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Mindfullness at Millfield (1 Viewer)

ejrosetta

Senior Member
Chapter One - Millfield Rehab Centre


Lunchtime, Tuesday. I'm at one of the larger tables in the dining hall, surrounded by my fellow in-mates and outpatients. I eat slowly, taking mental notes while they compare morning sessions and trade meds sneakily under the table. You don't dare get caught doing this, not twice anyway, or they give you the soluble stuff which, aside from being vile, also has no market value. Everyone has their own trades in place depending on what deals they've struck up with each other. Currently, Dave is trading his sleeping pills for Claires Vallium.


Sometimes it's a straightforward yours-for-mine, but once I've seen a whole web of trades building, and that's when it gets complicated. I'm staying out of it for now. I've got enough problems to be getting on with. I like to know what's going on though... You never know when any information may come in handy.


Across the room, the eating disorder group are going through the usual chaos of nurses trying to coax them to eat something. The group, known as The Skeltics, shiver and twitch. Some of them play the game and eat steadily with the intention of throwing it up later, thinking they won't get caught. Others purse their lips and shake their heads, stubbornly refusing to play ball. The nurses keep that pained look of cheerful patience on their faces whilst trying to up-sell that delicious bite of apple or sip of sweet tea. I'm taking bets round my table on who's going to throw a fit first.


“Right, who's in then?” I muster up my group, five of us in total. “My money's on Mental Maddie.”


I have insider knowledge on that one. Maddie's room is across the hall from mine and she had an episode last night. They said they couldn't give her the sleeping meds on an empty stomach and she kicked right off, until they carted her away to the medical room on a buckled stretcher. They don't have separate wings for the men and women here, which at first I thought was kind of odd, but I guess they're working on some sort of theory that integration promotes normality. Although they're wasting their time. There's nothing normal about Millfield Psychiatric Centre. Not so long as we're all here.


“Hey Nate, put me down for a pack of fags on Glazed Gabby.”


Dave slaps a pack of Richmond super kings on the table. Or Druggie Dave as we call him, although never to his face. Never twice anyway. He's big built, stocky and, although I've never seen it, apparently it takes four male nurses to keep him down when he goes for it.


“All right,” sighs Crazy Claire, an older woman who you would call “larger than average” if you were being kind. “I reckon Sulky Sarah is due a kick off. She's been trying for a week or so to act normal in time for her assessment, but you can see it in her eyes... she's struggling.”


As a group, we all take turns to peek over, knowing instinctively to not all stare at once. If we were caught playing these games we'd have our internet privileges taken away quicker than you could say “manic depression”, and in here you hold on tight to any form of outside contact. Druggy Dave peeks first, then Crazy Claire.


I started that when I got here, the nick names. Figured it was an easy way of remembering everyone's names, but started doing it just in my head. Then I accidentally called Twitchy Tess her name to Dave and he laughed himself stupid, so I kept it up, made everyone laugh. Which is rare around here; that hearty, normal sort of laughing. Usually all you get is a manic, crazed sort of cackling that goes straight through your bones, so my nick names brought a welcome change.


I finish taking bets. Richard (Raging Rich) bets on Bullemic Ben and I gather the goods onto my lap in case any of the nurses happen to pass by and catch us in the act.


Ben is a weird one. You don't see a lot of males in the eating disorder group. It's almost always women. But there he is, all scrawny and pale. Bags under his mint coloured eyes and bald patches on his head unusual for a guy his age. Mid twenties, I'd say about the same as me. His face looks almost carved and, unlike most of the hazed in-patients here, his eyes are clear and focussed. It's not often I wonder about why people end up in here, there's not a lot that shocks me. But Ben has caught my attention. I've made it a sort of secret goal to figure him out, and once I want something, I rarely fail at getting it.


Hang on... let me re-phrase that. I never fail.


