Psych Ward Diaries. 04.

The preceding piece in this series can be accessed here.

It’s a calm evening in the ward.

It’s always a calm evening.

In this place you’ve got about half a dozen inpatients, incessantly plied with food and antipsychotics throughout the day.

Evenings are always calm.

You’re usually either full, or faced with a new meal you have no choice but to consume.

And there aren’t so many ways to expend energy.

I feel like I spend my entire time here digesting food and adding weight.

The chief Psychiatrist instructed Mr Dayo to take us through routine morning exercises.

I recently realised I hate mandatory exercise.

This came as a surprise to me, given that I’m generally a physically active person.

I think it’s the fact that the exercise isn’t self-motivated.

Every morning Mr Dayo rounds us up to do some weird shuffle-jogs around the corridors.

Mr Dayo used to be a hockey coach.

I imagine he’s in his element taking all of our unfortunate selves through this annoying routine every morning. He’s probably done this with tons and tons of unwilling students in his life.

Yemi’s own fitness passion seems to be Yoga.

Yemi is the guy with sleeve tattoos.

He’s very good at it. Yoga. Taking everyone through the poses and stuff.

I don’t like it. Or maybe it’s just this place. Yoga feels too slow-paced and static and somewhat ostentatious for me.

I don’t quite get the appeal if I’m being honest. I just don’t get it.

There’s also the topic of Yemi’s stature. Or at least my perspective of it.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but he seems small in a way that makes me feel like I’m too big.

Like I’m too tall.

And like my head is too big.

And like my limbs are too long.

I don’t understand it. I don’t get it at all.

This is even more confusing for me, because my physical stature is actually something I’m very happy about. Like, I have no complaints. None.

And so this feeling is one I do not understand at all.

I don’t get it at all.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just this place and the drugs messing with my head.

I am in the room. In the room I share with two other patients.

One very annoying thing about being in this place is the significant absence of personal space.

I am twenty-two years old.

The past few years of my life have seen me gradually grow into increasing personal independence.

In addition to me getting used to having my own personal space and having a predominant say in the affairs of my life, this independence and personal space is becoming a part of how I assess my quality of life.

I could be like: “Oh I don’t like this apartment- I feel like there’s not enough personal space. So I need to get a new place to stay. Somehow.”

It has become a part of how I assess what direction in my life constitutes forward movement.

And this?

Oh God.

Sharing a room- One room, with two people- Two Entire Separate People who have no personal relationships with me?

Like I’m in some slightly-upgraded boarding school environment.

Oh God.

Being woken up at God-knows-what-time every morning for exercise?

Like I’m in primary school?

Oh God.

Mr Dayo seems pretty calm about being here. And he’s in his late fifties.

Although I can imagine how a much older person might be less bothered by all of this spoon-feeding and monitoring and lack of significant personal agency.

They probably already know who they are and have a pretty definitive idea of their place in life.

All of this micromanaging on a personal level might not take so much from them, because they know the moment they leave this facility they’re back to their normal lives- Back to whatever place they’ve carved out for themselves in life. Something like that.

For me, it’s like everything is still very vague. Nothing is clear- I don’t even know so much for certain about my future and what my life is going to be like.

Pretty much everything about my future is just plans and ideas and feelings right now. Not so much exists in tangible reality.

And so fighting for things like personal space and independence is still this very intense psychological battle.

That makes being in this place feel like profound backward movement. I feel like a lot of my personal progress in the past few years has been completely eroded.

I don’t know if that is actually true, but I can’t help feeling that way.

Uchenna is on his bed, wistfully thinking aloud.

“Men, today na Friday. If to say I dey my area right now, I go just dey one bar with some correct beer and correct smoke, dey get myself right now.”

“Man, today is a Friday. If I was in the area where I live right now, I would currently be at a bar with some solid beer and respectable weed, seriously getting in touch with my inner man.”

I burst into laughter.

You miss the simple things in this place.

