Overwhelmed by her recent experiences, of losing her little niece and being jilted at the altar, by a man who turned out to be married, my sister was discovered lying on the Hutt river bank, unconscious, and placed in ‘Porirua’ hospital.
Accompanying my distraught mother on her first time visit, she is confused by what has happened, and wonders aloud what she may have done to deserve this calamity. Facing the unknown, and entering the buildings of a place known to all the locals as, ‘The Crazy House’ was a stressful experience for both of us.
After passing through multiple locked doors, we were let into a locked ward where we found my, very doped up sister, in bed. The long narrow room, was shared by many very dishevelled, disturbed looking women in beds, lined up along both sides of the walls. Other women, were running around the room, yelling and screaming, loudly complaining about their plight and acting out in strange ways. The whole, a chaotic, noisy bedlam, enough to make anyone, who wasn’t already, insane. Before going to an interview to hear what her doctor has to say, we tried to reassure and comfort my sister, who begs my mother to take her home.
The doctor, trying to convince my mother she needs to sign a paper allowing the hospital to keep my sister, says she is in the best place for her right now. Distressed after seeing the awful ward conditions and torn between rescuing my sister and doing what is best for her health, she struggles to go along with this idea. However, faced with no other choice she eventually signs her name, and after having treatment my sister recovers and is discharged.
A few months later, more trouble arrived at our door, when I woke one morning with my body shaking and trembling uncontrollably and an excruciating back pain. Thinking maybe I had caught a chill, my husband stayed home from work to take me to the new lady doctor, Dr Seaman, down at the old Wainuiomata village. I felt so ill I could barely stay sitting upright in the waiting room.
The doctor, Dr Seaman, turned out to very empathetic, and after an examination, she surprised me by saying my symptoms were not physical, and she thought, I was having a ‘nervous breakdown’. Her words frightened me, conjoring up visions of my experience visiting my sister, and I immediately thought she meant I was going ‘balmy’ and would be put with ‘the mental’ people in ‘Porirua’ Hospital. However, for now she sent me off home for bed rest, armed with a bottle of tablets called ‘Valiums’ and a promise to call round later.
Arriving at the end of her day she explained she wanted me to have a complete bed rest for a week. Also stressing, it was very important for me not to get pregnant again at this time, she produced a free supply of some new pills provided by the drug company that were supposed to prevent another baby. Obviously with five children in five years, this was a big ask, but if the pills would work an ongoing fear and burden would be lifted off me, but I was still feeling overcome with sadness.
My dear Nana, no spring chicken herself anymore, volunteered to come and help out, doing for the four children, enabling me to take to my bed. The ‘Valiums’ settled down my shakes, but kept me feeling away with the fairies. I was spending extended periods just sitting, staring off into space like a zombie not interested in anything, totally lost to everyone around me. Scared, I would lose touch with reality completely and not get back, I decided to stop taking them and without telling anyone hid them away high up in the kitchen cupboards.
Dr Seaman, turned out to be a real angel in disguise. Making arrangements, along with my mother, for (an Australian charity that helped women and children), to pay for a two week holiday break for me, at a boarding house on the Marine Parade in Napier. I felt very grateful at this kindness of strangers somewhere, I had neither heard of, or knew helping me out like that. It seemed almost unbelievable, and I resolved when I had recovered I would try to help others when I could.
Waiting at the Lower Hutt bus depot, to board my Newman’s bus for the journey to Napier, I remembered back to my kid days and seeing dad on his bus at this same place, and thought about all that had happened since then. This journey was my first time ever, to do anything on my own, since getting married.
The Boarding-house owner, (I wondered if someone had told him, I was sick with mental problems, and he thought, I was ‘loopy’) greeted me at the Napier end. He ferried me in his car to a large rambling house across the road from the sea, with towering triangle shaped trees growing in the center strip down the middle of the road.