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I wrote this post a while ago, but decided not to publish it. I have changed my mind after seeing that people do stop by here and read my story now and again…

So this is part 10 (phew it was never meant to take this long!) of my account of what happened to me when I experienced a severe withdrawal reaction to Effexor. Previous posts can be found on the ‘Mental Health Story‘ page. This posts describes the Mental Health Review Tribunal, which led to me being released from Section 2 of the Mental Health Act. Unfortunately I was no more sane than when I arrived. My freedom eventually proved to be short lived, but that is another drama entirely, to save for another day.

Time plodded on, but never linear, it whizzed around in a most precarious manner on the unit, speeding up, slowing down and sometimes going backwards. Nevertheless the day of my Mental Health Review Tribunal finally came.

I had managed to keep out of trouble, no incidents, no therapy and most importantly no drugs. Smiles and ‘yes thank yous’ were my armour.

I met with my key nurse the day before, who needed to fill in her report for the tribunal. I kept up the pretense that I had been very sick when I had come to the clinic but I was feeling much better now. I bitterly regretted the ‘incidents’ that I had had with staff in the first few days, acknowledging that it must have been very scary for them, but protesting to her that I had not intended to hurt them. I told her I wanted to go home so that I could sort my life out, that I hated it at the clinic. The reason that I don’t talk to anyone is because I am so damn happy and well and so on. To be honest I don’t think that she was buying it, that everything was as rosy for me as I was making out. She scribbled things on her note pad…

The night before the tribunal, was unremarkable in this context. No sleep and an acutely distressed patient shouting and raging until the early hours – her islamic faith distorted into her personal battle to save us all from all our hideous attitudes and behaviours. I was told to stay in my room as the night staff tried to reason with her, – just go to sleep. It started with her wanting one of her cigarettes that were locked in the staff room – it ended with talk of teams coming down from other floors and injections. I desperately wanted her to be quiet, her shouts about the voice of Bin Laden and everyone perishing were scaring me.

I hid under the quilt in my room trying to read the ‘Flower expert’ book that I had with me, brought in for me by my parents. As I read, I realised that this manual had been written specifically for me and that I was in telepathic contact with the authors. They were filling my head with nurturing thoughts, explaining how to look after myself – water regularly, full sun and provide nutrients.

My neighbour eventually gave in and went quiet. She had goaded them for a while daring them to “get your team and your injections”, but she seemed to think better of this and thankfully the screaming and shouting stopped before any possy arrived. Then I had work to do, to cleanse the time line of the possibility that my neighbour’s declarations and visions of the future would come true. My symbolic tool-kit at the ready – out came the toothpaste, chewing gum and cleaning products

Sure enough morning came. With sun light, the fear that the darkness brought lifted, encouraging me to have hope and courage. The morning staff came on shift and I made myself presentable for the tribunal. I was called to meet with the Tribunal’s doctor. We met in the TV room of the men’s part of the unit, GMTV chattering innanely in the background as we discussed my mental state and my problems. Well when I say discussion, it was more of a game/quiz whereby the doctor would look at file notes, tell me what was going on in my mind and my life and then ask me a question. I would then put it into my own words and repeat his pet theories back to him. Fairly quick and painless, nothing too probing or demanding.

I then met with my solicitor. The fourth one from the firm that were dealing with my case. He had all the notes taken by his colleagues in front of him and had about ten minutes to talk to me and figure out how we were gonna play this. He asked me what had been going on – so I told him. As he was on my side, an agent from a secret organisation that were trying to help me and save planet earth, I gave him the truth. He struggled to gain any sort of grip of the parameters of the conversaton and I became more and more animated, grateful to offload to someone who knew what was really going on in this clinic. I guess he could see that I was frightened and that suggesting none of this was true was making no difference to what I believed and felt. So he tried to make me feel better, telling me that the computers and TV in my house had been sorted out and that I was no longer being bugged and manipulated. He knew I needed to be calm and quiet in the tribunal if we had any chance of ‘winning’. He told me not to speak in the tribunal unless I am directly asked a question and he suggested that I let him field the questions. I don’t think that he had high hopes of the outcome being to let me go home. As I got up to leave, he suggested to me that I ask the staff to borrow a hair dryer. I looked at him quizzically, hanging on his every word, my saviour. He said “Your hair’s wet, its just that I don’t want you to get cold.” It wasn’t until much later that I realised or even cared that I had become so frail and why I provoked concern in people’s faces.

