enough privacy
— what is enough? — a curtain
to hide — to reveal
the intimate, mythical,
tender core of the apple

My mother nearly died on a the Acute Assessment Ward at A&E last summer. She was delirious and thrashing around in the bed — impossible to tell how much consciousness she possessed, if any — though her eyes were open some of the time. The curtained-off cubicle of her hospital bed was a world ruled by the medical staff, in which I felt like an interloper. I felt stupidly inhibited and at a loss how to behave, or how to reach out to her in her delirium. A spectator rather than participant, while the nurses did their job. Without the medical care, she would have died. But then also, without the medical care, I would have been forced to find a way through my own reserve and maybe to cradle her in my arms as she died — a very different and perhaps better emotional scenario. I dreamed last night of trying to use a curtain for making sure I wasn’t overheard. I was dimly aware how useless the curtain was for the purpose: it was just one of those ordinary hospital bed curtains. I was talking about mental health issues, feeling unsure of myself in terms of whether I was fighting a losing battle to assert the importance of the ‘user-survivor’ perspective, against the massed forces of collective prejudice in the opposite (medical) camp. Modern medicine is a very odd phenomenon. It has a lot in common with Christianity, in being so well-meaning and in doing so much harm.


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