Archive for September, 2007

Its cold and wet and dark outside and the allotment can wait til tomorrow! I have used my time wisely and sat down this afternoon to write a bit more about my EFFEXOR story. This is a story I need to tell – so once again in the vein of better out than in – here goes.

Quick recap – I experienced a severe withdrawal reaction from the antidepressant – Effexor. Within days of finishing a three month (ish) withdrawal I became acutely psychotic/manic and physically ill. I ended up being sectioned, which was rather unpleasant.

The beauty of freedom is that you can believe whatever the hell you like. So my offerings can be read and interpreted in a myriad of ways. However its not a manifesto or advice, i’m just telling ya what happened when I stopped Effexor and why I shunned help from the mental health system.

After two tussles with staff and subsequent sedations, I quickly learnt to keep quiet and to be as unnoticeable as possible. Most of my days were spent swishing around the ward following the thread of one delusion after another and another… Desperately searching for the person that I was destined to meet who would show me the way onto the next part of my journey.

I felt that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me whatsoever thank you very much. I spent a lot of time watching, looking, observing, and being very upset by the distress and pain that the others on the unit were experiencing. Most desperately wanted to run, run, run – anywhere, so they fought their corner, mentally and physically – they passionately told staff exactly what they thought of their drugs and their ‘therapeutic interventions’ . They could not see that the result was that they were held and squeezed tighter and tighter.

Within the first week I had been on the receiving end of some very one-sided deals with other patients – tobacco and clothes being the main coveted items. I had given most of my clothes away and was being sent on numerous errands by patients much higher up in the pecking order. Most of these women had spent time in prison and had a history of full on Class A drug consumption. I heard many of them say to staff that they would rather be back there – more freedom, better conditions. Whilst of course we were all in the same sinking boat, mentally drowning and gasping for air, in many ways we were coming from completely different stratospheres.

I was too scared to stay in my room and hide from the increasing bullying and tormenting, as my family and friends pleaded with me to do. I whispered to them trying to explain that I was under spiritual attack and that the room was so dirty, dark and full of evil spirits. I saw the look in their eyes, they were so very sad and upset. So I tried to console them – i’m ok, i’m gonna win, i got special powers. My confidence, along with the fact that I was clearly pulling the wool over the staff’s eyes did nothing to allay their fears.

At other times during visits, which I received on a daily basis despite the miles of travel, my family and friends would be confronted with me trying to out them as impostors. I would ask random questions or bring up obscure anecdotes that only they would know, looking at every flinch and squirm that they made in their chair and drawing random conclusions. Aliens and evil beings regularly shape-shifted into my mum and dad, trying to trick me into giving them information about the end of the world.

Still I stayed quiet, trusting no-one but myself, believing that my eternal existence and that of all humans was under threat. The windows were boarded up, I was inside but n0-one was coming in. The notion that I was going to get through this unscathed and win the game burned very strongly in me. I was terrified constantly but was sure that the trick to all this was to stay calm. Reality is perception and such like. I was in a conundrum and I had an unnerving sense that someone/something was taking the mick. My brain ratcheted out bizarre fears and even more bizarre explanations.

It was such hard work being in that bed room, as I had to continually perform cleansing and exorcist type rituals for hours on end – night after night – holy water and magical items such as a shoe or a piece of chewing gum to fend off the obliteration of my soul. No rest for the wicked.

So in the day I ran the gauntlet and sought the sanctuary of the communal areas. Up and down the corridor, into the lounge, into the smoke room, round and round, hour after hour I flitted about, desperately looking for a kind face, an ally, anyone who could coherently explain to me ‘WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON’. But the other patients were fighting their own battle and like me, were doing anything they could to protect themselves. No saviours amongst them. Oh yeah and the staff – well most were too busy on there mobile phones or blatantly chatting and gossiping about each other and what a terrible place to work this ward was. Agency staff came and went – a constant mirage of changing faces, approaches and ring tones. Permenant staff were tired, jaded and over-worked – locking themselves in the office drowning under a sea of paperwork. An atmosphere of fear, aggression and self-preservation at all costs oozed from staff and patients. My friends and family feared for my very being and a sustained campaign of phone-calls to various health and social services factions ensued- from the foot soldiers to the big chiefs. Not a returned phone call or single reassurance about when I would be moved to a more local, more open ward. Shame on them.

Any good story of this subject matter, will talk about what drugs the person was given and how they made them feel. This will be over quickly because I wasn’t really given any on a sustained basis, well not in this hospital. I received yucky rapid tranquilisation a couple of times when I first arrived, but after that I munched down one benzo and that was it. This was my first bit of good fortune. A day or two after my abysmally poor escape attempt, I approached a nurse and asked him for a knock-out pill, explaining that I felt scared and was worried about what I might do. He was a man of few words and few facial expressions, but I liked him – he said ‘ok i’ll give you one this time, but you don’t want to get into the habit of taking these, try and manage it yourself, most of the women in here are hooked on these and that just causes them more problems. He gave me the pill and walked off. Ching – a flash of inspiration – I took his divine message into my plan of escape. I look back thankful that he didn’t say ‘yeah why not have a anti-psychotic in the mix too baby, that’ll really sort your head out’. Fifteen minutes later the same nurse approached me and said ‘ would you like to change rooms away from jemima’. I jumped at the chance Jemima was in the room opposite and had clearly endured some real horrific things in her life, she was one feisty lady! She wasn’t allowed to leave her room – two staff were posted on the door – so she’d shout out to me and get me to bring her things, much to the exasperation of the agency staff who wanted a quiet shift so they could play with their mobile phones, seemingly obsessed as a child is at christmas with their new toy, except they never tired of it. Jemima scared me – she said such strange things and was very edgy. I was glad to be moved to the room next to the office. It turns out that this room was haunted too and I could now hear the staff laughing at me and plotting to destroy me, but I did not fear physical attack now as I had put my self in stealth mode. So I persevered with my plan, stay quiet and pursue legal recourse to get out of there, and not put a stinking obliteration pill past my lips…

