's. Yes, he did everything I asked him, but I had
the responsibility of making all plans, and making sure he wasn't
burdened more than necessary, while not disregarding what I felt was
necessary for my own recovery. Throughout my recovery, I had to fully
participate as Project Manager.
I guess writing now is my way of substituting for talking to people.
I used to at least check my email once per day, but while I still
have brief periods of checking email regularly, in recent years, most
of the time I only check once per month, and just try to get in and
out as quickly as possible.
While in the hospital, I did not search my condition on any device.
I am not against technology, it's just that my behaviour online is
now linked in destructive ways to my addictive patterns. My only
chance of connecting with people and the world is now complicated by
this extra level of difficulty.
During my stay, I did not at any time feel focused or relaxed enough
to conduct an online search, even if I'd had a device.
When I say that I spent most of my conscious hours trying to breathe
and do relaxation exercises, I'm not kidding.
17. Management of Physical Pain
My physical pain was mostly managed well during my stay.
I was admitted early on a Friday and at first they seemed to
regularly ask me if I'd like to have meds (oxy and valium). Oxycodone
is commonly called Endone in the hospital, and I did wonder if this
is because Australians don't want to sound American.
I just said yes to whatever, and also accepted the B1. I am not
totally sure when they started giving me paracetamol and ibuprofen.
They took blood tests and something about my liver readings was a
little high, but they seemed unconcerned about it, and I was
surprised it wasn't higher. Later on, when I had a chance to analyze
the blood test results, I was surprised that most of them seemed so
'normal', considering the truckloads of alcohol I'd been drinking for
the last 5 months.
By Sunday I wasn't having much physical discomfort, and maybe I got
complacent. Normally, I was given meds every 4 hours, and as the time
passed, and no one showed up to ask if I wanted them, I started
thinking that maybe I didn't really need them, but by the 5 hour mark
I was in pain, and by 5.5 I basically had a breakdown.
I described the pain as probably an 8 to the nurse, saying well I can
imagine worse pain, and when she asked if I wanted her to bring the
pain and frowny face chart I honestly didn't think I could
concentrate to read it.
I explained to the nurse that it might not be totally about pain,
that a lot of it was about comprehending my situation, but that I
would appreciate the pain relief I was 'allowed' to have.
From then on, I buzzed them every 4 hours on the dot to make sure I
had oxy and valium throughout my stay. I was allowed to have oxy
every 3 hours, but found I only needed it every 4. In that first
painful scenario, I found that it took 40 minutes for the oxy to kick
in, and so I had a bit of a rough time, but not past that first time.
I also tried to schedule my bathroom trips at the 4 hour mark as
well, so as to pester them as little as possible. I got on a chair
with a leg extender and was allowed to go unattended, but I had to be
wheeled in and out.
On Sunday night, it was discovered that my ankle was in a
re-dislocated state inside the cast. An ex-fix was put in and was
pretty freaky looking, in a fun way.
I later found it was normal for nurses to ignore crying patients for
a while. There was a woman next to me for a time, and at a certain
point she began crying from pain, but didn't want to push the button
and be a bother. This is another thing I felt guilty about. I should
have tried to talk to her, or should have pushed my button to get the
nurses to come, and I didn't. It might be some weird herd response in
hospital where patients are unconsciously following rules. I had a
lot of time to speculate on a lot of things, and I started to piece
together a lot about the psychology of how things work in hospitals,
and I will probably write it all down at some point.
When I was at home with very little oxy and a lot of discomfort,
what I found was that aside from the impossibility even when
exhausted to sleep more than 1.5 hours, coping with the pain was
easier because I was in my own room. The contrast between that and
being in hospital made me more motivated to cope.
I'm an addict, and so I know it's risky for medical professionals to
prescribe painkillers, but I was able to ration the small amount of
oxy I had when at home. I needed 8 of the 20 tabs in the first 24
hours as my pre-surgery nerve block was wearing off, but after that,
I rationed the rest over almost 2 weeks.
I don't want to get into the Polar Care yet, or that I wasn't ever
given clear info about how they could tell when the swelling would
subside enough for surgery to be possible, or that every
physiotherapist seemed to say something different about how it
worked, and how long to keep it on, or that I had to keep explaining
to nurses how to refill it even though the instructions were printed
on the container that held the water and ice - that sounds bitchy,
but I didn't mind explaining, because the ones I had to explain to
were actually very nice. If I try to get to the point, it seemed to
me that almost no one agrees on the whole Polar Care thing.
I was majorly relieved when I found a sign over my bed that said my
operation was scheduled for Wednesday. I had had the impression that
the earliest they were likely to get to me was Friday, but that it
might not be until after the weekend, and I didn't know how I'd
manage to make it through the weekend. I don't know if this was
random luck, or if anyone shifted things around in an attempt to
address my situation.
18. Unusual stress above and beyond
When you're a patient in a large hospital, there's no way to
shield oneself from all contact, and it's likely you're going to
encounter many different personality types and communication styles,
but I think some incidents that occurred while I was there could
potentially throw anyone off guard.
The first anecdote pertains to a me-specific unusual stress.
I think a nurse with pattern alopecia was sent in to get me to open
up about why I was wearing a wig (if she hadn't pointed it out to me,
I wouldn't have noticed anything unusual about her hair/scalp). Maybe
the intent was good, and maybe what they were trying to do was to
'problemshoot' the issue since I kept asking for a psych consult.
They tried to find me people I could relate to, but it made me aware
that I was probably being discussed a lot behind my back, and that no
one thought they could ask me any direct questions, and that no one
understood the extent of my trust issues, or that when trying to
heal, it might add to my psychological load to find it necessary to
prioritize someone else's feelings over my own.
In the end, I came away with the feeling that the Australian stance
is that it's ok to wear a wig if you have cancer, alopecia, or some
other medical condition that causes hairloss, but in all other cases,
only people who can't be trusted wear wigs, and that perception made
me feel less safe in a hospital environment.
[Note: the following occurred not during my initial hospitalization,
but after my second and final followup appointment when I was
It's possible the other nurse flagged me down as I was leaving the
ortho clinic to make it possible for a last chance connection before
I was gone forever, but the way it came across, it was almost like
she and others hoped I would fail on my own.
Again, this is the reason some kind of psych consult is necessary.
When a person has major trust issues, even kindness can be perceived
as judgment, attack or illwill.
This particular woman told me that when she had the same injury, she
thought she knew it all and so she left the hospital against medical
advice, and ended up in a wheelchair for 3 years. And even now, she
had ongoing issues, and she showed me how badly her ankle was
swollen on that particular day.