Posh Poppy rolls her eyes and disapproves of our betting with a judgemental glare at me. She doesn't mean it though. That girl fancies me rotten, I could tell it from the first time she came into the common room the day she was admitted. To be fair though, most the girls do. Its pretty obvious. But hey, I can't help being a heart-breaker, right? Call it diminished responsibility if you like. I call it good sport.


When Poppy came in, we'd assumed she'd be in with the Skeltics, but when she was wandering the hall out of a wheelchair an hour after her introduction I decided to find out. I like to have everyone here sussed, see. I don't like surprises.


So there we'd been. She'd shuffled slyly into the common room where we were sat watching some crappy soap on TV, and sunk herself into the old armchair at the back of the room.


“Hey, day one, right?” I'd called over to her, as if I wasn't sure.


She'd nodded, eyes flicking back and forth, but she wasn't curled up like some of the newbies. Obviously Poppy had decided to keep a grip on herself and sat upright. When I got up to go over and say hi, she'd stood up straight like some sort of business woman. Her coarse, bleached blonde hair curled around her shoulders and she flicked it behind a slender yet solid neck as she stood, shoulders back, right there in front of me. Brazen.


“Hello, I'm Poppy Whitman.” She smiled, broadly, arm outstretched to shake my hand. “Pleased to meet you.”


I remember thinking that I could have found her beautiful if she wasn't being quite so formal. Her posture was so steady. Her firm handshake and unwavering eye contact got me all confused. Most patients here hate people touching them, but there was her hand all outstretched, daring me to take it. She seemed like one of those strong women you see in movies, like a spy or head of some big company. A power woman.


“Nate.” I stated back at her, my face in an emotionless, well practised mask. “Well, Welcome to Millfeild. If you need anything then don't be afraid to ask.”


“Thank you, Nate, that's very kind of you.” She answered, matter of factly and sickly polite, before signalling our introduction was over by sitting back down and picking up a magazine.


I'd never met anyone like that, so formally, in here. I went back to the sofa and sat next to Dave without comment. Then I felt the eyes burning and looked back round at her.


Knew it! She was staring at me with that look of intrigue in her eyes, and when I caught her she went back to shuffling her magazine. Smiling smugly, I wondered why I'd ever doubted myself. I've never met a woman who hasn't wanted a piece of me. Even in here. But I'd never be stupid enough to act on anything of course. That's banned at Millfield.


Or The MadHouse as we call it.


***


Now it only took me a couple of days to figure Poppy out. She was Privately Funded, whereas most of the rest of us are Publicly Funded. The NHS and our doctors put us through months of waiting and testing and crappy local therapy carried out by people barely out of university. We're put on different medications. Uppers, downers, sleepers, sometimes just another round of CBT or a social worker on your back for a few weeks. After somewhere between 6 months and a year passes, you need to have had at least three of what they call “episodes” and then you're eligible for a bed here at the MadHouse, if you can by-pass the local NHS horror ward.


Now the term “Episode” is open to interpretation. It ranges from cutting yourself just ever so slightly to a suicide attempt right through to my favourite, the public breakdown resulting in a 24 hour spell in police custody. Although you want to be careful with those... two turns in a police cell under the Mental Health act and you get sectioned. And that stays with you for life. No working with children or the public again, and you can be damn sure any banks or letting agents will be holding that against you. No, once you're sectioned it's public knowledge. Best avoid that one if possible.


I ended up in here... well, that's a long story. I'll go through that one later. But some rich families who can pay the bill themselves will take a simple outburst at dinner as an episode. That's when you'll find the likes of Posh Poppy in here, moaning about not having enough attention from Daddy or her favourite horse dying when she was 15. They're fast tracked, the rich ones, because of course Millfield needs the money. So if a bed is available and someone is willing to pay the 25k a month needed to fill it, then you can be damn sure they'll be wheeling their Louis Vitton luggage in here while some domestically abused crack addict sits in a hospital bed in a high security ward waiting for the next space.