It wasn’t too long before I was finally taken off the ward, along the corridor, down the lift and into the clinic’s reception area. Many long days and nights since I had made the reverse journey. My mum and a friend had come to support me and we waited as people milled around. I stayed quiet, confused by what was happening. I looked at my mum and friend, they smiled at me, reassuring me that everything was going to be ok.

A gaggle of us sat around a huge table:

  • three on the panel- the chair who was a legal eagle, the doctor that I had met earlier and a lay person
  • Dr Teddy – my psychiatrist
  • A Nurse – the one who had lent me the hair dryer
  • My legal representative
  • An empty chair – which should have been occupied by someone from my Local Auhority’s mental health team ….
  • My Mum, my friend and me

I don’t think that I said more than a few words and my legal guy may have beaten me by a smattering more, but not by much. We didn’t seem to be in there a long time and I didn’t really understand what was being said. My ears pricked up when Dr Teddy spoke, telling everyone that I had suffered a psychotic break but that I was on the road to recovery. He felt that I should be transferred to an open ward, for further assessment and support. He then said something crucial – that I was not displaying any symptoms of a mental illness at present. The nurse confirmed and corroborated it, saying that apart from in the first few days, there had been no big issues or problems with me or my behaviour.

The chair- persons attire dazzled me, a real natty dresser, with his braces and purple shirt which seemed to glow. I tried to understand what the head of the Freemasons was saying, he was very wise and had many old books that he read from – rules and regulations of how a Freemason should conduct themselves. I cocked my head, leaning in to listen, trying to make sense of what he was talking about. I looked around the room at people, they all gave me a little smile to pep up my spirits.

Then all of a sudden the Grand Master told me that I was being released from section 2 of the Mental Health Act. He was grinning and smiling at me, I looked back at him, confused, I had only one question – “does that mean I can go home right now?”. He confirmed that I could, again beaming at me warmly, that guy really loved his job.

Although I was still in acute withdrawal from Effexor, and wildly delusional and manic, I had successfully hidden it from the staff team and therefore the tribunal. This meant that I did not satisfy the two grounds for detaining someone under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act. I was behaving within ‘normal’ parameters. The wording of the Act is that a person:

  • is suffering from mental disorder of a nature or degree which warrants the detention of the patient in a hospital for assessment (or for assessment followed by medical treatment) for at least a limited period; and
  • he ought to be so detained in the interests of his own health or safety or with a view to the protection of other persons.

FREEDOM.

We were kept loitering in the lobby for a while before we were taken back up to the ward so that I could collect my things. I burst into my room, with my mum and friend following me. A big male nurse came up to me and tried to interrupt my super quick packing, grunting at me in that ridiculous prison warden stance that many of the staff have: “patients aren’t allowed to have visitors in their room”. He seemed unaware that I had been in a tribunal or perhaps robotically dedicated to his role as rule enforcer. His tone of voice and my plan to leave immediately, resulted in me snapping at him something like “I’m not a patient anymore, so yes I can, I’m getting out of here”. I was no longer afraid of the staff here, with their cheap voodoo tricks and their bullying ways, no further need for politeness and smiles, I did not hide any of my contempt. He shuffled off and left us to it.

I crammed my clothes into bin liners, exclaiming that the rancid smell coming off the dirty ones weren’t down to me, the horrible staff must have come in and done that to them when we were downstairs. I was getting mouthier by the minute. We didn’t hang around. We stopped when we had some food in a cafe close by. The freedom left me giddy and excited, I chattered at my Mum. Pontificating about the world, what was wrong with it and what was wrong with her. Not what you would call polite dinner conversation. Delusions upon delusion began to leach and then crash into my brain. Today is the end of the world, judgement day. All these people have come to see me and hope to have healing from being near me. They all know who I am, I am the second coming. I was not confused any more. I kept my more wacky thoughts to myself, but it was obvious that I was still very disturbed. I was determined to go home, so my mum reluctantly agreed that my friend would drive me. She returned to her home miles away with my soiled clothing to take care of instead. I, on the other hand was very excited – I would be safe as soon as I got home and there was a lot of work to be done to prepare for the new world.

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Quite simply erect some kinda bird bath.

Whilst flicking through a gardening book I found this interesting tip from Bob Flowerdew, a regular on Radio 4’s Gardeners Question Time and described as Britain’s leading organic gardener. He says that birds aren’t eating your fruit for the food, as they are low in calories. The poor little things are gobbling your fruit for the moisture – they’re thirsty. Therefore put up bird baths, they’ll drink from these and your fruit hopefully won’t get touched, or at least not everything totally stripped.