She also addressed me as 'you poor thing', saying I must be so
uncomfortable with armpit rather than band crutches, and the thing is
that I felt extremely comfortable and competent on the crutches that
day. So it was like that 'kindly intent' actually backfired, and
forced me into the position of having to shore up my own perception
and self-esteem. And again, to both worry about another person's
feelings and circumstances, as well as to try to avoid thinking about
how much others had been discussing me, while not actually
strategizing how they could get me a psych referral/appointment.
I don't even know how to explain the other incident with the abusive
mother, on the same day.
I feel perhaps a responsibility to try to rewrite this without
drawing attention to certain individuals, to have more compassion for
them, to make my point without these specifics. I think it's a
systemic and a herd issue, it's a belief issue and it is very much
about where Australia stands on mental illness and health, whether
they're consciously aware of it or not. They're trying to beat me
down to their way of thinking, in ways meant to appeal to my
humanity. However, I can't help that it remains clear to me that the
system, and the beliefs that sustain it, are unhealthy.
I had massive guilt in relation to not doing 'something' about the
situation with the boy and screaming mother. True, no one else did
(including hospital staff), and it was a hospital, but it was clearly
an abusive situation, and I chose not to speak - maybe mostly
useless, but if nothing else, the boy might have seen that in a
public situation at least someone thought there was something off
about his mother's treatment of him. I know what the horror of people
screaming at you is, I know the stress of primal parental rage, and I
went into stunned mullet mode. I had a lot on my mind, just trying to
get through my last ever interaction with the hospital intact, but I
suppose a situation like this or crisis shows what your real
'character' is, or how much you've progressed or not. In the moment,
I didn't know what to do, and so I did nothing. Then I tried to
recover and re-focus and get myself to my physio appointment.
The hospital acoustics were odd. In the main, large foyer, no one
seemed to hear the disturbance, even though it was visible and near.
The Grey Monk did not hear.
After the coincidental meeting with the nurse who scared me with her
personal horror story, I tried to find a quiet place to sit and relax
until my PT appointment. The Grey Monk became restless, so I said it
was fine to get up and go for a walk. He left a large backpack, I had
my backpack, and my crutches were leaned against a wall. My leg was
elevated on some seats in front of me, so I was comfortable.
A kid ran by, making kid noises, and I smiled, trying to be friendly.
He ran out of view down a corridor. His mother then followed, and she
bellowed extremely loudly at him, shockingly loud, and went after
him, and it looked like she definitely had anger management issues on
the high end of the scale. She turned to me and said 'IT'S SO FUCKING
FUNNY, ISN'T IT, SMARTASS' in a very threatening way.
Hospital staff behind a desk opposite me look worried, and one person
picked up a phone as if to call security, but seemed unsure of the
correct protocol. They huddled together nervously. I decided not to
go after the woman and kid, on crutches, and later this became a
source of stress to shake off. What I witnessed was child abuse, and
I was worried for the safety of that kid, and I just sat there,
trying to focus on my next appointment. It felt like a
Anyway.. on the way back, she had the kid in tow, and she came toward
me and said 'LAUGH AGAIN SMARTASS AND SEE WHAT IT GETS YOU'. My
instinct was that if I said anything or even moved, she was going to
lunge at me. I was aware that if I had to stand up and defend myself,
my physical pain/discomfort (unmedicated), and my current iffy
balance would likely be a problem. My crutches weren't within easy
reach, and it was like in a split second I was estimating how long it
would take to grab them, and I wasn't sure I could manage. I felt
that I was in a very vulnerable position. I said nothing, and kept my
face as expressionless as possible, and at the same time I tried to
stay alert, and I didn't avert my gaze.
After she had left the vicinity, The Grey Monk returned and I relayed
the incident. He hadn't heard the bellowing out in the main
foyer. It was extremely loud, so it must be something about the
Not long after that, a man who worked at the hospital came over to
us briefly and said to me 'you're pretty'. I thanked him and he
walked away. The Grey Monk didn't know what to make of it, and just
chalked it up to one of those things.
So that gave me something else to think about. I guessed he might be
saying something like 'you're attractive, why are you so covered up',
or you have a pretty face, if only you'd lose weight. (Or, the wig
brings out your best features, and covers up the worst.) It was a
puzzling incident, but I tried not to get overwhelmed, or offended
regarding what he actually meant.
And then, to add to the surrealism, down the same corridor, there was
a guy pushing or dragging along a giant harp, of all things. He took
it into the main foyer and started to play. A conscious strategy to
soothe collective anxiety? Or was it a regularly scheduled
I found myself theorizing that maybe the woman, child and hospital
worker were working some kind of scam. There were tons of people
every few seconds walking by on crutches, or in wheelchairs, and I
wondered if because I was obviously incapacitated and there were two
backpacks, that if I'd gone down the corridor to check on the kid,
they'd be out of my view and I wouldn't be able to take them with me,
so someone could easily grab them and run. And then I started to
think there might be security cams, and then that freaked me out and
by the time I got to my physio appointment I wasn't so clear or
coherent, but the physio himself seemed to pick up the slack and
offered multiple options, such that it wasn't say no and it all ends
here, and I finally (!) had a psych referral.
19. Leaving hospital against medical advice
The day following my surgery, I was taken to a model physio room and
asked to climb a set of stairs. I was also observed getting around
using a walker and crutches. I don't think anyone was aware the
extent to which my self-consciousness in being watched affected
I was not considered mobile enough for crutches, but the reason for
keeping me in hospital, according to the discharge papers, was the
number of stairs at my place of residence (there are pretty much
stairs everywhere), even though I said the place I'd be was like a
self-contained apartment I did not have to leave. In an emergency, I
could do what I did when I called the ambulance. I had to make it up
the stairs to get to a phone, and down two flights to the front door
because the ambulance people were not going to go up the stairs. I
was able to go up and down the physio steps on my rear end. They
thought I'd have trouble getting up two flights of stairs to my
bedroom, and I had trouble explaining I felt I could do it.
And once I was home, I did it very fast and was up on my bed in no
time. While The Grey Monk held my moon boot going up or down stairs,
he didn't ever have to lift me.
I could see that while they sympathized with my mental health issues,
they were not going to recommend discharge any time soon. I realize
that people can make quick improvements on crutches, but I assessed
what I thought their criteria were, including the ability to use
crutches on stairs, and I was scared of getting trapped there 2-3
weeks. In fact I never actually used crutches on the stairs at
I factored in my discomfort in being watched, and thought what was
most likely was that I might shut down and refuse to do any further
PT while there. That's another issue a lot of people don't realize:
what am I going to wear for PT, how am I going to handle people
watching me perform tasks, do I seem unhygienic, and many times I had
already been close to shutting down.