The other stroke of good luck was the way in which I was able to get a solicitor and request a Mental Health Review Tribunal. It would have taken a lot longer if I had waited for my named nurse to empower me to do this. She didn’t bother to do the ward induction which involves telling you about your right to a tribunal, until several weeks into my stay. Anyways, what happened was I was completing my usual rounds of the communal areas, when I walking into the dining room and saw this guy, he looked up at me and said something like ‘ do you want a solicitor, do you want to get out of here’. His spoken English wasn’t too great, I think he was an African fellow. To this day, I’m not sure what he was doing there or how it was that I sat with him for quite a while filling out forms without someone interrupting us. I don’t believe that solicitors or legal assistants sit about or are allowed to tout for custom in mental health unit dining rooms, so he must have had an appointment with someone, but they didn’t turn up, perhaps they weren’t told. Who knows! I seized the opportunity with both hands and both feet… The bureaucratic wheels were started in motion and the delusion that I was receiving Godly support was reinforced…


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Like most of the country we have lost lots of tomatoes this year due to blight.

The done thing to do is burn the effected plants and tomatoes. Its heartbreaking picking hand-fulls of blighted tomatoes and burning them. Surely we can use the manky mushy toms for something.

What about this?………

Now that is much more fun that burning the buggers.

Horticultural therapy at its best!


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The Soil Association’s Organic Fortnight is currently running until September 16th 2007.

Amongst other things, they are running a campaign called ‘Wake up Gordan!’. Via a cheeky interactive cartoon you can feed Gordan a delicious organic breakfast and see him burp with satisfaction. The Soil Association will use the number of breakfasts Gordon eats to put pressure on the government to encourage increased consumption of organic produce.. Click here to take part.

Also if you join the Soil Association this month they will give you extra stuff for free!

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As is widely reported, allotments are changing – more women, ethnic minority groups, and younger people. Crushing the myth that allotments are only frequented by old blokes in flat caps, hiding from the missis, drinking dodgy homemade alcohol and so on.

A UKTV gardens survey of 3000 adults has linked age with types of vegetables grown to produce a veg top ten. Not only are allotmenteers getting younger but they are getting more exotic. Perhaps reflecting high supermarket prices, the need to reduce food miles and our increasing multi-cultural diet. We are becoming a nation of meat and two exotic veg….

This shows once again that allotments are in tune with and reflect the needs of modern Britain.

Top 10 veg by generation:

From Thompson & Morgan

Over 55 Under 55
1. Tomatoes (60%) 2. Rocket (71%)
1. Potatoes (56%) 2. Mangetout (66%)
1. Carrotss (49%) 2. Chilli (52%)
.1. Onions (45%) 2. Purple Sprouting Broccoli (44%)
1. Cabbage (41%) 2. Squash (41%)
1. Runner Beans (36%) 2. Chinese Leaves (35%)
1. Cucumber (33%) 2. Pak Choi (29%)
1. Cauliflower (29%) 2. Globe Artichoke (25%)
1. Peas (26%) 2. Red Onion (23%)
1. Parsnips (29%) 2. Tomatoes (25%)

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It must be a common experience to see your shed standing proud on your plot of land and then to wanna move in – permenantly. To totally immerse yourself in allotment living, and the good life is so very tempting.

An article in the guardian describes a fellow who did exactly that and what I found so truly heart-warming and grin-provoking is that he got away with it and is supported by his fellow plot-holders!

My allotment shed became home

Interview by Ros Anderson
Saturday August 25, 2007

It wasn’t my intention to live on my allotment. I was renting a one- bedroom flat in south-west London, on a very low income. I needed a garden shed, so I started collecting scrap material from skips. Before I knew it, I had built a shed that was bigger than necessary. I was enjoying it more down here than I was in my flat, so I thought, “Why not give living here a go for a while?”

It was pretty basic at first – one room with a wood-burning stove. Security wasn’t an issue because I had nothing of any value to lose. A lot of the sheds have been broken into, but mine doesn’t have a lock, so it never has – it’s less tempting.

That first summer, the council came to see me. I assumed I’d be turfed off, but they didn’t seem to give a stuff – they just asked me to lower the roof. From then I started thinking about staying long-term and upgrading. I expanded to two rooms, plastered, painted and added a toilet. There’s no electricity and rainwater is collected in a butt, gravity-fed to the sink.

I’d just finished the improvements when I came home one night to find a candle I’d left had burned down the whole building. It was a shock, but I rebuilt quickly. I haven’t painted or made it pretty this time. I’ve got curtains, tables and chairs, but very little that’s personal. I didn’t want to “finish” it because of the heartache of losing the first one – I’m much more attached to this way of living than I am to the building itself. It’s the garden around it that I take pride in. The skills I’ve learned there have allowed me to earn a living as a gardener and to help put something back into the allotments – I’ve taken on a lot of maintenance and made good friends with my neighbours. They’re 70-plus and give me great strength.

It’s always been “one more year”, but I’ve lived here 10 years now. I wonder how long it can last. House prices in the area are unbelievable and I worry this is a prime bit of real estate to be sold off. I couldn’t go back to the flat I was in – that was hell: tiny, on a main road, no garden.

Because I’m here on my own at night, everything within the gates of the allotments feels like home. Living here has given me freedom not to work like mad to keep a roof over my head. It makes my life a lot freer. I do a lot of meditation and a lot of voluntary work. And, of course, I spend hours and hours every week in the garden. That’s what I’m addicted to, being near my creation.


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