Searching for safety

As most of you know, I had major surgery a few weeks ago. This was the first time in a very long time that I’ve been in hospital – either as a patient or as a visitor – and I haven’t stolen something.

That’s right. Confession time: I have kleptomania in hospitals.

I have a rare collection of hospital cutlery, soaps, moisturisers, scissors, tape, water jugs, pillow cases, heat packs…. almost anything I could lay my hands on.

Why? Who knows. What I do know is the anxiety that usually overwhelms me in hospitals that is momentarily calmed by a bit of thieving.

My therapist thinks it’s about having the “opportunity”. I know she’s the Wonder Therapist, but this time I think she’s wrong. I think it’s about a search for safety.

I can remember the first time I tried to hurt myself. I think I was about 10 or 12, or somewhere around there. I tried to break my hand so that I’d get a few days in hospital – respite from the hell at home.

So I think the kleptomania is about a search for safety. Lifting a token of safety from the safest of environments to take with me and keep me safe when at home.

I didn’t feel a need to do that this time. I don’t know why. More of the magic of therapy, perhaps?

9 thoughts on “Searching for safety

  1. Well, I steal from hospitals too, and I HATE hospitals… Mine are usually for practical reasons – they have the best medical tape, etc.

    I like your idea about trying to help with the anxiety and taking a bit of safety with you. I would’ve thought that if you were an “opportunistic thief”, you’d also steal from other places…

    I don’t know the answers, but it’s an interesting phenomenon…

    Take care,

  2. How strange you should mention thieving from hospitals just as I am thinking along the same lines! I have this very same urge to take something from my therapist’s office for the same reason as you. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity because he never leaves the room. I thought of taking something from the waiting room, but he shares that space with other therapists and it just wouldn’t be the same. I also thought of asking for something of his, but I can’t do it because he might say no and I can’t handle the upset.

  3. @ Castorgirl – It’s nice to know I’m not alone. I always thought I was flying solo on this one. I also hate hospitals but for some reason still see them as “safe”. Medical tape is excellent. Face washers/flannels are pretty good, too. 😉

    @ Anon – Thanks for dropping by. 🙂 I don’t think you’re alone in wanting to keep a little piece of your therapist with you. My therapist has loaned me a couple of books that I’ve copied pages from. That helped me when I needed it. I of course have emails from her that I have also kept – including a little one I keep in my wallet for times I need it most. It says, “BE PROUD OF YOURSELF TODAY – YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY. I KNOW IT’S NOT EASY” (her emphasis, not mine).

    Take care, both of you.

  4. This was very interesting to read because I do just the opposite! I don’t want to take anything home with me, not my toothbrush, not my hairbrush, not my clothes, nothing. I even make sure that every bit of tape they always want to put over the IV is gone. And when I get home, I start showering. I can’t get “it” off of me fast enough. Curious. I’m glad you posted this.

  5. The few times I spent in a hospital were painful so I wanted to leave the hospital and deal with the pain at home. I didn’t want reminders of that experience. Perhaps when you are in a hospital you feel helpless and your way of taking back some control is to take from the hospital. Nice to meet another survivor.

  6. I’m not sure it’s stealing – I think they want you to take that stuff. I was only in the hospital when I gave birth to my children, and I remember asking if I could take an extra diaper with me for the ride home (typical new mom, I thought I would need an extra diaper for a 20 minute ride). The nurse told me that I’m supposed to take everything on the baby cart home with me! I couldn’t believe it, but I took it all.

    They might draw the line at pillow cases however.

  7. @ Ivory – that’s really interesting. What makes you want to wash it all away?

    @ Technobabe – thanks for dropping by. Always nice to meet survivors. 🙂 You could be right about the control. Hospitals are places where patients have very little control.

    @ Harriet – yea, I don’t think pillow cases or flannels or heat packs are part of the bargain. They don’t usually leave you a tray of goodies when you’re in there for surgery. Glad to hear they would allow you the extra nappies though. Better to be safe than sorry on the 20 minute ride home. 😉

  8. Kerro, I’ve stolen things from hospitals too. I do it to have a “momento” for myself. Say if I broke my leg or something, I’d grab something close by and keep it as a reminder of the visit. I think it’s fun…illegal probably but fun!

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