Going Potty!

A reflection on some personal experience (Mental Health series – part 3)

The men’s locked ward at WPH consisted of a large inside dormitory and about 12 single inside rooms.  There were also a further 10 single rooms that, while physically attached to the main building, opened into the fenced yard area on the outside.  All the single rooms had heavy wooden and metal shutters that were locked over the windows from late afternoon until morning. There was a narrow piece of vertical perspex in the door for viewing. All single room residents were locked in their rooms overnight.

The morning routine was underway after the staff had a cup of tea.  First thing was getting everyone out of bed and into the shower.  Sounds simple enough I guess, but it was always an interesting excercise.

The residents in the single rooms were given black rubber potties to use overnight – no one was let out to use the bathroom. So in the morning everyone was required to leave their room, take their potty with them and empty it into the toilet.  I was constantly surprised that these pots were full to the brim! Of course they were used for both number 1s and number 2s, and with a good degree of sloshing and splashing going on it was quite a messy routine! I always had the fear of wearing one of these so I made sure I gave the pot carrier plenty of space.

A memorable character with “burnt out” schizophrenia was Joe.  Joe seemed to think his name was “Trigger” – Roy Rogers horse.  Every morning Joe flushed his potty down the toilet and then flushed his own head by sticking it in the bowl. Naturally such antics among the residents were encouraged by the staff – it provided some entertainment and a good laugh.

Joe was also a great tobacco scavenger and would gather up as many cigarette butts as possible and roll up all the residual bits of tobacco in toilet paper.  I have seen him smoking a rollie about 3 cms thick! A staff member one day rolled up grass clippings in a full sheet of newspaper and gave it to Joe to smoke.  He was happy to get into it. It was flaming intensely at one end, but Joe sucked away for all he was worth and through much coughing and spluttering manged to inhale a reasonable amount of smoke!

This was just another day at the institution!

Bob Goodwin – StoriesAndPlays.com

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