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Making friends living on an Acute psychiatric ward

I remember my first meeting with a mental health charity to collaborate and co-facilitate an anti- Stigma workshop/group that This is what I have been wanting to do for some time and here I am achieving my dreams. When I was back -institutionalized in an Acute ward with Anorexia and Bipolar in 2005. I think that personality trait to help others and organize groups has always been in me.

I was am a nightmare patient.

I always refused bed rest and focused my time on doing things like raffles to raise money for a charity shop connected to the Retreat,in York. I ended up raising over £100 in a matter of days with a BMI of 14.5. so about 41 kilograms. , 90 pounds – I’m nearly 5.8.

In other clinics- I was tube fed and restrained -often by up to four nurses.

That is a whole other story and debate.

I met another man who is/was a barrister and he had a complete breakdown. His wife had been cheating on him. I met an artist who expressed her unarticulated pain by painting. I met a woman who had been fighting Anorexia and OCD all her life and who taught me how to put a Christmas tree up.

I had forgotten.

I didn’t know what life was and what it meant to live.

I met a few ladies, not on my unit -The Acorn unit ( the name pun has not gone over my head). They expressed their pain through cutting and self-harm.

Nobody played games. Although some of us, from time to time would get hold of paracetamol and other shit and overdose to liven the humdrum mundaneness of life in an acute ward. I once got caught out on weigh day with fishing scales attached to my paper gown. The staff was quite taken aback with imaginative ways we would come up with to avoid putting on weight. These girls were hardcore. I met so many people.

I met a girl who terrified me. I could tell she had been in hospitals all her life. Her family could absolve themselves of whatever guilt they felt towards their daughter by puttting her in private clinics and the problem was dusted under the carpet.

I had started the process and recovery of eating again and putting on weight. I couldn’t cope. I developed another way to cope, for at least 4 months my day consisted of:

  • chewing gum

  • making a coffee

  • eating more chewing gum

  • make a cup herbal tea

  • smoke a cig .

I was on this loop for24 hours /7 days a week -for 4 months.

I was driving myself crazy in a way that was unfamiliar to me. The nurses tried to lock me out of the communal kitchens and one night I flipped out when they tried to grab me so I started throwing stuff around.

I wanted them to help me. The girl who initially terrified me came into the kitchen and sat down on the floor with me and held me for over an hour while, I shed tears for everything I can remember.

All the emotions attached to those memories I had pushed aside. None of these people was violent. We were trying to be understood and to understand ourselves.

I met a young girl with schizophrenia -she dressed like a Goth. Always had headphones in her ears. She was trying to silence the voices. She had been coping well up until her Mother passed away and like any normal person she was traumatized by it and her mental health went a bit off balance again. She was trying to make sense that her mother is dead. She was grieving.

One night a new guy arrived on the scene. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He had that charisma of the kind of guy I always seemed to attract. His eyes were full of spark and mischief. A person you would want on your side. We became friends. We spoke a lot. He did a very Titanic thing and drew a picture of me. Fully clothed. I can’t find the picture to load up. He was still going through the DT’s. I will live with my memory of how the picture looked- possibly very trippy. Ha Ha.

Barry was only staying for 10 days before he went to ‘a dry out clinic further up the coast. I don’t know what happened inside me but I didn’t want him to go.

He was a lot older than me but we did everything together.I got him painting again. I know he had just got out of prison but he was so talented. I begged the nurses and psychiatrists to let him stay.

‘Look! Look! how talented he is! He needs help from you’.

Our last night before we parted ways. We sat in the smoking lounge and watched ‘Pulp fiction’. I know this may make some people reading this go .. erm………what?

I lay my head down in his lap and he played with my hair. For me, the act was more like a father gesture. I suspect for Barry it could have been different.

He wrote loads of letters and planned to come to visit me. The nurses censored my post and turned him away.

I often wonder what happened to him.

I get angry that just because he was an in and out of prison for many reasons- he was denied the rehabilitation that I received. He had issues. I am no innocent.

I feel he could not have benefited from a recovery type community setting rather than prison. It’s not my place to say what he did, I don’t want to remember.