Sounds crazy I know, actively encouraging birds onto your plot, but maybe worth a shot… Also who am I to argue with Bob Flowerdew!

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So we announced our grand arrival back into the blogosphere and then it all went quiet again.

That similar feeling of ‘I’m not doing the things that make me happy’ has also been in the allotment arena.

But thats all about to change, sink or swim,- we have a plan..

Each of us has made solitary visits up to the plot to survey the lay of the land. We were pleased with how things were looking. The soil is looking very weathered (at least on the surface). More seed sowing in-situ will be happening this year.

 We have not sown a single bean yet, but its still early and theres a bit of maintenance that we want to carry out first. Like I said we have plan – tomorrow is a big day:

Turning the Compost bin

Looking at soil horizons – to see what’s really going on beneath our feet

Clearing up the smashed glass from our wind tunnel formerly known as a greenhouse

Keener

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As the excitement mounts with spring approaching, we have been thinking about how happy gardening makes us feel. It seems that we’re not the only ones to have noticed this……

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There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling. ~Mirabel Osler

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses. ~Hanna Rion

You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~Author Unknown

I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden. ~John Erskine

Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart. ~Karel Čapek, The Gardener’s Year, translated by M. and R. Weatherall, 1931

Gardening is a kind of disease. It infects you, you cannot escape it. When you go visiting, your eyes rove about the garden; you interrupt the serious cocktail drinking because of an irresistible impulse to get up and pull a weed. ~Lewis Gannit

There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder. ~Alfred Austin

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.– Abraham Lincoln

To dig one’s own spade into one’s own earth! Has life anything better to offer than this?– Beverley Nichols

The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the world. — Vita Sackville-West

When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, There is always the garden– Minnie Aumonier

Gardening is the purest of human pleasures.– Francis Bacon

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves. – Ghandi

All my hurts my garden spade can heal.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you tickle the earth with a hoe she laughs with a harvest” – Douglas Jerrold

“Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than Emperor’s.”– Mary Cantwell

Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise. -Henry Mitchell

Where flowers bloom so does hope. -Lady Bird Johnson

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We have noticed that the favourite past on this blog by far is entitled Naked Gardeners. In the naive hope that people are interested in this subject as a form of personal freedom and liberation, we have scoured the internet to provide you with more information.

May 3 2008 sees the fourth annual ‘World Naked Gardening Day’. The website for the event explains the phenomena:

“Why garden naked? First of all, it’s fun! Second only to swimming, gardening is at the top of the list of family-friendly activities people are most ready to consider doing nude. Moreover, our culture needs to move toward a healthy sense of both body acceptance and our relation to the natural environment. Gardening naked is not only a simple joy, it reminds us–even if only for those few sunkissed minutes–that we can be honest with who we are as humans and as part of this planet.”

naked.jpg

This picture is not of us and our fellow plot holders. It could be though, except for the fact that we’re too shy and I don’t want to see beaners bits and she don’t want to see mine. Also I think the local authorities might frown upon it. So we’re going to stick with water butts. All joking aside, I admire the attitude of the naked gardening movement, freedom and self-expression is always to be applauded.

So for those genuinely interested in taking part, here is a discussion of legal issues relating to being naked in your garden – Naturism and The Law – In Your Garden.

Finally, we just want to say be careful out there – plants that spring to mind are holly, berberis, pyracantha, hawthorn – I suspect a full risk assessment would be needed! Have fun!


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This is my story of severe effexor withdrawal. I have already written much about how I started to take effexor and the consequences of this. Links for the first ‘chapters’ can be found on the ‘mental health story page’.

After a three month withdrawal from effexor I became acutely psychotic and manic and ended up being sectioned under the mental health act. This particular blog details the therapeutic interventions that I had with staff and how they made me feel.

I did not take medication during this hospital stay and as my word and my story will eventually bare out – all of my symptoms were caused by effexor withdrawal. It just took a bit of time and struggle to get this rectified.

I am currently 10mg shy of being effexor free and would consider my story to be one of success.

