Visiting Day in The Asylum Manic Depression

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Two friends joined at the hip at one point, but separating over time were known to me, and yeah I would have always been fairly friendly with them both. It seemed they had been more similar to each other than they had realised, if their end destination on hitting their late teens was anything to go by. They both had a similar mentality, both were susceptible to mental illness.

One had manic depression, I don’t know what exact ailment the other had, but it was evident he had suicidal tendencies, as he like the other party in the one time friendship ended up in a place called St John of God’s. This was Ireland’s answer to depression for those who had money to be treated. The rest were sent to psychiatric wards pumped full of drugs to make them easier to handle, and seldom ever saw the light of day again.

St John of Gods is a place where people who have money in Ireland are sent for mental illness treatment and to protect them from themselves. The school Chaplain decided that it would be right to send down a few visitors to them both on the separate occasions of their incarceration, and jumping aboard the school minibus with ‘Frankie’ at the wheel we took on down the road to Dublin. We stopped into a news-agents to pick him up a gift (although under age I still managed to get my hands on a copy of Playboy for him) sweets and drinks that kind of thing, the magazine hid well at the bottom of a bag.

We got there and in this place of brightly painted walls there was a special section devoted to teenagers. The air was sanitized, the life inside was sedentary, there was no TV, apparently it makes you depressed.

There was all manner of ‘oddballs’ as we would perceive them in this ward of our visit. There was a girl who would only open toilet doors with her foot, as she was terrified of germs. He shared his room with a young lad who was into self harming. The razor with which he would shave had to be requested and returned in a five minute timeframe and as far as I know he was monitored as he scraped away the growth that showed he was becoming a man. My friend was so happy that we had come, he was so happy in fact that it was hard to tell that the chap was depressed at all, the effort had been worth it.

We talked about school, we passed on homework so he could play catch up, under the table we passed him the Playboy and then we were off to visit again a week later, but it wasn’t needed, he was out a week later. He never returned to the school though, I think if it had been me I would have found it difficult to go back too, all of those eyes knowing where you had been, knowing that there was something ‘wrong’ with you. That is one of our greatest fears isn’t it, that if we suffer from something like the mania of manic depression that we will become labeled with that symbol for our days.

My other friend who we visited, he went in about a year later, and he had several relapses always ending up in the same place until moved into the adult ward when he had outgrown his adolescence. He never managed to outgrow the manic depression through, at least that is what he said it was that he had, from what I read about it there are supposed to be manic highs, but with this guy there were only lows. He was a little akin to that guy out of the movie “A Beautiful Mind” his intellect had gotten the better of him. He later went on to study math at University level. I’m sure that it didn’t help his situation, and he spent six years hard at it between relapses without ever qualifying.

Both of these young men none of us who took that minibus have seen since, just a passing breeze in the wind that blows our lives to motion. You wonder and maybe worry a little that spending time with depressed people might bring you down that avenue yourself, but the worry is unwarranted. It is a road that when you travel you can’t go down alone, and will be dependant on others to help lift the spirits, and lift the veil of lies that is depression, telling you that you can’t when indeed of course you can.

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