It would have ruined the fact that I found feelings inside me. I could laugh again, I could cry. I was real. I felt like a human being and not some freak with Anorexia. Anorexia took second place and I wanted it to always take second place. I felt real.

So back to the Anti-stigma workshop, I am doing. I can’t wait. I have a passion. I have the drive. This is my new chapter. I did have a beautiful picture Barry drew of a dragonfly but I guess moving around a lot means that I have lost other precious memories. I am finally in a position to help other people. I’m not letting this opportunity getaway.

Mom -living with a Manic Depressive

Who is this lady? She is elderly, yes. A grandma,a mother a sister, an aunt, a great grandmother. I don’t know. I have forgotten. Hang on a minute… Aaah yes there was this one time that I was sat in her house -plush, ‘propre’ , stylish and I couldn’t sleep. I kept on getting up to go to the cupboard on the far right of la cuisine that housed all the gigantic Cadbury’s chocolate. I ate and I ate and I ate some more. I always seemed to be able to eat more.

I didn’t it like it when she bought the dark kind. So bitter. So classy, so not me.

But back to la cuisine. Footsteps pander lightly behind me. I turn and look around and I look into the eyes of a lady with pure class-sans maquillage. This seems to counter my non- class evolved youthfulness.  The lady asks me a question ‘Ca Va?

I’m expected to answer with the same ‘ca va.’ but it is something like 3 am in the morning. Obviously ‘ca va’ is not appropriate for this setting.

I don’t know why I can’t sleep, I confess. I’ve shoved a load of pills down my throat in an effort to be like the one whom I shall refer to as the Manic depressive. The lady sits me down and makes me a Sleepytime tisane – . Good herbal shit. We sit at the kitchen table with our ‘Sleepytime’ tea, I can’t remember what we talked about.

I have a habit of forgetting things, you see. It is so frustrating. I go back to bed feeling cared about. Why didn’t I feel grateful then?

No regrets. Have no regrets. Okay. I try not too.  I wish I had paid more attention, then maybe I wouldn’t forget so much.

I can hear her laughter in that loud roomy part of my brain, it’s threatened me it will become a real auditory sound that knocks me sideways with fright turning me into a paranoid wreck.

I have to remember that laugh. She used to laugh at my jokes. She loved me. She told me she loved me all the time.

She also loved another – another woman-my mom. Angelic looking, graceful, naive and I don’t know – wonderful?  This lady helped me out with the angelic-looking lady. Yes, I remember, one poignant night, the angelic-looking manic depressive and I had a vicious fight. I took a braai fork to her neck. I was fucking going out to drink and get strung out on drugs and Miss Manic Depressive could mope in her stupid illness and fuck right off.

Well, she took that big FU literally. We had this stock of prescription pills that could take our local pharmacy out of business – bad joke- that’s why I rely on comedians for such amusements (Omid Djalili and  Gabriel Iglesias being two of my favourites ). Nothing like a next-day hangover and a shrill ringing phone to make me grab a handful of downers. I’m not ready for the sunshine just yet- maybe not ever. The lady on the other end of the phone wants to know if the manic depressive is okay. Of course, she is ok……

I turn over

…but she isn’t. She is one tunnel turn away from death. I need some Rohypnol and valium and I need that lady on the end of the phone.

She says she is going to get the next one hour flight from JHB airport to Durban and I need to get the manic depressive to a hospital. I don’t have health insurance. I’m 15 years old.

A cocky shit who obviously knows it all but nevertheless in my narked upstate I somehow manage to get the angelic Manic Depressive a space in a run-down public hospital in Africa  – in a- I kid you not – broom closet. Sick people were lying on the floors, covered in congealed blood, in the corridors of this hospital. So I count my blessings that we had some type of room and a bed.

The lady meets me at the hospital. It’s touch and go. We are rooting for survival on this one.  Black tar leaks down out through a tube from some part of the manic depressive’s body.

Hours pass.

She is okay- stable.

She is in a coma.

The Lady transfers her to a more upmarket private hospital. She has the master card. We spend the night next few days at the Oyster Box hotel – in a chalet. She takes on me and my two cats. Lilac and Mocha- and we all sleep in the same bed united by our love for the angelic manic depressive one.