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I met the consultant in the dining room, a room often used when a patient is being ‘seen’ – by doctors, nurses, family, and solicitors – everyone trying to find out what’s gone wrong. The ‘dining’ room was beautifully constructed for its primary aim and ambiance of being observed, with windows totally covering the wall of the room, which was shared with the corridor of the ward. Enough to make anyone feel paranoid or ill at ease. So all meetings that took place were not only overseen by staff but provided entertainment for patients, as we looked in on each other trying to work out who was who and what was going on, some would shout in or bang on the reinforced glass. This was more of boredom and frustration than ‘craziness’, something new to look at, a break in the monotony. It wasn’t until I neared the end of my stay that I learned there were private meeting rooms – family rooms – this privilege was never offered to me.

I really liked my psychiatrist at the unit. He had a warm and non-condescending disposition, something I rate highly in a person. I never once felt threatened or bullied by him and he did not seem hell bent on telling me I was ‘wrong’. He reminded me of a teddy bear, he was a portly chap, had a semi-scruffy beard and attire – he looked very cuddly basically. l felt safe with him. I explained that I had suffered from depression and anxiety for many years but that in the last few years I had really made progress through yoga, healthier eating, gardening and so on, that my experience of life had been getting easier and happier. He explained that he was a great believer in so called ‘alternative’ approaches and that he knew the things I was describing greatly improved quality of life/ ‘symptoms of mental illness’. I had no explanation as to how I had ended up in this state, why I had felt the need to run around naked and had been acting so out of character. He smiled and listened, after a while he told me that we would meet again and that I should try and get involved with some of the ward’s activities. He made no mention of diagnoses or medications. He was getting to know me first. He felt on my side and I felt validated.

The graffiti on the wall of the smoke room said different ‘DR TEDDY IS A MURDERER’, aptly written in blood red. Similar protests were daubed all over the room, charting months of people expelling their fear and rage over dirty walls, as they sought sanctuary in the smoke room.

But like I say, I liked Dr Teddy and took up his advice. I attended the group meetings held every morning for a few days. On my first day I was allocated to the garden group, which I was obviously pretty pleased with. I followed everyone through corridors and waited patiently at each locked door – ‘open seasame’. I finally got out in the fresh air and I think there were words of encouragement to ‘stretch my legs’ and the like from the staff. I looked around the slabbed yard, peppered with cigarette butts, in disbelief. There were a tiny child’s handful of small flower beds with absolutely nothing in them, not even a stray weed. A dog being let out the back to relief itself. Desolate surroundings, but not alone. The yard was dominated by the high walls of the clinic, each ward having a corridor looking down onto the ‘garden’.

I felt uncomfortable, enraged, patronized and confused more than ever as my addled mind continued incessantly telling me this was all a sick joke at my expense. It seemed so cruel, and the clinic and its sinister agenda became darker and darker in my mind. I went back inside as soon as I could – I was not playing for their amusement.

The next activity of the morning was to shoot some pool – a game where my attention span lasts for the time it takes for me to start blatantly losing! I humored the staff as they encouraged me to play and tried to chat to me – these two oozed sympathy which although unpalatable went down a lot smoother than the general ‘don’t bother me nutter’ attitude or the ‘because you’re psychotic you are a moron’ stance. I smiled and nodded in all the right places, still desperately trying to fathom out what the point all of this was.

I also attended ‘art therapy’ which was a most depressing and sinister experience. The felt tips and glitter and the pots of half-dried pva glue, oh and the stencils of bunny rabbits. Jeez, how did it all come to this. Then we were all asked to make a valentines day card, for goodness sake. I quickly rushed up a design, some trees, a river, a bit of glitter to jazz it up, ta da. We then had to ‘share’ – why we chose our design and how valentines day made us feel. And people started spilling, these people had seen some scary stuff – guns, drugs, knifes, open arm combat. I began to shake. It came to my turn – I told the therapist that I believed that it should be valentines day everyday and that you shouldn’t need to be told to be thoughtful to your loved ones. How very pious of me! I meant it as a some sort of lofty statement about the ills of society – in other words valentines day is bull. Overly cynical for some’s taste perhaps. However, with a little jiggery pokery on her part she explained to me and the group that a lot of people find valentines day difficult and perhaps have felt loss or have an increased awareness that they are alone, she looked at me smiling kindly, in an all knowing way. I feebly nodded in agreement, my eye lids bulging, struggling to hold onto the salt water in case a humiliating water fall began. I felt miserable, I knew I was beat, there is no room for discussion, there are templates that one must simply fit into. The added problem was that there really were no issues going on in my life that would explain what had happened to me. Except for the effexor withdrawal of course.