I also had other problems I feared might prevent my discharge. I have
a recurring rotator cuff injury, and it did flare up during my rehab.
And not only that, I sometimes also had trouble with the other
shoulder. The left shoulder was the 'bad' one, and my right wrist is
tricky and has been since I did all the work on the house in 2017-18.
I think I had some kind of carpal tunnel, from all the scrubbing,
cleaning, painting, etc, in a 5 month period, and at a certain point,
I had to wrap my wrist snugly to give it support so I could continue.
Obviously, if you move around needing to use arms and hands a lot to
shift your weight, these issues might be triggered, and they could
also be triggered using a walker - especially the wrist.
I think I have arthritis in my hips, and especially the right hip. My
left knee had problems in the past, but was mostly ok, and this time
I had issues with the right knee, because of having to keep the leg
straight, and having to support the weight of the leg in awkward
ways. I did for a time wear a knee support, and this definitely
In addition to the numbness I had in the right foot, I also had
actual pain and lack of flexibility in the ball of my foot. This is
still an issue, and I notice that it's extremely difficult to try to
do a lunge if the right foot is behind, but not in front. The ankle
seems better able to bend properly than the ball of the foot.
At the top of the stairs, it did often feel quite scary. It's like
take your pick about what could give out on me.
Now all of this sounds like I'm really decrepit, and maybe I am, but
I still think I have a kind of flexibility and smoothness of motion
that might not be common in someone of my age. I realize this
wouldn't have been obvious to anyone who saw me in hospital, because
I was constantly on my back, and when I used a walker I was self-conscious
and in discomfort. Another thing is that it's like how
possums can photograph as plump things from some angles, but when
stretched out or walking on a flat surface can look slimmer. I have
to be aware, and I have to keep making adjustments, and in the
hospital I hadn't had time to make those adjustments.
I was not issued the complementary crutches other patients received,
or much in the way of advice or harm minimization.
I guess they were leaving it up to me to rent crutches? But what it
also looks like is that they were saying 'we know you'll be back.'
I had been told PTs would be seeing me in the morning after my
operation and I realized that this might have a lot to do with my
release. After my operation, I was still wearing my gown, and for the
operation I had not even been allowed to wear underwear. It was a
good time to do another self-sponge behind the blue curtains, before
morning, as I wasn't wearing much, and then it would be easy to get
dressed and be ready. And doing it at night, in the dark, would have
been a lot more peaceful for me. All the nurse had to do was wheel in
the tray with two stainless steel bowls, a presoaped sponge thing in
packet, and some white gauze cleaning strip things, and I could do
the rest myself, and she could take it all away later, at her
convenience. Maybe there was paperwork or red tape I didn't know
I wanted to get this done before 7 am, because that's when tons of
people started showing up, doctors making rounds, people bringing
food and taking away trays after, floor cleaning, people poking heads
in for various reasons, and I didn't want to be in the middle of
cleaning myself. And if I didn't get it done before then, I probably
wouldn't have another chance before the PTs arrived, and I already
knew I'd be nervous and self-conscious, so it would have been a
psychological step to at least improving my chances, to feel a bit
cleaner. The soap in the sponges seems fairly strong.
The nurse told me there were only 2 nurses on for the whole ward, and
so I immediately felt guilty, but the problem seems to be that the
nurses are overworked, not that my demands were unreasonable. Her
anger should not have been directed at me, but at her employers.
I thought at the end of the conversation that her preexisting ideas
about me had been challenged somewhat, but I'm not sure what the
final effect was. I didn't get the bowls as early as I wanted, and I
did have discomfort and I was walked in on in the middle of
washing myself. I tried to be a good sport about it, and to
concentrate my efforts on getting the hell out of there, that day,
and in that, I succeeded.
The sensitivity training might have robbed me of valuable
information. For example, no one told me how going back to alcohol
might interfere with healing. I managed to go without, but many
alcoholics would just drink as soon as they got home. While knowing
the possible effects might still not have stopped me, I don't think
there would have been anything offensive in giving me this
information, such that I at least had an option to make an informed
choice. It was more offensive to wonder out loud if maybe it was time
to make some 'lifestyle changes'.
It could relate to that whole 'empowering' thing, and so if a patient
doesn't ask herself, it's bad form to push the info on her? But we
have to see the overview, and also in particular it should have been
noted down how many times I asked for a psych consult. That should
have been in all notes, and training should include that for trauma
cases, or unusual cases, such as mine, where a person has a wide
range of issues and trauma responses, that it is good to try
different approaches to making it possible for such a person to
accept a psych appointment/consult, even if it's in the future, to
not cut all threads, to realize a lot is going on in a hospital stay,
the person is dealing with a traumatic injury, is detoxing from
alcohol and caffeine, has been a shutin for most of her life and
hasn't been hospitalized for 30 years, is not used to talking to
people, and once the stress has reduced somewhat, she might be ready.
There needs to be an understanding that overstimulation is as harmful
as understimulation, especially when a person is forced into the
opposite extreme after experiencing the other.
20. Arranging psych services after release
I may have been too distraught to understand what was communicated to
me, but part of the problem is that throughout the hospital stay, I
had to make many decisions on the spot with no time to search, or go
through options in a safe environment. While in hospital, it seemed
impossible to arrange any kind of psych consult.
After my final outpatient visit, I started the process with a
referral I had obtained from the physiotherapist I saw that day.
If expected to talk on the phone on the spot, it seems unlikely I
would be able to convey enough relevant info to feel any potential
therapy was starting off on the right foot. Yet after faxing in the
referral, and waiting many weeks, that was exactly the situation I
found myself in. I had to be ready at a moment's notice to start from
scratch, with someone who knew nothing about my situation.
Covid-19 limited treatment options. If the only therapy options
include voice or video, it seems unlikely any therapy would be
possible for me. My longstanding unresolved issues include but are
not limited to talking on the phone and being photographed or filmed.
I don't own a mobile phone. Rather than just assume the situation was
hopeless, I thought I'd wait and see what was suggested. For example,
is it possible to start out with plain chat/IM on a computer? I can
type quickly and can organize my thoughts quickly while
On the Psychology Department's website, it was stated that one of the
issues they deal with is Phobias Preventing Treatment. When I finally
spoke to a psychologist on the phone, I first wanted him to read an
email I had written, to introduce myself, and so I wouldn't blow my
only chance. However, he did not want to read the email. The
phonecall went badly, and in the end I gave up my spot to someone
more deserving, in The Time of Covid-19.
