Time is a strange thing. At different times in your life, you will find yourself wishing for more or less of it.
Occasionally, it stands still, if you’ve been in an accident, it feels like everything is going in slow motion. Time seems to stand still when a life is on the line, even more so when its yours. When your life is on the line, everything seems fake as though you’re just imagining it, like a dream. Then you realise it’s not a dream, that it is really happening and all of that time crashes down on to you like an avalanche.
Imagine waking up in a bright and clean place, a hospital. Why am I here, I think? Oh, I remember now. I look down, to the band sitting on my left wrist, my eyes slide up my arm, to the drip that’s attached to my vein, hydrating me through a needle.
That’s when time stands still. For me, at least. It’s uncomfortable, waking up in an unknown place each morning, confused until I remember what happened, why I am here, and what here is. Falling asleep is hard for a while, kept up by the cries of sick children and worried parents. I am confined to a bed, tucked in by scratching blankets and propped up with pillows. I am the last bed in a room with four patients. I feel so small but also that I take up monstrous amount of space. I stare out the window, on the right of my bed. Hospital wards and offices conceal us all from the outside world. Even though my room is full of people I feel lonely and long for the interactions I took for granted. Excitement for me is my trip to the bathroom in my wheelchair. I get to be in a new environment. Days go by slowly as new nurses and patients come and go as I lie in my bed awaiting freedom.
I have aches all over. I feel drowsy and grey, as though my life is leaking from my pores. My monitor never stops beeping, a constant reminder of why I can’t leave this place, it is the thing that ties me down, like the anchor of a ship. The reminder of the heart that grows tired of beating, a reminder that I’ll never know whether I am going to stay or go. I stare at my feet, hidden beneath my blanket. It feels so surreal, as though I’m not really here. I pinch my arms, just to make sure, just to check, but every time the sharp and subtle pop of pain shoots up my arm, and my hopes of this being a dream fade away. This is real and there is nothing I can do. Sometimes seagulls will cry out and I’ll remember that the world is still spinning, that everyone else is still living, that time isn’t frozen. I am jealous of their ability to fly away, each time they cry out I feel as though they are mocking me, laughing about how I’m stuck in a hospital bed while they can go wherever they want. I never see them though; I only ever hear them. I look around me, to the table on wheels that hovers over my knees. This is no way to live, I think, no way to live at all.
Each night, I am woken up at 3am, to a nurse taking my vital signs. My heart is slow and bored, it misses the buzz of excitement that is outside the hospital. It gets slower as I sleep, as though it is playing with the chance of me waking up, as though choosing whether I live or die is fun. It doesn’t scare me though, no matter how many doctors tell me, I never get scared about it.
Everything gets muddled when you’re in hospital, your life gets put on pause and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. After a while everything slows down, nothing excites you, life seems like an empty promise of happiness, and nobody wants an empty promise.
I am cold, even though outside the weather gets warmer and warmer. They keep the windows open for ventilation, so I just have to hunker down and deal with it. I talk about it to the girl in the bed in front of me. Talking to her makes me feel more human, more like a teenage girl. Eventually though, she leaves and goes home to her own bed, and I’m left alone again.
They take my bloods using tiny needles and cold spray. I grade them on who can make it less painful. I become numb to the sharp scratch of the needle.
They move me to a new ward; my belongings are packed into large yellow plastic bags that smell of chemicals. We leave, the nurses wave goodbye as I am pushed out the door in my wheelchair. I get to see more of the hospital as we travel to the new ward, everything is colourful. We go down a ramp that passes by X-Ray waiting areas and vending machines. We take turns and I am pushed around corners. We get lost and are stranded in front of the lifts until another nurse tells us where to go. At last, we get to my bed, there is a window to the right of it. Outside the window there is a view of the shapes and the other parts of the hospital. It makes me remember what I am missing, who I am missing.
I think about my dog. I think about my friends, I think about my family, who love me unconditionally. It is only then that the world moves again, it lasts mere minutes, but it was a nice, change to the stuck, still environment I am now used to.
My new ward comes with nurses less kind than those before them. They treat me like an adult, it makes me feel separate to myself. It takes a while to become used to them.
Doctors in their scrubs visit more often. They take my bloods using tiny needles and cold spray. I grade them on who can make it less painful. I become numb to the sharp scratch of the needle. I realise that I have been in hospital for month. It doesn’t make me feel anything, no anger, no sadness, not even boredom.
The room I stay in soon fills up with new patients, none of which are my age. I am lonely again.
I’m told that I’ll be moving to a residential setting, it upsets me, I don’t want to go to a new hospital, I want to go home, I want my life back. I cry until I no longer can, and no one is able to tell me it will be ok, because it won’t, not until I can go home. We leave at 10am, I go in a taxi with Mum and a nurse, it’s the first time I have been outside in a month, the only reason to move to a new hospital. We arrive at half eleven the place is ominous and is as if its inside a bubble, cut off from the outside world.
I’m met by a team, they are dressed in gowns and gloves. They go through my admission. Soon it’s time to go, I break down I don’t want to leave my parents, but in the end, I have to. As I walk down the hallway, I feel the weight of the world is on my shoulder. They tell me I have to quarantine before I join the others. I am nervous and everything is too quiet.
Everywhere around me are doors, you can only open them with a card, some of them seem to lead into nowhere. It’s very white, with patches of green and blue. It doesn’t feel as much like a hospital as my first one, but it feels less comfortable, like its certain that I’ll be staying here for a while. I look up at one of the nurses and she looks back, I quickly avert my eyes, it’s awkwardly silent. I don’t know how to act around them as they just witnessed me have a breakdown so instead, I just stare at my feet on the green floor, focusing on trying not to cry. Finally, we get up to my room. I have a desk, a rest bed and a bathroom, where I cry. I cry until I feel empty, which was not easy. It’s strange, I’ve been more emotional in two days than in almost a year. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I stay in the bathroom for a while, until I feel less like having a breakdown.
Time stops in here, it doesn’t just slow you down, it completely stops. Every day is the same, the mood and atmosphere also never change. It sucks every bit of life out of my body. On good days we sit in the garden and just talk, talk about everything that has been hurting us.
Pathetic fallacy, the weather matches your mood, and being in here causes your mood to drop quite a bit.
I count the days I stay here, the week and eventually the months. It feels as though I’ve only been here three days, but I realise one day that I have been here three months. I’ve missed both of my brothers’ birthdays, as well as my best friends, and then finally after living in a timeless place, I step out into the carpark, a free person, and so finally after four or five months, time begins to move again.