I laid in a bed – I had my own room and a door was in front of me, to the left. Through the door I could see into some sort of kitchen and communal living area. Beyond that was a large, grand entranceway to external doors. When I got my bearings, I guessed it must have been late afternoon, in winter as it was getting dark. Behind me was a white wall, along the top of the wall were small, thin windows and behind me to my left was another door to the outside. Outside was a huge tarmac space, like a playground and beyond that was a white building, perhaps a school. I was in a convent, in Northern Ireland. It was a type of rehab home, linked to the hospital. I would see the hospital CEO talking to the senior nun, as though they were undertaking ‘dodgy’ business? Something didn’t feel quite right about the place and I felt increasingly anxious. In my room were a bank of machines to my right, and a computer. Opposite me was a whiteboard on the wall and below it a set of clinical drawers filled with ice lollies and biscuits.
When I first met my nun she seemed friendly enough – but it didn’t last. She wasn’t very old; quite small, light ginger hair and fair skin. As darkness fell, chaos began outside. Children on bikes were riding around in the playground, throwing objects at the windows and trying to get in through the door. I told my nun but she didn’t say anything. Instead – she put a note in the window saying ‘silent alarm’. It was like a secret code to the people outside but what was it about? A senior nun came into my room and gave me the impression that she didn’t trust the nun looking after me. She asked her to remove the sign immediately. She spoke to me, smiling and joking and I feel as though we had a conversation? I had no sense of time but I think a couple of days had passed by that point.
Every morning I would wake to a religious message written on my white board, along with a flower. My nun was trying to convert me to a religious sect. She would spend every night staring at me, either beside my bed or from the computer. In the early mornings I would be woken by the ‘breakfast machine’ – nuns would enter their choices into the machine and it would ‘spit’ out the food and drink of their choice, whilst at the same time playing a musical tune as if to say ‘It’s ready’! I remember on this particular day feeling very unusual. I’d tried to escape from my bed, wriggling down trying to get under the bars. The nuns put me back into the bed and calmed me down. My nun stood beside me and talked to me – telling me about god and that I knew what I had to do, that it was the right thing to do and that to survive, I needed to follow her orders.
As darkness fell, I heard ambulances and their sirens going up and down the road outside. Suddenly I saw smoke coming from under a door opposite. Nobody believed my shouting but someone realised that a fire had been started outside the door. The fire brigade arrived and extinguished the fire. It was night and the convent fell silent. All the nuns had been stopped from leaving and were told to remain in their rooms for safety. I would see the odd nun walk past my door, others sitting in the communal area. Outside the convent, I could see a large van – it was a milk delivery van and it had parked outside. Throughout the night, people would knock on the doors of the convent asking for help. My nun was in my room, staring at me. She stood next to me, silently, and began carving a picture of Jesus into my right arm. I remember waking and discovering what she was doing. I began to scream for help but she held my arm down, telling me to be quiet and calm. She said it was what she needed to do and that I would soon see the light. She began removing my dressings and opening my wounds, her hands inside my body. Suddenly, senior nun entered the room and saw what was happening. She told her repeatedly to stop, as the nun kept cutting into my arm. I then heard senior nun say ‘I’ve told you about this sort of thing before’! They were stood either side of my bed and began discussing me. My bag of intravenous feed was taken down as it didn’t fit into the their religious beliefs…….
Some time later, I began to soil myself and I remember having to constantly press the call bell on my bed for help. Each time the nuns would come in, huffing and puffing about having to continuously change my bedding. My nun returned. She began fiddling with my drips and started hanging tiny ornaments off the lines in my neck. I was unable to stop her. She would look at me with her big eyes and glasses – Why didn’t she like me?!!! As dawn broke, I was relived the night was over. I was desperate to get out of the bed so I kept moving it up and down to try and get out…….but of course I couldn’t move. Eventually, my nun reluctantly brought in a wheel chair and I suddenly found myself sat in front of the breakfast news, freezing cold but too scared to ask for a blanket.