The one thing I want to point out that went well: when I had my PT
consult in January, the physiotherapist seemed to grasp my situation,
and offered me many options, such that it wasn't a black or white,
all or nothing thing. I left with a referral, and the option to send
it in or not, when/if I was ready. So I had time to think and then I
asked for GM's help, and he faxed it in, and spoke to someone on the
phone to make sure they received it. I couldn't have done this
myself, as my anxiety was too unmanageable.
So, you get a case where there's a person who has been without
psychological treatment for 30 years and who lives in extreme
isolation, who is clearly saying she wants a consult, and nobody can
figure out how to make it easier for her (with one outpatient
exception), or to help make it happen.
To reiterate, I think the best I really hoped for with a psychologist
was some kind of validation, acknowledgment or feedback, not that my
lifelong issues would be resolved such that I become either a
productive or valued member of Australian society, or even that I
begin actively participating in the types of treatments currently
And if I'm honest, I know I wasn't going in with a totally open
mind. I wanted to expose the prejudice and stigma I suspected were
behind the way everything is run. I wanted confirmation that
Australia's approach to mental health is fucked. However, I still
genuinely wanted there to be some way I could talk to someone, and
Panic Room 2006
21. Rehab at home
From the night of my accident, I was sober for 18 weeks, and caffeine-free.
During this time, I was able to do the physical rehabilitation
exercises required for my ankle, as well as exercises for my overall
The Grey Monk made my bed with my old quilt and quilt cover. Since I
was going to be putting a moon boot on the bed, and I might spill
things, I thought it was better to store the white set. The white one
has held up pretty well for more than 8 years, even though I have
spilled red wine on it a few times. The thing is, as soon as I'd
spill, I'd jump up quickly and get the stains out. I couldn't see
myself doing that in my current condition. The interesting thing was
that my room ended up looking a lot like this image I created back in
2006, when I wanted to know what the room would look like with black
walls. I no longer have a tv in my room - one wall is composed of
cupboards, a computer desk, monitor. When I changed my room in 2011,
the environmentally friendly lighting gave a more blueish cast to
everything, but those original bulbs were taking longer and longer to
boot up in 2019, and when I returned from hospital, The Grey Monk
changed them over to new ones that turned on immediately, and made my
curtains look a redder red. [The old air conditioner was replaced in
2011 by a highly efficient and environmentally friendlier one, in a
In discharge papers, it was acknowledged that with my type of
fracture I might need pain relief longer that the prescription they
provided would allow for, but even though I had stated I had problems
going to a GP, they just said see a GP. I was fully allowed to have
my quota of paracetamol and ibuprofen daily, although they were
unclear about for how long, and didn't seem concerned about any
potential organ issues, even considering my alcohol abuse.
When I had been discharged from the hospital, I spent one day
searching rehabilitation options, but I had so much (physical)
discomfort sitting at the computer, and I was so overwhelmed by it
all that I decided to shut it all out and do it intuitively. Maybe at
some point I will need to go back, and re-search, but at present, I
can do everything I need to do for my daily functioning, and I feel
that I know how to approach more serious training if I want to be
fitter, as in the past.
For the first two weeks, I stayed on my floor, and only left my room
to go to the bathroom or get snacks from the converted pantry. I did
some laps of the hallway with a walker. I only went downstairs once
to see possums.
After my stitches were out, and I was told I could take the moon boot
off when not on my feet, my progress was fairly rapid.
Once the stitches had been removed (12 days post-op), in hospital, I
had a brief session (in the ortho clinic) with a PT who measured my
range of motion (out of the moon boot for the first time there wasn't
much), and suggested 3 exercises. He let me have a pair of crutches
to take home.
After that, I did ankle exercises three times a day, every day.
Point-flex, side-to-side, circles (clockwise and counterclockwise) and
alphabet with toe. I also started doing core exercises in bed and
side leg lifts with point and flex. And a lot of stretching. From
there, I added intuitively. When I was ready, I first started raising
on my toes while in a seated position, feet on floor, and then I did
it standing, and then I did one leg and then the other. I did a lot
of stretches, including calf stretches. When I was not using the moon
boot any more I started using the treadmill. It seemed that going up
and down the stairs also helped and although I only managed once,
when I walked in the neighbourhood outside, it seemed to me that I
needed to walk on varied terrain in order to re-develop certain
I had been scared to use crutches, partly because my bedroom is
cramped, and partly because the carpet is an unstable surface, and
even once out in the hallway, I'm never far from the opening at the
top of the stairs where I fell and had the accident. But to do the
rehab, I had to start doing back and forth trips the length of the
hallway, first with the walker, and then on crutches. I worked up to
doing 30 return trips at a stretch.
For almost the first 6 weeks post-op, I had a very uncomfortable
numbness, and was almost constantly trying to massage my foot, or
apply pressure to it. It was very unpleasant. But just a couple of
days before my 6 week appointment, it started to ease up a little,
and in the next month or two, if it wasn't completely normal it was
I had a gel ice pack and used it about 3 times a day until the
6 week mark.
A few days before my final outpatient ortho appointment, I had the
sense/intuition that my ankle was healing properly, and that if I
did not go to the appointment, I would probably be able to figure out
the rest of my rehab.
I didn't know if this was a kind of desperate wishful thinking.
Another issue was that for 6 weeks, I had been afraid I might have
permanent nerve damage, and my doctors had been rather unconcerned
about it. Yes, I received an explanation - that it was related to
swelling that impacted the nerves, but the discharge papers were full
of warnings and disclaimers and the discomfort I had was so severe as
to prevent sleeping. In Canada, when you're out in the cold for hours
and your feet go numb and just won't warm up, it's a very unpleasant
feeling, and when your feet start to thaw there's a lot of pain. The
unpleasant feeling was intense and constant, such that I was
constantly feeling I needed to try to massage it or put pressure on
A few days before that ortho appointment, it did seem that the
unpleasant feeling was letting up somewhat. That progress continued
over the next months, and eventually it felt fine.
In early April, my continued training was put on hold, as I fell
back into alcohol and caffeine, but in May I began to try adding in
jumping jacks. The first week it felt a bit odd, but after taking one
day off, it felt pretty normal to me. At present I'm in a chaotic
state and my training is on hold, but I think I know what to do when
I am able to focus.
I went back to caffeine a few days before I went back to alcohol.
22. The Grey Nurse
I don't want to leave out how much The Grey Monk had to do. It was
significant, and many people wouldn't have been able to.
While I was in hospital, he visited every day, and brought me what I
asked for. I advocated for myself, but he also advocated for me, and
let me know in various ways that I had his support.
I want to try to at least note down some of what The Grey Monk had
to do, aside from cooking dinner every night, doing the household
laundry and washing dishes.
