One of the first things they tell you when they admit you into a Psychiatric ward is “Don’t get close to the other patients/don’t take on their problems/don’t try to fix them”…basically keep to yourself.
While I understand that it’s important – especially in a Psych ward of all places – to focus on yourself and getting yourself better again…human interactions are inevitable; whether they will be positive or negative. Unless you’re willing to stay in your room 24/7…you’ll find yourself continually bumping into other patients and as my default is politeness and to be courteous; even before I can take it back, “Hello!” is out of my mouth and I’m introducing myself to someone new.
With this is mind, I wanted to write today about my walk in the Forest with another patient who has become a dear friend.
I connected to “Cam” (name changed to protect him) – almost right away. There he was, in his baseball cap worn backwards (something I’ve come to learn is ‘very Cam’ of him), casual t-shirt and shorts. No shoes. He has very cute toes. What I noticed immediately about him was kindness. Cam was looking around at the time and making sure the other patients could see the whiteboard for our “Group Therapy”. He was so naturally considerate of everyone around him “Can you guys see the whiteboard?” “Is it okay if I ask a question?”. Whenever a new patient entered the room, Cam would be the first to want to make them welcome “Do you want to sit here?” “Shall I move?” “Am I in your way?” and I really liked that about him.
Looking back on it now, I’m not even sure how we met. I don’t think there was a formal introduction “Hi I’m Janet” “Hey, I’m Cam”. We just were. I think we were both late for a group class and were sent “away” to the Art room where the Seniors had classes as our class was full. It was actually refreshing to go to a different part of the hospital and be around the elderly, they have such a lovely way about them and hold so much wisdom and knowledge. We had an ‘activation’ (code for games) class that morning and everyone was continuing their juggling class (juggling bright orange ping pong balls) from before. I hadn’t gone to the previous class so I was a bit lost but wanted to give it a go. I was sitting next to Cam at the time and my balls kept drifting into his space (hahahaha! “my balls” hahahahaha!) and interfering with his juggling. I felt bad about this so I kept apologising.
On my 5th or 6th muttered “sorry”, Cam turned to look me straight in the face.
“Janet” he said – gently but firmly – “You don’t need to apologise. You are just learning. We’re all just learning. It’s okay“
I felt seen by this guy. Heard. Understood. I felt drawn to his warmth and kindness and was so blessed at how direct and yet really kind he was to me.
This guy could potentially be a good friend I thought at the time.
I was right.
Turns out; Cam is a bloody legend and within days we were laughing together, talking loads, sitting outside in the courtyard chatting under the sun and bright green leaves of the massive tree outside…and becoming friends.
When I make a new friend, I’m very curious about them. I want to know all about them. I know I’ve said this before and this is genuinely true, but I fall a bit in love with them – in a totally platonic way. So wanted to know all about Cam. I wanted to know about his relationships (is he married? single? Gay? Straight?), about his education, does he work? I wanted to know about his likes, his dislikes, who he was deep down inside.
I’m finding out that Cam is very honest, very sweet, considerate, scarily smart, super talented. He loves his girlfriend with all his heart and is Dad to the cutest little boy. Cam likes funky, upbeat, cool music that I’ve never heard of. When he puts a song on to share it with me, we both bop our heads to the beat. Cam has the best laugh ever. It’s like it bubbles up inside of him and erupts out in loud bursts of happiness that he can’t contain. I find myself searching for ways to make him laugh because I love the sound of it so much.
Yesterday (or maybe the day before? It’s hard to keep time in a psych ward), Cam texted me “want to go for a walk in Kings Park?“. We’d been talking about it for a few days anyway, so his invitation wasn’t a surprise. Cam goes for daily 2-hour walks through Kings Park. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a huge Forest in the city with loads of walkways, hikes and even forms part of the Bibbulman Track – which is one of the world’s longest trails ever.
Kings Park has a main ‘entrance’ with breathtaking views over the city. I’ll attach some pics when I can, it’s glorious. I only go to the main hill with the best views so I’ve been unaware that there is more to Kings Park – there are acres and acres of bushland, wildflowers, tall Karri trees (my favourites) and forest. It’s amazing.
