Some years ago, I spent a month in a mood disorder clinic. The staff were angels and my fellow patients warm and caring. Hell, even the food was good.

There were three levels of us: eating disorders, substance abuse and, as one wag named the mood disorder level, the sad buggers. It could just as easily have been the Comancheros, Banditos and Gypsy Jokers as no floor ever mingled with another.

At night, us “sad buggers” would gather in the TV room where two delightful, older patients would cunningly convince us that Father Brown or MidSomer Murders would make for a wonderful night’s entertainment.

Laughter was surprisingly common, especially when – and I kid you not – a resident psychologist conducted the first ten-minutes of a support group with his fly wide open. When he finally worked out what the snickering was all about, one patient pushed us into hysterics with the line, “Don’t worry mate, it pays to advertise”.

Twice a day, we would gather like Brown’s cows at the nurses’ station for our medication. And a number of times during the night, you would wake to the sound of your door being pushed open as a nurse peeked in to see that everything was okay. Closed bedroom doors were a no-no and they would be held slightly ajar with a towel thrown over the top.

Taking a shower was also difficult as there was nowhere to hang your clothes or towels. Or, as I finally figured out, myself. And when I mentioned to a nurse that the water never got really hot, she just smiled at me as you would when dealing with a particularly dopey child.

But perhaps the most bittersweet moments of all were when word got out that one of us was well and would be leaving. Hugs and kisses would be exchanged as people would walk out the door, hopefully forever.

What’s the point of all this you ask? None really. Well except possibly for this: when my psychiatrist suggested I could benefit from a stay in a mood disorder clinic, I was devastated. To my mind, such places were for loonies and losers.

How wrong can you be?

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