I came to, slowly, gradually, surfacing, with memories of my aunt’s brightly patterned blouse (oh! It was real! – 3 weeks later when she came in wearing it again) and knowing that the door opposite me was where visitors came from, where beds where dragged, and the station to the left was where the staff were, reading and writing about me, but I was in Clatterbridge, in my head, in some sort of medical rehabilitation programme assisting neonates and geneticists and walking horses in water. I didn’t understand and it was a really heavy sort of consciousness with anxiety crossed with drifting because that was all I could do. They say ITU hallucinations usually have some root in reality – I know I was being asked where I was, who I was, what had happened, and it seemed really aggressive, because THEIR reality was right and mine was wrong. I couldn’t speak, except I thought I was or had spoken. I was busy, and they were just sitting there. I was out of body, sometimes body-less, but full of consciousness, sometimes completely, bodily, into my hallucination and absent again from the real room of ITU.
I remember the people that came to see me – my sister and my brother-in-law; my aunt and uncle; the then church Rector and his wife – and (or so I thought) all those clinicians I’d worked for that I’d held in high regard, and they had all become Christian Missionaries, that being before the boat, tense but real, when my (now deceased) mum was there, and we stayed in her hotel room and… I could probably write pages now I’ve started, because this went on for days. Delusional memory in ITU patients is laid down like real memory. So unlike dreams which, intense and real, disappear like mist, slipping away faster the more you hang on, this is in the place that the real memories of A+E, and me telling Andy that I could lose my legs, because no-one else seemed to say it, also contains those delusions that took me weeks to get my head round. Who am I kidding?… I still haven’t got my head round them.
There is an excellent website called http://www.icusteps,org which explains and supports the many issues that it is common for ITU survivors to have, and my hallucinations aren’t anything special, they are in fact entirely ordinary. But they are mine, and they are unlike anything else, so I don’t know how to explain them easily, and post traumatic stress is a spectrum which I could put myself on if I thought it would help. The main thing is that I survived, and the terror I experienced slips away with time and with talking.
And maybe I’ll go to one of their drop-ins, but what I’ve mostly found with these specific groups, in which I include AA and BDDG among other support groups I’ve experienced, is that I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I am an ITU survivor, an alcoholic, an addict, but I’m also a child of God and that is my primary definition. So what I need, mostly, is to be with my church family, as children of God, covered with the blood of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. I can bring my terror there and that’s where the talking and time do their work, in healing. I’m not knocking support groups – they do a lot of good and at times they ARE really useful and necessary. But I do think the more I find labels for myself, the less I am attached to that important label of one saved by grace.
I didn’t realise this was where this piece was headed but I am only learning, to write and to be guided by the Spirit. Please do talk to me – especially if you have experience, questions, disagreements, or have been challenged.