After I had been in the hospital a few days, sleeping in my clothes
and wig and hat, I realized that something would have to be done. I
asked him to bring me a batch of new clothes and the sewing scissors.
Because I had the ex-fix in place, I didn't think my yoga pants would
come over it easily, and I didn't want to disrupt anything. Up until
this point, all work had been done on my ankle through rolling up my
yoga pantleg to the knee. I had to ask him to cut me out of my pants.
I then wore drawstring pants, an old pair that I could easily get
over the ex-fix, and that made going to the toilet easier, also.
I also had an idea: maybe because he's so good at sewing, he could
sew strips of velcro onto the pants he cut - and he did it. It didn't
work out so well, but he had tried, and later, when I was better
'enough', I removed the velcro and sewed them back together because
they are still comfortable pants.
He prepared my room for me at home, including rigging a doorbell I
could use to summon him.
He rented a walker and a raised toilet chair, and the latter did
make things easier. He later installed a bar beside the toilet, and
this might have been sufficient originally, but without it, there
wasn't much in the small room to grab on to.
I had hand sanitizer in my room and in the toilet, and I used it
In the first weeks, I had major discomfort any time my leg was not
elevated. When I arrived home, The Grey Monk held the moon boot when
I went upstairs. I'd use the walker and sit down with pants up on the
toilet, he'd put a chair in front of me for the leg, pillow under it,
and then he'd leave and come back when I was done. I had to use a lot
of hand sanitizer, because making it to the sink was too difficult.
I figured out, I was constantly figuring out, ways to make things
easier for both of us.
I copied the hospital version of self-sponge bath for my room (I was
not able to use the shower for 2 months! The horror! The horror! and
it was another couple of months before I went back to showering in
the dark - although I can do that easily now).
Eventually I would sit in a chair at the sink to wash, including my
hair, but that was a nightmare. The first time I did my hair, it was
so greasy it felt like it was wet, or like it had absorbed a bottle
of olive oil. The Grey Monk's hair would never be that greasy in a
year without washing.
A massive build up of skin eventually occurred on my foot (actually
both feet, but a lot more pronounced on the bad one), and I realized
I needed to soak it in a basin and scrub. (Both) I needed to do that
a few times to normalize.
The Grey Monk would write down on his pad all the items I needed to
do these types of things, and bring them in and remove them after.
The Grey Monk made dinner every night. I kept snacks in a plastic box
beside my bed, and I had a large refillable bottle of water.
There is a converted mini-kitchen across the hall, and he kept that
I had a small cup for rinsing/spitting - I brushed and flossed my
teeth in my room (I had started doing this in hospital, there hadn't
seemed to be any other way without major disruption to already
The Grey Monk would (at first, until I became more mobile) have to
empty the cup and refill my water. He would make 4 sandwiches at
once, 2 cheese and 2 peanut butter, on wholewheat, and individually
wrap them, and I'd use the walker to collect them. At first, I was
trying to keep my leg immobilized as much as possible, but after the
stitches were out, I started doing more and more for myself, like
refilling my water bottle.
He installed a support bar in the toilet, and replaced two towel
racks in the main bathroom with support bars. Only one flight of
stairs in the house already had a handrail, and he installed two
more. There's a bar for the shower which has yet to be installed,
but there were some issues in not knowing exactly where pipes and
whatnot were. I actually like the look of the support bars better
than the old towel rails.
One thing that has changed is that when I use stairs now, I always
use handrails, and while I used to often carry many items while
going up or down stairs, now I reduce the load and take more trips.
23. Possum Therapy
During the first 12 days I was back home, I only saw possums once,
and I also didn't see them for the week I was in hospital. It was the
longest I'd gone without possums for years.
I was very nervous using
the stairs. I didn't feel strong or confident, even when I went
down on my rear end.
The first night, I was very happy to see them, but it wasn't until
after my stitches were out that I began to come down every night.
I remember there was an unidentified ringtail that first night, and
because Nikita hadn't been seen for some time we assumed it wasn't
her, but it might have been her. The brushtails hadn't let her get
close enough. I couldn't stand in such a way as to get a better
After the stitches were out, the possums visited every night and came
at a convenient time for me, such that I only had to come downstairs
once per night. Miel and Sasha both sort of put hands on the walker,
checking it out, and Miel climbed onto my canvas deck chair.
Once I started seeing possums every night, I think it helped to have
that structure. For the first few times, I sat in a canvas chair and
they came onto the handrail so I could feed them, but before long I'd
sit and wait for them to arrive, and then stand to reach something to
The possums became my motivation for desensitizing myself to using
24. PTSD 2020
I have never been officially diagnosed with PTSD.
I started having nightmares not long after I got to the hospital, and
they continued after my release. I don't at present want to write
them out, and when they occurred I did my best to block them so that
I wouldn't make associations that kept them in memory. I tried to
analyze enough to get the gist: there was no place in the world I
would ever be safe.
Over the course of the years, it has seemed that occasionally
unresolved PTSD from 1982 has been triggered such that it flares up
or intensifies for a while, and then goes back to baseline.
When I returned home from the hospital in December of 2019, I started
easily, or overreacted to stimuli, and I experienced hyperviolent,
mutated versions of flashbacks. I am still having the latter,
especially just before I have to use the stairs or think about
anything related to using the stairs.
Upon my release, I had trouble even when exhausted sleeping more than
1.5 hours. I had a hellish time of it, and yet, there was contrast,
and it still was better than being in the hospital.
In the hospital, at first the combination of oxy and valium seemed to
help me sleep, and not long after I'd take them, I'd be able to sleep
sometimes for 3 hours. I was fairly sleep-deprived by the time I was
taken from Emergency and placed in a ward, and in the early days,
that might have helped me sleep. I think that started to change about
halfway through my stay.
I think the nightmares began to ease up after my final trip to the
hospital in January 2020, but they did continue intermittently for a
while and my dreams now are hardly pleasant. I think I have mostly
returned to baseline.
I still have an exaggerated response to hearing noises on the stairs.
For example, if The Grey Monk drops something, and it makes a noise,
and I'm not sure if he's fallen and hurt himself, I feel panic, and
need to know that he is ok.
Also, in the early part of my time back home, he slipped on the
stairs twice in a very short period of time, and I had two different
reactions: I was afraid for him and it stressed me out, but I also
felt rage: I felt he was in denial about how dangerous the stairs
were, especially when he brushed it off casually, and to me it felt
like he was saying only a ridiculous person could hurt themselves
on these safe stairs, especially since both of us had slipped or
fallen on these stairs in the past, sober, and I'd broken my big toe
once, when I was completely sober.