A quiet evening with drinks. Just chilling.

Music. Music of your own choice. Music you want to hear, the way you want to hear it.

You miss the simple things in this place.

Image: Chinese dinner in Ikeja, Lagos.

Psych Ward Diaries. 00.

They just brought in a guy.

He is sedated. Arms hanging limply by his side as the nurses carry him along the corridor. He has very interesting-looking half-sleeve tattoos on both arms.

I am excited. I am very very excited. I cannot wait for him to wake up. I am really looking forward to chatting about his tattoos.

This Emeka guy is extremely annoying. He has been shouting since morning, banging on the door and calling out to Mister Austin at the very top of his voice.

No wonder he’s in solitary confinement. That’s what it is, isn’t it? I think so. I mean, it doesn’t look anything as dreary and gaolish and bleak and soul-crushing as I would have expected. It just looks like a locked room with an ornate metal door in a building with bright yellow walls. The environment doesn’t have the air of anything resembling solitary confinement. Emeka’s incessant shouting and banging on the door, are what give it away.

Not like I’m expected to understand his situation. I’m not the one in a locked room.

Mister Austin seems like a cool guy. He just completed his PhD at a foreign-affiliated Open University. He studied Theology. We’ve been talking about his Doctoral thesis. I’ve been learning stuff from him.


I had never heard that word before.

He says he plans to set up a Theology school. Says this Nursing gig is just to get by while things fall in place. With the PhD out of the way, he feels confident about clearing any third-party doubts on academic proficiency or experience.

I think he’s a cool guy.

His chin has some bumps on it. Shaving bumps. I don’t like those bumps. But pretty much everyone I know- every black guy I know personally, has these facial hair bumps. I hate them. I never want to have them. I haven’t begun to grow any serious facial hair yet- hopefully it’s possible to figure out a way to circumvent this dermal catastrophe.

There’s this guy though, this actor. This funny Hollywood actor. He has a full beard, yet his face is completely smooth when he shaves. I don’t know, hopefully I’ll get to meet him sometime and ask for some secret shaving tips.

I’ve been playing table tennis all day. There’s nothing else to do in this place. Just table tennis. But it’s fun though. It’s fun. I’m gradually getting better at it. Rotimi is very good. Rotimi the tall, light-skinned nurse. I don’t think I’ll ever win a game against him. I have no idea how Kelechi does it. I have absolutely no idea.

Ah oh yeah there are the medical journals in the library/art room place. That’s something to do, apart from playing table tennis.

What’s the name of the journals again, “The BMJ” or something like that. I’ve been reading those. Medicine is actually not so bad. Some of the research papers in the journals are actually really interesting. Interesting papers, and then in each journal a doctor gets featured in an interview. Getting to read about doctors in the UK and their lives is pretty fun too.

At some point I ran out of medical journals to read. I told the psychologist during a session.

The psychologist is a nonsense guy, I don’t like him. He overestimates his understanding of my situation, my life and my decisions. Trust Nigerian people to feel like Overlords over what is not so much of a big deal.

Trying to “correct” me and tell me “the right thing to do”.

Nonsense. I think he’s too pushy. The psychologists I visited in the US mostly just listened. Although to be honest I kinda wondered why sitting down in a chair and just listening should be a full-time job.

Like hey I should be capable of this too, it shouldn’t be so complicated.

The psychologist was surprised I had been reading the journals in the first place. He said they weren’t for me- weren’t for patients. Said they were for the doctors in the facility to read.

Oh. Ohhhh.

When it gets dark, the nurses call everyone in and they lock the main door. So no one leaves the building, evidently.

Like we’re in daycare.

Oh God.

Then I have to sit down in the common room and watch TV.

Oh wait. Waaaiiittttt. I think the tattoo guy is up. I think the tattoo guy is upppp!!

He just walked into the common room. I’m not even in the mood to let him properly recover from the sedative and make adequate sense of his surroundings.

I excitedly head over for a chat.

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