We don’t know if she is ever going to walk again. I mean it was an overdose with powerful intent. No, pithy cry for help as some believes a suicide attempt is. The angelic manic depressive has a new name angelic, rapid cycler  Bipolar.lady in The other lady is my grandma- as you probably have figured out. We go and see her every week. She broke her hip back in Feb 2015 and can’t walk anymore.

Okay… so that happens with a lot of old people. Yeah, but this lady, my grandma has been stripped of her dignity, identity, memories, and she can’t remember she can’t walk. She is stuck on a loop – every few moments she tries to get up and screams in frustration when she can’t. This lady sitting in the middle is my relationship with someone I love who has Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

I know I’m not writing something fucking profound but she means something to me and her family. She is living a world with no faces, no colour and the world speaks another language to her. How is she meant to interpret all this shit?! People talking. Loudly?

Other elderly people not moving- crying, shouting, fondling themselves to remember that they too can feel.  My Chronic Anorexia 10 stone self could envy my grandma’s current weight. 5 stone if that. She forgets how to eat. Imagine that?

What type of existence is this?

This is where I get political. Let people die with dignity.

I signed up for the campaign years ago. Who is this lady? She is so much more than she looks. She has had a life people probably can’t even dream  up and a life where people would also be horrified how she survived such heartache, ( love is the answer here, folks) but for today we can’t go back into the past too much without forgetting. I don’t want to forget, not today. Those two memories I can hang and frame in the gallery of my mind. They are mine. No one can take them away from me but Alzheimer’s can. Dementia too. You know what really makes me sick about all this? When a person with these illnesses die, Alzheimer’s and Dementia don’t take the credit. The diagnosis of death is usually a secondary symptom. How twisted and messed up is that?

Does she remember her husband? Where does she go?

I should have been a Neuroscientist or something. I want to know what is going on in her head and fix it. All clichés but they are my clichés for today. Can you believe people are being diagnosed with these maladies at as young as 25 years of age?

I would rather choose to die than have everything taken from me. Would my Grandma say the same? I wish I had asked her.

Me: ‘So Gran, let’s talk about something so morbid as to how you would like to die.. ‘

I’m putting it out there. Me? I don’t want to suffer and I don’t want to feel pain and I don’t want to not be understood. That is not living that is stuck between two perverse worlds. I want my family to pay the ferryman and for him to take the money and take me along the river Styx to Elysium and let me die with dignity.

Information on the dying dignity campaign  http://www.dignityindying.org.uk

Neglect october domestic violence awareness month

 

There are many types of Child Abuse 

Emotional Abuse can be hard to spot and is easy to miss the signs. 

  • humiliating or constantly criticising a child-

 When my Mom was in a Domestic Violent Relationship with my ex step father he would constantly tell me I was chubby, too clingy.

  • threatening, shouting at a child or calling them names
  • making the child the subject of jokes, or using sarcasm to hurt a child
  • blaming and scapegoating

My ex -step father would shout at me for wanting to be close to my mom. He would drag me into my bedroom -my mom would stick up for me and she would get the brunt of my tantrums, clinginess, my eating issues.

  • making a child perform degrading acts
  • not recognising a child’s own individuality or trying to control their lives
  • pushing a child too hard or not recognising their limitations

My ex step father’s idea of teaching me how to swim was to grab hold go me, jump into the swimming pool and stay under the water until I thought I would pas out. He would do this as a joke in front of his friends and laugh at me for being so scared. I was 5 years old

  • exposing a child to upsetting events or situations, like domestic abuse or drug taking

My ex step father used to beat my mom up regularly because she dared to challenge him for cheating on her constantly ,for getting a 15 year old pregnant. He was always high and there were always parties going on with strange men and women around. I used to try and defend my mom until I became too afraid. I used to barricade myself in my bedroom. I would wait until he came home from work and hide under the bed. 