We’re pretty blessed that we get given ‘leave’ from the Hospital and that Kings Park is only about 10 minutes walk from where we are.
Cam and I went for a walk. Praise God, he knows the way there and the tracks and trails really well so I knew I was in good hands when I went with him. I was so excited to be going on a walk with a friend but very anxious about leaving the known (the hospital ward) for the unknown (the more ‘forest-y’ parts of Kings Park I hadn’t seen before).
As if reading my mind, Cam kept checking in with me as we walked: “Is this an okay pace?” “Are you feeling ok?” “Shall we keep walking or do you want to go back?” and this made me feel safe and secure. I really appreciated that Cam did that, it meant a lot to me. It was nice to admit I was struggling (I suspect Cam walks A LOT faster on his own and had slowed down significantly for me) to keep up. Cam would nod and immediately slow down for me. I liked that a lot. It’s hard for me to admit when I’m struggling, but having a friend check in on me and slow down to let me catch my breath made it easier to be truthful.
Praise God, it was a cool afternoon to walk in and even though the sun was warm on our skin, it wasn’t boiling us. There was a strong, cool wind through the trees and it was nice to feel it on my face.
As we walked, I noticed Cam was taking deep, measured breaths…almost like a meditation. His breaths were from down deep in his stomach and came out long and purposefully.
Unfortunately, the sound of it was manly and sexy and reminded me of hook-ups with Patrick who did that same type of measured, deep, manly breathing whenever we had sex. It was hard to focus as my heart started to race and butterflies were filling my stomach, remembering Patrick’s body on mine…oh Janet. FOCUS, woman. Let Patrick go. This is not the time.
I took a lot of deep breaths myself and gulped to forget Patrick.
Stay in the moment, JD.
So I forced myself to look around me. There were so many different types of green in the leaves of so many trees and bushes. Native Australian flowers were all around us, bobbing their little coloured heads in the wind. The wind rushed about in the trees, making their branches look like arms at a concert; swaying left to right. I forced myself to think about my body at that exact moment in time. What was I feeling? I felt the wind across my face. I liked that very much. I felt my legs aching from the walk because I’m super unfit. I felt the fabric of my shirt cling to my back in sweat. My feet felt a bit constricted in my cheap-ass sneakers. I looked down at them. They were a beautiful pastel pink when they were new…now they looked an odd brown. I need to wash these.
Cam and I chatted now and then but for the most part, we walked along in companionable silence through the woods.
What I wanted to write about today was the part where we stopped. I think Cam could see I was pretty worn out after about 30 minutes of walking, bless him.
“Let’s just stop for a second” he said.
I don’t know if Cam knows how commanding and authoritative his voice is. It’s wonderful because without yelling, he makes his requests known. Now that I know a bit more about his background, I can tell his voice suits his acting passion.
So we stopped walking.
Again, Cam took deep, measured breaths.
JD Stop remembering Patrick’s naked body, now is not the time.
Cam’s natural stance is very straight. Very healthy. He looks comfortable in his skin and that gave me confidence somehow; even though I am highly uncomfortable in mine.
I closed my eyes, knowing I was safe to do so in Cam’s company.
I could feel the air shift about us. I could feel the wind across my skin, dancing under my chin, gently lifting my lashes, kissing my cheeks and rushing off to the trees with a cheeky whirl. I could feel the tension in my neck and in my back start to ease. It was wonderful.
I don’t know how long Cam and I stood there like that. It could have been 2 minutes, it could have been an hour. A day. A week. A year. It felt like it was endless and it felt amazing.
I opened my eyes and Cam smiled, bless him. He has such a friendly, open face.
We took off again, chatting about nothing and everything and were back at the hospital entrance within the hour Cam had promised. It meant a lot to me that he stuck to his word and that he checked in with me as we went on our walk.
I’m so blessed to have made such a good friend. I think Cam is someone I will still be friends with when I’m 80 years old. He’s definitely a keeper.