Not that I'm complaining. Poppy's much nicer to look at than the crack addicts. Even if I don't plan on acting on it, a guy can look, can't he?


Her first evening she was given the usual treatment – full room search and pat down. They're sneaky here. They let you unpack, get your things in order and start to believe that you've gotten away with smuggling in that little bit of weed or gram of coke, before snapping on the latex gloves and combing through all your stuff. They even set decoy, obvious hiding places like a nook behind the desk, loose drawer runners with gaps and removable radiator covers. Each newbie is given the walk round, then a seemingly kindly nurse tells them they're being given some “time to unpack” and before you can warn them, they've become victim to entrapment.


Everyone tries to smuggle something in, even if it's just an extra razor or box of matches. All contraband items. You're not even allowed wired chargers in case you decide you fancy hanging yourself with them, although how you'd go about that I have no idea.


Poppy's admission was classic. She'd been offered the opportunity to give up the goods, but her poker face smiled innocently at the nurses as they started the search. The in-patient stands outside their door and, as they start the newbies in rooms downstairs, I could just about see her as I stood by the nurses station pretending to read a paper. Not a single shred of doubt crossed her face, she really thought that she had them. Until they came out with a bag full of banned items, including, to my surprise, an Evian bottle obviously filled with vodka. I hadn't had her down as a drinker. Not at first.


That's when she'd changed tactics, perfectly pencilled eyebrows raised and her glossed lips in a charming smile as she began negotiations we all knew she'd loose.


“But really, Nurse Jenny, I don't see what harm I can do with a hair-dryer cord.” She'd oozed, charming and unshaken. “And the vodka, well, I had forgotten that was in there! I used the same suit-case on a girls weekend last month, so it's completely unintentional that it stayed in the pocket...”


Nurse Jenny didn't care. In her mid 30's with ruby red hair cropped short around her ears, Nurse Jenny remained efficient and unwavering as she grabbed the bag and, almost bored, complacently swept past Poppy. She'd barely reacted as she passed through the swinging door to the nurses station and started to make an inventory of Poppy's contraband items. Some of them she can check in and out, like a lighter if you want a cigarette, and she'll get it all back when she leaves. A bit like prison, but someone has to watch you use your razor. Nurse Jenny ignored Poppy as she changed tactics again, becoming dismissive and laughing off the insinuation that Poppy Whitman would ever be dishonest.


“I mean come on,” She scoffed. “That's an £85 bottle of perfume. I'm not exactly going to smash the glass now am I?”


Still nothing from Nurse Jenny. Poppy leaned stubbornly over the desk,


“You know my father assured me this would be more like a hotel.” Poppy had pouted, although clearly loosing hope as Nurse Jenny refused to acknowledge her at all. “Shouldn't it be more like a 'one strike and you're out' sort of system? I mean it's not like I'm crazy enough to cut myself or do anything utterly stupid like drink my nail varnish remover!”


Poppy had laughed out loud like this was the funniest joke she'd ever made, unaware that she'd just insulted about four people eaves dropping from the common room. Cutting is Crazy Claire's weakness. She'd do anything for a sharp blade, to the point where I once caught her sharpening the end of a pen lid on the rough brick wall outside. She's the reason we're not allowed even butter knives in the upstairs tea room. Although you have to give it to the woman, it takes a lot of balls to draw blood with a blunt blade. As for the nail varnish remover, acetone mixed with a decent amount hoarded meds will take you to the grave nicely, something half the in-patients here crave deeply.


“Well can't I at least keep my locket? It's sentimental.”


Nurse Jenny had flicked her eyes up at this point and, either out of sympathy (not N-J's style) or to shut Poppy up, she'd fished out a silver carved locket from the plastic bag, unstrung it from it's thick silver chain, and placed it on the high counter between the two women. With a quick dart of her hand, Poppy grabbed the locket and grasped it tightly between her long, perfectly manicured fingers, close to her chest, and ran back to her room. Only to return without it a few minutes later for our first introduction.