  • failing to promote a child’s social development
  • not allowing them to have friends
  • persistently ignoring them

I felt like my life was irrelevant. I wasn’t worth anything. I remember having an argument with my mom. She was struggling with her Mental health and the abuse. She came home from work when I was 5/6 years old. I was dressed up in her wedding dress and having fun. She screamed at me to get out her room .She was crying, I didn’t want to be away from her. She locked me out of the room because I started to have a tantrum. I went to the kitchen and got a knife out of the drawer and went to her bedroom door and yelled I was going to stab myself if she didn’t open the door. No reply. I heard her crying. I felt alone and that I couldn’t help her.

  • being absent

When I felt helpless and angry. I would act out. I would binge on food, wet the bed conrantly and go and sleep with the dogs in the kitchen. I recall one day feeling so worthless and useless that I couldn’t make my mom better or please my ex step father that I packed a suitcase falloff toys and clothes. I needed to get away. I walked down the driveway (to my child self -it looked like I was walking a long way from home),  When I reached the end of the driveway I looked left, right, I looked across the road and I thought to myself: What do I do now? I prayed that a car with two nice people would stop and pick me up and take me away from where I was. That didn’t happen. I had to accept my defeat and I walked back up the drive way angry. No body knew I had disappeared and I didn’t get the attention I wanted.

  • manipulating a child

Manipulation can be so subtle. I recall a time when my mom had found out about another affair that my ex stepfather had. He turned up from work with a puppy for me. I was over the moon. 

  • never saying anything kind, expressing positive feelings or congratulating a child on successes
  • never showing any emotions in interactions with a child, also known as emotional neglect.

SIGNS OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE IN OLDER CHILDREN

  • use language you wouldn’t expect them to know for their age
  • act in a way or know about things you wouldn’t expect them to know for their age
  • struggle to control their emotions
  • have extreme outbursts
  • seem isolated from their parents
  • lack social skills
  • have few or no friends.

EFFECTS OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE

BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS

  • wanting attention or becoming clingy

I never wanted to leave my moms side. I refused to go to school. I would have tantrums and do anything to be heard.

  •    not caring how they act or what happens to them

I became a child who started walking home from school on my own from 5/6 years old. I remember a group of older boys pushing me about and touching my breasts and vagina. 

  • trying to make people dislike them

I didn’t feel very likeable or good about myself so I pushed people away from me. I didn’t feel Could trust people and even today I will show people the worst parts of me to protect myself.

  • developing risky behaviour, like stealing, bullying or running away.

The first time I stole anything was a 5 rand note from my mom so I could buy myself and people in my class sweets at the tuck shop. My ex step father refused to allow me to eat sweets because I was too ‘chubby’. I ran away from home many times as a teenager to get away from my mom when I was a teenager and my Nan and my Dad who refused to acknowledge me. I didn’t want my family to dictate to me. I didn’t want them to tell me they knew what was best for me. I wanted to escape and drugs and being around strange men seemed like the right answer.

EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROBLEMS

  • feeling, expressing and controlling emotions
  • lacking confidence or causing anger problems
  • finding it difficult to make and maintain healthy relationships later in life
  • higher levels of depression and health problems as adults compared to those who experienced other types of child abuse.

MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS

I went on to develop serious mental health issues. I developed social anxiety from a young age.  My first suicide attempt was at 12 years old

  • eating disorders

I became obsessed with my weight. I couldn’t deal with my weight issues and I started taking diet tablets at the age of 15 years old. I abused cocaine and mandrax and ecstasy -any drug to stop me from thinking about food. I used to demand my mother take me to doctors to prescribe diet pills for me even though I was thin. I had huge problems and I eventually developed Chromic anorexia. I was sectioned twice in the U.K.   In 2007 I develop Bradycardia. My BMI was 14. My weight was 39 kilograms. I wanted to die. 

I don’t know why I felt the need to cut my legs in my Nan’s kitchen when I was 12/13. I didn’t know how else to express myself. When I lost my virginity to a guy who had left his ex and promised to date me and be with me. The next night his ex, myself and him herein his car and he chose his ex over me. I flipped. I couldn’t deal with the pain, the headache and I cut myself with a bottle neck and became uncontrollable. 

  • language development
  • problems forming healthy relationships.

If you want to help some one who is being abused in all its forms or to help some one who is self harming. 

SELF HARM RESOURCES