From the outside I look the same. Clean hair, eyeliner (of course) and, today, a particularly fine black nail varnish. I can chat, as long as it’s not at a meal time, and my dark jokes are totally on point. When visitors come – particularly family – I put on the performance of my life, because people who care about you want to equate a hospital stay with getting better. They’re seeking reassurance that ‘the professionals’ are getting on with fixing you. And showing them your true ghost existence just ends up with them giving back to you all their worry and concern about your situation.
But being a ghost doesn’t mean being miserable and despairing all the time. There are moments where I get so wrapped up in the role of being absolutely fine I feel something that might be pleasure. Granted, this is usually in response to a little subversion against the system – but it’s still a positive emotion. Yesterday evening I worked out that, if you sit in precisely the right place in the garden and look up at the sky, you don’t see the high, confining fences. Instead it’s just you and the stars and the cool evening breeze – and you can imagine freedom.
But the reality of ghost life is a disconnect from any sense of purpose or reason for existence.
Imagine life as a brown paper package, tied up with string. (You’re welcome for that earworm, by the way.) Maybe there’s an extra layer of bubble wrap inside to protect what’s precious. Perhaps individual values and beliefs are lovingly shrouded in tissue paper to guarantee they survive life’s journey*.
My parcel was shoddily wrapped in a bit of a hurry. Put together with little thought of how the contents would survive a rough ride through the post. Possibly dropped at the sorting office by a tired worker doing overtime who just wanted to go home for a bacon sandwich. Without firm double knots, my string loosened and slid off. And the contents of my parcel followed, slipping out here and there to be trodden underfoot.
A ghost is an empty parcel that’s delivered with an official sticker that says ‘damaged in transit’. The missing contents are gone forever, and there’s little point reconstructing an empty package. Or even in finding new contents for the ripped and tattered wrapping.
Today I was lucky enough to go with an escort to see my therapist and to tell her that I have no purpose. That I’m a ghost and I don’t know what to do next.
I used up a lot of NHS tissues and I got things out of my head that have been haunting me for weeks. There were no magic answers of course; I didn’t expect any. But I was heard and, largely (because I do have a tendency to go down elaborate metaphor rabbit holes), understood.
We’re meeting next week which is a commitment I have the motivation to keep.
And the cherry on the top of my afternoon was a pure act of kindness by the nurse who came with me. She signed me back into the ward and then made a special trip over to the main building to bring me a Costa latte. Semi skimmed and full sugar syrup – but you can’t have everything.
I sat alone in the garden and savoured every drop.
Even ghosts can enjoy good coffee.
*I can’t fucking believe I used the word ‘journey’. All I can say is I’m not quite myself right now.