Before the accident, I had trust issues, and I felt disconnected from
life and people. After the accident, I would say that things felt
they reached a new stage of seriousness/hopelessness. It didn't seem
there was anywhere safe in the world to go, even my 'home', that I
was right about the impossibility of fitting in with any Australians,
and although I can argue that technically no one is safe at any time,
that I know anything can happen, for me it's something different and
while I might not want to admit it in words, I feel like I'm done
with the world.
I think what's difficult to get across is not just that my behaviour
is weird, that I have weird issues with wigs and clothes and problems
with people touching me or looking at me, that I shower in the dark,
that I don't undress all the way for bed and my room is always dark,
and that even the person I live with walks around averting his
eyes, it's that there's a feeling that goes along with it, a feeling
of instability and unresolved trauma.
I'm not sure I exactly had flashbacks, but images of violent falls
would come into my mind while I was healing, and this still occurs
now, especially just before I have to use the stairs, and it also
started recurring with increased frequency and intensity when The
Grey Monk was due to come back from a recent work trip. Maybe think
Suspiria as far as imagery.
What also occurs to me is all the different ways a human
body can slip or mangle itself in daily life, and what a miracle it
is that it doesn't happen more often. I try to block these images and
At first I tried to replace them with images of myself safely
performing tasks, but settled on blocking and just using the stairs.
I use them many times each day, and while doing rehab, when
practising with crutches, I had to use the hallway and go back and
forth past the unguarded place where I fell, over and over.
Sometimes when violent images of falls and manglings pop into my
head, I have been able to imagine myself as a cyborg, that I'm
like Nova Mnemonic, and if
something bends into a weird position or breaks, it can smoothly and
surely go back into position or fix itself, or I can fix it.
The most difficult thing is going down, not up stairs, but I do it
many times a day, and I think over time there will be less
discomfort. When the ankle swells now, it is usually considerably
less than a couple of months ago. I don't think I'm having trouble
adapting to it, and I like the idea of being a cyborg or transhuman.
I think for the future, I will be able to figure out how to do more
strenuous or difficult exercise, and how to increase my
Technically, perhaps I'm not a cyborg, but my xrays are cool, and I
suppose I'm glad not to be totally Organic. To be transhuman is to
avail oneself of science to improve upon the human body.
If I had the choice to remove the metal, I wouldn't want to.
25. Two outpatient appointments
Since my release from hospital in early December 2019, I have been
back to the hospital once after (almost) two weeks post-op to have
stitches removed, and once in January (approx. 6 weeks post-op) for
x-rays and a consult with a physiotherapist.
When I had my stitches out, I had no privacy, no blue curtains. I was
on a stretcher in a busy room with a lot of other patients, and I had
to make full trips back and forth the length of the room with a
rollator, and then on crutches, in full view of EVERYONE, All the
things I had communicated in my hospital stay counted for nothing.
It's hard to know for sure when medical professionals are judging you
and believe you brought something on yourself because you're an
alcoholic or bad person, or whatever, and have no patience with your
silliness, or whether they just don't know the backstory. Or, whether
if they knew the backstory, they'd like or respect you even
I was glad I made myself walk with the crutches, though, as the PT
said I could take them home. (This was a different PT to the one I
saw in January, and in fact every time in hospital, I had contact
with a different physiotherapist - there might have been 5 in total
in the hospital (or more), and 2 outpatient. And when I was
inpatient, most of the time contact with physios related to farting
around with the Polar Care, as I was supposed to keep the leg
immobilized as much as possible.)
At the 6 week post-op appointment, my ortho surgeon examined the
x-rays and my ankle in person and said that I had done better than he
had expected me to (and better than most people). At this time I
didn't care if anyone had underestimated me, for any reason, it was
basically just such a relief to hear that all was healing
In my original (very brief) discharge papers, the plan had been for
me to do a step-touch thing when on crutches until my 6 week post-op
appointment, but a few days before the appointment I started doing a
heel-toe rolling motion in the moon boot as it felt natural, and it
seemed to me to continue the other would put too much pressure on
knees and hips.
I almost didn't go to that appointment. For about a week before there
was major stress, including an increase in PTSD symptoms. It had been
hard enough to face the 2 week post-op appointment to get my stitches
removed. I didn't know if I'd make it to the January appointment,
right up until the last minute.
A few days earlier, I'd had the sense/intuition that everything was
healing correctly and that I would be able to figure out the
remaining rehab myself, and so I could skip the appointment if
necessary, but it did feel extremely good to hear this confirmation
(about how well everything was healing) from someone with more
training, experience and knowledge than me. 6 weeks is a long time to
try to focus on the hope that you can figure it out, on your own, and
I didn't know if my 'intuition' was wishful thinking, inspired by
anxiety at the thought of going back to the hospital.
I obtained a psych referral from the physiotherapist. I explained
some of my issues to him, and he gave me various options, including
that I could take the referral with me, and think about mailing or
faxing it in. First though, I had asked him to walk me through what
to expect and to outline a course of treatment over the months. I
said I understood the difficulty, but I accepted that it would be my
best chance to absorb as much as I could, and I knew it wasn't the
ideal situation. I knew I wasn't going to go back to the hospital,
considering how difficult it had been just to get there on this
On the visit to discuss my x-rays, I did have privacy (I was
taken into a consult room), and I also had privacy at the PT clinic.
(I was taken right to the back of a long row and had blue curtains.)
I think it's possible that what I was wearing was so un-Australian
and inappropriate for the weather that it was like a secular version
of wearing a niquab and modest clothing that covers everything. On
the day of my final appointments, two women wearing headscarves and
modest dress smiled at me, perhaps seeing the similarities. (I smiled
back.) Technically, my head and hair were covered, because I was
wearing a wig and hat.
Because of my 'inappropriate' attire, my body covered in layers of
black clothing from head to toe, maybe I ended up attracting
more attention to myself than those who adhered to the unspoken
rules of what it is acceptable to wear in Australia in summer, and I
became as much of a target as those wearing headscarves, or perhaps
a more politically correct target.
How can a traumatized person feel cared for when in a stay of less
than a week they literally have contact with hundreds of people? I
remember things better when they're written down, I absorb more, so
it's possible my stressed state combined with that failing made it
difficult for me to understand what people were telling me, but
different people said different things, and even the Grey Monk said
some people made mistakes or said untrue things, and he said that I
was clear and coherent and articulate throughout.
26. How's the ankle now?
I did a good job on my rehabilitation.
