23rd March

On the 23rd March last year I was sectioned. I went full nuts.

When I say sectioned, what I mean is ‘voluntarily’ sectioned of course, because they gave me a choice: either come in on a voluntary section, or be sectioned. The psychiatrist told me what would happen if I was sectioned and told me I didn’t want that. She was right, I didn’t want that, but I still take umbrage with ‘voluntarily’ sectioned.

So anyway, Lesley Bushell had to leave me at the Adult Mental Health Unit, and she says it’s one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do. She may have said it was the hardest, I can’t actually remember, but I don’t want to claim it as the hardest if it wasn’t. So I’ll go with one of the hardest.

It was terrifying.

I was taken to a room while Lesley went home and grabbed me some things. I sat on the bed and felt more scared than I’ve ever felt in my life. Even more scared than the thought of dying of cancer. Nobody was listening to what I was saying, they thought I was mad. I thought I was fine and they were all mad. I’d had an epiphany after all, so I was clearly right.

I don’t remember much about the first night, just snapshots. I was in a highly emotional state and existing on pure adrenaline. I remember eating a moldy yoghurt and crying in my bed. I remember them turning the light on every 15 minutes all night to check me because I was on suicide watch. I thought they were trying to drive me insane so they could keep me there. Over the coming days I wrote extensive lists of what they were doing, how they were doing it wrong, and how I knew what they were doing. I engaged with my psychiatrist but I didn’t believe that she wanted to help me. I became obsessed with every physiological test she ordered, convinced I either had a brain tumour or a thyroid problem. And wasn’t just, you know, batshit.

One day my psychiatrist held out her hands to me, palms up, and she said while holding up her right hand, ‘Here is me, here is everyone you know, we are all saying one thing.’ Then she held up her left hand and said, ‘And over here, on your own, is you, saying something totally different. What are the chances you are right and we are all wrong?’ Then she asked me to trust her. She increased my anti-depressant, put me on an anti-psychotic, and ordered a sleeping tablet for every night. That night I slept a full night’s sleep for the first time in over a year.

Then came the difficult task of accepting she was right. And the absolute terror that if I was really psychotic that I might never regain my sanity. I lived for visits and the rare times I was allowed home and for the first time in days I stopped wanting to kill myself and stopped making lists of how to do that. I started writing short stories. I did intricate drawings. I crocheted Lesley an Ocean of Emotion cushion. I felt alive and creative, but tired. So very tired. I slept at least once a day, if not more, and learned to love my nightly sleeping tablet and the bliss it brought.

Throughout all this, even when I was crazy in that first week, I chatted on WhatsApp to Lesley, Dave and Heather in a group conversation. They were there for me tirelessly, keeping me grounded but at the same time relentlessly taking the piss. They treated me like normal but they also painstakingly explained things to me and talked things through with me. I either text, spoke to, or saw Andrea every single day, and was eventually released into her care after two weeks and two days. She spent hours talking me through the early days of recovery and explaining what I was experiencing and why. And slowly I started to feel better, to be able to understand that I was ill but that I could and would get better again. My friends were paramount in nursing me back to health, everyone who visited and brought me books and magazines and ideas to write about, everyone who sent me cards and presents, everyone who went out of their way to send me love and hope – them and my children are what got me through.

This year is different. The 23rd March will always be a day of bad memories, but that’s all they are now. Memories. Much like that time I went batshit…