Tonight I decided to introduce my kids to a movie classic – ET. I had vague memories of a very cute Drew Barrymore playing with the Extra Terrestrial and thought my space-Leggo mad kids would love the movie too.
Less than 10 minutes into the movie, all three kids were hiding under the quilt… terrified by the sight of the weird, bald little alien. I kept reassuring them it would get better, but when ET seemingly died 45 minutes later and all three kids had tears rolling down their faces, I was kicking myself for my choice of movie.
At the end, my eight year old turned off the TV, turned to me and said: “Mum, you’re banned from making us watch any more movie ‘classics’ made before 2007! I’m never watching that movie ever ever again!”
His strong words reminded me of some I’d spoken myself eight years ago after his birth, when I had gone through an awful experience in a public hospital’s psychiatric ward. I swore never to go back to that place – and for a long time I couldn’t even drive past it without feeling physically sick.
And yet, things change. Things that seem scary somehow suddenly no longer hold the same fear. As the years tick by, the anger and fear are still there – but somehow less vivid. And the bitterness begins to fade.
Two days ago, I walked back through the doors of that psychiatric ward. This time, I didn’t arrive in the back of a police divvy van. I wasn’t held down by police and injected with tranquilizers. I wasn’t leaving behind my precious week-old baby. And I wasn’t declared mentally insane and kept behind locked doors.
This time, I drove to the hospital on my lunch-break and walked through the front doors by choice. I put one foot in front of the of the other until I arrived at the reception desk. I took a few deep breaths, smoothed down my jacket and tried to look as sane as possible as I asked for the Head of Nursing, who had promised to take me on a tour.
My husband couldn’t quite understand why I went back. He said nothing could force him back there. And I understood why.
The best way I can explain my need to go back there is that I wanted to face the thing that frightened me most. I’m not a brave person normally (to be honest I found some scenes in ET a little scary myself). But I wanted to see if visiting that psychiatric ward all these years later would help me see things differently.
As a mum, I help my kids to face their fears. I talk them through it… trying to show them that what they’re most scared of (in this case, being attacked by a alien on the TV) is actually not all that scary.
I thought it was time to listen to my own mum-advice for once.
Stay tuned for my next post – seeing if psychiatric wards have changed in the past eight years.