I'm remembering my first thoughts about Poppy's bleached hair and peachy skin as I'm snapped out of my daydream by a howling cheer from Dave, who slams his fist onto the dinner table in celebration. I look up and, sure enough, Glazed Gabby has lost her nerve and is convulsing, spitting chewed up potato out of her mouth and snorting angrily as she gets urgently restrained by the Skeltic nurses.


“Well done Dave, good call.” Crazy Claire congratulates him, half heartedly. “I'll get you next time.”


Damn, I really thought I had a sure bet on with Maddie. Never mind, I'll up the stakes next time and even things out. I hand the booty over to Dave under the table, who tucks it into his jacket with his hefty fist in one fluid motion. We finish eating and dredge back up the creaky wooden stairs to the common room to see the rest of the night away.


I guess the common room would have been a drawing room before, and the dining room downstairs the servants quarters. Millfield is an old Manor House turned into a psychiatric hospital, so has a grand entrance and a pretty impressive ballroom too. It was a private school before it became the hospital and I once heard something about it being an overflow medics ward during world war two. It creaks and breaths and sighs, just like all of us. It's alive. Our common room is a strange mix of mismatched, donated furniture in a room which was certainly once grand, the high ceilings and hand carved wall trim still in perfect condition. It's a shame it wasn't snapped up by a hotelier. With the right care it would have made a beautiful events and wedding venue. They could have restored all of those beautiful old features instead of boarding them up for fear of sharp edges.


It's the shell of a glorious perfection that it once was. A hinting whisper of it's better past.


And that I can relate to.
 
Last edited:

qwertyman

WF Veterans
You have to re-post this in a larger font or you won’t get many readers. I had to copy and paste to read it.

It’s also a bit long for a post but… it was really worth it. You convinced me in the first para that you knew your subject. I presumed from the first line, this was part of a larger work of diary entries, as I read on it proved not to be. I think it could have more appeal if it were.

I thought the MC was female, it must be the writing style because it never entered my head that the narrator was male even after being told all the females were captivated by him. You need to tell us earlier than…
‘Even if I don't plan on acting on it, a guy can look, can't he?’

The interaction between the patients was convincing but lacked something. I think it was the nick-name labeling. I am not against the idea just the names, they were all of the, mad/crazy/mental variety. I suggest finding more individual names with less obvious labels… Hatter (as in, mad as a..) Piglet (as in, a snorter of substances) Moby (as in…have you seen him in the shower?) It makes them more memorable for the reader.

The Poppy contraband search was totally credible. However, I remembered reading in the first para that out-patients shared the dining hall and that didn’t seem to fit with the security set-up.

I suggest you consider presenting the search procedure scene differently. Not the content but the structure. It lends itself to Poppy relating the incident as a later date although it might be difficult to do. As it stands, the reader is not sure if he/she is witnessing this through the eyes of the narrator. In which case how so? Four people are eavesdropping from another room. Is the narrator standing in the hall whilst the search is going on?

To sum up. The blocking needs clarity and the introduction of Nurse Jenny could probably be placed differently. The contraband search needs restructuring. It might be worth considering a Diary format, which could be the answer to the above.
It avoids reading like an info-drop because you sell the authenticity.
I really liked it I think you are very talented.

Oh, by the way…

I've never met a woman who hasn't wanted a piece of me. Even in here. But I'd never be stupid enough to act on anything of course. That's banned at Millfield,
I have to tell all females writing as males, the sentence underlined in red is not the way a twenty year old male thinks.

 

ejrosetta

Senior Member
Hey, thanks for such a detailed response! You make a really good point about me writing as a male, maybe it would be more convincing if I were to re-make it as a woman. Hopefully it's realistic as in the setting.... I wrote it in my four week stay in a mental hospital! You gave me a lot to think about, thank you :)
 

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