Ok, so art therapy is out, as well as gardening.

Next day, I was allocated to cook. I was told to write down the ingredients for a meal that I would cook at home. The staff would then go and out and purchase the ingredients as I was not allowed any leave, and I would then cook it. Simple. Unfortunately I got a little bit confused as to the purpose of the exercise. I couldn’t work out why they wanted to see me cook and when they do see me cook, what exactly will they then know. However I worked out that I didn’t want to ‘fail’ the test, so I cooked up a spaghetti bolognase from scratch whilst paying full attention to health and safety/food hygiene regulations. As I began I said to them to clarify once again “what you just want me to cook and you’re just going to watch me. Do I have to talk to you, tell you what I’m doing” – “no, not if you don’t want to”. It made no sense to me at all but I cooked and they watched. After a while they gave up trying to elicit conversation from me. I was always polite in my response but never giving. So they chattered to themselves, about where they lived, their partners, where they liked to drink. I listened and saw very clearly how I must seem – a disheveled crazy person, who clearly needed to reach out for help. These chinks of reality were far and few between, Effexor withdrawal done wrong is a tenacious beast and so I continued to throw obscene amounts of garlic into my signature dish to ward off energy vampires. The smell of garlic lingered in the ward for a good few days and was a source of comfort to me, as the relentless attacks from seen and unseen beings continued.

As you can see I was still really not getting it – that I was in a hospital and was acutely not right in the head. This incidentally, I find to be as accurately descriptive diagnosis as any other.

One particular night, a week or so into my stay, I became so petrified and once again those little chinks of clarity whizzed through my brain, so I decided to talk to a member of staff about what had been happening to me. It was around 4am and I had been up all night, warding off spiritual attacks from another patient who was trying to destroy me. There was a lot of telepathic noise in my head that evening. I thought I heard her reporting me to the night staff, asking them if they knew anything about spiritual warfare. I panicked and thought I would be punished, then another part of me was saying ‘how long can I go on like this, I’ve gotta trust someone’. So I knocked on the office door and asked if I could speak to someone. I zoned in on the guy wearing Christian cross earrings, latching onto an overt sign that this was not an evil baddie. He agreed to talk to me in the dining room. He commanded me to stop crying – or how else are we going to have an adult conversation. Interesting position to take. But he wasn’t confident, he kept backing away from me, I noticed how he was keeping tables and chairs between us as I edged toward him, desperately hoping that he could help me. Realising that he was scared of me I implored him to see that I wasn’t going to hurt him. I stopped trying to choke and gulp back the panic attack, remembering that it never works to try and stuff them back inside. His chastisement reminded me to focus on slowing my breathing – good old yoga. As I’ve tried to explain throughout my writings, I really was well practiced at calming myself down, which is why I was withdrawing from the effexor, albeit way too quickly.

Anyways, we finally sat down and the floodgates opened. He asked me how I had ended up in here. So I told him, about my boss and my yoga teacher stalking me, about my television and computer communicating with me, about the free masons. On and on, purging my self, telling him my big secret. He told me that it sounds like I have been having delusions and that I’m not very well and that they can give me tablets to help. But I could not bare to hear this and did not even contemplate for a second that he might be right. I rather rudely retorted that if I’m going to talk to anyone about medication then it will be a doctor not a nurse – it was not his place to prescribe to me. I don’t trust this guy one little bit SLAM. I retreated back inside myself, resolving never to open up to ‘them’ again. Our conversation drew to an end when he explained that he was going off shift and that he could sit and listen to me all day, its so interesting. Then he bounced out the room, I was shocked how this bloke could find my personal pain intellectually stimulating, a clinical conundrum pure and simple, no human touch at all. I was looking for kindness and compassion, but apparently it doesn’t come in tablet form.

Over the next of couple of days I mulled over my predicament – that I had outed myself – that they had something on me. I dismissed trying to tell dr teddy that I had said no such thing to the man, realising this would get me in deeper. So the next time I saw the doc I told him that yes at that time I had thought the TV was communicating with me, but of course this was a problem with my perception at that time. He smiled at me, I was pleased that he was pleased with my response. No further questioning. Phew, my secret can be re-buried.

And so life on the ward went on and I got myself into a little routine, otherwise known as institutionalization. I managed to keep my head down – away from fights, therapy and one to ones. Just occasional chats with Dr teddy. Biding my time until my mental health review tribunal…

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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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