I was regularly walking without a moon boot, and trying for most of
the day to go without crutches by the 2 month mark. I found that
using the treadmill (on a slow setting, then playing with the
settings) helped to train my gait, make it even, and helped me to
I put my moon boot and crutches in storage approximately 2.5 months
I have good range of motion/flexibility in my ankle, possibly greater
range of motion than some people ever have, even if they've never
smashed their ankle. I have good strength, endurance, and balance. If
I spend a day on my feet, there is still swelling, but it is fine
the next day.
I am a bit wussy about going down stairs quickly, but I can otherwise
walk and move around 'like me'. I think this ease of motion will be
more noticeable in less confined places than this house.
I can balance on the 'bad' leg, and I can do calf raises.
I can do jumping jacks.
I feel that if at some point I am ready to train in a more strenuous
way, I will be able to figure out how to do it safely and
27. Last thoughts
It would be good to make provisions for Psych staff at Emergency
hours, who are trained to recognize and offer support regarding many
issues, and who can be sensitive to various kinds of trauma, anxiety,
and 'Phobias Preventing Treatment'. In addition, many people
undergoing physical trauma or illness may benefit from having greater
access to psych services while in hospital. It could even be
considered that psych support is a necessary aspect of medical care,
and that ideally, Australia would transition to a more holistic model
I'd like staff to be aware that if someone has sensitive material to
express, they might feel unsure of what to tell, and how much should
wait until someone is really listening.
In the long run, it might be a good idea for a person who has
lived in an isolated or traumatized state for an extended period to
have many different interactions with different people, who might
have had similar experiences or who can help the person become
accustomed to contact with people again, but first, trust must be
established, and without it, it's just overload, further
traumatization, and good intentions gone awry/amok.
If it seems that someone's needs are too complex or unreasonable
considering available resources, and that person is clearly suffering
and their prognosis is poor, please consider that voluntary dying
might be the most positive outcome.
Rainbow of Cognitive Dissonance (continued)
Dr Velvet Thong: How is it for you writing about all of
Velvet: I felt like I needed to write, and it might have
helped or felt like a relief or release initially, but the editing
process started to feel overwhelming, and now it's becoming a torture
to keep reliving it all.
I don't think I can keep at it.
Dr Velvet Thong: I'm a bit reluctant to say this, but although
you describe events as catastrophic, you still seem like 'yourself',
and I'm not sure I see how you're any worse for the wear.
Velvet: This is pretty much what I was afraid of. A long,
slow, agonizing decline.
I don't know if I'm being false. Maybe I'm not really any worse off,
and maybe it is for the best that I did get the ankle fixed. The
hospital staff tried, and I tried, and between us, we managed to get
the best possible result. Despite flaws on both sides, it
And if I'm not really negative, if I still have some secret
hopefulness somewhere, then isn't it better not to belabour all the
negatives with the hospital experience, and focus from now on on
having a new lease on life?
But if I don't share my experiences, such that I feel like I'm doing
something to contribute toward increased awareness or understanding
of the need for psychological care in combination with physical care,
won't I feel more negative? There are good things in the system, but
I want the system to change. Others might have less motivation for
wanting the system to change or evolve.
And if I don't even try, what about progress regarding more humane
end of life options? Shouldn't medical professionals take a stand on
this? Dying is something we will all do some day, so isn't it
relevant that we all think about how we want to die, and make our
I am thankful to surgeons and medical staff that I am able to walk,
and I feel some anxiety about not expressing this or making it clear
to them. However, I also feel anxiety and shame about how much time,
effort and resources were invested, and it seems a waste when the
reality is that I don't really want to live, even though a good
result was achieved.
Dr Velvet Thong: How is The Grey Monk?
Velvet: I'm not completely sure. When I've had some PTSD
meltdowns, he manages to stay calm, supportive, and understanding.
I know that even if I can say 'I think this is what is happening
right now, it's a PTSD symptom', it's still difficult to stay calm
yourself if someone is using a non-calm tone of voice, and seems
He's been able to complete his work assignments and deal with the
tasks of everyday life as usual, and his personality hasn't undergone
any noticeable changes. He seems like himself.
He might snap one day, and it would be understandable. I'm always
trying to get myself together, to leave before it happens, to make
the decision for both of us, before we're caught in a fire tornado.
Since my trip in 2015, I haven't left the house much. In 2018 I went
out a few times, and there was that period when I was technically
outside because I was working on the house, and in 2019, for Xesce's
21st anniversary/birthday, I went to the beach with her and The Grey
Monk. But since then, there's only been the hospital.
The Grey Monk's help was invaluable, and I know a lot of people would
have abandoned me, or would not have been able to cope, and might
have called professionals to deal with the situation, or take me
away, or lock me up. I am grateful that he did not.
However, I do not think it was particularly efficient of me to have
an accident so that The Grey Monk could feel like he had something he
could help with, such that he could feel less useless and closer to
me. That's a fucked up relationship. It's like Boxing Helena.
OK, I understand that maybe part of why he felt closer to me was that
we went through something difficult together, and in a sense we took
on the system together. Maybe in some ways he was proud of me,
understanding what I was going through, and that despite what I was
going through, I was articulate, and considerate of others, and so he
was impressed with my personal qualities.
That does not negate or disqualify the other problem.
Dr Velvet Thong: But do you acknowledge it's understandable
that people who don't know you can't just assume you've given anyone
or anything a fair go?
Velvet: Yes. It's one of the reasons I find it unrealistic to
socialize or connect with people. I know what I'm in for as far as
'justifying' or explaining myself, and I'm not sure I have the energy
or endurance for it.
It's already difficult enough that no matter what I say, on any
topic, everyone's default position will be to assume that I haven't
thought about all the positive ways to view any situation, such that
we have to go through 20 or more questions and answers before they
might even get close to conceding that my overview or position
regarding dealbreakers might be valid.
The way it all ended in the hospital, I felt that even those who had
been kind to me or had gone out of their way in the hospital probably
thought I was an ungrateful, crabby bitch. I started losing the sense
that I had indeed been articulate and respectful. I also felt worried
that the many people who seemed genuinely compassionate might feel I
had dismissed their efforts, or them.
Dr Velvet Thong: I'm not so sure. They might just have seen you
as a lost cause, and it might have caused them discomfort for
various reasons, including but not limited to feeling bad that they
didn't know what to do.
Velvet: One thing I worried about or wanted to ease people's
minds about relates to blame and legal issues.
I can understand that people are afraid of being sued, but I know I
was already broken before I got there, and I understand that they do
things in certain ways because they don't run hospitals for unusual
cases - they have to think about the greatest good for the greatest
number, and they are dealing with a limited number of resources.
Anyway.. in a practical sense, there's no way I would have been able
to deal with going to court, or any of what would have been
In writing all of this up, what I hope for is increased
understanding. It's not about seeking compensation, or
Dr Velvet Thong: How do you think society views people like
you, people who did not get help 'early enough'?
Velvet: I think they blame us for our own problems, or we're
amongst the invisibles.
Parents get counselled that kids need a certain amount of structure
and that if you move them around too much it can mess with their
sense of stability and their futures, and also, if you fight
violently amongst yourselves, you can also scar them. Rape, physical
and psychological abuse are considered bad, as is neglect. Pedophiles
get beaten up, harassed, killed. Poverty and prejudice affect life
outcomes. Natural disasters, like bushfires, can take their toll,
pandemics might call into question the futures of those at critical
times in their schooling or development.
But if when kids grow up they're supposed to be able to shake
all of these things off, and be proper Robust Australians, what's the
big deal? Australian hospitals and Australian conversations where
non-un-Australian Australians are suppposed to be tough enough to Front
Up don't make it easy to talk about yourself without people becoming
suspicious of what a wuss you are, suspecting that you might be
someone who likes to play the victim and milk it... If it's not
really a big deal for anyone to go through these things, then we need
to stop being so fucking mean to pedophiles and rapists. The kids are
young, they'll just get over it. We need to say what's the big deal
about natural disasters and pandemics, and let the chips fall where
they may. We might as well encourage people to breed, breed, breed,
regardless of whether they feel ready to be parents or not.
Ok, I'm going off the rails a bit..
We throw around clichés like 'it's best to treat mental
illness early', 'it's better to talk to someone than keep it in and
let it fester', 'it takes courage to seek help, it's not about
weakness'. In my experience, the way the system is set up, it's
extremely difficult to get help if you're someone who did not get
help 'early enough'.
Dr Velvet Thong: We can be efficient here, it doesn't have to
drag on for years, let's wrap this up in 5-10 sessions max!
Maybe it is something that needs pointing out. There are people who
for whatever reasons didn't get help early, and sometimes it was
because the system itself was flawed or prejudiced. We now look with
horror at the idea that homosexuality was once treated as a mental
disorder or that we performed lobotomies on troublesome/'hysterical'
Dare I say it? You would have probably been one of the glaring
For the record, I would again like to state that the ways in which
rapists, abusers and pedophiles are seen, discussed and treated
aren't ultimately helpful, although it is important for their victims
to have acknowledgement and that steps are taken so that they and
others can feel safe. More effort needs to be put into understanding
the whys of behaviour, and trying to address them. This does not mean
that those affected by their behaviour are supposed to shake it off,
and it doesn't mean that I can't see that it is safer for society to
have somewhere to put people who behave in these ways.
Velvet: We're now getting into some things I didn't know how
to fit into the existing structure, and that I don't think I have
the energy to organize even if theoretically it could be done if I
could handle hanging in there longer.
When in the hospital, I was asked at a certain point if I had any
other medical conditions, and I was asked at such a time (I don't
remember exactly what the circumstances were), that I couldn't
understand the question and my mind went completely blank.
I think I was trying to sort out what might be relevant to
surgery, or any medications they might give me.
I would like a prescription for Valcyclovir, but the stigma in
relation to that would have made me feel even more unsafe in the
It crossed my mind that I have ichthyosis vulgaris, but I thought
maybe since it was summer that might be irrelevant if they can't see
anything on my leg, and I didn't want to confuse things.
It crossed my mind to say something about possible undiagnosed IBS,
but I had so little strength at the time I was asked that I thought
it would only sound nebulous, and/or that it would only confuse the
issue when I was supposed to be putting everything else to one side
while I concentrated on my ankle.
Besides, the way they come to a diagnosis of IBS, after first
crossing some other things off the list, with very unpleasant and
invasive testing, didn't seem like something I could ever cope with,
let alone in an already highly stressed state.
The other issue is that just because the blue curtain is up does not
mean that other patients can't hear your stigma-affected
After I was discharged with a script for 20 tabs of Oxy, just as my
pre-surgery nerve block was wearing off, I was told to get any
further Oxy or pain relief from a GP, even though they were aware
(because I told them) I'd have trouble going to see my GP, and that I
hadn't seen her in more than 4 years.
Some GPs offer home visits, but no one should ever assume that I'd be
able to cope with having a doctor in the place I live, in my room,
even though my room is 'nice', tidy, whatever. That actually would
have been worse than going back to the hospital, and would have
intensified my nightmares beyond imagining, no matter who the doctor
was. As it was, I had to make the major adjustment of allowing The
Grey Monk into my room, for a time.
Dr Velvet Thong: Cyborg's Trial By Fire?
Dr Velvet Thong: Have you muddled things now beyond all
repair such that no one will ever trust what you say? After 30 years,
you say you've had a good period, you've pulled yourself out of it,
and now you're back on team Voluntary Dying to stay?
Velvet: Even in that 'good' period, I would have been happy to
have Pento, any time. I've always been on team Voluntary
I'm left with the feeling that I really don't belong in Australia,
but there's nowhere else to go.
I think there are many compassionate people in Australia. I think
there are psychologists who manage to get the qualifications and who
are able to fit into the structure, and then once there, they are
able to 'do their own thing', and help those with complex issues.
However, I do not trust my ability to communicate with them or
connect with them - it's kind of like it seems to me it will go the
way it always seems to go when I have to talk on the phone.
It is overwhelming to think about the history of suffering, the
history of medical advancement, all the centuries and more of humans
breaking bones and all the trial and error, all the pain and
screaming, all the horrible complications, all other physical and
mental health conditions... the painful deaths, the slow deaths, all
the millions of shades and horrific creativity of awful death.
Border control: when I think back upon the process of applyling for a
permanent resident visa here in Australia, I do see that they wanted
to make sure not only that I was white and spoke English, they wanted
to make sure I was robust enough to survive physically, mentally,
financially, and socially in this country, before allowing me in, and
I got past the border. When I was in the hospital, the immigration
laws, which are connected to Australian values and belief in
robustness, were unconsciously affecting those who treated me, such
that while on the surface it seems like I was shielded by curtains
and dimmer lights, it was like I stood out to everyone, and many
couldn't resist having a go at me. I was the dangerous outsider that
triggered suspicion. I was using Australian resources I had no right
to. I am not a benefit to this country,
Does it make sense when you travel to try to live like a local if you
don't live like a local in your own home environment?
My Apocalypse Outfit
Rainbow of Cognitive Dissonance 2020
More painting with nail polish.
Dr Velvet Thong, Velvet, Okti and Blinky get up, face the
audience, and take a bow.
->exile on meme st: a diary